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Where to visit Father Christmas this year…

The pure joy in a child’s face when they go and visit Father Christmas in a grotto decked out with twinkling lights, snow and, of course, elves, is something that lives on in parents’ memories for life; it’s an image that never fails to produce a smile (even throughout the teenage years!). In the past, grottos were only to be found in shops or shopping centres – the very first grotto in the world was created at Lewis’s Bon Marche Department Store in Liverpool in 1879 – but now there’s a wealth of Santa experiences to try out across the county. Take your pick.

Squires Garden Centre // www.squiresgardencentres.co.uk // 26 Nov-24 Dec

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Roll up…roll up! Come to Squire’s Garden Centre in Washington, West Sussex, to see a brand new circus show and keep the whole family entertained this Christmas! ‘Santa’s Got Talent’ is a circus show where the audience helps Santa pick his favourite acts! The circus runs from November 26th until Christmas Eve and lasts approximately 60 minutes; children will meet Santa afterwards and receive a present…if they’ve been good!

Tulleys Farm // www.tulleyschristmas.co.uk // 26 Nov-24 Dec

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At Tulleys Farm, you can always find something fun to do, and at Christmas the fun steps up another gear. It should come as no surprise therefore that the grotto experience at Tulleys Farm truly is out of this world. The fun starts with a journey on Father Christmas’s actual sleigh, through the forest to find the man himself in his lovely log cabin. It’s cosy and warm in there, and he just loves to tell children funny stories about what he and his elves have been up to. And, for everyone who listens carefully, he will reward them with a gift star too – magical.  

Bluebell Railway // www.bluebell-railway.com // 3-4, 10-11, 17-18 & 23-24 Dec

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Combining steam trains with Father Christmas will take excitement levels to boiling point – for adults and children alike! Father Christmas must be a steam enthusiast too because you can meet him on the train. Every child he meets will receive a gift,  and the adults needn’t worry, the elves will be on hand to serve mince pies. Departing from Sheffield Park Station in East Grinstead, you will travel on a five-mile trip to Horsted Keynes Station, where there will be Dickensian-themed activities to enjoy. Disembark with Santa and have your photo taken with him, or why not play on the traditional fairground rides and watch the Victorian street entertainers? There will be plenty of treats on sale as well, including roasted chestnuts and mulled wine. After an hour, you’ll climb back on board for your return trip.

Fishers Adventure Farm Park // www.fishersfarmpark.co.uk // 10-24 Dec

credit Bex Cullingford

credit Bex Cullingford

Fishers Adventure Farm Park has gone all out for Christmas this year. Not only are they hosting some hilarious panto fun, but Father Christmas and his elves have set up shop there too. It can be found at the end of a twinkling, fairy-lit pathway, and you’ll know you’re getting close when you can hear the tinkling of sleigh bells and the sound of carols being sung. Meet Father Christmas and the elves in the toy shop and pick your own gift then join in with the interactive nativity, which is always a hit. There is plenty more to do besides, including an epic zip wire experience!

The Llama Park // www.llamapark.co.uk // 26-27 Nov, 3-4 & 10-24 Dec

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For a truly wonderful visit to Father Christmas – complete with big white beard and a proper ‘ho, ho, ho’ take a trip to Sussex’s Llama Park. You can book in advance, or turn up on the day, and both options give you the chance to meet Santa and his reindeer, as well as receive a great gift. When your little ones have told Father Christmas exactly what they would like for Christmas, why not take a wander around the rest of the park to see the donkeys (and donkey rides) and horses; listen to Christmas carols; admire the decorations; and enjoy the traditional nativity scene. There is a restaurant on site that will be serving lovely Christmas lunches, and lots of shops to get your last-minute gift buying done.

Drusillas Park // www.drusillas.co.uk // 19-20 & 26-27 Nov, 3-4, 10-11 Dec & 15-23 Dec

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Enjoy the magic and enchantment of Christmas at Drusillas Park as the dazzling Winter Wonderland returns to the award-winning family attraction in East Sussex.

Of course, no festivities would be complete without the star attraction and visitors will not be disappointed as Father Christmas makes a welcome return to the zoo. Visit him in his cosy Christmas Cottage on weekends from 19th November and then daily from December 15th to 23rd. For an additional charge of £11, children can meet Santa and receive an early Christmas gift. There will also be the opportunity to hug a husky and meet two of Santa’s reindeer on selected dates.

Drusillas will also be lighting up their Winter Wonderland illuminations. The dazzling display incorporates an animal-themed light show synchronised to music. Young revellers can expect to see a host of magical creatures in the ice-capped kingdom, adding some extra sparkle to the festive season from Saturday November 19th until Monday January 2nd.

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