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It’s that time of year again – synonymous with visits to (or from) Father Christmas. He just managed a turn at our Infant School Christmas fair would you believe? A busy man, right now he can be found in department stores up and down the country, garden centre grottos here and there, and sometimes even riding through dusky town streets on his sleigh. Wherever it is that children see him though, there’s often a question that follows, “But he’s not the real one, is he?”
There is one place however where that question is never asked. Never even thought of. And right now, some very lucky families will be excitedly packing bags, boarding flights and heading on the long journey north to Roviemi, Finnish Lapland, to visit Father Christmas at his official home on the Arctic Circle; the snowy white wonderland that it is.
We went two years ago, with our two daughters, then aged four and seven, and as you’d imagine, it was a fairytale adventure from start to end. For Lapland cannot fail. Which to be honest, was part of the reason why I was totally apprehensive about visiting another Lapland with them recently – not quite as far north this one, indeed it was just up the motorway. But really, how on earth was LaplandUK ever possibly going to compare?
Perhaps for me, it didn’t. The Arctic scenes offer a breath-taking beauty that renders any comparison useless. But it was not about me was it? It was about my two girls, now aged nine and six, and the experience they were to have.
From the moment the invitation landed on the mat from Father Christmas himself, the children were wildly excited, for they were deemed very special indeed and chosen to help make toys for all the good girls and boys.
As we entered LaplandUK it was quickly obvious what a well-oiled machine it is. That’s unfair actually. One cannot call it a machine, as it absolutely does not come across as a conveyor belt experience with robotic staff going through the motions. No, it’s about as magical as it could possibly be. Which was a most refreshing surprise given the horror stories relayed in years gone by of various UK pop up Lapland’s, ripping people off with an invite to visit a few fir trees stood in muddy fields.
Far from that, this slick interactive Christmas experience, based at the snowy Whitmoor Forest in Ascot, is the dream child of Mike and Alison Battle, who first set the venture up ten years ago, with their four young boys in mind, devoting time and energy to giving Father Christmas (and all children) the home he deserved. And my, haven’t they succeeded in what they set out to do! My two girls entered the enchanted forest in awe, soon helping the elves in the Toy Factory and singing along to merry song.
The characterisation and story telling is superb. The elves and Mother and Father Christmas are captivating. Then there’s Whittle, the head of the Toy Factory; Eeko, Mother Nature’s friend, and Pixie Mixie, the maker of elven sweets. And many more; all of them interacting with the children beautifully, adding to the enchantment.
There is decorating gingerbread – to hang on your tree, and writing letters to the big man himself at the elven post office, which they can send there and then. And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, there’s also ice-skating, huskies and reindeer, oh and that very special – and personal – meeting with Father Christmas. He happened to tell my youngest that her friend Patrick was on the good list too… her face was a picture… “How do you know about Patrick?” she enquired, eyes wide.
So what does this wonderful experience all cost? Nowhere near the price tag it cost to visit the Arctic Circle that’s for sure. Take into account the theatre experience, the large souvenir photo, the ice-skating, the gingerbread, the good quality toy gift, and the fact that you can be there quite some time– we spent five hours, it is well worth the £65 per head entrance ticket alone. But let’s be honest, it isn’t about the money is it? It’s about the look on my children’s faces, and the fact that for them, the magic continues.
So, did it compare to Roviemi? And did they question ‘him’ at all? Perhaps I’ll let my nine-year-old have the last word… “Well there’s no doubt about it; he is definitely the real Father Christmas Mum.” Yes darling, there’s no doubt at all. Talk about the icing on the cake!
Invitations to visit LaplandUK start from £49pp (60% of invitations have already been allocated).
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