A MAGICAL VISIT: Christmas Grottos in Kent

The pure joy on a child’s face when they go to visit Father Christmas in a magical, wintery grotto is something that stays with parents all year round. It’s a memory that never fails to produce a smile. In the past, grottos were only to be found in shops or shopping centres (in fact, the very first grotto in the world was created at Lewis’s Bon Marche Department Store in Liverpool in 1879), but now there is a huge wealth of Santa experiences to try out across the county. Which one will you pick?

Leeds Castle
3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 22-23 Dec


Leeds Castle hosts a magnificent Christmas market each year, and at its heart lies Father Christmas in his spectacular grotto. There is colouring to take part in, as well as crafts while the children are waiting, and then, when it is time, you will be led through a mysterious enchanted pathway to see Santa himself. Every child will be given a traditional gift to take home with them too.
www.leeds-castle.co.uk / 01622 765400


Kent Life
3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 19-24 Dec


This December, Santa will be taking time out of his busy schedule to stop off at Kent Life near Maidstone. Come along and join in the festive fun. Jump on board the land train driven by the head elf and hear the Christmas tales, and don’t forget to grab your chance to meet Santa in his magical grotto and take home a special gift. Grownups can also enjoy a cheeky mince pie and sampling of hot cider. Pay a visit to the farmyard friends and see the reindeer that will call Kent Life home throughout December. Don’t forget to write your letter to Santa in the play barn, visit cuddle corner and take a trip to the paint a pot studio.
www.kentlife.org.uk / 01622 763936


Calverly Grounds
3-24 Dec


Father Christmas and his friendly elves will be welcoming families visiting Tunbridge Wells ice rink on selected dates from Saturday 3rd December to Saturday 24th December 2016 at the picturesque natural amphitheatre of Calverley Grounds, Royal Tunbridge Wells. Each personalised family visit will allow plenty of time to talk to Father Christmas before children choose an age-appropriate gift and have their photograph taken with Father Christmas as a family memento of their visit.


Penshurst Place
26 Nov – 11 Dec (weekend only) & 12-23 Dec (daily)


Penshurst Place will be acting as the portal to the magical world of Narnia for the final time this year, before it reveals a brand new Christmas theme in 2017. The Narnia-inspired grotto has been a firm favourite among families for three seasons, and this year is set to be no different when the secret entrance makes its last return. Priced at £12 per child the entrance fee will not only grant grotto access to the winter wonderland, but also include craft activities, a playground trail, a candy cane and a wrapped gift from Father Christmas himself. Surrounded by Christmas decorations and festive music, children will able to enjoy crafts while they wait to be called upon by a dryad of Narnia to start their journey to the magical wardrobe.

www.penshurstplace.com / 01892 870307


Brookside Garden Centre
19 Nov – 24 Dec


The Christmas grotto at Brookside Garden Centre in East Peckham is an award-winning local phenomenon. Every year there is a scramble for tickets, and the lucky ones who get them will be able to enjoy a one of a kind, beautiful and magical experience. To find Santa in his wooden Finnish hut, the children must traverse winding pathways complete with twinkling lights. But watch out for the (lovely) hidden surprises along the way – you wouldn’t want to miss anything during this unforgettable festive treat.

www.brooksidegc-kent.co.uk / 01622 871250


Hever Castle
26 Nov – 11 Dec (Wed – Sun) and 12 – 24 Dec (daily)


Children and adults all enjoy a great panto… oh yes they do! This Christmas, Hever Castle in Kent celebrates the history of pantomime in Once Upon A Castle. The rooms of the fairy tale castle will be adorned with beautiful decorations, welcoming log fires and twinkling Christmas trees celebrating the theme. Follow the snowy Christmas trail in the grounds and discover the story of Jack and the Beanstalk as you wander through the illuminated gardens as dusk falls. On weekends and daily from 19th-24th December, meet characters and collect fairytale objects along the trail to receive a reward. Then head to the Castle forecourt where a vintage fairground and carousel provide entertainment for all ages. And of course, nothing says ‘Christmas’ quite like a visit to Father Christmas in his grotto. Children will be enchanted by the magical grotto where they will be taken by an elf through the snowy ‘forest’ to meet Father Christmas in his log cabin.
www.hevercastle.co.uk / 01732 865224


The Reindeer Centre
12 Nov – 24 Dec


This Christmas come and visit the Reindeer Centre, near Ashford. Old and young alike will enjoy visiting Santa’s magical grotto. Parents and children will have their very own special encounter with Father Christmas and each good child receives a quality wrapped gift, Christmas hat and passport. Then stroll through the seven animated scenes in this magical 150-foot grotto. The children can then let off steam in the popular straw bale ball pit and bounce around on the bouncy castle – they can even have a snowball fight in the artificial snow play area. For the adults there is a free reindeer souvenir mug with every purchased hot drink, plus a complimentary mince pie.

www.reindeercentre.co.uk / 01233 659338


The Hop Farm
3-23 Dec


Come and meet Father Christmas in his workshop at Kent’s Hop Farm. Within the workshop itself you will discover the art of balloon modelling with live demonstrations, elvish entertainment, and you can even write your own personalised letter to Santa – and hand it to him yourself. The experience includes a meeting with the big man, fun and games with the elves, a gift, a printed photo and a balloon model.

www.thehopfarm.co.uk / 01622 872068


Spa Valley Railway
Weekends in December

credit Nick Burgess

credit Nick Burgess

Starting at Eridge Station, you will arrive to find roasting chestnuts and a roaring coal fire within the waiting room – which has been beautifully and festively decorated. But that’s not all; there will also be face painters to get everyone in the festive spirit. Get on board the Santa Special and journey to Tunbridge Wells West (or the North Pole as it is otherwise known!). During the journey Father Christmas will make an appearance with a gift for good boys and girls. Once you arrive at the North Pole you will have 40 minutes to join Father Christmas in his grotto, and have photos taken with him in his sleigh, before climbing back on board for your return journey. So if your little ones love Santa and steam trains, there can be no better way to spend a Christmassy day!

www.spavalleyrailway.co.uk / 01892 537715


Ruxley Manor
12 Nov – 24 Dec


Mother Christmas herself is the host for this spectacular and well-loved Kent grotto event. At Ruxley Manor Garden Centre, she will guide you through the magical Christmas pathways, playing a fun bowling game on the way (how many snowmen can you bowl over?) before reaching Father Christmas himself. You will be able to speak to Santa, and receive a wonderful gift. Plus, why not make your own magical reindeer food? Take it home with you and sprinkle it over the lawn on Christmas Eve to make sure the reindeer enjoy their Christmas journey too!

www.ruxley-manor.co.uk / 020 8300 0084


Polhill Garden Centre
19 Nov – 24 Dec


At Polhill Garden Centre near Sevenoaks, Father Christmas not only has a beautiful grotto, but he also hosts a fabulous roast dinner supper too! Purchase a late night grotto ticket and sit down to a lovely roast dinner as part of the price – Santa might even make an appearance to make sure all the boys and girls are enjoying their vegetables! Both daytime and evening grotto experiences will allow the children to explore the icy pathways of Polhill’s magical land, and receive a great gift too.

www.polhill.co.uk / 01959 534212


Millbrook Garden Centre
Opens 19 Nov at Gravesend, 26 Nov at Staplehurst and Crowborough

Christmas is coming, the magic has begun… Prepare to be taken on a journey into a winter wonderland full of enchanting sights and sounds in the Magical Millbrook Grotto. Opening on Saturday 19th November at Millbrook’s Gravesend Centre, and on Saturday 26th November at the Staplehurst and Crowborough Centres. Tickets cost £11 (child) and £4 (adult).


24 Nov – 24 Dec


Father Christmas will be setting up his traditional toy workshop in Bluewater Shopping Centre, located in a wooden cabin and just right for little ones to be awed by. Led by Bubbles the elf, your family will be guided through a puzzle to reach the workshop itself. Will you be able to find the missing keys to make sure that Santa can do the most important job of the year? And will you find the special guest who is waiting to meet you (it’s Paddington himself!)? Only elves are allowed into the workshop, so Bubbles will perform some magic and transform the little ones into actual elves too!

www.bluewater.co.uk / 01322 475475

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