Santa's best Christmas grottos
Santa has a lot of bases across the country, he's a busy man after all, but which grottos will really give your little one that magical Christmas experience? Katherine Price has the best all wrapped up.
With big fluffy animatronic polar bears, snowmen, penguins and giant teddy bears, Thursford is like the soft, cuddly version of 'it's a small world'. From the puppet show for a welcome to the intimate one-on-one audience with the big man in red, it's a wonderful treat for the family – just watch out for the snowballs!
28-29 Nov; 5-6 Dec; 12-13 Dec; 18-23 Dec.
Westfield Stratford, London
This year's Westfield grotto is Shrek-themed with a personalised 4D sleigh ride adventure for the little ones to undertake before they get to see the big man. Keep your eyes peeled during the film – your child's photo is taken beforehand and inserted into the movie to involve them in the adventure.
The Brecon mountain railway, South Wales
Chug through the Welsh countryside on an old-time steam train for a proper Christmassy experience. You'll pass the Pant reservoir, across the snowy Welsh mountains, and see the old disused quarries and train lines of Wales' mining days before pulling into Santa's grotto where he awaits the train with sherry, mince pies and presents.
Santa's Cottage, County Down
Nestled among the Mourne mountains is Santa's secluded 19th century cottage. As well as an igloo filled with animatronic animals, a singalong with Mrs Claus and the chance to sit in Santa's sleigh, Santa really does come down the chimney and, sat next to a burning log fire, he hands out presents to the little ones.
Raby Castle, County Durham
The medieval Raby Castle may be closed for the winter, but Santa's cabin is just opening up for the season. Along a woodland walkway with real Christmas trees with grazing deer across the grounds (not quite reindeer, but close enough), you'll find Santa in his countryside cabin.
29 Nov - 23 Dec.
Lapland UK, Berkshire
It carries a hefty price tag for a grotto, but with ice-skating, interactive toy-making workshops, real huskies and reindeer, storytelling and gingerbread decorating there's a lot packed into the four-hour Lapland experience. And that's not even including Santa's log cabin grotto, where he's ready to welcome you and the family (all whose names he knows, of course) and check whether you're in his naughty or nice book.
21 Nov - 24 Dec.
Warwick Castle, Midlands
Up your grotto game this year and take the children for breakfast with Santa - in a castle. It's got it all and some: a 25-foot Christmas tree in the great hall, a roaring fire, Christmas carols, party games, and afterwards you and the brood can spend the rest of the day exploring the castle itself.
Saturdays and Sundays 6-21 December; then Monday 22 – Wed 24 December.
Santa Land, Edinburgh
There are heaps of activities to keep tots entertained this Christmas in Edinburgh's Santa Land – a Santa train, a Cars race-o-rama, a reindeer merry-go-round, a Christmas tree maze, a carousel, a Christmas market – and of course Santa Claus' grotto. There's even a market for the mini people with face painting and Christmas crafts.
21 Nov – 24 Dec.
All aboard the Santa Express! There's a singing Christmas tree, Christmas cabins selling goodies, an ice rink – and of course Longleat safari park itself to see how the animals are celebrating Christmas this year, perfect for animal-loving children. Little ones can hop aboard the Santa Express to steam train it over to Mr Claus' grotto, especially magical in the dark when you emerge from a dark tunnel into his lit-up grotto.
Every weekend inc. Fridays 13 Nov – 13 Dec, then every day 14 Dec – 3 Jan.
Wookey Hole Santaland, Somerset
Santa's Somerset grotto sits in the illuminated caves at Wookey Hole. As well as a festive circus show, real reindeer and getting a ride in Santa's sleigh, you can take the opportunity to check out the wonders of the Wookey Hole caves lit up especially for Christmas.
21 Nov – 24 Dec.