Oxford Rd, High Wycombe HP11 2DQ
I had very low expectations for this event. I needed a free or very cheap Grotto and found this one and hoped it would be good enough.
Very sadly for me biggest child figured out the real deal with Santa last year, middle child already has a very special appointment with Santa with friends and smallest child is only 16 months and has no idea who the beardy guy is. (You can read about the really nice way I discovered to tell him that Santa isn’t real by clicking this link) In short, I wasn’t going to be doing a Santa’s Grotto this year, so I was really surprised when biggest child asked when he would be seeing Santa and there was no way I was going to pay £12 a pop to arrange something so the free Grotto at Eden Centre it was!
Because it was free I’d expected to struggle to pre-book but actually I was able to book tickets for the following weekend. You were told to get there 15 minutes before your time slot but actually you don’t need to be there that early. Whilst a session is going on, and for tidying up in between, the curtains are closed, so you just wait outside until they come out to you.
There is some limited buggy parking inside but if you’re able to leave the buggy at home I would recommend it. There is also a slot on the 23rd at 4.30 specifically for families with additional needs.
***Spoiler alert – if you don’t want to know exactly what happens in the Grotto then skip to the stars****
When it’s time to go in the whole group is taken into a really nicely decorated Grotto and the elves have a little chat with you. The very smallest children and babies (plus their siblings / group) are then taken straight off to see Santa which I think is a really nice idea. Each child / group gets a few minutes one-to-one with Santa and he’s really good. They also get given a packet of Reindeer food (wildlife friendly and glitter free).
In addition to Santa, and to keep the rest of the children entertained whilst they wait, there is the Elf school. This involves a Christmas craft (making a sticker wreath) that you get to take home, finding out your Elf name and being made into an Elf (complete with hat you can keep and rosy cheeks). Once you’ve finished everything you’re given a graduation certificate.
All in, we were inside for about half an hour (you’re given a 45 minute slot). I think this was one of the best Santa visits I’ve been to. As a comparison, the one in Aylesbury is £3 per child and is just a quick meet and greet with present. I would have gladly paid a few pounds for the one at Eden so the fact it was free was a real added bonus. Yes, there wasn’t a wrapped present (aka a bit of irrelevant tat that usually gets broken within hours), but actually I think the things they are given were much better and more useful.
Clearly not enough people know how awesome it is (and I’m kinda loathed to share in case I can’t get a slot next year!) because even as I write this there are still tons of slots available, including on Christmas Eve. I’d absolutely give it a 5 / 5 and we WILL book again for next year with all 3 children.
To book your FREE slot visit their website