For the very first time Hale Leys has a Santa’s Grotto, and it’s run by Stay & Play in Aylesbury. It’s more of a Santa’s Grotto rather than a Santa experience, but there’s a bit more to it than just a chat with the big man himself.
When you get there you’re met by one of the elves. They walk you through the little winter wonderland, pointing things out and messing around (in a good way) along the way. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it does add to the visit. Smallest Child enjoyed playing along and having a chat with the elf. Then you go into the shed where Santa is waiting.
Santa himself looks like at least part of his beard is real (I know this is important to a lot of people). Santa is wearing a face shield but it’s a clear chin one so the kids can still see him properly. He chats away with the kids for several minutes (5+ I think). The usual things, including the all important what would you like for Christmas? He also told her some little anecdotes about how reindeer can’t actually chew carrots (apparently we’ll be chopping them up this year!) and other little Christmas-y things. Each child is given a wrapped present by Santa.
Once you’ve finished chatting there’s a photo opp with Santa. There are various items and keepsakes that you can buy, including a couple of packages. Whilst you’re looking there are several more elves all happy to have a chat with the kids and talk about their visit.
Overall we were in the Hale Leys Santa’s Grotto for about 15 minutes. If you want to extend the time you’re there then you can also visit the Stay and Play soft play centre next door (read my review here)
There are boy and girl versions of the presents. For our age children (Smallest Child is 3) we were given activity and colouring packs.
The photo options
We’re going to ignore the fact that Smallest Child kept sticking her tongue out the side of her mouth every time they tried to take a photo! Apparently that was her thing of the day! Actually the photo came out really nicely. It’s £5.95 for a printed photo, £3.95 for a magnet, £2.95 for a keyring. You get a free digital copy of the photo with any purchase.
Hale Leys Santa’s Grotto cost
£7.95 per child. Booking is via their website. Open on selected dates only. There might be some walk-up availability on the day if you’re lucky
In the old toy shop, next to Stay and Play, Hales Leys Shopping Centre, Aylesbury. HP20 1ST.
For lots of other Christmas events and activities in and around Bucks have a look at the Free Time with the Kids Christmas pages