For parents today, taking their children to meet Santa is somewhat removed from the shopping centre grottos of yesteryear, and York is aiming to secure its reputation as the most festive city in the UK by offering the most remarkable Santa experiences in the country – from sweet adventures with the great man to magical encounters on a steam train.
“Christmas is the most magical time of the year, and for a generation brought up on a world of mobile gaming and tablet computers, anyone wishing to experience that kind of magic in the real life has a huge challenge,” comments head of marketing and communications at Visit York, Paul Whiting. “York has risen to this challenge in remarkable fashion, with attractions throughout the city and beyond devising the most incredible set of Santa encounters anywhere in the country – creating fairytale fantasy visits with the great man that children will remember their whole lives.”
Santa’s Sweet Adventure at York’s Chocolate Story, from Saturday 23 November to Tuesday 24 December invites guests to meet Santa on special themed tours, in which they complete a mission to help him save Christmas! On the way, children will experience Christmas games and learn festive facts about iconic confectionery brands and how chocolate was involved in Christmases past. There will also be an opportunity to make Christmas-themed lollies and watch special festive demonstrations with the talented chocolatiers.
Santa’s Sweet Adventure includes meeting Santa, commemorative photo, festive chocolate making activity: child: £17.50, child under 4-years-old: £6.00, adult: £9:50. yorkschocolatestory.com
Baby’s first Christmas
A perfect way to celebrate a baby’s first Christmas, Baby Meets Santa at Web Adventure Park is a relaxing, sensory, two-hour Christmas experience that gently introduces little ones to Santa in a festive environment, with activities and Christmas songs led by elves. There is also the chance for individual family time with Father Christmas in his grotto to capture that all-important first baby and Santa photo. Selected dates from Thursday 12 – Friday 20 December from 10am to 12 noon.
Ticket prices: £10 child, £1.75 adults, available in person or by calling 01904 692221. webadventurepark.co.uk
Enchanting Evenings at Castle Howard
Taking the experience to another level Castle Howard’s exclusive evenings with Father Christmas start with a festive tea party in the Grecian Hall before setting off on a candle-lit trail around the beautifully decorated historic house, before they find Father Christmas and his friends in the magnificent Great Hall, which is filled with one of the largest indoor Christmas trees in the country! Children are invited to gather by the tree and join in with music and stories before receiving their personalised present from Father Christmas, with photo opportunities too.
The event runs from 6pm to 8pm (approximately) on selected dates from Sunday 1 December to Monday 23 December. Please note: accompanying adult tickets must be purchased upon booking and will include admission into the event and refreshments. Evening with Father Christmas tickets do not include admission to the house and grounds during the day. £75.00 per child, £15.00 per accompanying adult.
Castle Howard is also hosting two other Father Christmas experiences – for the Audience with Father Christmas, the big man and his friends gather round the fire, telling stories and singing songs before handing out personalised presents and posing for photos. For those looking for a more ‘spur of the moment visit’, the drop-in Santa’s Grotto in the Courtyard Grotto offers an easy way to meet Father Christmas and his elves in the Courtyard Café.
Audience with Father Christmas: Child ticket includes: visit to Father Christmas, access to House & Gardens, invitation from Father Christmas and a personalised gift. Each session lasts approx 45 minutes at selected times throughout the day from Saturday 23 November to Monday 23 December 2019 (please check the booking page for individual dates and times). £27.50 per child. NB: Adults accompanying children are required to purchase either an inclusive (House & Gardens) or Gardens only ticket. Drop-in Santa’s Grotto is just £8 per child, with timed slots available each day and no booking necessary. castlehoward.co.uk
Better than the Polar Express!
For a festive journey with a difference, join Santa and his special helpers on a magical adventure aboard the Santa Express, which runs on selected dates in December. Departing from Pickering, Grosmont and Whitby Stations, these Santa Specials bring Christmas to life and give children the chance to meet the legendary man in his grotto on board the train. Children will also receive a fun activity sheet with colouring pencils and a juice drink when they visit Santa plus an age appropriate present along with a North Yorkshire Moors Railway Santa hat. The festive round trip lasts approximately one hour from the departure station and each Santa Express Ticket includes a delicious mince pie and a warming hot drink for everyone with a little alcoholic tipple for the adults. Tickets cost £20 each and pre-booking is essential to guarantee the time slot and date – please visit nymr.co.uk.
Float to Santa’s secret grotto
The Santa Cruise experience takes to the River Ouse on Saturday 30 November until Monday 23 December. The one-hour trip includes a welcome to the Grotto, cleverly hidden away underneath Lendal Bridge, a personalised present from Santa hand delivered to each child, face painting, refreshments, fun and surprises.
From £13.00 per person. citycruisesyork.com
Tales with Father Christmas at Treasurer’s House
Visit this beautiful National Trust property next to York Minster for a behind-the-scenes hard hat visit across the roof tops to the attics where Father Christmas has been set up with a special grotto, and is telling stories and handing out presents. Ages 4+.
£8.50 per person plus entry into house, booking essential. Call 01904 624247 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk Sunday 1 December – Saturday 21 December weekends only.
Polar Explorer breakfast
Feed themselves and make some reindeer food! Children can enjoy a scrumptious North Pole breakfast and time to meet Father Christmas in his grotto at the Web Adventure Park. Ticket includes making reindeer food, Christmas crafts to take home, a gift from Father Christmas and unlimited time to play afterwards in the Web Adventure Park. Places are limited, so early booking is advised.
Ticket prices: £12 child, adults £2.25, available in person or by calling 01904 692221. Selected dates from 14 – 24 December. Times: 10am to 12 noon, stay and play afterwards. webadventurepark.co.uk
A timeless classic
Fans of a traditional Santa’s Grotto are in for a treat at Stockeld Park where a cosy, rustic wooden cabin, decked with twinkling lights, awaits Santa’s arrival from Lapland from 16 November until 24 December, as part of Stockeld Park’s famous adventure season, which includes The Snowflake Maze, Winter illuminations in the award-winning Enchanted Forest, a Nordic Ski Trail and ice skating. Tickets available on site on the day but for best prices book online www.stockeldpark.co.uk