Christmas

Is it too early for the C word?

…yes Christmas! Specifically a Christmas trip to Lapland UK.

I have a rule in my house, no Christmas before December, no decorations, cards or shopping. I absolutely hate the fact it seems to arrive earlier every year and really feel it spoils the magic when you’re sick of hearing Christmas songs before you’ve even opened the first door on your advent calendar.

However if you don’t want to miss out on some very special Christmas magic you have to get your skates on when it comes to a trip to the wonderful Lapland UK, it opens this week and is already largely sold out.

For those that aren’t aware of Lapland UK, it’s a magical kingdom that pops up in Ascot for a few months of every year. Well saying it pops up is doing it a disservice, with its toy factory, chalets, ice skating rink and snow covered trees it’s really like you’ve been picked up in the middle of an English forest and dropped off in an enchanting Nordic village.

Your Christmas adventure starts with the children in your party receiving a invitation from Santa requesting their presence to help make toys for all the boys and girls. We went back in 2016 when Luka had just turned four so I kept the trip a secret and left him the letter on his pillow to wake up to the morning of the adventure, which was a very exciting start to the day.

You book a time slot for the day and upon checking in and getting your Elf passport you are entertained by the elves and you can change your money into Jingles, the currency of Lapland UK. It’s a really special touch and it certainly adds to the magic paying for a hot chocolate with jingle coins as opposed to tapping your plastic.

Then your “4 hour immersive experience” starts. With the others booked onto your timeslot, you’re led into a fairy woodland and seated on little wooden benches and it’s like being in the middle of a theatre performance as the elves tell you the story of Lapland. It was a lovely start to day and really set the scene.

From there you walk down tree-lined snowy paths (the snow is sprayed on so will be there whatever the weather) to the toy workshop which is just picture perfect and exactly how you’d imagine Santa’s workshop to be. The mini adventurer loved helping the elves make all the toys and you can purchase them before you go and secretly collect them at the end of the day to make sure “Santa” delivers them to your child. It’s a little bit pricey but really helps keep the magic alive on Christmas morning.

After the toys are made you’re taken to meet Mother Christmas in her kitchen for story time and gingerbread man making. It was beautifully decorated and the lovely elves had thought of everything, with little aprons and chefs hats for the children and paper bags to ready to take your newly decorated biscuit away in.

The only problem is that the group you’re booked into, you stay with through all of this so if you’re unlucky enough to have some idiots in it you’re stuck with them for 90 minutes. We had the four most obnoxious adults in mine who walked around during the play, lifting props off the stage to pose their baby daughters with and even put the kids on stage in the middle of the show, and they then proceeded to talk so loudly through Mrs Christmases story that I actually couldn’t hear it. Obviously it’s not Lapland’s fault and I’m sure it was a rare occasion but whilst they didn’t spoil the day they did slightly tarnish it for both me and Luka.

From there it’s time to head into the Elf’s Village, you can hear the laughter and music as you approach and we were so excited to wander through the snowy forest and join in the fun. We headed to the ice rink in the centre and although it can get busy we were in our skates in minutes. It was Luka’s first time ice skating and what a first time to remember, it’s the part of the day he talks about the most two years later. And unlike a lot of places I’ve been since, there were plenty of penguins (the kind that help the kids stay upright not the real ones!) about so we didn’t have to wait for one to come available while he hung to the wall.

There’s no time limit on the rink but after about half an hour the 4 year old’s legs were tired so it was time for a hot chocolate in the open area Elf Restaurant before exploring the rest of the village.

There was the sweet shop, the elf emporium, the bauble shop and the post office where we bought and sent some postcards. We also got to meet some stunning huskies and a reindeer (don’t tell Luka but it wasn’t real!). The whole day was in all honestly like being in a Christmas film.

Finally just as dusk was setting and the lights fairy lights were twinkling all around us, we headed to the final part of our adventure, a chance to meet Father Christmas. We got a bit lost en route so allow a little time but soon we were ensconced in a cosy chalet with the elves, waiting to be sent to the hut we where we would meet Santa.

There were two things that Lapland UK have got spot on and the first is the Elves. All day long every elf we met was absolutely fantastic, happy to be there and helpful and while in Santa’s waiting room despite being busy the elf played with Luka and chatted rugby with my obsessed son! Secondly it’s how smoothly they make things run without ever giving away any secrets to the children. The elf was very subtle in telling me which hut we were going to to meet Santa without giving away the fact there are several “Santa’s” there.

Now dark, there was an even more enchanting walk through the forest to get to our Santa. And as much as I hate to admit it, he was actually the most disappointing part of the day. He absolutely looked the part (no cheap tacky red suits here) and was very friendly but for what I was expecting he just didn’t hit the mark. Before you go to Lapland UK you fill out a form with your child’s name and a few key details such as what they like to do and a memorable moment. Maybe it was because we were at the end of the day but despite looking in his book several times seemingly to remind himself he didn’t ask Luka anything specific. I’d written that Luka was a big rugby fan and loved the Ospreys rugby team but Santa just said he knew Luka liked sport and despite me writing that the mini adventurer had been in his school nativity the day before he didn’t mention it at all.

To be fair as Luka didn’t know about any of this he obviously didn’t know any difference and was happy with his husky teddy from Santa but having heard rave reviews of other Santa’s chatting away and remembering every detail of a child’s story, I felt really let down truthfully. It probably wouldn’t put me off going again as the rest of the day, and particularly the setting, was absolutely enchanting but I’d certainly be keeping my fingers crossed for a better experience the next time.

Now let me say Lapland UK is not a cheap day out for the family, for a Friday in late November 1 adult and 1 childs ticket will set you back £140, while going in few days before Christmas sees that rise to up to £250, a lot especially if you’re part of a larger family. Certainly for me it’s not something I would or could do every single year but it’s so special I think it’s something that it’s worth splashing out for, even if it’s just once, whilst your children are young and still believe. You really will come away with magical memories that last a lifetime.

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