So for those who don't know, Lapland UK is like the Roll's Royce of Santa's grottos - highly coveted and booked out months in advance. Tickets range in price from ~£75 to £200 per person depending on the the date and time of your visit. It's an exclusive, immersive experience 5 hour experience that takes kids into a secret magical world where the Enchanted Forest and Elvenworld awaits! The entire experience is broken in a scripted and unscripted sections which leads to the piece de resistance, a personalised visit with Santa!
We had our first Lapland UK visit in November 2022 when my son was five years old. I will be taking you through the full journey here from our booking, to the experience before visiting, the visit itself and the aftermath. It really was quite a journey and you want to make the most of it, because if done right, it will be an experience your kids will treasure forever! In short, I fully believe that this experience is worth it, and I will tell you why later down this post.
The Booking Process
After trying to booking a few months before the event in 2021 where no tickets were available, we signed up for the reminder notifications when tickets go on sale. In January 2022, as soon as this email popped into our inboxes, both my husband and I went online immediately and tried to book! In just a few minutes, found that weekends in December were already fully booked so we opted for a Saturday in late November instead. You can choose a specific time slot for your tickets and are encouraged to arrive 30 minutes before your entry time to avoid delays. Please don't be late as any lost time affects your time in Lapland and potentially your Santa visit.
One month before the visit, we received a box from Lapland which included a personalised invite from Santa. Luckily us Big Folk were also invited to accompany him on this journey with Santa's permission. The joy on his face was immeasurable! Because of his good behavior, and since he was kind, gentle and listened so well, he was chosen to visit Lapland as an honorary elf, to help Santa in his toy workshop. Part of this package included also a list of podcasts we could play from Santa on our way to Lapland and a small book for us Big Folk to guide us on what we needed to know about the Lapland visit. There was also a cute newspaper from Elvenworld introducing the Elves, their personalities and roles, so our little one could get to know them well before the visit.
On the day we drove to Lapland (or Ascot, Berkshire) which was a just 40 minute drive from Chelsea, London. We played podcasts from Santa in the car to make the journey more exciting! Parking is included in the booking and there was ample parking for us very close to the entrance.
Following a bag check, we entered the first part of the experience which showcased the house of an elf, shops to buy toys/souvenirs and the most delicious hot chocolate cafe. We then entered the first areas which took us into a beautiful registration area where were told the rules to observe in Lapland and the Small Folk (or children) each received a Lapland passport with a list of activities to do and things to see on their visit - they will collect passport stamps on each step. You will spend approximately 20 minutes in this area and here you will be divided into two groups.
You then enter into the base area preparing you before you enter Lapland. You will hear tales from two elves here and then taken into the magical portal into snowy magical Lapland!
As your travel through the white Winter Wonderland, you get a chance to explore elven houses. The first activity is making a toy in Whittle the toymaker's workshop - on this occasion, it was Lepi the snow leopard. Conker, the silliest elf (whom the kids just loved!) and Whittle entertain the kids with stories and tales before the toy making started . Wish the Elf paid a special visit to explain how important it was to be happy when making toys to spread the Christmas joy. Each child gets to build their own toy then hands it over to Whittle so Santa can give it to other kids on Christmas Day - it really gave the kids a sense of purpose and they loved it!
Next up is gingerbread decorating at Mother Claus's house together with some of her elven helpers. The kitchen is beautifully decorated with magical pots and gingerbread houses, whilst the kids get to decorate their very own gingerbread man, and eat it :)
We then ventured into the magical Elvenland where a plethora of shops and activities were to be found and a marvelous ice rink! Make the most of this activity as you will have approximately 2 hours here to ice skate, meet the huskies, get some delicious food, visit the post office (where the kids can write to Santa and post their letter) and shop for toys, baubles and sweets at the beautiful stores. It truly is so wonderful as the kids also get to meet the warm hearted and kind elves of Elvenland (including Treehouse, Pixie Mixie and many others) and hopefully can also identify the elves from the newspaper they read before the trip! You are encouraged to be on time as any delay here can affect your time with Father Christmas.
The Piece de Resistance
Then the final part of the journey, so please don't be late. You have approximately 1-1.5 hours to firstly wander through the snowcapped forest again, discovering the elf homes. Then a magical moment appears where the kids meet the reindeer and.....Santa's sleigh! There is a small official photo opportunity following this with the Lapland sign.
Last but not least, is the visit to Santa at his house. It was so smartly done and the Santa was so realistic. He remembered all the facts about our son, took notes about what he wanted as a present and made the visit engaging and interesting with lots of chat and questions. Our little boy was in awe especially after being thanked for being such a good honorary elf and helping make the toys! As a thank you, he received Kivi the husky as a pre-Christmas present. Here you will have a photo opportunity with Santa and will be able to collect the photos before the end of your visit.
And that marks the end of this amazing experience with the last stop being the store filled with goodies and toys where you have one last opportunity to shop, collect your photos (which you will pay for) and one surprise toy from Santa (which is Lepi the Leopard).
After our return from Lapland UK, the magic did not end. We had podcasts sent to us from Santa and another little personalised note from Santa that was included in the Lapland UK postal package when we booked. The biggest surprise was receiving Lepi the leopard on Christmas day!
So what's the ultimate verdict? The entire experience was surreal and super worth it both for my son and we equally enjoyed it!. Most of the experience, except for the part in the Elvenland, is scripted, where the creators of Lapland UK do a superb job of bringing the entire Christmas story to life in a magical and enchanting way. The characters are warm, welcoming. friendly and believable but most importantly are happy to engage with the kids. This is certainly the next best thing to taking your kids to Lapland, I bet! It will certainly be a repeat visit for us and we can't go back to any standard Santa's grottos after this ;)
I have included some key tips for booking and tips to make the most of your experience. It's so magical and has crystallised the whole story of Christmas for our son. He will remember this for years to come and can't wait to go back!
Recommended Age: I recommend a visit for kids aged 4 and above. Any younger and they won't really understand or appreciate the full experience like the toy and gingerbread making, or the skating.
When to book: Sign up for a reminder for booking openings. Bookings go almost immediately so once they go online, book log on and book the best slot you can find.
Indulge the whole experience: Play the podcasts that Lapland UK send, give the invites to your kids and make the entire visit a whole experience starting from a month before until a few weeks after Christmas
Other Santa Visits: Highly recommend that once you visit Lapland, you limit or avoid visiting any other Santa Grotto's that season, especially if your child has an eagle eye! Our little guy can now spot a 'fake' santa from a mile away!
Parent points: Use the experience to score points for good behaviour! I cant tell you how privileged my son felt to be invited to Lapland, especially as his friends were not ;) Because of this, he was on best behaviour before the visit, up to Christmas Day and kept it up after.
Buy the books: They tell the most amazing untold stories about how Santa Claus moved to Lapland and give each Elf a personality which our son still remembers and believes in, keeping the Christmas spirit intact!
Shop after your visit (online): I bought the elf hat and wish jar after the visit and I had the happiest little boy that could be. It was personally sent to him by Conker the Elf, and he was thrilled!
The Kensington Diary