WIDE-EYED with excitement, my son ripped open the package that was on our doorstep, frosty cold and fresh from the North Pole.
Inside was an invitation from Santa Claus, asking him to come to Lapland and help the elves make toys for Christmas.
Thankfully, given the recent ramping up of border restrictions across Europe due to the new Omicron variant, this was a British version of Father Christmas’s Arctic Circle home called Lapland UK – in deepest, darkest Whitmoor Forest, near Ascot in Berkshire.
After a welcome from some cheerful woodland elves, who set the scene with a cute stage show and a lesson in being eco-friendly — which probably went over every child’s head — a door opened onto snowy Lapland.
Even as an adult, it was hard to not be awed by the path we took through the faux-frosted fir trees, and as we passed miniature elf homes on the way to Santa’s workshop, all ages gawped at the winter wonderland.
The elves don’t hang around – there’s too much to do before December 25.
So once inside the workshop, the kids were put to work building wooden bears for good little boys and girls to receive in their stockings.
The difficulty of the task was just right for our boy, who turns three later this month.
As a reward for such a good job on the wooden bears, the children were invited to join Mother Christmas in her kitchen to decorate gingerbread men, then listen to a festive story.
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After the immersive activities, families are given 90 minutes free time in the Elves’ Village — a wintry, festive town square centred around a large ice rink, with several shops, an elf post office and a restaurant serving food like pizza, mac ’n’ cheese and burger and chips.
Having filled himself up on gingerbread, our son wasn’t very interested in his cheesy pasta but that is no reflection on the quality of the food — it’s of a high standard compared to most children’s attractions.
It’s not cheap but portions are huge, so have a good look and work out how many meals you need before ordering.
An hour was easily filled on the ice rink — which includes skates and penguin skate aids as part of the ticket price.
We ended up spending so long skating that we had barely any time to visit the post office, huskies and toy store before our scheduled visit with the big man himself — Father Christmas.
Understandably for a meeting of such importance there is a queue, but the wait was divided into sections.
A tour of the reindeer enclosure, a seat in Santa’s waiting room and then a walk down yet more snowy paths guided by one of his elves.
The level of distraction was impressive enough that I didn’t witness a single meltdown from a bored child.
Father Christmas’s cosy log cabin was the cutest part of the journey — like something straight from the set of a Hallmark Xmas movie.
My son was overcome with shyness during his meeting, but Santa coaxed some words out of him by discussing his trip to see Stick Man at the theatre the previous weekend — information gleaned from an online form filled out by us parents before the visit.
Clutching his new husky stuffed toy — a gift from Santa — we left our four-hour stint at Lapland on a festive high.
With ticket prices from £69 to £135 depending on when you visit, and adults required to pay full entry too, it would be easy to poke holes in Lapland UK’s offering.
But it really is a magical experience and unlike anything else in the UK.
Our child had a brilliant time from start to finish, and if I’m honest. so did the adults.
It’s a Peter Pan land of sorts, where real world problems are forgotten.
And this year we need that more than ever.
GO: Lapland UK
LaplandUK is sold out for Christmas 2021.
The first booking window for Christmas 2022 is next February, with a limited number of tickets available next September.
Tickets start at £69 plus booking fees and the show will open on November 12, 2022 running until Christmas Eve.
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