One of Elfie’s teachers pulled me aside this morning, having heard whispers of our Lapland UK review.
“Did you have a lovely time away in Lapland?” she asked. “Did you see the Northern Lights?”
I felt a bit embarrassed telling her that actually, we’d stayed in the UK all weekend, but had driven a couple of hours down south to Whitmoor Forest near Ascot, the home of Lapland UK. A place that is so magical and authentic that, like Elfie, you’ll probably want to tell all your friends afterwards that you’ve visited Father Christmas in the real Lapland…
Lapland UK was started in 2006 as a festive-themed immersive theatre experience and begins in October with the children receiving a personalised invitation from the big man himself to visit him at his ‘Lapland’ home. I hadn’t told my two we’d be going so this came as a huge surprise to them and they were delighted to have been handpicked for this Lapland UK review ;)
So this Sunday we hopped in the car and journeyed round the M25, invitations clutched in-hand, ready for a festively fun day out.
Everything was slick from the start: car parking could have been a nightmare in the middle of a forest but with high-vis stewards and labelled car parks we swiftly found our way to the fully computerised check-in manned by the first elf of many we’d encounter that day.
The second was Chatty, an elf named by Mother Christmas because he just couldn’t stop chatting! He mesmerised the children with a hilarious preamble before we were led into the first of many wonderful experiences at our specified time, on the dot of 1pm.
We were introduced to a super old elf here and his woodland friend Ecco… they explained to us where elves come from (pinecones! I never knew this) and talked of what was to come of our day for the Lapland UK review. They chatted about Mother and Father Christmas, their Huskies and Reindeers and the magic of the forest. We sang the pass rhyme for magical Lapland UK, shared our happy Christmas memories and were finally granted entry through the big wooden doors…
…into a magical snowy land!
The organizers of Lapland UK use film and TV fake snow experts to make it look so realistic and you really can’t tell. If you didn’t touch it (Elfie: “this feels a bit like rubber?”) you’d believe you were in Lapland or maybe even Narnia.
The first stop was the workshop where the Elves craft all the toys for Father Christmas to deliver on Christmas Eve. They were in desperate need for some help to finish them off for all the girls and boys on the Good List.
There was a reindeer soft toy that needed stuffing followed by a wooden horse to build. Easy enough for even Hux, who has the attention span of a goldfish, to build with a little bit of help. Elfie had made a friend and was off having fun building her toys with her so I stuck with Hux, helping him stuff reindeer legs and stick the horse’s head on.
Another song was sung: “Busy elves, busy elves, working night and day. Helping Father Christmas make the toys to fill his sleigh, oh!” and it was time to get a stamp in our Elf Passport before we moved on to meet Mother Christmas in her kitchen.
Here the children donned hats and aprons then decorated gingerbread houses (well, Hux ate his sweets and Elfie decorated her gingerbread house) before gathering round Mother Christmas for a story – The Gingerbread Man, of course! We’d earned one more stamp in our passports.
Next was the Elf Village where we had an hour and a half to explore. We began by grabbing a bite in the cafe where I was pretty impressed with the food on offer – pies, fish finger sandwiches and meatballs. The currency for the Lapland UK review is ‘Jingles’, £1 = 1 jingle, and you can either change your cash on entry or pay by card throughout. We met the most beautiful Husky called Amber and all fell in love with how kind and gentle she was.
Hux had been whinging to go ice skating ever since he clocked the rink so that was our next stop after a quick toilet trip. It was his first time and he was HILARIOUS, it was ‘too slippy’ and he has made me promise to never take him again. Maybe next year eh Hux? Elfie had a wonderful time on her skates so she is officially my new ice buddy.
After skating we headed to the Post Office to send our Christmas lists to Father Christmas. Elfie took great pains over writing hers and Hux drew a picture that he described to me as ‘a baby on a see saw’. We posted our list and odd drawings in the letterboxes and the children were given their final passport stamps which meant one thing: we could go and meet Father Christmas!
Back to the forest we went, winding through the trees, passing by FC’s reindeer and sleigh. It really was totally magical! We were shown to a waiting room and the kids sat down while I checked us in (read: confirmed the kids’ personal deets for Santa to impress them with) and five minutes later it was our turn.
I think this was the most magical bit for me – being led through the enchanted forest by an elf and knowing that Father Christmas’s house was somewhere near by. There were so many magical twisty turny bits and beautiful twinkly wooden bridges, it was just amazing!
Dusk was falling and it was the perfect time to be surrounded by snowy trees and fairy lights. Soon we’d arrived!
We headed straight in and were greeted by Santa and another Elf. Elfie and Hux sat down next to Father Christmas on a furry blanket as he asked them about what they’d been up to that day. Magically he knew their names, that they’d both done really well at their swimming lessons and how much they wanted to see their Gargi and Papa at Christmas. Elfie reminded him they’d got new bunk beds and he’d be able to find her on the top which was where she’d like her presents left. Hux told him “I love your big curly beard!”
He showed them their names on his list of ‘Good’ children and gave them presents of soft husky toys to take home. They were thrilled.
Then it was back through the Enchanted Forest to the exit where you could purchase pictures of your kids meeting Father Christmas (£15 for one, £30 for three). I did because I can never resist an awkward family photo.
In a nutshell, Lapland UK is not your ordinary Father Christmas experience. It’s truly immersive, interactive and a really fun day out for everyone in the family, and the prices reflect this at £45-£89.50 per person. We spent 4 hours at the experience and I was completely impressed with the quality and slick professional nature of the whole thing from parking to the actors to the ice attendants and the decorations – it couldn’t have been better. It would have been good if a photo with Santa, even a digital copy, was included within the price however.
Would I go again? I’d love to. I’d look at spending a bit less on presents to be able to afford the experience slightly closer to Christmas because my kids (and me!) got so much out of the day. Luckily being a family of three brings the price down a little bit ;) For other singletons out there I’d say it’s totally doable to manage on your own with two as there were always plenty of Elves on-hand to help and cloakrooms to put your belongings in when you skate. Wear a backpack if you can (my handbag just got in the way) as well as warm coats as it can get chilly spending so much time outside, but layer up as the indoor experiences are nicely heated. And wear wellies or flat boots – it was muddy!
Thanks to Lapland UK for having us: you were wonderful.
Lapland UK, Whitmore Forest, Swinley Road, Ascot, SL5 8BD