I should say from the outset, that I’m a huge lover of all things Christmas. I just can’t get enough of it – whether it’s Christmas carols, decorating the tree, making wreaths, baking gingerbread, I love all of the traditions that make Christmas what it is. And last weekend we were lucky enough to have a Christmas experience that will stay with us forever – a visit to Lapland UK.
Lapland UK is based in Swinley Forest on the outskirts of Ascot and is in it’s 10th year. Living locally to Lapland UK I’ve heard friends raving about it, but this is the first year that we’ve felt that Max would be old enough to go, being 2 and a half. So when we received an invitation to visit this year I was over the moon with excitement – like a big kid at Christmas!
From the moment our invitations arrived, it was clear that this was going to be really special. Max’s invitation appeared magically in our fireplace the day before our visit, and the old fashioned looking invite with it’s wax seal grabbed his interest straight away. We read it together, and discovered that there had been so many good children this year, that Father Christmas needed help making all those extra toys – would we be able to join him in Lapland UK to help him make those toys in time for Christmas Day?
Our visit to Lapland UK
Our visit started with a walk from the car park, through the woods, guided by fairy lights and signs to the Enchanted Forest, until we arrived at a wooden house. Inside there were twinkling lights, and a very magical feel to everything, with suitcases piled up high. We made our way to the check-in desk where we were greeted by a friendly elf who welcomed us to Lapland and issued Max with his own Elf Passport, explaining that at each activity we did, Max would get a special stamp in his passport. We bought some Elf Jingles from the currency exchange to spend, which came in their own little velvet pouch to keep them safe. This was a lovely touch, although I wish I’d understood that you could also pay by credit/debit card throughout the visit!
I also wish we’d had time to grab a quick brownie and hot chocolate from the little stand, but just as we’d bought our elf jingles a very important elf appeared! He welcomed us to Lapland, and the magical double doors to Lapland opened to reveal a woodland pathway, covered with pine trees and twinkling lights. We followed our reindeer herder guide and we were off on our Lapland adventure!
We emerged in a dimly lit tent with benches to sit on. The scenery was beautiful, with the scent of pine cones filling the air. We were greeted by the woodland elves, who told us the story of how elves came to be. Max was a bit wary at points during this, and did at one point demand to go home! But once the big oak doors opened to reveal a snowy Lapland, he was excited to get outside and see the snow!
The Toy Factory
We followed our guide to the Toy Factory. The workshop really was so well done – there was a conveyor belt which transported different toys around the ceiling, a source of much fascination for Max, particularly when he spotted a wooden fire engine, which is exactly what he wants for Christmas this year. While we were there, Father Christmas himself called on the telephone to ask for our help in making toys – by this point Max was so entranced by everything that he shouted out ‘Bye bye Father Christmas’ when the telephone was hung up!
We got to help make two toys – we stuffed a reindeer, and built a wooden teddy bear, before handing them over to the elves for wrapping. I have to admit that I was concerned that having to give back a toy wouldn’t go down too well, but Max couldn’t have been happier to trot up to the desk and proudly hand over his toys. (It’s worth noting that you can buy these toys in the gift shop later on if your child does object!) Being only two, Max did need quite a lot of help with both of these – as you can see, I had a great time helping!
Mother Christmas’s Kitchen
With our toys complete, we moved on to Mother Christmas’s kitchen. Inside there were little benches for the little folk to sit on, surrounded by workbenches, all laid out with aprons and chef’s hats, as well as big benches around the sides for the ‘big folk’ to sit on. The children all sat on the benches, while Mother Christmas and her elves told everyone about Father Christmas’s love of gingerbread.
The children each got a gingerbread man biscuit to decorate with little sweets and icing. Max loved this – I love the look of concentration on his face, and he was so proud of his finished biscuit!
Once all the biscuits were decorated, the children gathered back on the benches and Mother Christmas read them a story. There is an expectation with all the activities that the children will sit apart from parents – I felt this was a bit too much to ask from a two year old, and certainly wouldn’t have gone down well with Max, so we did sit with him on one of the back benches.
By this point, Max was completely fascinated with everything, and was fully embracing the experience. He even waved and said ‘bye bye’ to the elves as we left the kitchen!
The Elf Village
Our next stop was the Elf Village – we left the kitchen and walked through snowy, Christmas tree lined pathways, following the signs. Lapland is pushchair friendly, but it is worth remembering that it’s a wood, so can get muddy in places – wellies would be advised! Once you arrive in the Elf Village you have 1.5 hours to explore as you wish. There is an ice skating rink, numerous gift shops, places to eat, as well as various characters wandering around with animals – the huskies were beautiful!
By the time we arrived at the Elf Village the light was rapidly disappearing, which made for a beautiful atmosphere as the twinkling lights just brought everything to life. Sadly it did make capturing photos of everything much more difficult! Despite that, I’d really recommend this time of day for a visit – our tour started at 14:30, so by the time we arrived at the Elf Village it was 4pm, and everything looked just magical.
My favourite part of the Elf Village was the Bauble Shop. It had a beautiful selection of handmade baubles and was run by Bauble the elf, who had such a spectacular outfit I had to take a photo! I bought a set of 6 red and white baubles to decorate this year’s tree.
There is an Elf Post Office where you can write and post your letter to Father Christmas (and exchange any unspent Elf Jingles).
The Elf Emporium is a toy shop, filled with so many old fashioned toys and games. The little touches that Lapland make for little folk were so apparent here – alongside the main doors, they had little children sized doors, and Max thought this was just fabulous!
There is also a proper old fashioned sweet shop with pick and mix, gingerbread, candy canes, and too many other kinds of sweets to mention! The vintage feel was so well done, with old fashioned scales, and sweets that have gone out of fashion these days, like sugar mice and boiled sweets. We spent quite a while in here, not because of the sweets, but because of the miniature train that circled the ceiling which Max was absolutely fascinated by!
We grabbed a quick bite to eat in the restaurant. Max had a kids fish finger sandwich and chips, and we shared one between us. As you’d expect, food isn’t cheap, with a carton of drink costing 2 elf jingles (£2) and the kids meal costing 5 elf jingles (£5). But the portions were big, and the restaurant was lovely – very clean, and with foliage and fairy lights decorating the ceiling.
We also grabbed two hot chocolates (4 Elf Jingles) from one of the drinks cabins – I had a white hot chocolate but was quite tempted by the Bad List hot chocolate (with a sneaky addition of whiskey / rum / amaretto).
Sadly we didn’t do any ice skating, as Max is a bit too little still, and my husband isn’t a fan, but we found that the hour and a half whizzed by and soon it was our time to meet Father Christmas!
Meeting Father Christmas
We joined the queue to meet Father Christmas and were guided down another narrow tree lined path, passing little wooden houses along the way, and crossing a beautiful carved wooden bridge. We saw Father Christmas’s reindeer who were surprisingly sprightly in their enclosure, running around! Clearly working up to the big day! Eventually we arrived at a bigger house where we were checked-in by the elves (who knew we were coming!). They checked our details, greeted Max by name and told us that Father Christmas would be ready to see us soon.
Now, I should say at this point that Max had become quite grumpy. We had a tantrum from him in the queue over a hot chocolate that was ‘too hot’, and he was pretty tired. We took him to see Father Christmas last year too, and it’s fair to say that didn’t go down well – he screamed the whole time! So our hopes for our visit with Father Christmas weren’t high this year. But we were met by our elf guide, who once again guided us through what seemed like even narrower pathways, through a maze, until we reached Father Christmas’s house. At this point, Max’s eyes lit up, and he was fascinated and really keen to go in. Once we entered, he didn’t cry, but he was quite shy, just cuddling into my husband, turning away from Father Christmas. But the big man wasn’t put off – he chatted to Max, revealing little things he knew about him. When he mentioned ‘dog-dog’, Max’s favourite toy, there was suddenly a huge change in Max, and he was perfectly happy to chat to Father Christmas about anything! He was shown his name on the Good List, and when Father Christmas presented Max with a beautiful husky soft toy his eyes just lit up and we got the photo we thought we’d never get!
Our elf gave us directions for how to exit the forest, and we made our way to the photo collection point. Including in the ticket price is one photo. What’s not quite made clear until you get there though is that the one photo is the first one – you can’t pick your favourite! Given that our first one wasn’t great, but two others were lovely, we bought the souvenir book, which allowed us two more photos (and digital downloads too), as well as a place to store your Elf Passport and activities for your child to complete. At 15 Elf Jingles (£15), this didn’t seem to bad to me.
And with that our day had come to an end! We headed home with hearts full of magic – it really was a day I’ll remember for a long long time, and I hope that Max does too.
There’s no getting away from the fact that a visit to Lapland UK is expensive. At £65.50 – £95.50 for a standard ticket for anyone over the age of 12 months, it’s an expensive family day out. Is it worth it? I have to say yes, I think it is. At around 3.5 hours, it’s the equivalent to going to the theatre, which is comparable cost-wise, and the whole thing is certainly an immersive, theatrical experience. The attention to detail is just incredible, from the sets to all of the performers, and it really captures the magic of Christmas perfectly. The elves are all wonderful, and really do their best to interact with all of the children, whether they’re a performer, or working in the shops.
As I said earlier, I’d been concerned about the suitability of Lapland UK for a 2 year old. At 2 and a half, Max was definitely one of the younger guests, and I did have some concerns about how much he would enjoy his visit. But I have to say that he loved it, and got so much out of it, despite having a few moments towards the end of the day. I think the ideal age to visit is probably a bit older – around 4/5 would seem pretty perfect, but as I can confirm, it’s a magical experience whether you’re 3 or 33!
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Lapland UK for inviting us to experience the magic this year!
Disclosure: We were invited to visit Lapland UK for the purposes of this post. All words and opinions are my own.