Two years ago we were invited to visit LaplandUK, and it was hands down one of the most magical days of my life. I’ve always been a huge Christmas fan – my whole family are – and it just brought the whole thing to life for me, and seeing my son utterly entranced by it all was just amazing.
I’ve been asked by a lot of people since that trip, “Is Lapland UK worth the money?”. With prices starting at around £70, it’s definitely an expensive day out for a family. But I think it speaks for itself that less than two years later, I booked and paid for our return visit. I sorted the tickets when the booking window for 2018 opened last January, and the excitement has been building all year!
I’d told myself that I wouldn’t spend the day stuck behind the camera this time. This was our day out and I wanted to enjoy it without having to worry about capturing content. But I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos on my phone, and making a little video which I’ve shared at the bottom of this post.
The adventure begins…
I’d somehow managed to keep our visit a secret from Max for pretty much the whole year! I set up the two invitations in the fireplace, which has always been one of Max’s fascinations about Santa – just how does he get down the chimney? He was thrilled to discover the invitation with his name on, and insisted on it being read to him over and over again, until he was able to recite it along with us, word for word.
We arrived nice and early for our time slot, which was the first of the day at 10.00. We parked the car in what was a very muddy car park, and we were very glad we’d bought our wellies with us as we wandered through the pine trees, guided by the lights strung through the trees.
We arrived at a little wooden house in the woods and were greeted by an elf, who guided us through to the check in desk. We checked in, and they even remembered that we’d visited before! This time we’d got there with plenty of time to spare, so managed to grab a hot chocolate and then investigate the huge pile of suitcases which appeared to have been left there by previous travellers.
When it turned 10am, the Elf Travel Master appeared, and invited us all through the magical door to visit Lapland. We made our way through the tree lined tunnel, through to a little dimly lit theatre, with little benches for us all to sit on. A huge tree filled the centre of the stage, fairy lights twinkled everywhere, and the scent of pine cones filled our nostrils. It was a really magical scene. We were introduced to the two woodland elves, who told us all about the history of Lapland and how elves came to be. It was so funny seeing how different Max was during this part of the trip – last time he was a bit wary (he was only 2), but this time he was fully immersed in the experience, giving his all to shout at the elves with all the other children.
We were in the Reindeer group, so we followed our tour guide through the huge doors to find a beautiful world of pine trees and snow. It’s just like being in Narnia, with lamp-posts guiding your way through the forest, and you completely forget that you’re actually in a wood just outside Bracknell. We followed our Reindeer guide to a little workshop, which was filled with toys. It was Santa’s Toy Factory!
We met more elves, who told us that there were so many children on the good list this year that Santa needed some help with getting all the toys made in time. The children were each given a box with all the bits needed to make a penguin cuddly toy, and both of our boys absolutely loved this part. Ben needed a bit of help, but loved the little penguin and couldn’t stop beaming at it! Once the toys were made, they were handed into the elves (with no fuss from any of the children – something that I always find amazing!), and we made our way onwards, to Mother Christmas’s kitchen.
In the kitchen we met Mother Christmas and her elves, who showed us their gingerbread creations and told us all about just how much Father Christmas loves his gingerbread. The children each got a gingerbread man to decorate with sweeties, and then it was time for a short story.
Once we were finished at Mother Christmas’s kitchen, we made our way to the Elf Village, where we had 90 minutes to enjoy ourselves before it was our turn to meet Father Christmas. The Elf Village really is beautiful – snowy trees and fairy lights everywhere, huskies to meet and stroke if you’re brave enough (Max wasn’t!), places to eat, treats to buy, and an ice rink for skating.
Max was absolutely won over by the Elf Village. He can be quite a cautious child, especially when it comes to talking to strangers, but he spent ages chatting to Pixie Mixie, the elf who runs the sweet shop, about all things Paw Patrol, and he was even brave enough to go on the ice rink with me and pretty much had to be dragged off it – he loved it!
Our 10:00 time slot had the benefit that we were the first people of the day to emerge in the Elf Village, so it felt lovely and quiet, and I think this was a big part of why Max was able to warm up to it so well.
When it was our turn to meet Father Christmas, we headed to the spot we’d been told about and were guided through a tunnel, which led us on a path lined with trees. We saw pretty little elf houses, met reindeer, and eventually found ourselves at the check-in desk. The elves checked our details, greeted Max and Ben by name, and told us an elf would be there shortly to take us to see Father Christmas.
Just as Max was announcing that our elf was “taking AGES” (we’d been sat down about a minute, which is clearly a long time when you’re waiting to meet Father Christmas), she appeared, and led us through the wood to a little log cabin. We waited outside while she checked they were ready, and then we got invited in. Now, when it comes to meeting Father Christmas, I wasn’t sure how it would go with Ben. When Max was Ben’s age, his first visit to Santa resulted in screaming and floods of tears! But this was the most perfect looking Santa ever – just a spot on picture book version of what I imagine Santa must be. Ben was more than happy to sit on the bench with his brother, and was pretty captivated by Father Christmas.
Max is a funny one when it comes to Santa. He is a little bit obsessed with him, and full of questions, but last year, at aged 3, he did start to have his first doubts about the authenticity of Santa. I wanted to make sure that the Father Christmas we met this year was the real deal for Max, and this one absolutely was.
Max was a little bit shy at first, but when Father Christmas showed him his name in the book on the good list and started talking all about how well Max was doing in his swimming lessons, he was completely won over. Father Christmas gave both the boys a husky toy, and a little bell (both of which Ben threw on the floor), and then it was time for us to go home.
I’d wondered if our second visit could possibly match the magic of our first.
After all, once you know what’s coming and you’ve done it before, can anything ever really live up to the first time you experience it?
But I needed have worried; if anything our second visit was even more special.
Max is 4 now, which I think is the perfect age for this type of experience – he loved every minute of it, and is already asking if Father Christmas will invite him back next year. He was more confidence in doing the tasks, understood more about Christmas, was happy to chat to the characters, and loved the ice skating. I remember standing in the Elf Village and thinking back to our previous visit and marvelling at just how much my little boy had grown in confidence in those two years.
I’d wavered over whether to take Ben with us on this trip or not, as at 17 months, he’s just very young for it, and it was difficult to justify the price tag. But when it came down to it, I didn’t want a photo of our family without him there, so we decided to take him. And while I can’t deny it’s an expensive trip for something he’s unlikely to remember in the future, there were so many beautiful moments from the day for him that I’ll always remember, even if he doesn’t. The huge smile on his face as he put together the toy penguin; him taking off his hat as we met Santa and throwing it on the floor; him waving to me and Max as we went skating past on the ice. These are memories that I’ll have forever, and just perfectly capture the magic of Christmas for me. I think for lots of adults, the magic of Christmas tends to fade a bit, but for me, seeing it all through the eyes of my children brings it all alive again and is worth every penny.
Lapland UK was such a magical start to our Christmas. It might not quite be December yet, but we’re fully in the Christmas spirit here!