Where will you see Santa this year?
Liverpool, 1879, and something different was happening at Lewis’s Bon Marché department store. A big jolly man in a red suit with a long white beard had set up shop and the children couldn’t keep away. It was, of course, the first ever Santa’s grotto where Father Christmas, his elves, wrapped gifts, and the infamous naughty-or-nice list that would first become so etched into Christmas tradition for countless families over the next century. Today, there is a huge amount of choice when it comes to finding your favourite seasonal grotto across Kent, and the joy and magic that it produces is a great way to begin your festive celebrations.
Leeds Castle // 25-26 Nov, 2-3 Dec, 9-10th Dec, 16-17 Dec
Leeds Castle offers up a magnificent Christmas market each year, and at its heart lies Father Christmas in his magical grotto. There is colouring and crafts for children to take part in while they wait, and then, when it’s finally time, you will be led through a mysterious enchanted pathway to see Santa himself. Every child will be given a traditional gift to take home with them too.
Hever Castle // 25 Nov-10 Dec (Weekends), 13-24 Dec (Daily)
Hever Castle at Christmas is always something magically memorable, so of course, making this the place to meet with Father Christmas will really kick the festive period off perfectly. Children will be enchanted by the magical grotto where they will be taken by an elf through the snowy forest to meet Father Christmas in his log cabin. Fireside stories and beautiful attention to detail – as well as plenty of opportunities to enjoy mince pies and mulled wine – make this grotto something for all the family.
Bluewater // 16 Nov-24 Dec
As ever at Bluewater, there is more to this grotto than you might first think. Rather than simply being ushered into a room to meet Santa, the children will first meet Mr Crumb the Christmas chef in his log cabin. He – with the help of some magic – will transform the little ones into elves, so that they can assist him in making a gingerbread man. Next, they will help Mrs Claus decorate her tree before finally meeting Santa himself where they will be given a soft toy for their trouble. Beautiful memories can be made here.
Kent Life // 2-3 Dec, 9-10 Dec, 16-17 Dec, 21-24 Dec
There is a lot going on at Kent Life this Christmas time! Arrive to meet Santa and climb aboard the festively decorated train – the head elf himself will be driving, so you know you’re in safe hands. Bundle into Santa’s cottage and listen to the Christmas stories that Mrs Christmas is going to tell; you can even write a letter to Father Christmas as you wait. Father Christmas will see each child individually and give them a gift – parents and guardians can enjoy a mince pie and sample of cider too.
Kent and East Sussex Railway // 2-3 Dec, 9-10 Dec, 16-17 Dec, 22-24 Dec
The steam trains at the Kent and East Sussex Railway will be decorated beautifully for the occasion of this special train journey during which Father Christmas will be passing by each carriage and chatting to the children inside. Following on behind are the elves, carrying loaded sacks of gifts for the kids. And, if there are any teenagers on board who might prefer something a little sweeter, there are boxes of chocolate just for them.
Groombridge Place // 2-3 Dec, 9-10 Dec, 16-17 Dec, 23-24 Dec
At Groombridge Place, the elves have a lot to do, especially during the Merry Elfmas event that takes place each weekend in December. Elf storytelling, Christmas letter writing, plenty of Christmas-themed crafts and even a stage show all take place here, as well as the chance to meet Santa in his grotto.
Broadditch // 2-3 Dec, 9-10 Dec, 16-17 Dec, 21-24 Dec
With all the fun of the farm combined with meeting the most well-loved Christmas icon, Broadditch has everything your little one might want this festive season. Climb aboard the tractor sleigh and experience an exciting journey into the enchanted wood where the elves will lead you to Santa’s cottage. Listen to a story, make a wish, and come away with a great gift.
Crampton Tower Museum // 2-3 Dec, 9-10 Dec, 16-17 Dec, 22-23 Dec
Grottos do tend to get booked up well in advance, so finding one that doesn’t need tickets is always a bonus – and the Santa Special Weekends at the Crampton Tower Museum in Broadstairs works in exactly that way. Santa is waiting patiently at the top of the tower, and good boys and girls will be taken there by an elf. On the way, they can walk through the elves’ workshop to see toys being made, and when they’ve finished chatting to Santa – and received their gift, of course! – they can then enjoy a ride on a miniature railway to finish the day off in style.
Walnuts Shopping Centre // 19 Nov-24 Dec
The Walnuts Shopping Centre in Orpington is proudly offering a totally free Father Christmas Grotto for your little ones this year. Pop along and write your letter to Father Christmas then post it in the Talking Post Box – he tells jokes you know! Take a ride in the sleigh with Rudolph at the helm, do some fabulous colouring, and then go and meet Father Christmas to ask him which list you’re on this year.
Hempstead Valley // 18 Nov-24 Dec
Father Christmas has taken up residence in his traditional grotto, which features many enchanting characters including penguins and a towering, beautifully decorated Christmas tree. The traditional grotto is open daily until Christmas Eve
and a visit to see Father Christmas includes a wrapped gift.
The Glades // 25 Nov-24 Dec
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Experience it in a magical new light at The Glades’ grotto spectacular – ADVENTure Land – hosted by the team from the centre’s sell-out smash, Kids On The Moon. From 25th November until Christmas Eve, families can enjoy an enchanting 45-minute, elf-led escapade around a Nordic-inspired village discovering fun-packed games, music, jokes and surprises – all hidden behind 24 windows and doors. Santa will be waiting at the end for a chat, photographs and to present adventurers with souvenirs.
Whitefriars // 3-24 Dec
The Santa’s Grotto experience at Whitefriars is bigger this year than ever before. This year, you can make elf dust while you wait, and once children have met Father Christmas, they’ll receive a lovely commemorative certificate.