Christmas Grottos and Experiences

Father Christmas is going to be a very busy man this year as he arrives all across the County by boat, train and tank! 

Planning a trip to see the big man is very important to us parents as we search for a truly magical and memorable experience for our children.

Some of the grotto's and experiences listed below have been recommended and reviewed by Dorset Mums so you can have a better idea of what to expect. 

EAST DORSET

ADVENTURE WONDERLAND

WILD CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND

There’s plenty to do at Adventure Wonderland over Christmas with unlimited play in the festive Wild Thing soft play, nativity cuddles corner and a pantomime.  Book the full Father Christmas experience and you can visit Santa in his snowy log cabin and receive a gift for your child.

DATES - Selected dates in November & December 2017

ADDRESS - Merritown Lane, Hurn, Christchurch, BH23 6BA

For more information please visit the Website.

THE ARK

SANTA'S WORKSHOP

Come and experience the magic and sparkle of Christmas with fabulous festive fun for all the family at the award-winning Ark Poole Park this year.  The Ark will be overrun with elves as they set up elf-camp to meet, greet and entertain visitors big and small.  Children will be able to write a letter to Santa Claus, get crafty and create a keepsake tree decoration, choose and decorate a gingerbread character, make reindeer food and of course meet Santa himself to receive a goody bag.

DATES Selected dates from 25th November - 24th December 2017

ADDRESS Poole Park, Parkstone Road, Poole, BH15 2SF

For more information please visit the Website.

CHRISTMAS IN BOURNEMOUTH

SANTA'S GROTTO

The Bournemouth Christmas Market includes an exciting Town Centre grotto, where you can come and meet Santa and his elves in a festive wonderland with an interactive walkway and goodies for all the children. 

DATES Selected dates from 24th November to 24th December 2017

LOCATION The Square, Town Centre, Bournemouth

For more information please visit the Website.

CITY CRUISES

SAIL WITH SANTA

Hop on board a City Cruises boat and head around Poole Harbour for a Santa experience with a difference.  There's going to be plenty of fun for all the family with children's entertainment, music, festive food and drink plus a visit from Father Christmas himself.

Dorsetmums Recommends – To read our review from a previous year please visit the Dorsetmums blog.

DATES - Selected dates in December 2017   

ADDRESS - Boat leaves from Poole Quay

For more information please visit the Website.

COMPTON ACRES

BREAKFAST WITH SANTA

The Breakfast with Santa mornings are always popular.  Children will receive a special Christmas gift from Santa himself whilst the whole family enjoy a delicious Full English Breakfast.

DATES - Selected dates in December 2017

ADDRESS - 164 Canford Cliffs Road, Poole, BH13 7ES

For more information please visit the Website.

FARMER PALMERS

MEET FATHER CHRISTMAS

Meet Father Christmas in his winter cabin to receive a special gift during your visit to Farmer Palmers.

Pre booking not required, simply purchase your tickets at the reception desk on arrival. 

DATES - Selected dates in December 2017

ADDRESS - Wareham Road, Poole, Dorset, BH16 6EU

For more information please visit the Website.

RIVIERA HOTEL BOURNEMOUTH

SANTA'S SUNDAY LUNCH

Visit The Riviera for a tasty Christmas Sunday lunch in the Cunarder Restaurant decced out for Christmas with trees, baubles, crackers and more!  The children will get to meet Santa during the meal and receive an exciting Christmas present. 

For an added treat to the day you'll receive complimentary use of the leisure facilities so you can relax in the pool before or after your lunch! 

Dorsetmums Recommends – To read our review from a previous year please visit the Dorsetmums blog.

DATE - 17th December 2017

ADDRESS - 14/16 Burnaby Road, Bournemouth, BH4 8JF  

For more information please visit the Website.

RUSSELL COTES MUSEUM

Father Christmas will be making an appearance at the Russell Cotes Museum during the Christmas Fair.  

Pre-booking is essential so that he knows what gifts to bring with him.

DATES 9th & 10th December 2017

ADDRESS The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Russell Cotes Road, Bournemouth, BH1 3AA

For more information please visit the Website.

STEWARTS GARDEN CENTRE

SANTA'S WINTER WONDERLAND

Children can walk through the snowy winter wonderland grotto with musical animations and visit Santa to receive their gift.

DATES - From 25th November to 24th December 2017

ADDRESS - Somerford, Christchurch, BH23 4SA  

For more information please visit the Website.

UPTON COUNTRY PARK

SANTA'S CHRISTMAS GROTTO

This year’s festive woodland grotto will have a new and improved look with real wood cabins.  The experience will include interactive things for children and adults to get involved with, a children’s quality wrapped gift and photographs to take home on the day.

As of this year you can pre book tickets for any weekend in December.

In addition to the Santa Grotto the Walled Garden will be transformed for the festive season into a magical world of lights and laughter.  Follow the pathways, taking in the giant Christmas tree, have photos taken in the cosy interactive igloo, see the mini northern lights display as well as the penguin frozen lake, magical fairy turrets and Nativity Scene.

Tickets for the Magical Light Garden can be bought separately or you can upgrade your Christmas Grotto experience.

DATES - 24th November to 24th December 2017

ADDRESS - Poole Road, Poole, BH17 7BJ

For more information please visit the Website.

RURAL AND NORTH DORSET

KINGSTON LACY

MEET SANTA CLAUS

Santa Claus will be making a few stops at Kingston Lacy this year and will be ready to meet the children and give them a special gift.

Pre booking is essential.

Other great events will be running through the festive period including the popular Illuminated Christmas Gardens and Stir Up Sunday. 

DATES - Selected dates in December 2017

ADDRESS - Kingston Lacy, Wimborne, BH21 4EA

For more information please visit the Website.

STEWARTS GARDEN CENTRE

SANTA'S WINTER WONDERLAND

Children can walk through the snowy winter wonderland grotto with musical animations and visit Santa to receive their gift.  

DATES - 25th November to 24th December 2017

ADDRESS - Broomhill, Wimborne, BH21 7DF

For more information please visit the Website.

JOHN BROWNS GARDEN CENTRE

BREAKFAST OR TEA WITH SANTA

Enjoy a delicious freshly prepared breakfast or tea and enjoy meeting Santa with the whole family.  Children can decorate a festive biscuit and then choose their very own present to take home. 

Recommended by Dorsetmum Jenny - We did breakfast with Santa at John Browns and found it reasonably priced and lovely.  There’s was a card on the table for the kids, we sang some songs, met Santa at breakfast, decorated a biscuit, chose a present and got some fab pictures.  Lovely experience and a yummy brekkie too!  

DATES - 18th November to 24th December 2017

ADDRESS - Ringwood Road, Three Legged Cross, Wimborne, BH21 6RD

For more information please visit the Website.

MOORS VALLEY COUNTRY PARK

SANTA SPECIALS

Take the train to discover Santa’s Log Cabin where Father Christmas has presents for children and the grown ups too! 

Recommended by Dorsetmum Debbie - You get the train from Lakeside to Kingsmere Station where you visit Santa in his grotto.  Last year they had a toy train display running that keeps the kids entertained whilst they wait.  My boys loved this and would have quite happily spent all day looking at the toy trains going round.  They then had a train front attached to a sleigh which the kids could go on and have their photo taken in just before they went on to see Santa.  As part of their gift from Santa they got a Moors Valley train book, which for a little boy who is obsessed with the Moors Valley train was great.  After seeing Santa you get a mince pie and I think there may have been biscuits for the kids.  My boys loved it but they are massive fans in general of the Moors Valley train.  We've booked again this year as it was perfect for them. 

DATES - Selected dates in December 2017

ADDRESS - Horton Road, Ashley Heath, BH24 2ET

For more information please visit the Website.

PLOWMANS GARDEN CENTRE

SANTA'S CHRISTMAS GROTTO

There’s plenty to options to choose from at Plowmans Garden Centre including Breakfast/Tea with Santa or you could enjoy a trip to the Circus.  During December there will also be the popular outdoor train ride and birds of prey displays.

Recommended by Dorsetmum Bianca - Plowmans Garden Centre is brilliant!  Highly recommend as we’ve been the last few years and it’s been fab.  Good prices, decent presents, winter wonderland walk, great Santa and train ride for kids.

DATES 25th November – 24th December 2017

ADDRESS 392 Christchurch Road, West Parley, BH22 8SW

For more information please visit the Website.

PURBECK AREA

MONKEY WORLD

MEET SANTA AT MONKEY WORLD!

The grotto experience includes making Christmassy sand art, primate present making with Mrs Claus plus hot chocolate & mince pies!  You can also follow the advent trail and write a letter to Santa before the elves lead you to his grotto to meet him.  Discover whether you're on the naughty or nice list, receive a present and have your photo taken.

Booking is essential for this event, please call 01929 462537 to secure your place.

DATES 20th – 22nd December 2017

ADDRESS Monkey World, Longthorns, Wareham, BH20 6HH

For more information please visit the Website

SWANAGE RAILWAY

MEET SANTA ON HIS SPECIAL TRAIN

Meet Santa on his special train and receive a gift.  During the 1 hour train journey there will be children’s entertainment and Santa’s helpers will be serving refreshments and festive goodies. 

Recommended by Dorsetmum Melanie – The Swanage Railway is so good. We’ve been the last two years and it's definitely the best Santa experience.  We've done most of the others but we loved this one.  It's a whole day out and a really lovely experience for the little ones and the adults get a mince pie and sherry too!   

DATES - Selected dates in December 2017

ADDRESS - Train departs from Swanage Station

For more information please visit the Website.

Photo Credit - Andrew PM Wright

TANK MUSEUM

VINTAGE CHRISTMAS

This popular annual event has something for everyone.  Not only can you enjoy the museum but there’s also tons of festive stalls, live music, crafts, activities and Santa’s traditional grotto.  

Dorsetmums Recommends – Seeing Father Christmas arrive in a tank really is an experience not to be missed!

DATES - 2nd & 3rd December 2017

ADDRESS - Linsay Road, Bovington, Wareham, BH20 6JG

For more information please visit the Website

WEST DORSET

KINGSTON MAURWARD

Enjoy storytelling in the grand entrance of the house followed by a mince pie and mulled wine before your child visits Santa in the Old Library. 

Advanced booking only.

DATES Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th December 2017

ADDRESS Kingston Maurward, Dorchester, DT2 8PY

To book please call 01305 215003 or email events@kmc.ac.uk 

FANTASY ISLAND FUN PARK

More details to come soon!

WEMOUTH SEALIFE ADVENTURE PARK

You’ll be guided through the forest by a jolly Elf to meet Father Christmas in his enchanted Christmas cabin where each child will receive a special Sealife gift.  Children will also be able to go in the Christmas Craft Zone to colour their own Christmas tree decorations or write a letter to Father Christmas.

Dorsetmums Recommends – To read our review from a previous year please visit the Dorsetmums blog

DATES 2nd – 23rd December 2017 

ADDRESS Lodmoor Country Park, Weymouth, DT4 7SX

For more information please visit the Website.

RECOMMENDED EXPERIENCES OUTSIDE OF DORSET

LAPLAND UK

Lapland UK is the closest you’ll get to Lapland without leaving the Country.  It’s a truly magical and enchanting experience for both children and adults.  The journey starts before you’ve even left the house with a personal invitation from Father Christmas requesting their help in the toy factory.  When you arrive you will be given your Lapland UK passport and then head off to wander through the amazing snowy woodland to stop off at the toy factory where the children can help the elves to get the toys ready for Christmas.  After this families will have the opportunity to meet Mother Christmas in her kitchen to help decorate delicious gingerbread before gathering round to listen to traditional story.  From here you can visit the elves village where you’ll meet the reindeer and huskies before grabbing your skates for the festive ice rink.  As if all of that wasn’t enough you’ll end your day with a personalized meeting with Father Christmas in his woodland home and receive a very special gift. 

Recommended by Dorsetmum Sarah - Lapland UK was an amazing experience, not cheap but worth it and truly magical! 

DATES - 18th November to 24th December 2017  

ADDRESS - Whitmoor Forest, Swinley Road, Winkfield Row, Ascot, SL5 8BD

For more information please visit the Website.

MARWELL ZOO

CHRISTMAS AT MARWELL

You’ll begin your experience in the magical winter forest where you’ll enjoy some festive drinks and listen to Mother Christmas as she tells The Nutcracker story in the fairy glen.  Children can then create their own Christmas Eve plate in the elves workshop before meeting Santa in his sparkly Grotto to receive a gift.

Ticket includes entry to the Zoo.  Pre Booking is essential. 

DATES - 18th November to 24th December 2017

ADDRESS - Thompsons Lane, Colden Common, Winchester, SO21 1JY

For more information please visit the Website.

OTTER GARDEN CENTRE

SANTA'S GROTTO AT OTTERY ST MARY

Every child receives a gift chosen by you when you book plus a packet of magical reindeer food.  The experience lasts around 20 minutes and includes plenty of photo opportunities with the singing reindeer Rudy & Judy.  Children will also be able to make reindeer food in Mrs Claus’s Kitchen and visit Santa himself.

Recommended by Dorsetmum Teresa - You get to see singing reindeer and join in with their hokey kokey plus there’s lot of things to take photos of plus reindeer food making all before seeing Father Christmas.  Very reasonably priced experience. 

DATES - From 19th November to 24th December 2017 

ADDRESS - Milford Road, Everton, Lymington, SO41 0JD

For more information please visit the Website.

PAULTONS PARK

CHRISTMAS AT PAULTONS

Peppa Pig World is transformed into a magical wonderland with twinkly fairy lights, music and giant Christmas trees.  Children can visit Santa in his magical Grotto and receive a gift plus the whole family can enjoy selected rides, attractions and a Very Merry Christmas Show.

DATES - Selected dates from 18th November to the 23rd of December 2017 

ADDRESS - Ower, Romsey, Hampshire, SO51 6AL

For more information please visit the Website.

DARTMOOR RAILWAY

THE POLAR EXPRESS

Arrive in your pajamas and head off on this magical journey on the Polar Express.  Whilst on the train you’ll listen to the official movie soundtrack and indulge in delicious hot chocolate and cookies before the iconic story book is played aloud whilst the chefs show the beautifully illustrated book pages for the whole carriage to follow.  Now you will see the North Pole is in sight where Santa Claus and some of his elves wait to welcome you to his village.  After Santa boards the train you’ll need to listen carefully to hear the tiny jingles and then Santa will greet each child with the first gift of Christmas; a silver bell cut from his sleigh.  With a train now full of excitement it’s time to enjoy traditional Christmas songs plus interactions and fun with all your favourite characters.  

Recommended by Dorsetmum Kristina - The Polar Express is absolutely amazing.  It’s like genuinely being on the Polar Express and my boy honestly believes we went to the North Pole!  It’s so magical, there’s dancers, singing, hot chocolate, and the characters are really genuine.  

DATES - TBC

ADDRESS - Okehampton Station, Station Road, Okehampton, Devon, EX20 1EJ

For more information please visit the Website.

LONGLEAT SAFARI PARK

FESTIVAL OF LIGHT AND SANTA TRAIN

Discover the magic of storytelling in this year’s illuminated lantern display.  On selected dates you can jump onboard the Santa train where you’ll head to the snow covered North Pole and meet Father Christmas in his festive grotto. 

Recommended by Dorsetmum Kayleigh - You travel on the Santa train around part of Longleat to this magical Christmas island that’s covered in snow, even the trees.  There’s real reindeer and an open fire to keep warm, a wooden sleigh for photos and then you take a walk up to Santa’s grotto to have a photo and receive a gift before you get the train back to central Longleat.  It’s really lovely and magical.   

DATES - Selected dates from 5th November 2017

ADDRESS - Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 7NW

For more information please visit the Website.

Photo Credit - Longleat


Dorsetmums has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this site and does not accept liability for any errors or omission. Please also note that an event or venue may cancel or close at any time and therefore you should consider contacting beforehand.  

Please note that the Dorsetmums reviews were based on a previous years experience and therefore some of the activities you experience may differ from theirs.