Spoiler alert….Don’t show this to other little people or Elves as I might get in trouble for spilling the beans before Christmas!!
Dear mummy, thank you. You’ve opened up my eyes to the wonder of Christmas. See at only 2 years-old I didn’t really know what Christmas was….until now.
My folks took me to LaplandUK, a theatrical experience that recreates Father Christmas’ arctic homeland. This magical adventure helps encourage and celebrate a child’s belief in Father Christmas. As a newcomer to this “Christmas thing” I was in wonderment the whole day. Right from the start when my mummy handed me a personalised invitation to come and meet Father Christmas in his winter home.
See, I thought I had to board a flight to Lapland to meet the man in the big red suit but apparently not. Father Christmas’s magic is so strong he brought his home and toy factory to us. I had visions of him shrinking his house and putting it on the back of his sleigh. I was intrigued when my mummy read out his invitation. I waited patiently for 2 weeks until the day had arrived and bundled into our car, along with Grandma and my Daddy on this expedition into the unknown.
Thankfully we didn’t have to travel far to the North Pole as LaplandUK is staged at Whitmoor Forest, Ascot, Berkshire. LaplandUK is like a film set, using the world leader in artificial snow production who provided the snow effects for blockbuster movies. We knew it would be impressive but nothing could prepare us for the beauty. The temperature had actually dropped, so we were expecting real snow as well!
A short journey down the M3 and LaplandUK was clearly signposted, there is oodles of free parking at Whitmoor Forest. The car parking attendant was very friendly (one even had a long white beard – we thought it was Father Christmas in disguise!) they asked me if I was going to see Father Christmas and I nodded in agreement and with a very suspicious look.
LaplandUK is open from Saturday 21st November and closes on Christmas Eve 2015. We visited on Sunday the 22nd November at 2pm and there were no queues on the roads or at the entrance. The only slight wait we had was before our tour started, as we arrived at the recommended 30 minutes before the ticket says to make sure we weren’t rushing and had time to collect some Elf Jingles and soak up the atmosphere.
The entrance tent was beautifully decorated. LaplandUK is a immersive theatrical experience so everyone was expected to turn their frowns upside down and enjoy the show. We exchanged our UK pounds into Elf currency called the Elf Jingle and £1.00 = 1 Elf Jingle. Elf Jingles, credit and debit cards were accepted inside LaplandUK to buy food and gifts.
Our visit was a timed experience with a tour departing every 30 minutes throughout the day so if you were late it would jeopardise your experience and you would have to catch up. My folks didn’t want to miss a thing so we hurried to the red curtain doorway when the Elf called our “huskies” tour name. Two tours left at the same time in opposite directions….mysterious.
Each child was issued with an Elf Passport on the day which acted like a little guide-book in which children could get stamps to collect on completion of each task, such as toy making and baking. It also included magic songs and enchanted stories, it made a great little keepsake as well.
As LaplandUK follows a fixed itinerary we were led by an elf tour guide who walked us through a dark, twinkly-lit passageway to the Elf Glade for the first part of this theatre experience.
A beautiful scene greeted us as we all sat on logs and benches by a small woodland stage, we met some key characters who told us a lot about this enchanted world and LaplandUK.
It was very snuggly and warm in the Elf Glade, until all of a sudden the doors opened and we were all cast into the white light of the snowy forest, my eyes had to adjust but it was truly breathtaking, even my folks gasped.
We were allowed to stop for some quick pictures before we were rushed back into the warmth of the Toy Factory (a little bit too warm for my mummy’s liking and we all had to strip off our heavy winter coats, scarfs, hats, gloves….)
A humorous and fun scene was played out in front of us as the elves needed help to make their toys for Father Christmas, they were behind schedule.
All the children participated in making a soft toy reindeer and a wooden horse and popped them in baskets. Afterwards we handed them back to the elves who stored them away until Christmas Eve. There was a little bit of confusion for us little ones as we all thought we got to keep them!
30 minutes had passed and before we knew it we were rushed back outside and guided along another pathway to find Mother Christmas. We weren’t so quick getting all our winter gear on and nearly lost the tour guide! Opps. It’s a shame really as I wanted to stop and look at all the little houses along the way.
Mother Christmas’ Kitchen
Back inside another little cabin we were transported into Mother Chrismas’s kitchen and it was a hive of activity. First we sat down on logs by her rocking chair and listened to a story and then we all had a go at decorating gingerbread houses. All the children were given aprons and chef hats and asked to help add the sweets with icing sugar to the biscuit, we were even allowed to take them home with us, good thing too as I was licking it and eating all the sweets – I don’t think it would have passed Elf kitchen quality control. This was the highlight of the experience for us all, and it seemed less rushed.
On completion I was given another stamp in my passport book! I felt very proud.
I even managed to get a sneaky photograph with the first lady too and a stamp on my hand!
Afterwards we had time to get our coats on and were ushered back outside down the long path which lead us to the Elf Village where we had 90 minutes of free time to enjoy the atmosphere of the village square before meeting Father Christmas at 5pm. This was a great time to visit as it was getting dark and the lights were starting to twinkle and add further magic to the place.
We explored the village and walked a giant loop around the Ice Skating rink, we went into the Old Fashioned Sweet Store and I used some of my Elf jingles to buy more Gingerbread and a bag of sweeties.
Getting our skates on…
After consuming my bodyweight in sugar it was time to get my skates on and burn off some of the hyperactivity before meeting Father Christmas – I didn’t want him thinking I was a space cadet!
We were free to skate on the real ice rink for as much of our 90 minute interval time as we wished. My mummy was surprised I even wanted to get on the ice but after watching too much Frozen, I just had to try it. My mummy was a nervous wreck but the penguin supports helped me find my feet and were available for young children. It was a great achievement and I was thrilled – my mummy was just relieved when I made it off the ice in one piece!
During our time walking around the Elf Village I also enjoyed meeting the huskies and my favourite was Suzy. I also got to stroke an owl and a hedgehog. We stopped and chatted to the Master Elf Keymaker and I played around the snowy trees. My mummy had run out of Elf Jingles so we headed to see the Elves at the post office to get some more changed up.
North Pole post office
We met some very friendly elves who helped me write and post my letter of thanks to Father Christmas. It was a great activity for children. I spent a good 10 minutes scribbling and then trying to post it through the multitude of quirky letter boxes.
LaplandUK gift shop and Emporium
Next we headed to the gift shop, which was massive and had a great selection of personalised LaplandUK gifts and tradition toys and books. My mummy could have spent a small fortune in here if it wasn’t for my Daddy dragging her out to get some hot food. We picked up some baubles for our Christmas Tree and some ‘special special’ which my folks couldn’t tell me.
Food glorious food!
We headed in to the heated Log Cabin Restaurant and it was quiet and very pretty. We enjoyed Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Sourdough and awesome Swedish Meatballs (Ikea has nothing on these!). Prices were reasonable and the portions were generous.
Meeting Father Christmas
After our 90 minute interval in the Elf Village it was time for our personalised meeting with Father Christmas. At 5pm (the time that was written at the back of my passport) we all gathered at the exit to the Elf Village. This was the only time we encountered a queue, as everyone on the 2pm Tour had gathered at the same time. It was a bit cold, so Grandma stayed in line while we continued to walk around the village. The queue was face paced though and within 10 minutes we walked down a beautifully lit walkway with the bright moonlight shining down on us and frost in the air. It was stunning. It was like something out of Narnia.
We walked on our own and followed the path, I was so excited that I started to run shouting “Father Christmas where are you?!”. My folks had to run after me. At the end of the path was a little log pile house, where we waited to be called to meet Father Christmas. We don’t want to share too much about what happened next in case you decide to visit, but the little Elf called Conker was such fun and guided us on an adventure we will never forget.
Meeting Father Christmas at the end of our LaplandUK experience was magical, my folks were actually convinced it was him!! Again I eyed him up suspiciously. Luckily for me I was on his good list and he even pointed out my name in his large book to prove it. Smiles and giggles all round we left on a high, bypassing the professional photographer print-out queues and leaving with memories of meeting Father Christmas.
Ticket price from £45 per person for this 3.5 hour tour of LaplandUK (we were actually there for 4 hours) It may seem expensive but it is worth every penny. We’ve never seen anything like it in the UK and it saves us from flying out to Lapland! You get so much for your money and included in the ticket price is a personalised invitation to LaplandUK, a Christmas Morning Thank You card from Father Christmas to every child by post, entry into Father Christmas’ arctic homeland, an Elf Passport for every child, all activities, ice skating and a beautiful gift.
The memories that we’ll all be taking away with us are priceless.
Thank you LaplandUK for introducing me to Christmas…in spectacular style. Thanks to the many incredible Elves and Eskimo guides who looked after us and immersed us in the experience, it didn’t seem forced or half-hearted and they all genuinely seemed happy to see us!
Love Bella….oh and her folks! xx
P.s – Say I say hi to Conker, he’s got a little buddy for life!
Disclosure: We received press passes in order to write an honest review of Lapland UK and all purchases inside were our own.