We were lucky enough to be invited to the opening day of Lapland UK and what a day it was!
Last year Ruby was terrified of Father Christmas, in her own words she ‘cried and cried and cried’ so I wasn’t sure how she would be this year. However, now she understands what Father Christmas does, she was super excited to meet him.
About a week before we went, Ruby was sent a letter in the post from Father Christmas inviting her to come and visit him. This was a nice touch and added to the narrative well.
When you arrive at LaplandUK, the parking is only a short walk to the welcome hall. You are welcomed by the Elves and the hall is set up with check in desks, here you get your passport and other extras such as a colouring book, newspaper, jingles (currency) and tokens for anything preordered on your booking. We were also given a sticker that allocated us on a specific tour. On the day we went there were two tours going at once but it’s cleverly done and if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t! There is also a cafe in the welcome hall where you can get drinks and a selection of cakes etc.The first part of the day was a 90 minute immersive experience. When our tour was called, we went through a secret door into the world of the Elves. The story was set by a few of the Elves before the next set of doors opened and we went down a path to the toy factory.
In the toy factory we were met by different Elves and the story continued, each child was given a box with an unfinished toy penguin and they had the job of putting it together. They had to add stuffing, a heart and wrap it up in a scarf and hat. After they had finished, they took the toy to the toy factory hatch where it was wrapped and sent to be put on Father Christmas’ sleigh. Ruby was then chosen to take a special note to Mother Christmas who was the next visit of the day.
Each child gets their passport stamped as they go around. The first stamp is given in the toy factory, another nice touch and something to remember the day by.
After leaving the toy factory, you walk through the forest where the trees are all covered with snow and you really feel as if you are in a completely different world. It’s all very clever! Upon arriving at Mother Christmas’ kitchen, all the children are asked to gather on benches in the middle of the room. The story then continues and after handing Mother Christmas the note from the toy factory, the children were invited to decorate their gingerbread men. This part of the tour was very well set up and the details were fantastic. The Elves helping Mother Christmas were very good and Ruby enjoyed decorating her gingerbread man…and eating him! Once the gingerbread had been decorated, the children gathered in the middle of the room once more and were read a story by Mother Christmas.
After leaving the kitchen, you go through the forest again and come out at the Elf village. There are more Elves here to interact with, each playing a character from the village. In the village there are various catering outlets, a sweet shop, toy shop, ice skating, a place to buy Christmas decorations, a post office to send a letter to Father Christmas and huskeys to pet.
We had about an hour and a half before going to meet Father Christmas and this was just enough time to have some lunch, get on the ice and have a look in the shops. We could have spent a little longer here and once you’ve seen Father Christmas you are not able to come back into the village so you really need to make sure you make the most of your free time there.
I took Ruby ice skating, which is including in your ticket price and there are penguin props for young children to use on the ice if they are unable to skate unassisted. The rink is big enough for what we could do on the ice but I can imagine older children could get bored quite quickly. The skates come up a little small so ask for one size up when requesting skates to save time!
We had some lunch in the main restaurant, it was okay but pretty expensive. A small carton of apple juice for example was £2 and a small bottle of water was the same. It’s also worth noting that you can only pay by card or ‘jingles’ in here, they do not accept cash. The service was also pretty slow but being the first day, they probably just needed a bit more practice and once the season gets going, I’m sure this will get better.
In the Elf village, we also wrote a letter to Father Christmas and posted it at the post office, this is set up very well and Ruby enjoyed sending her letter off. We avoided the sweet shop (Ruby had enough in the car!) but heard it was full of many different varieties and the toy shop had some lovely gifts in it too.
Meeting Father Christmas was the last event. You queue up at your allocated time and walk for about 5-10 minutes down the mystical forest paths into a waiting area with the Elves. You register at the desk and then wait to be called, we waited about 5 minutes before Ruby’s name was called and she was then escorted down another path by two fantastic Elves. This is the penultimate event and Ruby was very excited, the Elves did a great job at playing their role in the story and after a bit more forest walking we arrived at Father Christmas’ study. There are actually around 12 different Father Christmas’ on duty but it’s all very clever and unless you knew, you would never know if that makes sense!
Once the previous party had left, Ruby was invited in to meet Father Christmas. The set up in his office was truely magical and he was the most authentic Father Christmas I had ever seen. I had to complete a few questions online before we went, for example that Ruby’s favourite companion is Ewan (the dream sheep) and Father Christmas used this information to make Ruby comfortable and of course believe that he knew her.
We were in with Father Christmas for around 10 minutes in total. He presented Ruby with an Elf bell as a thank you for her help and a beautiful Lapland bear. Sienna was not left out either, she received a lovely rattle and we had our photo taken with him too – this is then given to you in a frame once you’ve gone through to the final shop.
After leaving Father Christmas, you walk another 5 minutes in the forest and exit via a large shop where you collect your photos and can make last minute purchases.
The total experience lasted about 4 hours and Ruby loved every minute of it. Ruby will be 3 next month and I’d say she was just old enough to make it worthwhile. I think the optimum age would be between 4 and 7, there is a lot to take in and some parts of the narrative were definitely lost on Ruby!
Do be prepared to part with quite a lot of money for the whole experience, I think tickets are more reasonable during the week but the weekends closer to Christmas appear rather expensive. You then have to factor in food, drinks and extras in the shop. Overall, it was an amazing experience and I would definitely recommend it if you have children that still believe in the magic of Christmas. It’s great to watch them immerse themselves in this mystical world, for me that was the highlight.