The adventure began two weeks previously when at the breakfast table, Lily and Zara both received a box. Strangely ice cold, inside the box was a personalised invitation to LaplandUK including some very useful coordinates for the big folk (that’s us adults, in elf speak) on how to find the Christmas theme park (It’s near Ascot…).
On the day of the adventure, we needed to make an early start and we found a copy of the Lapland Times had been placed strategically through the letterbox. Perfect for the girls to read on the way down there. About 20 mins before arrival, my wife played the girls a little elf cast which helped to create the mood.
Before too long we were able to find the LaplandUK car park and it was a short walk from there to the entrance. Lapland is set in a beautiful forest; the surrounding pine trees create the perfect backdrop to this most festive of experiences. At the entrance, there was a very entertaining elf keeping us all amused as well as hot chocolate and coffee stands for refreshments. We also saw the first of the elf trading shops – but this turned out to be quite small in comparison to other shopping opportunities during the experience.
At our allotted start time of 10.30, we were shown into the spacious check-in area and split into two groups: Reindeer and Huskies. This was the first time I got a good sense that the Lapland team have learnt a lot during the two years of celebrating Christmas under various lockdown restrictions and have managed numbers very well.
Presented with their passports for travel to Lapland
After a very short wait, the girls were both presented with their passports for travel to Lapland. If you’ve pre-paid for jingles (the Lapland currency), I think you get these at check-in. We were also assigned a 30-minute time slot to see Santa which was 12.30-1pm against our entry time of 10.30am. We were well entertained in the check-in area by a pair of elves – the Travelmaster and his 1st mate and big folk were reminded not to display any grumpiness.
One allegedly grumpy dad was called up onto the stage to dance his grumps out – he looked pretty happy by the end of it so maybe he felt a touch of the Lapland magic. At the appointed moment, the two elves appeared to open two secret doors and we were ready to make our way to the magic world of Lapland.
We walked down a beautifully atmospheric walkway covered in snow and lights into a large space with a very old looking tree at the centre of it. We were then entertained by a procession of different elves including Sage (with a green leprechaun-style beard). We were soon introduced to our team Reindeer guide who stayed with us throughout the experience.
Our next stop was the elf toy workshop, where we began to understand some of the logistical supply chain issues Santa faces each year – so many toys to make and so little time.
As you can see from the photo (below), these elf’s hands move so fast making toys you can barely see them. We were introduced to Conker, a very zany elf who kept children and adults well entertained as well as Wish who helped us learn some elf inspired songs. The children were then encouraged to help in the great Christmas toy effort and assembled a snow leopard for later delivery by Santa.
A visit to Mrs Christmas’s kitchen
Our next stop was a visit to Mrs Christmas’s kitchen where we were treated to a story and the children got to decorate some gingerbread biscuits. I can’t comment on the baking as they were snaffled down by the girls before I got a taste test, but they seemed pleased. The elf team working with Mrs Christmas were very friendly and the amazing attention to visual detail throughout the experience was very impressive. The occasional bit of Christmas magic was spotted throughout this part of the experience – the levitating box and the pot with a self-stirring spoon.
Having now gained two stamps in their passports for the toy making and biscuit decorating we were next off to Elf Village to visit the post office.
The elf village is a large clearing in the middle of Lapland hosting the hot food options, shops (a large gift shop and a much smaller Christmas bauble shop), post office and ice rink.
At the post office, they were able to write some impromptu letters to Santa, which at least allowed them to toy with some possible gift ideas. These were then stamped with the special Lapland stamps and placed in the dedicated letter to Santa letterbox outside the post office. Their minds then turned to skating and a few minutes later we were kitted out with ice skates and were on the ice.
Lapland has learnt to manage visitor numbers
Ice skating can be a high-risk activity for big folk – but the ice rink wasn’t too busy and seemed to have plenty of ice elves on hand to deliver penguins to help the children that needed them to skate. Once again, I felt that the number of skaters indicated that Lapland has learnt to manage visitor numbers well. Suitably exhausted after a quick return to the gift shop to shake any remaining jingles out of their mother, we left for our visit to see Santa.
After a quick walk through the enchanted elf woods where we had the first group photo, we got to see some Reindeer and Santa’s sleigh. Before entering a quaint little holding room where our details were taken by some of Santa’s PA elves. A short wait and we were off to see Santa.
Once we got to Santa’s hut, the girls were finally able to meet him. They were amazed at just how much he knew about them and had a short chat about what gifts they would like. A few photos with Santa followed and he presented the girls with a gift – an artic husky (soft toy rather than the real thing – thanks Santa!). We left Santa and made our way to the departure area where we got to choose our free photo and buy any additional photos we’d like. We soon found ourselves whisked back into the woods and had a five-minute walk to find our car.
Overall, I was very impressed. It’s an immersive, experiential experience and I felt three hours was a perfect amount of time to enjoy our visit. It’s easy to see how much effort has gone into creating the experience and all members of the elf team we met who make the experience even more special were lovely. I was pleased that the package did include at least one photo and that the children got another gift from Santa.
I know that some visitors (and many non-visitors) question the value of the experience. My wife had planned to visit for several years and having managed to finally secure tickets felt compelled to keep the pricing a secret from me. It is expensive, but I think that trying to compare it to a theme park visit is probably less helpful than comparing it to a West End show. Both in terms of cost and length of experience.
The real value from visiting LaplandUK
Pricing aside, the real value from visiting LaplandUK comes from how much you and your children enjoy the experience and whether it’s something you’ll look back on fondly for many years. I know we will.
- We went on a very sunny day and there is a lot of tree bark on the floor. Nonetheless, you’ll do better with outdoor shoes or wellies rather than trainers.
- The indoor areas seemed warm enough but if you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the elf village make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Waterproof trousers for young children (or a change of clothes) would be a good move just in case they fall on the ice and get wet.
- Arrive on time – I’m not sure how flexible they can be if you arrive late but best to not find out. If you’re coming from a long way away, or have an early slot booked consider staying nearby.
- Don’t be grumpy and enjoy the magic – as the elves say, small folk still exist somewhere in big folk, you just need to find them!