Blogmas 2018 - Day 17: Visiting Father Christmas at Frosts Garden Centre, Millets Farm

This year we booked to see Father Christmas at Frosts Garden Centre at Millets Farm Centre  When we were browsing our options for seeing Father Christmas back in September it became apparent that if we wanted to go to Millets we’d need to book ASAP. We had a look at our choices, and for a weekend in December there was just one day left with availiabilty, and only on the 8.30am or 6.30pm slots. In SEPTEMBER. So, let me clarify this. Weekend bookings to visit Father Christmas were all but booked up IN SEPTEMBER! We huffed and puffed at the ridiculousness of it all, but joined the masses and just got our 8.30am slot booked before there were no spaces left at all.

I have to say, I wasn’t sure what to expect from our experience. It was pretty pricy (I think £47 for the 4 of us), and we did get to choose the children’s gifts at the point of booking, which I liked, but apart from that I had no real idea as what to expect.

Our visit to see Father Christmas was yesterday, and we set off in plenty of time. I’m glad we did as part of our route to the garden centre was blocked, we had to follow a diversion, and if we’d set off any later we’d probably have missed our slot! 

The Grotto area was at the back of the garden centre past the ice rink, and the set up was really nice. You are greeted by an elf, who signs you in and hands each of the children a “passport” to visit Father Christmas. The children are then led into a room where another elf chats to them. The elf seemed like a very nice woman, but I’m afraid she lost my two part way through her chat. She was telling them about a game they play in the North Pole called “Pudding Ball’ but I could see that they had glazed over a few minutes in. There was then a fairly unenthusiastic effort to get all the children to sing and do some actions, before moving on to the next room.

This part of the Grotto was my favourite. It was beautifully decorated, with different ornaments hanging from the ceiling. Each of the children were given a little gingerbread man to eat, and a larger one to decorate and take home with them. There were plenty of tubes of icing, sprinkles and sweets to use, and the kids really enjoyed it. There was also hand sanitiser on the walls and baby wipes available should you need them.

Gingerbread decorating room

Decorating gingerbread men
We then moved to the final room before meeting Father Christmas. This, for me, was the disappointing part of the experience. There were plenty of animatronic animals and Christmas scenes to look at, paper and pencils to write a Christmas letter, a post box to pop it in, and the option to play “Pudding Ball” which the elf had mentioned in the first room, whilst you waited for your turn to be called in to see Father Christmas. 

Dancing reindeer
The Christmas scenes were nice, so we had a look at those, and then the children decided to join the queue of boys and girls to play Pudding Ball. The game was basically a few buckets on the wall at different heights, labelled with a score. The children had 2 puddings (balls) which they had to try and throw into the buckets. Some of the older kids were great at the game, but the smaller ones struggled. My son is only 2 years old, he was never getting a ball in a bucket, but he happily joined in and certainly gave it his best shot. My 4 year old daughter took it a little more seriously, and put quite a bit of effort in. She was so excited when she got a ball into the bucket marked 10 points, my husband praised her and said “yay, I think you get a sticker now.” How did the elf in charge respond? “Actually, she doesn’t. You only get a sticker if you hit the 15 point bucket!” That’s fine, and I understand all games have rules (as does my daughter, she’s a stickler for the rules), but it did seem a tad miserly that our £47 didn’t stretch to a sticker for a 4 year old! One of the other parents turned to me and said “ooo, that’s a bit harsh!” so it wasn’t just me that thought it was on the mean side. My daughter took it very well, bless her, and had a couple more tries before moving on to writing a letter to Father Christmas. Which proved difficult as none of the pencils were sharpened. Luckily we were then called in to see Father Christmas, so on we went.

Pudding ball set up
Father Christmas was so so so so great. Firstly, he really looked the part. He had a real beard, my daughter does not accept that Santa’s with a false beard are the real deal, they are apparently “television Father Christmas”! Secondly, he was extremely nice and not too pushy. He was great at chatting to my daughter, and didn’t push my son to get involved when he was clearly a bit unsure about the whole thing. By the end of our time with him, my son had come round a little, said “thank you” for his present and gave Father Christmas a “high five” as we were leaving, but Father Christmas let my son lead everything, and didn’t force him at all. 

Just a warning, you aren’t allowed to take any photos in the room with Father Christmas. There is an official photo which you need to purchase as you leave. We paid for a photo in advance when we booked tickets, but if you haven’t done that it will be an added expense for you on the day. Another thing to bear in mind when booking a time slot is Sunday opening times. We had planned on letting the children each choose a decoration for the Christmas tree from the garden centre once we’d finished in the Grotto, but we hadn’t considered Sunday trading hours. The garden centre officially opened at 10am for browsing, and the tills opened at 10.30am. The Father Chrismas experience lasted 45minutes, we browsed in the garden centre for about 15 minutes, so we were finished by about 9.30am. Certainly not a complaint, just not something we’d thought about and you might want to.

Photo with Father Christmas
The presents were both really good. As I said earlier, you are given a few options upon booking, so you are able to choose the most appropriate gift for your child. My daughter received a set to make her own penguin cuddly toy, which we did together as soon as she got home. My son received a Doughtastic (like Play-Doh, but a different brand) set. They were certainly the best Grotto gifts the children have ever received. As well as the Grotto gifts, the children were given a Christmas book called “A Busy Day for Mrs Christmas” which is a nice story about, you guessed it, Pudding Ball! 

I don’t want this post to sound totally miserable, as we did have a nice time. But it seems strange that so much time and effort went into everything looking so lovely, and for the Father Christmas to be so good, for it to be dampened a little for the sake of a few usable pencils, and a little more Christmas cheer from the elves - I do appreciate it was 8.30am on a Sunday but still! We did have a good time though, the children were happy, the group was small so the experience felt a bit special, and I’d give it a good 4 out of 5, but that’s purely for the Father Christmas and not for the rest of the experience. I think we might try elsewhere next year.    

Millets Farm, Meeting Father Christmas