LaplandUK: It’s TRUE
That’s the slogan…and after our day out there in late November, I believe it too.
If you have heard of this wonderful place, you may know that it’s near Ascot, in Berkshire; you may have heard that it’s very expensive, and the festive day of choice for celebrities such as Elton John, and the Beckhams; and you may be wondering how something so expensive – especially at Christmas time – could be worth it. We discovered that it absolutely is…and it starts when you receive your personalised invitation from Father Christmas through the post, a fortnight beforehand.
Everything from beginning to end has been designed to keep the belief in the magic of Father Christmas alive, whether you are 4, 44 or 94. You arrive at an autumnal woodland in Berkshire, but as soon as your children are handed their Elf Passport to Lapland, you are in the hands of the elves. The excitement and magic are woven around you so convincingly, that when the doors open from a cosy, autumn scene into a bright, white winter, it is completely breathtaking.
And this is all before you’ve even started on your day’s activities. It is described as a Lapland tour, and there is an itinerary to follow, from toymaking in the factory, to gingerbread decoration in Mary Christmas’s kitchen, and finally to the Elf Village, where you will have some free time to explore. Different elves pop up in each place you visit, full of fun, character and lively interaction with you and your children – they construct the Christmassy elven story every step of the way, as you go up and down the winding, snowy (the snow even feels cold!), fir-lined pathways throughout Lapland.
You collect a stamp for each activity completed, which allows you to claim a beautiful jingle bell at the end in the Elf Village, where you’ll find an assortment of intriguing shops and places to eat, as well as the ice rink. There are more elves here for fun and photos with the children, and there is lots to look at (and to buy). To spend cash, you need to exchange sterling for Elf Jingles (an idea our boys loved, as they carried around their own money to hand over in exchange for their sweets) – it is a direct exchange rate for sterling, and can be done in the Elf Post Office. (You don’t have to do this, though – card payments are accepted everywhere). You can change it back for your human money as you leave.
Elf Village highlights:
- Ice skating. Even our nervous, impatient four year old agreed to do it when he saw the penguin balance aids!
- The post office – write a letter and collect a stamp for your elf passport
- Pixie Mixie’s sweet shop – lots of lovely confectionery at low levels for little ones to scoop
- The Elf Emporium – lots to browse, and the place to collect your golden bell
- The bratwurst and mulled drinks stand – amazing
- Photo opportunities with the elves and their husky dogs
- The Bauble shop – I could have bought the lot
At your allotted time, you wander through more twinkly, snowy pathways, bordered with enchanting little elf houses, to see the reindeer – all eight of them, with their traditional names on signs around the enclosure.
Then it’s time to meet Father Christmas himself. Everything about this was perfect – the room, the fire, his clothes, his beautiful beard – and the way he welcomed the boys, as little friends. You have the chance to add various pieces of information about your children before you go – favourite person or toy, favourite hobby, recent accomplishment – so he’s fully up to speed before you go in. And the looks on their faces when they heard how much he knew, and how interested he was in them, was just heart-melting. They chatted for a good while, and then Father Christmas gave them an early present – soft and snuggly husky dog toys – before our complimentary photo was taken, and it was time to leave Lapland.
How long did it take?
You need to arrive for check-in, and toilets and refreshments if you want them, about half an hour before your booked tour time. We arrived at 10:15 for an 11:00 tour. The tour lasted until 12:30, and our scheduled time for meeting the reindeer and our audience with Father Christmas was 14:00. This took another 45 minutes, plus exiting to claim our photo and the walk through the gift shop, and we were back at the car to leave by 15:15. So we were there for five magical hours.
Food and Facilities
The toilets are upmarket unisex portaloos, and there are baby changing facilities too. They were all very clean and tidy, and were located at the start, in the Elf Village, and on departure. Lots of people had buggies and pushchairs, although I would say it would be easier to get around without one on the pathways, indoors and on the woodchip in the Elf Village, if you can manage it.
There are three different places to eat in the Elf Village – a seated restaurant, a tea room with a few tables, and a bratwurst stand.
The cost of entry is variable, depending on when you want to go. Our tickets cost £49 per person, which was a one-day only price in 2017. There are two Magic Mondays currently scheduled for 2018, and booking opens at certain times throughout the year for all dates – watch that space. It costs more the closer you get to Christmas, but less for entry during school hours. The days just before Christmas are the highest, at £120pp.
Food and drink is on the expensive side (£8 for a jumbo bratwurst hotdog, and £5 for a cup of mulled wine); but really, it’s no more than you’d expect to pay while out and about in London.
- Personalised invitation to Lapland, which arrives in the post
- All activities on the tour, and your Elf Passport
- Ice skating in the Elf Village
- Meeting the huskies and reindeer
- Decorated gingerbread you made with Mother Christmas
- Jingle Bell for helping in Lapland
- One printed photo with Father Christmas
- Toy gift from Father Christmas (ours were large stuffed toy husky dogs)
- A thank you note from Father Christmas to leave on Christmas Morning
It is the perfect Christmas experience, and we loved it. From start to finish, we were all caught up in the magic, the atmosphere, and the Lapland world. The enthusiasm of the elves is infectious – they are all completely committed to their roles, and I didn’t see a single one break character. The attention to detail in the toy factory, kitchen and outdoor surroundings is (at times literally) the icing on the cake.
It is expensive – but for what we paid, we got a great deal of enjoyment, laughter and festive tingles in return. The shining joy in our boys’ eyes when they met Father Christmas was worth every penny.
Cost: 4/5 (it’s expensive, to get in and when you’re there – but it’s worth it)
Target Age: everyone. Even the most hard-hearted Christmasphobe will melt! Newborns are free, but each group must have at least one paying child.
We visited in November 2017, and paid full price for entry. We were not asked to provide this review.
Check the website for the most up to date price and visitor information for the time of your visit: https://www.laplanduk.co.uk/
Reviewed by Rebecca Chamberlain