Last weekend I took my 6 year old niece Rhianna to see Santa arrive at Stockeld Park.
She was really looking forward to seeing Santa and his real life reindeer, and kept asking me if she would get to see them fly. When I told her we could buy a raffle ticket to win a sleigh ride through the Enchanted Forest with Santa she was beside herself.
As we arrived 6 of Santa's reindeer were waiting for him in their paddock where you could take photo's of them and attempt to entice them to the side for a tickle.
Whilst waiting for Santa's arrival we were greeted by a friendly Polar Bear and a snugly Reindeer!
At 3pm as expected Santa arrived on his reindeer led sleigh and called out the winning ticket number. We didn't win but Rhianna didn't mind too much as she knew she was going to see him in his Grotto later on in the day.
Once Santa has set off into the Enchanted Forest we made use of the quite time and went for some lunch in the Lakeside Cafe whilst trying to spy Santa through the gaps in the forest trees.
After lunch we booked Rhianna's slot with Santa in his Grotto then headed for a walk around the Enchanted Forest as it was starting to get dark. The Forest is 100 times better in the dark when everything is lit up, it looks so magical and really gets the little ones excited.
As you head into the Forest the stewards give the little ones a map of the Forest with some questions and things to look out for. When we entered the Forest it was still quite light out but the deeper we got the darker it got and that's when you can really feel the magic of the place.
There are all sorts of things hidden in the Forest all with little story books accompanying them to tell you the tale of each feature.
Hedgehogs Tower with interactive doorbells
Calling the Fairies out from under the bridge
Looking for the Fairies
Half way around the Forest is a little shack that sells coffee, hot chocolate and mulled wine to warm you up and get you ready for the last half of the woods.
It took us about 30minutes to get around the Forest but that was with us rushing to get to Santa, I'm sure it could have lasted a lot longer if we could have had a leisurely stroll and let Rhianna really get stuck into all the things she wanted.
I've only mentioned a few of the things hidden in the Forest for you to explore so I don't spoil all the fun if you are planning on visiting.
You can also experience the Forest by Nordic Ski, this is skiing on a special green pathway around the forest (no snow, unless it's the real stuff out of the sky!).
The Enchanted Forest is only one of many activities to get stuck into at Stockeld Park, it is easy to spend the whole day there ice skating and getting lost in the maze, but we decided to space things out over a few visits so stuck to the Forest and Santa's Grotto this time.
The Grotto is a huge log cabin and you queue in a corridor with Santa's holiday pictures on the walls and his desk with his maps laid out.
Mrs Claus welcomes you at the door before an Elf takes you through to Santa. Once the niceties are done with your little one can have their picture taken with Santa (At £7.50 a photo I think it's a bit steep, as did my niece who asked to look at the photo I had taken and informed me it was really good and free so I didn't need to buy her the other one) and they get a present from his huge trunk full of wrapped presents (a big penguin soft toy). Rhianna loved it and despite telling me to start with that she wasn't sure it would be the real Santa, after meeting Mrs Claus, the Elves, Reindeer and Santa she informed me that she was SURE it was the real Santa and she was going to tell all her friends that's where the real one goes to visit.
There are always many events over the year and next weekend (17th & 18th Nov) is the Christmas at Hogwarts Event, read the details of the day here, it sounds amazing and I may just take the niece along again.
Furthermore you can go along and choose your Christmas tree to take home and decorate with your new baubles bought from the well stocked Christmas shop.
I would seriously suggest a visit and cannot wait to take my little man once he's all grown up!