When did you stop believing in Santa? Were you 7 or were you 27? If it’s the latter, then why aren’t we friends yet? Truth be told, there was nothing quite like hurrying to bed on Christmas Eve, fresh from your special December 24th bubble bath and boasting your new set of rad reindeer-covered jim jams (just me?). You’d go to bed with one eye open, just in case you spotted the man with the long white beard and you’d try your best to stop the butterflies beating in your tummy, all so that morning would come sooner.
Much like Yosemite helped my adult self gain a little perspective, Lapland UK revived the seven year old believer in me. It takes you back to that simpler time when waiting for snow to fall on Christmas day was as stressful as life got, and it reminds you that even after all the crappy things that have happened in the year just passed, there’s little that can’t be fixed with a couple of shakes of a reindeer’s tail and the dulcet storytelling tones of Mother Christmas. Religious or not, Christmas is a wonderful tradition of which I feel I owe a great deal to. My parents always made it the most magical time of the year: sooty boot prints by the fireplace, convincing half eaten mince pies, jingling bells outside our bedroom door in the early hours of the morning (I’m telling you mum, I legit thought Santa was parked on our roof that night so kudos to you for that one). Who wouldn’t want to believe in all that again?
The magic of LaplandUK starts way before you even make the journey to Whitmor Forest with a personalised letter from Santa. You see, he has so many good children on his list this year, he’s worried his elves will never be able to finish making all the toys in time, so he’s going to need a few extra hands. That’s our cue to wade in and help a guy out – travelling as elves do along the secret snowy lanes to the toy factory, nestled in the heart of Santa’s arctic homeland.
On arrival, it’s assumed that you’ve kicked any doubt and disbelief to the curb – at least that’s the impression I got when the first thing I was asked at check in was, ‘Do you know how to do an elf wave?’… ermmm I didn’t know there was homework. I didn’t teach the kids how to do an elf wave and now I’m the worst auntie ever ha! Next up you’re given an elf passport. I should mention that this isn’t for earning tokens in exchange for a goblet of mulled wine (sadly) but it is in fact for the kiddlywinks to collect their stamps at the various different stations before meeting the big man himself. You can even exchange sterling for elf jingles too – to make things extra fun for the little ones. And by little ones I mean, the fully grown adults. Because spending elf jingles isn’t the same as spending real money is it? Like when you go on holiday and burn Euros like it’s your last night on earth. Seriously, can I live here?
We were booked on for the 2pm tour, which is probably around about prime nap time for most toddlers but with the promise of seeing Father Christmas, they managed to find a second wind and stay awake for the 3.5 hour round trip. Now, before the big reveal – which can only be described as a real life Narnia – you’re all hushed into a room lit with fairy lights, ready to listen to the elves tell the story of the magical woodland that is Lapland UK. I gotta tell ya, if I had been a kid listening to this I would have wet my pants with excitement. In fact, a little bit of fully grown wee might have come out. And what!
After being split off in to two teams, the reindeers and the Huskies, you go and start the first leg of the journey to Santa’s casa. It’s this kind of meticulous detail, such as the group organisation and small personalised touches, that makes the trip so seamless – very important when you’ve got kids to entertain right?
I’m not sure how long is too long to spend talking about this next bit, so I’ll try and keep it short and sweet. For me, seeing the snowy forest setting for the first time was just emoji heart eyes all round. It was quite literally like stepping into Whoville. I was half prepared for Jim Carrey to poke his green head around the corner and say, “It’s not a dress, it’s a kilt. Sicko!” What. A. Film.
Every lane is lined with lofty, snow-topped evergreens and and you can quite literally smell Christmas in the air – I wonder if they pump that out like they do with all the lovely smells at Disney? Nah, I’m pretty sure it’s just that pine piece of ass in this case haha. Omg, somebody needs to stop me. Let’s move onto the activities.
As designated photographer at events like these, I don’t have much time to take in the moment as I’m having to run rings round the kids, capturing every smile, every look of awe on their little faces and every mischievous swipe of the other children’s snacks. Though admittedly, that was mainly me (well, they should learn from a young age not to leave food unattended). In their time spent at the toy factory they made a stuffed Rudolph and a wooden teddy bear, all the while being fully entertained by the elves and their brilliant storytelling skills.
Next up was something for every culinary fan – gingerbread decorating with Mother Christmas. I mean if anyone can persuade you to like gingerbread, it’s Mother cracking Christmas! I know you kind of people exist. You’re probably the kind of people that don’t like cinnamon either, I’m right aren’t I? You need to work on making those tastebuds of yours a little less sophisticated. Smarties are good. Icing sugar is good. Gingerbread? GOOOOD.
Sugar spike in full swing, we had enough time to squeeze in a mustard-soaked Bratwurst and every elf’s favourite sport: ice skating! Again, I narrowly missed out ‘cos… take photos Cinderelly, which cut deep because even though I’m a little, ahem, rusty on the ice, it’s one of my favourite things to do. As 5pm approached, we finally lined up by the gates to go and see Santa. And oh was he worth the wait. I had to rub my eyes a few times when I walked into his room – it was more of a cosy, fireside cabin than a tacky tinsel grotto held up by Twiglets. Who knew Santa’s Lapland UK crib would be such #interiorgoals. I tell you what, if things don’t work out at Lapland buddy, I will snap you up to design my living room. As for the man himself, well I had to do a double take because I’m sure he was the Coca Cola Santa. The Kris Kringle. The Rolls Royce of Father Christmases. Rosy cheeks and a button nose the lot, but very modest with it. I guess he didn’t want to blow his cover. On booking your visit you have to fill out a form about the children so that he can get to know them – which was a really nice touch as it made the kids feel at ease. He had a hard task with a 2 and 3 year old but he did very well with our monosyllabic list of things to mention. And, they weren’t sent home empty handed, they even got a little Husky pup teddy from Father Christmas, along with a beautiful Lapland storybook and mounted photograph, which I’m sure their mums can whip out and embarrass them with on their 18th birthdays!
Ok, now let’s talk wonga because Lapland UK does not come cheap. If you think you can rub a few pennies together and treat the kids this Christmas, think again because at £49.50 – 79.50 per person, you’re going to need to prep the budget for this trip. The price varies depending on what time and day you visit so as you’d expect, you pay a premium for weekends and dates nearer to Christmas time. That said, you can bet your bottom dollar you won’t find skeletal reindeers and half arsed elves with fags behind their pointy ears here. Or a Santa with a fake beard dangling from his chin and bourbon breath. Nah uh, not in Lapland people, everyone is in character and when I say they’re in character, they’re in character. That’s right, you won’t find the Husky herders adjusting their civilian clothing anytime soon, they’re happy to be dressed in head to toe shearling. Happy as Larry.
So is it worth the high price tag? Well, ok it is definitely an all out kind of trip when it comes to the money, but I’d say if the budget allows for a once in a lifetime trip when the kids are of an age to really appreciate the excitement of Christmas, then do it. You’ll make memories to cherish forever. That said, of course it’s a lot of money to ask for something that only lasts for 3.5 hours, so it really depends on what you think is a worth while family activity. But in terms of the best immersive experience, Lapland UK sleighhhhs every time.
And look, if you don’t make it to the toy factory this year put it on your wish list for 2017, or 2030 for that matter, because if first impressions mean anything, it’s going nowhere. Love you bye!