If you’ve been following our blog you’ll know that we’ve only lived in Devon since July 2015 so we haven’t been to many Christmas events. But after a bit of research and online chats with local parents and bloggers, I have compiled this handy list of brilliant events and places (in no particular order) to meet the big man himself in Devon (plus a few outside that I liked the look of, or came recommended).
Please note: Most of the events have to be prebooked online and the popular ones get full quickly so the time is now! I have also added links for all of the events to take you straight to the event.
1. Festive adventure at Paignton Zoo, Paignton (17th – 24th December). Meet the big FC, receive a present & watch the animals receive theirs. Then hop aboard the Christmas train to take the snowball throwing challenge. Plus MULLED WINE (always a winner), tickets are £9.50 per child (normal Zoo admission prices apply)
2. Christmas at the Milky Way, Near Bideford (10th – 23rd of December). Over Christmas Father Christmas and his elves will be visiting in the magical grotto there is also a free gift included in the standard cost to enter the park and they can have a go at gingerbread decorating. The Milky Way is one of our most recent finds, we really enjoyed it and I will be covering it in the blog soon. Please see website for prices.
3. World of country Life Victorian Christmas, Exmouth (4th-22nd Dec). You can travel back in time and meet Father Christmas for £10 or £5 per child (annual pass holders only). I have also been reassured that it is the real Father Christmas and not Angus dressed up as Santa! You can read more about our experience of World of Country Life here.
4. The Polar Express, Okehampton train station, Dartmoor (25th Nov – 28th Dec). We loved the Polar Express last year, it follows the story of the book and the film and takes you and your family on a steam train to the North Pole. It is very magical, but make sure you have some money in the bank – it’s very expensive.
5. Visit Sidmouth for a festive family time (5pm – 8pm on Fri 2nd Dec). Find your perfect gifts with an abundance of specialist shops, enjoy Christmas fayre and free live entertainment. See Professor Bumble performing his balloon magic, The Donkey Sanctuary and Father Christmas on his sleigh.
6. Watch a nativity and meet Father Christmas at Pennywell Farm, Buckfastleigh (26th Nov – 24th Dec). We’ve yet to visit Pennywell Farm and this Christmas may be a good opportunity. Head to Buckfastleigh to see a traditional nativity play and visit Father Christmas’ Grotto. There is also reindeer, mulled wine and small piggies. Plus you can book to have breakie with the man himself (if you want to put a special word in for your little one). Prices range from £9.95-£12.95.
7. Polar Express Tram Ride from Seaton Tramway (2nd-24th December). Like the Polar Express train ride this experience is based on the best-selling book by Chris Van Allsburg and is slightly cheaper. Visit the North Pole by tram, listen to and sing along with all the songs, be served hot chocolate and cookies by the dancing chefs and meet Santa and his happy bunch of elves.
8. Grimm Christmas at Killerton, Broadclyst (19th November – 30th December). Killerton’s theme this year is the stories of the Brother’s Grimm and if last year was anything to go by I can highly recommend a visit . Cost of entry is as usual or free for NT members, for an extra £4 you can meet Father Christmas.
9. Woolly’s Wonderland and Magical Light Show at The Big Sheep, Abbotsham (3rd-24th Dec). Santa’s elves have been beavering away day and night at The BIG Sheep adding their very own Christmas creativity to bring the magic of Christmas to everyone who visits. At The Big Sheep you can meet Father Christmas for an early Christmas Gift, enjoy Ice Skating, tobogganing & Snowboard Simulator and watch a magical Light Show (prices are very reasonable from £2.50-£11.50).
10. Santa in the Caves, Kents Cavern, Torquay (4 – 24 December) Kents Cavern is Britain’s oldest ancient monument, and for Christmas they are offering a show for children and mulled wine and mince pies for the adults. We have heard that this is a very magical experience.
11. Wizard of Oz themed Santa’s Grotto at the House of Marbles – Bovey Tracey (19th Nov – 22nd Dec) This one you don’t have to book for, it costs is £6.50 and includes a gift, balloon and badge. My friend and fellow blogger, Clio from Diary of a Devon Mum says this about it:
“This place is particularly amazing at Christmas time. A treasure trove of toys and decorations. You can visit Father Christmas in his grotto and there’s a great family friendly cafe so you can refuel too. My boys are mesmerised by the giant marble run there.”
12. Breakfast and lunch with Santa at Bygones, Torquay (20 – 24 Dec). Enjoy a festive meal with Father Christmas, pop along to his workshop and receive a gift. From 1st to 31st December there is also a Victorian Christmas theme with treasure hunts and other activities. Meeting Santa is £9.50 and the Victorian Christmas is included in the usual entry fee.
13. Santa’s magical Kingdom at Otter Nurseries, Ottery St Mary (19th Nov – Christmas Eve). For £8.99, you can take a magical journey through a charming, interactive grotto experience, this event has been highly recommended and we will be going along this year. They recommend to book early because it is very popular.
14. Christmas treats at Wildwood Escot, Ottery St Mary (3rd-4th December). Meet Father Christmas, crafts and fun in the Anglo-Saxon Village. Wildwood is a great outdoorsy setting and there are plenty of other things to do there just wrap up warm! (this event is completely FREE)
15. Santa’s Grotto at Darts Farm, Topsham (6th-23d December). Visit father Christmas and get some Christmas shopping done at award winning Darts Farm.
16. Santa’s interactive storytime at Crealy, Clyst St Mary (3rd-23rd December). Guests are invited to join santa in his warm and cosy grotto for Santa’s Interactive Storytime and hear magical tales of his festive adventures. Younger guests will also get the chance to meet santa himself and find out who’s been naughty or nice. All who visit santa in his grotto will be given a special treat! Please check website for prices.
17. Enjoy breakfast or tea with Father Christmas at Jack’s Patch, Wyevale Garden Centre (12th Nov – 24th Dec). This came highly recommended, if you want to have a lovely festive meal with the big man himself. The ticket includes; gifts for the children, cookie decorating and a child’s meal for £9.99. If you want to know more, my wonderful fellow Devon blogger Gina Caro of Gypsy Soul blogged about last year here. Wyevale Garden Centres also have their own Santa’s grottos in Sidmouth and Endsleigh, for more information take a peek here.
18. The Santa Express featuring Aladdin and the Golden Lamp, Dartmouth Steam Railway, Paignton (10th-24th Dec). This is a much cheaper alternative to the Polar Express ride, I have heard that is is very good £11.50 per child, £18 per adult
19. Sail with Santa on Stuart Line Cruises, Exmouth (10th-18th Dec). Given the amount of beautiful sea and beaches we have around us, it would be wrong not to include a water based experience! With Stuart Line Cruises you can drink mulled wine and eat mince pies while the kids visit Father Christmas in the grotto for £10.
20. Christmas night at the Aquarium, Plymouth Aquarium (18th December) Who doesn’t love a visit to the Aquarium? For one night only, after hours the Aquarium will be transformed into a winter wonderland with Christmas films and SNOW inside the Aquarium. PLUS during the day on special days, you might catch a glimpse of Father Christmas diving with the sharks! There are also Christmas-themed craft activities. Please see website for prices and more information.
21. An audience with Olde Father Christmas, Buckland Abbey, (19th-23rd December 2016). Every day from 3-7pm, Olde Father Christmas will be hosting storytelling sessions within the Great Hall to entertain children and grown-ups alike. See website for details of price, this is a National Trust venue.
For events in Exeter I have written a separate blog of 13 unmissable Christmas events in Exeter.
Beyond Devon: I’ve included the two events we really fancy outside (but not too far away from) Devon..
22. Eden Project’s Winter Festival, Cornwall (25 Nov – 2 Jan). There is lot’s going on at the Eden Project including a Festival of Light and Sound, ice skating, live storytelling. You can of course meet Father Christmas, (25 Nov – 24 Dec) for £4-£6 you but you will also need a valid Eden admission ticket/pass so it could work out rather expensive. However, if you live within the right postcodes you can by a locals pass for the Eden Project for around £15 per year, if you’re planning a few trips it might be worth your while.
23. Longleat Festival of light, Longleat (11th Nov-2nd Jan) This year, it’s the Safari Park’s 50th anniversary; “with some help from the beloved characters of Beatrix Potter, our animal stars will be taking centre stage as we light up Longleat! Prepared to be amazed you’ve not seen animals like this before.” You can also meet Santa, craft, go on safari and take a train ride, prices vary please look online.
Happy Father Christmas hunting, we’d love to hear all about your experiences in the comments below or on our Facebook page. If you found this post useful please feel free to add yourself to our mailing list below – plenty more where this came from!
Thanks to the Exploring Exeter community, Exeter Mums, Amelie and my fellow bloggers for sharing your favourites and for the inspiration.