Every year since I was a little kid I can remember heading off to the garden centre to visit Santa with my Grandparents. It was a Chrismas tradition that I absolutely loved. There is an 8 year gap between my little brother and me so I still got to see Santa up until I had my first daughter. Then the tradition sort of transferred over to her, and then P2 and P3.
I was super impressed by the Easter Event at Marsh Farm that when I received the email newsletter all about their Chrismas event that I decided to change things up a little with our tradition. We booked tickets for the Father Christmas Experience at Marsh Farm. I’m not sure I can quite express the excitement I felt about this event as the emails and websites made it out to be pretty spectacular.
Last Friday evening we went to see Father Christmas arrive at our local garden centre here in Kent so the fact that our Father Chrismas Experience back in Essex fell on the Saturday worked out pretty nicely. It felt a little weird heading off to visit Santa before it was even December. We arrived super early, as we always do, and had to wait outside for a little while. The weather was frosty giving it a real festive feel.
Every time I visit Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park things seem to change. And this day was no different. There are now special booths for purchasing your tickets and gaining entry. The girls were given their “Passports” and we were shown through to the farm. We had a little while to wait as it suggests you arrive 15-30 minutes before your booked experience slot. There seemed to be quite a large amount of people waiting and I did wonder how it was all going to work and pan out.
We were lead into the barn, which once upon a time was the gift shop, and there was cute presents hanging from the ceiling. It was super festive. We were greeted by two elves and the girls handed in their passports to be stamped. They were then each given a Candy Cane and we found some seats ready to wait for Professor Holly-Pop.
I loved that the guide elves were bouncing around and getting the crowd of people in the mood for fun. When Professor Holly-Pop arrived the action all started. There was Christmas songs to join in with and pure entertainment. Professor Holly-Pop was hilarious and was really in character. I am sure he was the same person who was the Mad Hatter at Easter. My Grandad bought us a hot chocolate to enjoy and we sipped that whilst listening to Christmas songs.
We then headed out as a group with our guide elves Berry and Biggles. The group was probably around 30 families big so there was quite a crowd. We were instructed to sing some Christmas songs as we took our journey to Elf School. As we walked down reindeer road there was cute hay bale reindeers, beautifully sculpted stick reindeer and even some real reindeer in the enclosure too.
We entered into Elf Academy and was immediately greeted by letters hanging from the ceiling. It was a really warming sight. There was a large chalk board and desks too. We were instructed to sit down and the show started. Two Elves came out and explained what their jobs were. I found their enthusiasm just fantastic and the girls were totally captivated by their funny remarks. The entire crowd joined in with the chanting, wiggling of fingers and singing. It was rather festive.
After finishing in Elf Academy we headed through an oversized wardrobe (aka a door) and entered the Snow Laboratory where we met the Snow Maker. I loved this part. I was so intrigued by the way they had utilized the animal enclosures and transformed everything into a whole new world. The Snow Laboratory was kitted out with wooden walls and pretty fairy lights hanging from the ceiling. It was so beautiful. The Snow Maker got us all grooving with special shakers and music.
The Snow Maker even let the children push a large beach ball across each other like they do at concerts. The kids were squealing and laughing in excitement. It was adorable! Eventually, after lots of fun, the Snow Maker decided to make it snow. And it really did snow. They had special snow machines that let out real snow. It added to the magic and was just so beautiful. You can see in my video below P2 totally in awe of all the snow falling from the sky. We were then shown through the Snow Mine.
P1 and P2 really loved walking through the Snow Mine. The trees were dusted with snow and the ceiling got lower and lower just like a real mine. We walked through to Mother Christmas’ Kitchen where our Guide Elf met us. The children had a special entrance which was lower than the adult door. P1 and P2 really loved this and went on ahead inside the kitchen to meet Mother Christmas. It felt a lot like a forest cabin inside with a log burning oven and a cosy chair.
Mother Christmas instructed the children to get aprons and head over to the tables where there were gingerbread men ready to be decorated. All the children seemed completely engaged in this activity. P3 who had been quite overwhelmed by the whole experience so far, decided to join in with the decorating of biscuits. I think the temptation of sweets was far too great. The girls really enjoyed this part of our experience and P1 was taking great care on hers. The children were allowed to eat their gingerbread men too.
We were then led through a secret door into a waiting area ready to see Father Christmas. I had wondered how this was going to work with so many families but the waiting area and time spent there was just as fun as all the other parts of the experience. There was presents and snow all over the place. I think the fact it was absolutely freezing really helped give a North Pole atmosphere. Our guide elves Berry and Biggles got the crowd singing more Christmas songs. I loved how they were in character the entire time. At one point Biggles posed for a photo, I said I was filming and he instantly responded “Oh I could have said hello to my Mum on ElfTube” which I thought was a really witty response.
Eventually our name got called. The girls knocked on Father Christmas’ door and some elves excitedly ran them up the corridor towards the room where Father Christmas was waiting. This was the first room that was actually warm which was lovely. Of course the usual chat between Father Christmas and the girls happened. When you book the tickets for the experience you have to add little bits about the children and it shocked the girls when Father Christmas knew what they wanted for Christmas already. I think this is the first year that P2 is truly aware of what is going on and her little face when she was speaking to the big man was just adorable.
Father Christmas asked the girls whether Mummy and Daddy had been behaving. Typically, Daddy was good this year but Mummy wasn’t and so I was asked to stand on one leg and dance in a circle. Yup, cheers girls. But then I was rewarded with a lovely box of assorted toffee. I loved the time and care that Father Christmas took with each of my girls. It felt so much more personal and real. We then all crowded round to have a photo. Father Christmas gave the girls a star each which entitled them to a gift in the shop, he also told them that they could make their own teddy in the Bear Market.
We said our goodbyes to Father Christmas and headed out to the Bear Market. There was two tunnels, an adult sized tunnel and a children’s sized tunnel. I of course joined the girls down the smaller tunnel and into the Bear Market. I have to admit that this part seemed a little chaotic and the elves weren’t really talking to us very much, but the girls didn’t seem to notice this and got on with stuffing their bears excitedly. You can pay extra to have outfits and sounds added to your bear. I personally think it would have been nice to have one outfit included but completely understand why they don’t do this.
We then headed off down Candy Lane. We got to see some really cute little piglets and some cows. I had noticed that the animals seemed to have been moved out for the Father Christmas Experience to make room for all the different sections of the experience. So although the Father Christmas Experience tickets allow you entry into the farm, there actually isn’t many animals to actually see after the experience is over. You can still enjoy the play barn which has a cafe, outdoor play areas and a few of the outdoor animals though.
We decided to purchase the Mounted Photo of us with Father Christmas. This cost £7 which I didn’t think was too bad but there wasn’t an option for a digital copy too or instead of which was a bit disappointing as we tend to do everything from the computer these days. The stars that Father Christmas gave the girls were exchanged for three tokens to take into the Play Barn and be changed into three children’s hot chocolates. The girls were also allowed to pick one toy each in the toy shop. I thought this was a lovely touch seeing as they already had the Reindeer teddies from Father Christmas.
We decided to get the hot chocolates and warm up in the play barn, although that was pretty chilly too. The children’s hot chocolates are extremely tiny, more like a shot of hot chocolate but they loved them and my Grandad bought us a bowl of chips to share. It was pretty busy and the girls were a little tired by this point. Our experience started at 10:30am and it was now around 2:30pm. We decided to head to a nearby Toby Carvery for some festive dinner.
Although the Father Christmas Experience at Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park is definitely more expensive that a garden centre grotto. I honestly think it is worth every penny. There was this sense of magic and adventure the entire morning. We had all been captivated into a world of elves, the North Pole, snow and of course Father Christmas. There was singing and dancing and fun for all ages. Even my Grandad was jigging along. We had a thoroughly enjoyable time. There is also still time to book your own Father Christmas Experience so don’t forget to check out the dates left and get your own tickets!!
I created a video of our day at Marsh Farm. I hope you love it just as much as we enjoyed our day!