We visited LaplandUK for the first time last weekend and it received a big thumbs-up from all five of us.
I have to admit to being initially dubious. It’s a sizeable outlay for a family of five but we ultimately agreed it was well worth the expense for an experience that left all our kids with beaming smiles.
What do you get for your money?
A 3½-hour tour kicks off with an initial elves’ welcome followed by sessions in the toy workshop and Mrs Christmas’s kitchen, where children have a chance to get hands-on making toys and gingerbread houses.
You then have 90 minutes’ free time in Elf Village, which includes a skating rink, shopping, food and drink and the opportunity to see a real, live husky as well as a costumed one.
Is it worth it?
In my opinion, yes.
You’re paying a premium price, for which you would expect a premium experience. LaplandUK delivered.
It’s set up well, with different areas segregated from one another as your elven guide leads you through the snow-lined trees of the Enchanted Forest. It really makes it feel like you have left the ordinary world behind you.
Even though you’re shepherded around in groups of around 100, it doesn’t feel overly crowded. And while there are inevitably queues in places – particularly for food – it’s never more than a handful of minutes, which prevents the kids from becoming too bored.
The timing is spot on too. There’s no waiting around for the group in front of you to finish and you never feel rushed. The 1½ hours of free time you have in the Elf Village is just right: there’s enough time to eat, go ice skating and spend even more money in the gift shop before you head off to see Santa.
Best of all, though, are the Lapland staff. From Santa and his elves to the shop staff, everyone we saw had terrific energy, perpetual smiles and went the extra mile to ensure that kids left with great memories and grown-ups felt they hadn’t just been ruthlessly fleeced for every penny.
When you’re buying your tickets, you provide a few details about each of your children which are seamlessly woven into their Santa visit to make it feel genuinely personal. When your eight-year-old son gasps, “How did he know that?” when Santa mentions a private detail, you know they’ve completely bought into the magic.
It’s the people at LaplandUK who make the experience. It would be easy for one grumpy individual to shatter the illusion but, unlike many other theme park attractions, this one is staffed by people who are doing more than just collecting a wage.
My one gripe was the logistics of the Santa sessions. As we were taken to ours, we saw other families who were heading out with kids clutching their toy huskys, while the family who saw Santa immediately before us also went past us on their way out. It would have been better if people going in were kept apart from people coming out. But in the greater scheme of things that’s a quibble, no more.
With three kids aged between three and eight, all of whom still believe in the magic of Father Christmas, this was the ideal time for us to go. I’d say that your child needs to be aged at least three or so to really get the most out of the experience but beyond that there’s really no upper limit. Whether you’re three, 13 or 83, LaplandUK really is a magical place. We’d happily go again.
1. Consider going during the week if possible. Tickets range from £45 to £89.50 per person (at time of writing) plus a booking fee, but weekdays are cheaper. Check the LaplandUK website for availability.
2. LaplandUK is situated in a forest and takes place in both indoor and outdoor locations, so dress accordingly with plenty of layers. Leave those £400 loafers and six-inch heels at home. Similarly, don’t take a pushchair if you can avoid it, as the forest paths can be rough and muddy.
3. It’s recommended that you turn up 30 minutes in advance of your time slot and it’s worth doing so. It’s a few minutes’ walk from the furthest car parks and it’s best to allow time to negotiate the queues to check in, exchange cash for elf jingles (LaplandUK’s currency) and grab a drink and a snack.
4. Take wipes. Children will get sticky or muddy hands throughout the day. It’s also worth considering taking a change of clothes for the kids.
5. You can buy elf jingles when you check in but if the queues are too long wait until you arrive in Elf Village and pick some up at the Post Office. Credit/debit card payments can also be made.
6. Food and drink isn’t cheap – a coffee will set you back £3, a kid’s babyccino £2 – but it’s good quality. There is both a sit-down restaurant and a cafe (which serves hot dogs, toasties, bagels and drinks) in the Elf Village. Try the Bad List Hot Chocolate from the cafe, which is expensive at £6 but totally worth it.
7. Think twice before buying a soft toy in the shop. As part of their visit with Santa each child is given a husky to take home with them, so you may not want to double up. You can buy husky clothes and accessories on your way out – handy for differentiating between toys if you have more than one child!
8. You are not permitted to take photos with Santa as this is done by on-site staff. Photos are available for sale as you leave for £15 each (or three for £30).
I was not commissioned to write this post, nor have I received payment or any other incentive. All views are strictly my own.