Last night MUMBLER were invited down to the Lotherton Christmas Experience, which opened to the public today. As one of the main attractions in Leeds at Christmas time, there are always high expectations of Lotherton. We’re happy to say that yet again, this year’s Experience doesn’t disappoint and the addition of a new outdoor ice rink was a BIG hit with the mini Mumblers!
Hours of fun
Entry to the Christmas Experience is £8 per adult, £4 per child and children under 4 are FREE. For that, you get access to the Elf Village, The 12 Days Of Christmas Woodland Walk, The Fairy Dell, Winter Wonderland Courtyard, House, Play Areas and Wildlife World. Additionally, you can take a trip to the ‘North Pole’ and visit Santa and his Elves for an extra charge (£12.95 per child, includes gift and take home craft) and whizz round the new outdoor ice rink (£9.50 per child, £38 per family). For these activities, you must also have purchased a general admission ticket.
If you choose to do everything then the cost soon adds up but the fact you can choose your activities means it can suit varied budgets and even without a trip to Santa or ice skating there is loads to do within the general admission price (£24 for a family of 4). Members who hold a Lotherton annual membership card do not need to book to enter the estate and enjoy the 12 Days Walk and other areas under this ticket, however you need to book for Santa’s North Pole. You can find a full breakdown of the pricing for activities here.
The quality of what you’ll see and experience is excellent too, with beautiful lights, amazing decorations, interactive exhibits and Christmas characters popping up across the estate. There are additional activities that children can do in the Elf Village including plate/mug decorating, decoration and cracker making and storytimes read by a Christmas Elf. The activities are £3 each, or you can do all four for £10. The quality of the crafts are also very good and the elves are on hand to help but smaller children may need some guidance!
It is open daily until 5th January 2020 (closed 25th,26th December & 1st January), with late opening (until 8pm Friday & Saturday, rest of the week closes at 7pm) meaning you can take in the magical surroundings in the dusk as well, which is when the Woodland Walk really comes into its own.
There is quite a bit of walking around the full experience so if you have little legs I would recommend a pushchair.
Here’s a little taster of what you’ll get to experience….
The Elf Village
The Elf Village has been set up next to the play area. It’s a lovely, cosy set up of log cabins and twinkling lights, all manned by Santa’s Elves. The cabins are a mix of market stalls selling Christmas gifts, plus four indoor activities for children to take part in; storytime, plate decoration Christmas cracker and Christmas decoration making (as above, these activities are charged in addition to the general admission fee). You can get hot and cold drinks (including mulled wine) and hot-dogs from one of the cabins, and additional food is available at the Courtyard Cafe. The ‘Special Hot Chocolate’ looked amazing!! Tokens for the activities can also be purchased from The Little Christmas Shop.
Cracker making with the friendly Elves
The Woodland Walk & Fairy Dell
The Woodland Walk is based around the 12 Days Of Christmas and is really interactive for children. It takes you on a loop past the play area, through the woods, and into the formal gardens. There are 12 interactive ‘stations’ for the children to play at, including playing a giant organ, hook a duck, a coconut shy style game and the chance to join the 12 Drummers Drumming. It took us about half an hour to complete, bearing in mind we were there when it was quiet though, so there were no queues to have a go on anything. We also did the walk at dusk, which was definitely the best time to do it so you can experience all of the beautiful lights in the trees. All areas of the walk are flat and pushchair accessible, although it was muddy in places.
The Woodland Walk finishes at the Fairy Dell, with lots of fairy houses and scenes set up around the rockery areas. These are lit with amazing lights, so again, definitely best experienced at dusk. The Fairy Dell is not easily accessed with a pushchair.
The House and Courtyard
Wow! The house looks stunning both outside and inside and won’t fail to get you into the Christmas spirit. Whilst I was in awe of the beautifully decorated rooms and trees a trip around the house wouldn’t be wasted on the kids as there is a section where they can dress up as a festive Edwardian before taking a selfie. If you wanted to take some time out and enjoy a story together there are Christmas themed books available to read as well as lots of Christmas hats for children to have fun trying on! On weekends there are magic shows taking place in the house (additional cost of £3 per person).
If you need refreshments the courtyard has a covered area outside for The Christmas Experience and is a great place to take a few minutes rest. Children can play in the festive ‘snow’ whilst you enjoy a hot chocolate or mulled wine and slice of cake. (There is also a takeaway kiosk available.)
Santa’s North Pole
The friendly elves meet you at the entrance to the North Pole and have a little chat with the children before you follow the magical fairy lit trail into Santa’s workshop. The cheeky elves interact lots with the children throughout the visit and the children get to help them in the Elf workshop. They made brilliant ‘Santa Stop Here’ signs which they personalised with their own name. You then progress further into the North Pole and children get the chance to write a postcard to Santa, again the elves were on hand to chat with the children and made the experience very personal.
Children then get the chance to go into Santa’s grotto and have a chat and photo opportunity with him before receiving a small present (which is age-appropriate and I thought a great gift). The Santa looked just like children see in the books and my two were captivated and came away buzzing! We were advised that normally the full experience would last approx 30-40 minutes. You go around the North Pole in a small group but all visits to Santa are individual.
Visits to see Santa on weekends in December are now fully booked but you can visit him after school and pre-schoolers can visit Santa in the Elf Village on Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 2nd December between 11am-2pm. There is no pre-booking for the pre-schooler sessions and you just need to get a ticket from The Little Christmas Shop when you arrive. (£6.50 per child, plus general admission needed.)
NEW for 2019 is the outodoor ice rink which is situated towards the back of the Elf Village. The mini Mumblers were really excited about trying this new addition and it didn’t disappoint. It felt very Christmasy with all the fairy lights and the fact its open-air added to the experience. There are penguins to help the little ones (Additional £5 per penguin) but mine decided they were going to try skating without. It was amazing to see how much they could learn in such a short space of time and they enjoyed it so much that in the end I had to drag them off to try something else.
Sessions on the ice are 45 minutes in length and children have to be 3 years old to skate. In order to use the ice rink you need to have purchased a general eatate admission ticket plus ice skating. (More details on the website here)
In summary, The Christmas Experience is a great way to spend time as a family (a great one to do with grandparents as well) without travelling miles. There is a good mixture of activities for all ages including interactive trails, crafts, storytime, opportunities to burn off energy in the parks, ice rink and visits to the animals as well as the opportunity to see Santa.
For £59.90 a family of four (based on two adults and two children aged 5-17, under 4s general admission is free) can:
Take a walk around the 12 Days of Christmas interactive Woodland Walk
Visit the Fairy Dell
Visit the House and participate in the family-friendly activities
Relax in the Winter Wonderland Courtyard
Burn off energy in the Playareas
Visit Wildlife World
Spend time in the Elf Village and do two crafts each
Take a trip to Santa in the North Pole which includes a take-home craft and present from Santa.
Mumbler’s Top Tips:
The majority of the experience is outside so we would advise wrapping up warm.
The experience and woodland trail is suitable for prams but at busy times carriers may be more suitable especially in the Elf Village and House.
If you are visiting with grandparents, it is worth noting due to space restraints only two adults can accompany children to see Santa.
Wellies are advisable as parts of the trail and car parks are muddy.
If your kids are partial to crafting like mine and you don’t have a pushchair to store their works of art in, I would advise taking a rucksack/bag!
The toilets are in the courtyard area, we would recommend a visit before setting off on the Woodland Walk!
Lotherton is situated off Collier Lane which is just off junction 47 of the M1. If you are using a route planner the postcode is LS25 3EB.