I have been debating for a while now... which Santa will we visit? Our baby girl is 15 months old, so still not getting the whole commercial concept of Christmas, so to be honest it didn't really matter which Santa we visited as the likelihood of her remembering is slim, but I still wanted it to be a nice experience for us all.
We decided on Gouldings in the Clyde Valley, it is just down the road from us and we had heard great reviews about it... We had planned to go on Dec 16th but when Hubber had an impromptu day off today (it's rare we get a day off together) we decided to go today as it wouldn't be as busy.
We arrived around 3pm and paid for our tickets, £7.50 per child and £5 per adult and off we went to the tractor. We were the only ones there, so we sat at the front and N got a Santa hat! The chap who was driving the tractor was cheery and chatty. He had on a headset mic and happily chatted to N asking her if she was ready to go and see Santa and telling us where we where going and what we were going to see... we took the bumpy ride up the hill and we saw Angela and Jenson, two donkeys, who were happily munching away. Then we saw two reindeer, Rudolph and Dancer. We also saw two (sleeping) sheep. We then went down the hill and into the yard where Santa's Grotto is.
We where first greeting by some cute animated snowmen then we walked down a walkway that had illuminated snowmen and santas... inside the Grotto there was lots to see. Reindeer, Mrs Claus' Kitchen, elves making toys, polar bears, penguins, lions and a nativity scene.. then we heard a jingle bell ringing... N bent down and peeped through the fence to see who it was and it was..... SANTA!
Now I really wanted a Santa with a REAL beard but sadly there was no real beard but he was a lovely chap and chatted with N. I was quite surprised that N wasn't shy or even crying, she seemed quite comfortable.... although not overly so. But she was fine to sit with Mommy and Daddy beside Santa and Santa even got a high five! N got a little bar of chocolate (which is still in my pocket... shhh!) and then she got to choose a gift. The only gift that really suited N's age was a soft toy, and she chose a black dog (which is now called Rover).
After seeing Santa you then enter an area which has a train ride, 3 small bouncy castles, a hook a duck stand (this costs £1 a go), a ladybug ride and another fairground ride. Mums and Dads get a free tea or coffee and a mince pie (the mince pies are AMAZING!!), it was a cold day so the tea and mince pie was welcoming and warm! N had a go on the train ride, the bouncy castle and 2 goes on the fairground ride. She had fun! I can see older kids happily spending an hour or so in there. You can stay as long as you like and there is a bench areas to sit at, so you probably could take a snack with you. Although they do sell juice, sweets and crisps inside. (the loos are portaloos though... boak!)
So there you have it. All in all, if I look at it from a kid's point of view it would be exciting... the tractor ride, knowing that you were going to see Santa... a kid wouldn't know you were driving round the back of a garden centre and all the animated animals would look exciting! Santa himself was good (despite no real beard) and I guess when you take into consideration the free rides, bouncy castle, tractor ride, and gift from Santa the £7.50 is good value... although I do struggle to understand the £5 per adult. You can also take your own photos with Santa.. we took quite a few but I don't know how that would be if there was a huge queue of kids waiting.
I think next year, I'll give it a go again as by then N will be excited about Christmas.
I've added some photos onto my Facebook page so come on over and have a look (click here)