Monday, 15 November 2010

Review: Santa's Magical Kingdom

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Saturday was the day! The day I had been awaiting for a few weeks.

I am such a big kid!

The children knew we were going to do 'something really fun' this weekend but they had no idea what. Dh and I had a good laugh keeping them hanging and making them guess what they might be up to. Needless to say not one of them guessed correctly.

I had been invited to review the Christmas attraction at The Hop Farm, Tonbridge, Kent. So off we went to Santa's Magical Kingdom. The M25 was kind to us and the journey there was relaxed, we decided to have a pic nic (yes really in 5 degrees) to keep the cost of our weekend low but I have to say I wish we had not bothered as the Tea Room at the farm looked lovely with its leather sofas and good menu.

We were greeted by some elves and this was one of the things I loved about this experience, all the staff kept in character and played the role of friendly elves just perfectly. The kids were each given a golden ticket to take with them around the kingdom, receiving a stamp for each new part of the experience they entered. They were also given a bauble to decorate the tree lined arrival path. There must of been at least a couple of hundred of snow capped trees. Here Miss M and JJ place their decorations...
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We were directed through to the soft play area so the kids could use the toilets before the magic began. Then we headed off to start the experience. As soon as we arrived in the first waiting area there were a couple of lovely brightly lit animated displays. These were very pretty and kept the kids amused for a few minutes but unfortunately we were made to wait in this area for about 20 minutes and of course all the children started to become bored. The good part was that the tallest elf recognised this and started to play games with the kids - sleeping penguins, what fun!

Soon we were ushered into the 4D cinema but not until we had completed a few Mexican waves and shouted to the door 'Lumi, says let us in please'. Lumi being the chief elf. The 4D film was very good and the kids all enjoyed it. After collecting our stamps on the golden tickets it was time to move through to the Enchanted Forest where we met the snow queen and encountered more mischievous elves.

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This pretty walk led through to more Christmas themed animated displays, this time they were behind glass and the kids could press the buttons to make the displays work. My girls liked this a lot; here they are at the Rudolf display.

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The next stop on the journey was for the kids to write their letters to Santa. Of course my girls are too young to do this but there was plenty of room for us to sit and help them and JJ enjoyed showing off his writing skills - his list was very long! The really magical part for the kids was that they could post their letter to Santa and we watched the letters be sucked up the chimney and off to Santa. The girls wanted to post numerous letters to Santa and I was really pleased when JJ said he would write a letter for Carl-Henri, who is our child that we sponsor in Haiti.

As the children were busy with their letters we were handed a parent card to fill in with their details so that when they met Santa later, he would know their names.

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With the letters complete, we set off again, this time to visit live reindeers and then through to the North Pole were the snow was falling. This put a big smile on all the children's faces! At the end of this part of the journey one of the elves decided it was time for a song and we all participated in a rendition of 6 Christmas baubles hanging on the tree (to the tune of green bottles) before being ushered through to the craft workshop. I was really pleased with the large christmas tree 3D decoration each child was given to decorate. We were in this room for about 15 minutes and this was enough time for a bit of sticking fun and then the kids were ready to move on and we were able to take the decorations with us for finishing at home.

Before finally making it to Santa, which I have to say is what my kids were dying to do we had a story with Mother Christmas, watched Pipi the Elf perform some magic and had some dancing fun on the Ice Walkway. All these things were enjoyed by the kids.

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The grand finale came at last and it was good to see that there was at least 4 Santa's on duty and thus the queues were short and the children kept happy. The set up was very good, the kids would never have known there was more than one Santa there. As we walked in the room, Santa (who was very authentic) greeted the children by name and asked them if they had been good this year and what they would like. Miss M was lost for words and told Santa she would like a 'thingy'.

When directed the children shouted, '1, 2, 3 wish' and down the chimney popped three lovely Santa's Magical Kingdom bags with a gift for each child. JJ was gobsmacked that Santa would know that he would love an Alien Launcher and the girls were very taken with their plush toy each. I have to be honest here and say that whilst the bag was good quality I would have expected a better toy given the entry cost. Miss E also wanted to know if she had not got her dolls house as it was too big for the bag! lol
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Below are the girls posing with their goody bags. They tell me the highlight of their day was meeting Santa, closely followed by the fact that they could use the soft play after the tour. Sadly the carousel and the mini wheel were both out of action on the day we visited but the children were able to go on a small train and JJ loved the driving school. That was the best part of the day for him apparently.

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We finished our tour about 2.45pm, so it had taken practically 2 hours. The cost for this experience starts at £27.50 per person and I do have to say that the children loved the time they spent there. dh and I adored watching the children experiencing something new and exciting but I am unsure I could recommend that each adult also pay the cost of £27.50. For the five of us, this would have made our day £137.50 and that is a lot of money for 2 hours entertainment.

So, overall how did our family score this day out?
Family Fun: 9/10
Actual Santa Visit: 10/10
Park facilities - toilet, baby change, refreshments: 8/10
Gift Received: 6/10
Value for money: 5/10
Overall Experience: 8/10


Santa's Magical Kingdom is open each weekend until Christmas Eve and from 16th December it is open every day.

I received the tickets to attend this experience free of charge but as always I remain honest in my review.
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