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We may still be in the throes of enjoying the last of the summer sun with autumn nibbling at our toes, however it’s never too soon to be thinking about Christmas! It may seem like planning ahead but when thinking about your visit to a Christmas Grotto its good to be organised, some places have tickets on sale already with others set to follow suit soon. I’ve put together a sample of Kent’s top Grottos, most of which I have visited personally, set reminders in your diary of when tickets go on sale and be quick off the mark, grotto tickets can be like gold dust!
Hever Castle always manages to impress with it’s beautiful wintery setting, Christmas trees with twinkling lights throughout the castle, log fires and a Christmas themed trail through the gardens for little ones to enjoy.
The theme this year is Alice in a Christmas Wonderland, tickets are on sale from 11am on 11th September to annual members and from 11am on 18th September to the general public. The grotto is open from 23rd November to 8th December (Wednesday to Sunday) and then from 9th December to 24th December (daily). We enjoyed visiting the grotto at dusk when the lights shone magically, here we saw Father Christmas individually rather than as a group which made it feel that bit more special.
Hever Castle is always a popular and quickly sold out grotto, be quick to book tickets for this one!
Hever Castle, Hever, Edenbridge, TN8 7NG.
Ruxley Manor is a garden centre based in Sidcup, Kent and is home to another very popular Christmas Grotto in this area of Kent. This year they’re promising an experience full of tradition, magic, festivity and fun with the elves and Mrs Christmas, as well as a special meeting with the famous man himself.
We have visited Ruxley Manor a couple of times over the years and have been very impressed with the whole experience, Father Christmas is great and the presents for the children have been good quality (in my opinion). Tickets are based on time slots so you enter the experience as a whole group, usually it starts with a little game for the children, before being led by the elves to see Mrs Christmas in her kitchen to prepare some reindeer food which the children take home. Children are then led by the elves to another room for a crafting activity which they usually take home e.g. a wooden tree decoration. The elves then lead the way to see Father Christmas where the presents magically appear down the chimney for each child. There is usually ice skating (at an extra cost) on site too.
The experience lasts approximately 45 minutes and you can expect to pay roughly £13 per child, tickets are confirmed to go on sale in September but the exact date hasn’t yet been announced, sign up to their newsletter to be the first in the know.
Ruxley Manor, Maidstone Road, Sidcup, DA14 5BQ.
Penshurst Place is yet to reveal the details of their Christmas Grotto but I had to include it on the list as we have loved it in the past and anticipate another great theme from them this year!
Previously the theme had been based on Narnia, where the kids would walk through the wardrobe, past the hanging coats into the wonderful world of Narnia to meet Father Christmas. There were crafts, activities and face painting too. I’ll be keeping my ear to the ground and as soon as details are released for this year I’ll update you all!
Penshurst Place, Penshurst, Tonbridge, TN11 8DG.
Leeds Castle at Christmas is truly magical and provides fun for all the family with it’s Christmas Market too. Wander through the market to an enchanted path which will lead you to Father Christmas, where if the little ones have been good (which I’m sure they all have!) they will receive a traditional gift to take home.
The theme for this year is Magical Birds and Festive Feathers, the castle rooms are set to be displayed with glittering decorations and fragrant pine trees styled around the theme of birds.
The Christmas Market and Father Christmas Grotto are open every weekend from 23rd November to 15th December. The Christmas Market and entry to the castle to see the display is included with the price of the Leeds Castle admission ticket (adults £26, children £17.50) which grants access for repeat visits from a year of the date of issue. The Father Christmas Grotto is extra at £15 per child. Tickets go on sale at 10am on Tuesday 1st October.
Leeds Castle, Maidstone, ME17 1PL.
The Hop Farm
Father Christmas is returning to The Hop Farm again this year for lots of festive fun providing a grotto with a difference. There’s set to be lots of live entertainment, story telling with Mother Christmas, crafts, meeting the jolly helpers and of course a cosy meeting with Father Christmas himsef.
Tickets are on sale now for visits between 1st December to 23rd December and cost £18 per child which includes 2 free adults and a Christmas gift to take home. The cost of the ticket includes free entry to the family park, animal farm and soft play centre so you can really make a day of it!
The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Tonbridge, TN12 6PY.
Tulleys Farm is a full Christmas experinece and its easy to spend the whole day there enjoying all the activities on offer. Activities are spread out across the farm with reindeer food making, gingerbread decorating, Santa’s Post House, the Elves’ Secret Forest, Elf Hunt, Puppet Shows and 3D Cinema all included in the ticket price. Then take a sleigh ride to visit Father Christmas himself where children can hear a story, have photos and recieve a token to spend either in the Make a Bear Workshop or Toy Shop as their gift to take home.
There are additional activities such as ice skating, fairground rides and food to purchase which are all an extra cost. As it’s all mainly outdoors wrapping up warm is advised. Tickets are on sale now and range in price depending on the day you visit, adults £10.95-£13.95, children between £27.95-£37.95 and under 1’s £6.95-£9.95.
Tulley’s Farm, Turners Hill, West Sussex, RH10 4PE.
Christmas at Bedgebury is a different feel to your usual grotto experience in the form of a mile long path that winds magically through the forest illuminated with lots of beautiful lights. This year Bedgebury is bringing the sights and sounds of Christmas to you under unique canopies with new installations rising high into the night sky.
There will be mulled wine, hot chocolate and cider available for you to buy while you enjoy your walk and a fire pit to toast marshmallows as well as some traditional fairground rides (paid separately). Keep in mind that children won’t have an individual meeting with Father Christmas, instead you can catch glimpses of him and his helpers through the trees along the way.
Expect your visit to last around 1.5 hours, being the nature of the forest the paths can be uneven in places and there are some steep slopes too, also remember to wrap up warm! Tickets are on sale now; adults £18 and children £11.50, under 3 are free.
Bedgebury National Pinetum, Goudhurts, TN17 2SJ.
Polhill Garden Centre
It would be easy to forget you’re even in a garden centre when you step into Polhill’s Christmas wonderland, this year is set to be even better as the theme is based on Santa’s traditional log cabin in the North Pole. The Christmas display as you walk through to meet Father Christmas never disappoints. Children will enjoy a story with Father Christmas before meeting him personally, adults are allowed to take their camera’s in which is a plus. We have visited Father Christmas at Polhill and found that it was a nice experience particularly for the younger children.
Tickets are on sale now and cost £12 per child and £1 for an adult. Launch weekend of the grotto takes place on 16th and 17th November where there will be breakfast with Santa followed by the grotto experience. The grotto will then be open on the weekend of 23rd and 24th November and then from 29th November the grotto is open until Christmas. Each session will run for 20 minutes, afterwards you could head to the café for a hot drink and cake or take in some last minute Christmas shopping.
Polhill Garden Centre, Sevenoaks, TN14 7AD.
Bluewater Shopping Centre
This year Bluewater are creating their grotto on the classic story of The Nutcracker and the Realms. Children will be welcomed by a Toy Soldier Guard who will led them through the story meeting Snowy Owl and a little girl called Clara, who, along with the children will discover toys representing the Realms and its characters.
Clara will lead the children through the grotto with all its different themes (the sweet themed room is sure to be a hit!) and they will complete a festive craft to take home before meeting Father Christmas. Children will have their own individual visit with Father Christmas and receive a plush toy as their present.
Being located near the shopping centre you could add in some last minute gift shopping, catch a film and/or dinner as well as perhaps some fun ice skating. This could well be a great all rounder day out for the family!
Tickets are on sale now with a child ticket priced at £14.50 which includes two accompanying adults.
Bluewater Shopping Centre, Greenhithe, DA9 9ST.