Are you looking for something a bit different to do with your kids this Christmas? Are you sick of the same old Santa’s grotto, where you wait in line for an hour at your local garden centre for your kids to rattle off what they want and then head on out, missing the magic of Christmas altogether?
Well then, you might want to take a look at the “Wish Upon A Star” Christmas experience at Meadowhall in Sheffield. Yes, Santa is there in the mix (so your kids won’t be disappointed) but there are lots of other great surprises along the way. They have dubbed it an “immersive theatrical experience”, which basically means there are very good actors looking after you and impeccably dressed theme rooms as your go through.
The premise is that you are on a journey through the “Wishmas Forest”, meeting the “wish gatherer elves”. This takes you on a 30-40 minute trip through 3 rooms. The first is the forest, so it is decorated with Christmas trees and lots of tree stumps for the kids to sit on and watch a film explaining it all. There is a very chirpy elf who teaches the kids the wish gatherers salute – something the boys found hilarious as it is a mixture of silly noises and actions.
From there they go into a second room with a giant telescope in the middle and a male elf who tells the story of Santa crashing into the forest. All the whilst, we are told that shooting stars carry wishes. The boys loved this room as there were big bean bags to curl up to and listen to the story, then they all got to look through the giant telescope and spot a shooting star.
From there we went into a workshop themed room where the kids could decorate cardboard stars with their wishes on. This was a nice practical activity after a lot of sitting and listening, and there was glitter, ribbon and pens to decorate with. I did feel that this was quite a basic craft, and that perhaps a little more could have been spent on a bigger mix of materials to decorate, or they could have been wooden to look a bit more substantial.
All the actors were very friendly and encouraging to the kids, speaking to them individually (which was achievable as there is a limit on the number of families going through in each session). They were definitely in character, which the kids loved, but I found a bit annoying and far fetched! If you are not a cheesy Christmas person then this might not be the thing for you.
From this room we were taken in to see Santa. Now this was my favourite part. It was a very intimate and cosy room, and Santa spoke with the kids about how Christmas is a time for giving and not just receiving. He sprinkled some extra glitter on their wish stars and asked them to close their eyes and make a Christmas wish for someone less fortunate than themselves. Sam, my eldest, ran over and whispered in my ear that he wanted to make a wish for his sponsor child in Africa, which just melted my heart. Reuben, my youngest, wished for pine cones!!!!
There was no asking them what they wanted for Christmas, just a really sweet moment where they had a photo with Santa and got given a Mr Man book (an amazing gift as my boys LOVE the Mr Men!). They left having had a lovely 40 minute trip. I left feeling slightly overwhelmed by jolly elves, but all in all it was a much better experience than standing in a queue for 5 minutes with Santa somewhere else.
The best thing about this was that you book a slot online, so there’s no waiting about. The groups are small and the price is actually very reasonable considering all that you get. Its £6.60 for kids and £3.60 for adults (obviously only the kids get presents!). So if you are happy with a non-traditional Santa’s grotto then book online here. (Photos and mementoes were extra – here’s the price list)
My only concern (and final comment!) is that in trying to make this a magical experience, are we diluting the true Christmas message? By adding wishes, and wish gathering elves, are we just confusing our kids more? I am not sure, and on the surface it seems harmless, so I will let you decide upon that yourself.