The Hampshire Santa Special

MN Santa SleighI’ve put together a list of great places to go to meet Father Christmas or Santa Claus in Hampshire. Some need booking in advance, others are first come first served, some can be booked on arrival so do check the details ahead of your trip.

The pricing structure and opening dates for some of these is very detailed so I’ve left the pricing and specific dates off and you’ll need to click the highlighted words for more details. This list is by no means exhaustive and I might add to it as I find more great grottos and experiences!

Andover Garden Centre, Andover – Visit a traditional Santa’s Grotto.  Booking necessary, available from the 5th December 2014, check website for dates.

Andover Garden Centre, Andover – Eat breakfast or  tea with Father Christmas, decorate  cookie and receive a gift.  Teas available from the 5th December, breakfasts from the 6th, booking necessary.

Baffins Pond, Portsmouth – Santa visits the community garden on the 20th December 2014, includes gift, refreshments available and bouncy castle depending on weather.

Bumps to Tots Christmas Fayre, Andover – Range of stalls, pre-loved baby, child and maternity items, refreshments, children’s activity corner and Santa’s grotto. Takes place on 6th December, no need to book, just turn up.

Bursledon Brickworks, Swanwick – Christmas at the Brickworks – Gala day on the 30th November  with a seasonal fair, seasonal food, children’s activities, trains and of course, Father Christmas will be dropping by – but if you want to see him in his workshop you’ll need to book to see him on the 7th December 2014 and this will include making a Christmas decoration, receiving a present, and a Christmas trail around the museum.

Cadnam Santa Arrival

Cadnam Santa Arrival

Cadnam Garden Centre, Cadnam – See Santa arrive in horse drawn carriage on the 27th November and thereafter visit him in his grotto or book breakfast with him on various dates throughout December from the 6th.

Cascades, Portsmouth – See a truly magical Narnia like snow scene with snow, frost and animated creatures in a woodland setting.  The animal display is interactive and will play for you when you press the button.  Visit Santa in his igloo made of wrapped presents and receive a gift. Online booking is available and recommended. Opens on the 20th November to coincide with the Commercial Road Christmas lights switch on event.

Eastleigh santa special

Santa Special, Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway

Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway, Eastleigh – Come and ride on the steam train to see Santa. 1st Class carriages will be in use.

Children and adults receive a present from Santa and can enjoy seasonal refreshments. Pre-booking essential, various dates from the 13th December 2014.

 

Fair Oak Garden Centre , Eastleigh – Have Breakfast or Tea with Father Christmas, decorate a tree cookie and receive a gift from Santa. Available from 22nd November – pre-booking necessary.

Fareham Shopping Centre, Fareham – The Grotto will by run by, with all proceeds going to, the Hampshire East County Girlguides. Grand opening on the 27th November and open on various dates from then to Christmas Eve.

festival placeFestival Place, Basingstoke - Give your children a Christmas they’ll remember with a trip on a magical train ride through Porchester Square to visit Santa.  You can purchase tickets on the day or book ahead to guarantee a timeslot.

Finkley Down Farm Park , Andover – Visit the Nativity Barn with your Santa Passport which is stamped at each activity on offer, including cuddling a Christmas Rabbit, grooming one of Santa’s little ponies and finish up by visiting Santa in his Magical Grotto. Opens on the 28th November 2014. Pre-booking not necessary but it is cheaper if you book online.

Gosport Discovery Centre, Gosport – An introduction to museums for young children and a chance to meet Santa with lots of hands on activities with a Christmas theme for the under 5s. 18th December 2014, free, but booking essential.

Groundlings Theatre, Portsmouth – Meet Santa and the cast of Cinderella for some great stories and kids activities – all free! No need to book, event takes place on 7th December 2014 at 2 pm.

Havant Garden Centre, Havant – Eat breakfast or tea with Father Christmas, decorate a cookie and receive a gift.  Must book in advance, available from 1st December 2014.

Hawk Conservancy Trust

Hawk Conservancy Trust

Hawk Conservancy Trust, Andover – Father Christmas will be dropping in for breakfast ahead of Christmas on the 6th and 7th December.  Book early for this one.

Hinton Ampner, Alresford – Father Christmas will be dropping in to tell a Christmas story and deliver lots of presents.  Includes a gift and facepainting – no booking necessary, just drop in. 13th and 14th December 2014.

Keydell Nurseries, Horndean – Visit Santa at Keydells, every weekend and Wednesday and Thursday evenings in November and every day in December to Christmas Eve.  Visit the grotto and receive a choice of unwrapped gift.  No pre-booking, purchase ticket and book timeslot on the day.  If you would like to pre-book, you can book a place at the Elves and Frozen Characters tea parties  which include a visit to Santa on various dates from the 3rd December 2014.

Little Pickles Winter Extravaganza, Southampton – Festive day out, meet Santa in his Grotto, and enjoy an appearance by the Frozen princesses Anna and Elsa, lots of children’s activities, and demos for the whole family to enjoy.  No need to pre-book.

Longdown Christmas BarnLongdown Farm Christmas Barn, Ashurst – See the peaceful nativity scene, watched over by donkeys, look out for Father Christmas’ tractor sleigh parked outside the farmhouse grotto, and see Father Christmas himself inside the grotto to receive a gift. No pre-booking available. Open from 6th December 2014.

Manor Farm and Country Park , Southampton- Have afternoon tea with Father Christmas, and bring along your letters to post in the special farmhouse post box. No need to book.  From 29th November 2014. Or pop along to the Christmas market on the 6th and 7th December 2014 and children can visit Father Christmas in the stable.

Marwell Zoo , Nr Winchester – Join the elves in their magical woodland and be enchanted by Mrs Clause as she reads ‘The Snowman’.  Create a festive cracker and then meet Santa in his sparkling Grotto to receive a gift.  In the evening sessions you can also include a train ride. Opens 22nd November 2014. Pre-booking essential, this is very popular.

Milestones Museum of Living History, Basingstoke – Traditional grotto in the Victorian Railway Station waiting room.  Various dates from the 13th December 2014, booking essential.

Paulton's Park and Peppa Pig World

Paulton’s Park and Peppa Pig World

Paulton’s Park and Peppa Pig World Winter Wonderland , Romsey-  includes entrance to the Winter Wonderland experience, meeting Santa, receiving a gift, a 4D film experience at the Show Street Cinema, all the Peppa Pig and Paulton’s theme park rides and attractions and see the beautiful birds and animals including penguins and meerkats. Booking in advance highly recommended – already open at weekends, follow link for dates.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth – See a traditional Father Christmas (dressed in green) at the fantastic Victorian Festival of Christmas, and enjoy their largest ever Christmas market, Dickensian-style snow covered streets and a wonderland of Victorian Characters and entertainment. Pre-booking essential.

Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean – Father Christmas is back in his grotto with gifts, a festive nature trail, tractor ride and children’s craft session.  Various dates from the 6th December, booking is essential.

Rake (Country Gardens) Garden Centre, Petersfield – Have Breakfast or Tea with Father Christmas, decorate a tree cookie and receive a gift from Santa. Available from 22nd November 2014 – pre-booking necessary.

Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley – Visit Father Christmas in his Grotto or book the Santa Special for a ride on the Steam train – both available from the 13th December 2014.

Staunton Country Park, Havant – Enjoy festive fun around the park, make seasonal crafts in the Elves workshop, see the animals in the Nativity scene, have a go at the Christmas trail and visit Santa to find out if you’ve been naughty or nice!  Book ahead, visits commence on the 6th December 2014.

Santa at Spinnaker Tower

Santa at Spinnaker Tower

Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth – Come along and meet Santa who will be flying in on select dates from the 6th December 2014.  Meet Santa on the view decks 100 meterse above Portsmouth Harbour and tell him what’s on your Christmas wish list. Santa visit included in the usual ticket price, no need to pre-book.

 

St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington – A fun and festive opportunity to meet a Victorian Father Christmas (dressed in green not red!) and have a vintage photo taken with him. There will also be a Victorian Christmas tree decoration workshop.  One day only on the 22nd December 2014.

Tudor House, Southampton – Arts and crafts, Victorian Costumes, festive mini-trail and an chance to meet Father Christmas.  Father Christmas visits must be pre-booked.  Available 6th and 7th December 2014 only.

Uppark House, Petersfield – Make a very special visit to see a very special person – National Trust members free entry except children visiting Father Christmas.  No need to book. Various dates from the 6th December.

Santa SpecialsWatercress Line, Alresford – See Santa on a steam train as you take a one hour round trip through the scenic Hampshire Countryside. Includes gifts for all passengers and festive refreshments. Book ahead – available from the 6th December 2014.

West Quay, Southampton – Free visits to see Santa and a free gift for each visitor to the Ice Palace, various dates from the 13th December 2014. No need to book.

Whiteley Shopping Centre, Fareham – Father Christmas will be visiting the centre every Thursday and Sunday from the 4th December up til the 21st December 2014.

Wickham Lights Christmas Switch On - Come along to the festivities in Wickham to see Father Christmas arrive by horse and carriage.  Enjoy music and morris dancing before taking the children to Father Christmas’s grotto in the Kings Head. No booking necessary.

Winter Wonderland at Funland, Hayling Island – Take a breathtaking walk through Wonderland with Santa’s Elves, meet Santa Claus and receive a gift. Thereafter board the Funland Express and take a journey through an enchanted forest, rounding the trip off by meeting Santa’s reindeer. Opens on the 23rd November, pre-booking necessary.

With so many to choose from, hopefully you can find the perfect experience for your child. Happy Christmas everyone.

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Mr Organic – free from additives, packed with taste

mr organic logoI was recently sent a box packed full of Mr Organics’ products to try, including an organic tin of baked beans, Basil Pesto, Bolognese Sauce, Basil and Tomato Sauce and Italian Organic Ketchup.

The products are low in salt, organic, gluten free and suitable for vegetarians and vegans which ticks a lot of boxes for me.  Being keen to cut the salt intake for my family, products low in salt is good news, along with their no added sugar stance. It’s refreshing to find a producer with a strong ethical stance – they aim to keep their carbon emissions to a minimum – no air freight for them. A sustainable tomato production base next to the farms who supply them has the added benefit of meaning their food is processed within 5 hours of harvest and each tomato can be tracked back to the field in which it was grown.

Of all the products I tried, the clear favourite was the Italian Organic Ketchup –  an Award Winner in the The Great Taste Awards, this is a rich tasting ketchup without the sweet aftertaste you get from more mainstream brands. After extensive testing, I can confirm this tastes good with just about anything, but is particularly good on burgers.

Mr organic ketchup

I used the basil pesto in the traditional way, stirred into pasta. Had I not been aware that it had come out of a jar, I might have mistaken it for pesto from the chiller cabinet it had such a lovely fresh taste.

I’m not a fan of baked beans generally and so I couldn’t really review these honestly but according to my 6 year old, the A.A. Gill of her generation, they passed muster, which is high praise indeed.

The Bolognese sauce has a rich tomato taste which again, was unmarred by the addition of unnecessary sugar, and the basil and tomato sauce tasted just as it should, of basil and tomato and nothing more, rather proving the saying, that less, is more.

If you’d like to try these products (and everyone needs to try the ketchup in my opinion), you can purchase them from Ocado, Abel & Cole, Whole Foods Market, Budgens, Planet Organic, Amazon and Booths.

 

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Review: The Mumsnet Book of Animal Stories

Mumsnet Book of Animal StoriesThe Mumsnet Book of Animal stories recently landed on my doormat, and I’ve been reading a story a night to my daughter who is 6.  This lovely book is the result of a competition for Gransnet and Mumsnet members, and each was carefully chosen by a panel of judges including former Children’s Laureate, Anthony Browne, Miriam González Durántez, Lucy Mangan and Justine Roberts.

Brought to life with charming illustrations by talented new artists, each story focuses on a different animal and we have enjoyed tales of wolves, bats, meerkats and elephants to name but a few. From comic tales to re-imaginings of old favourites, the standard of writing is high and the range of stories make it an ideal bedtime story book, with plenty of variety to choose from.  Children from 3 -8 will enjoy either having this book read to them or reading it independently.  Beautifully presented, it would make a lovely gift for a new baby, christenings, birthdays or Christmas.

My daughter loves it, and I am quite sure I shall be reading stories from the book for a long time to come yet.

If you’d like to order a copy you can do so from Amazon or from The Hive who will deliver it free to your local independent bookshop helping you to support shopping locally. (If you’d like to know more about how that works - read up here).

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We review Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play – Nuffield Theatre

Charlie & Lola mumsnet MPU_NEWNestled in the grounds of Southampton University, you will find the Nuffield Theatre, and it’s where I found myself today, trying (for quite some time) to find a place to park with two over excited children.  Today we saw the first performance of Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play.

To fans of this popular television programme, Charlie and Lola hardly need any introduction, but for the uninitiated, Charlie has this little sister, Lola, who is small, and very funny…  But will Charlie ever get Lola to sleep, even though she is not sleepy and will not go to bed? It won’t be easy – the Tigers want their bedtime milk, the Dancing Dogs have borrowed Lola’s pyjamas and Lola thinks there is an ogre hiding in the wardrobe!

But how do you bring an animated television programme to life for an audience of the toughest critics going, a auditorium full of children? By the use of very clever 2D puppets, excellent puppeteers and a fantastic set with all the texture and fantasy sequences you have come to know and love from the original programme. The puppeteers work the 2d puppets of Charlie, Lola and the supporting cast with all of the nuance and movements you get from the animation, so well in fact, you do tend to forget that the puppeteers are there for a moment, until suddenly they are performers in their own right again, dancing with the scenery for set changes and encouraging the audience to participate.

With falling butterflies, bubbles and disco lights throughout the performance there is plenty to delight your children and you will be left with an enormous sense of well being and a desire to see more children’s theatre at this lovely venue. You can also purchase Charlie and Lola books, toys and swimbags in the foyer, very handy just before Christmas.

The play is suitable for children aged 3+ (although I did risk taking my nearly 2 year old and was delighted that he was engaged by it). You can book tickets through the Nuffield Theatre website www.nuffieldtheatre.co.uk or by calling the box office on 023 8067 1771.  Shows will take place at 11 am and 2 pm today, Thursday and Friday and 11 am, 1.30 pm and 4 pm on Saturday 1st November 2014.

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Enjoy 50% off this Half Term with South West Trains

swt_logo for 3rd PartiesEnjoy 50% off standard off-peak day return tickets everyday until Friday 31st October when you book in advance with South West Trains!

The best news is you can travel ANYWHERE across the South West Trains network!  So book your ticket online today and start exploring!  You can also book your tickets at ticket offices or by calling 0345 6000 650.  Remember you must book your ticket a minimum of 24 hours before you travel to receive the discounted fare!

SWtrains_456x140px

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Octonauts exploring theatres near you!

Octonauts Live logoOctonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure will be touring the UK from the 16th October 2014 until the 5th July 2015 giving fans a chance to experience the adventure first hand.  The entire crew of the Octonauts, led by intrepid explorer Captain Barnacles, Lieutenant Kwazii and Medic Peso, embark on an exciting new underwater quest and visit amazing underwater worlds full of adventure with surprises around every corner.

This action packed interactive show features new music (from BAFTA-award winning composer Mani Svavarsson) and all the Octonauts live on state for the very first time.

For those unfamiliar with the show, the Octonauts are a dynamic eight-member team of quirky and courageous adventure heroes who dive into action whenever there is trouble under the sea.  Equipped with a fleet of aquatic vehicles, they rescue amazing sea creatures, explore incredible new underwater worlds, and often save the day before returning safely to their home base, the Octopod.

Adapted by Richard Lewis, known for the hugely popular three Peppa Pig stage shows and last year’s Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom tour, this promises to be a fantastic treat for the show’s fans.

“Octonauts is all about adventure and exploration which offers up a whole host of possibilities in a live environment.  From the colourful characters and fantastic underwater setting to the amazing octopod where the Octonauts live, there’s great scope for a really unique, interactive theatre experience.  We can’t wait to take fans on an adventure like never before.”

The show will visit Princes Hall, Aldershot on the 21-22 October 2014,  Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre on the 18-19 April 2015 and Portsmouth’s Kings Theatre on the 20-21 June 2015.

 

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We review 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside

Local Editor:

Fed up with expensive days out? Or perhaps you just want them to stop watching Stampy Longnose for a bit – here’s the answer for less than £15.

Originally posted on Mumsnet Portsmouth:

101What better time to review a book like 101 Things for Kids To Do Outside, than the summer holidays? Arriving a week into the break, when I was running out of ideas for less expensive entertainments, it was a very welcome arrival.

Award winning garden designer, blogger and mum of three young children Dawn Isaac has packed 101 Things For Children To Do Outside with games, projects, crafts, experiments and gardening inspiration to encourage your children to step away from their screens and get out in the fresh air. These ideas stem from Dawn’s perpetual mission to persuade her children to go outside, chronicled in her blog www.littlegreenfingers.com which features on the RHS family website. The horticultural advisor to popular tv program Mr Bloom’s Nursery, Dawn also runs family garden design courses in association with Mumsnet Academy.

The book offers quick 10 minute activities to full days of fun. From party…

View original 850 more words

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