I’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.
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 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 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 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, 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 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 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.
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.
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.
Watercress 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.