An Enchanted Christmas at Whitworth Hall
Christmas at Whitworth hall spans for 4 hours and includes 8 separate, special experiences that your children will love. About 1/3 of your time is spent outdoors and the rest of the time is in tipis/yurts so make sure you wrap up warmly. Wellies are also advised. My 4, 6 and 9 year old all enjoyed the experience but I would say it is best pitched at children aged 3-7 years old. Here's what we got up to:-
Feeding reindeer at Whitworth Hall
I feel terrible writing about this as it was dealt with by management and staff very well, however I do also believe it's important to give a clear account of what happened. We arrived at 9am and after checking into the elf hut were told our first activity would be to feed the reindeer. We headed into the field where there were lots of deer and each child was handed a bag of food.
Now reindeer are hand fed by hotel guests all year round so I'm not sure if it was because we were fairly early and caught the deer before their breakfast (they were fed by their keeper about 10 minutes after we entered the enclosure and most of the larger deers left the public to follow their keeper at this point) or if they were just overwhelmed by a crowd of people entering the enclosure together but one of the stags charged at my 9 year old son whilst another stole the whole bag of food from my 4 year old. This obviously left them quite shaken and Harry was upset and started to cry :-( Not a good start. I was also a bit overwhelmed too and to be honest it is really lucky the antlers just went into his back and not his face.
I really don't want to dwell on it too much as the staff were superb and handled the situation very well (special mention the Sparkle the elf and Mrs Claus). We received a heart-felt apology from all involved including the hotel manager and have been compensated. They are going to change the way reindeer feeding is organised now and I am confident that this was just a freak accident that hopefully won't be repeated again. Harry has some bruising but will survive and there was no lasting damage.
Update - Whitworth Hall take your safety very seriously and have informed me that reindeer feeding will now be taking place behind a fence so there is definitely no chance of this happening again.
Fairy tree topper
Our next task was to meet fairy tree topper who encouraged everyone to join in with a sing a long and then nominated two unsuspecting parents to act as Christmas trees which the children were encouraged to 'decorate' using her bag of treats. All good fun and I'm not sure who enjoyed it the most.
Next, we were ushered into Mrs Claus' tipi where everyone was handed a much needed warm hot chocolate and cookie and made themselves comfortable on the beanbags and benches as she told the tale of how Santa got stuck up the chimney. There were blankets and throws on the benches for extra warmth too which was a nice touch.
The Santa Express at Whitworth Hall
Our elves then asked us to climb aboard our very own Santa Express train which took us across the park to meet the main man himself.
Meet Santa Claus at Whitworth Hall
The anticipation was really building as our group stood outside a large wooden door and read the instructions for it to open - we followed the rules and then as if by magic, it opened before our eyes and the elves asked us to tiptoe inside Santa's room so we wouldn't wake him. I LOVED that there was a fire in here so it was beautifully warm and cosy.
All of the children shouted and cheered to wake up Santa and were truly captivated as he shouted their names one by one and knew who each of them were, a little about their life and what they would like for Christmas. It was magical! Just look at my 9 year old - he was astounded that Santa knew that he spent his time coding at home!
Sometimes this sort of thing can get a little boring for children as it takes time to go through each child, however the whole room listened carefully and I think our group size was just right to stop the boredom kicking in and keep the magic real :D
All of the children had the chance to personally meet Santa for a little chat and were gifted with a lovely Christmas Eve kit including a quality 'Oh Deer' soft toy (the stories from the characters throughout the day feature him) which children are encouraged to snuggle tight on Christmas Eve, plus their very own magic reindeer dust, reindeer poop chocolate drips and snowman soup.
Everything was beautifully packaged together and had a 'high end' feel to it. As Santa gifts go, this one has been one of the best.
After meeting Santa, we hopped back aboard the Santa Express to meet Jack Frost who was a very animated character and told us the tale of how he almost stole Christmas and ended with a dance to warm us all up! Even the grown ups got involved.
Christmas Cafe and crafts at Whitworth Hall
After visiting Jack Frost we were all in need of some proper warmth and headed to the Christmas Cafe and Craft area. You could purchase hot food and drinks here at an additional cost, write letters to Santa Claus, colour pictures and create your own snow globes. I don't think we've ever created our own snow globes but it was a really enjoyable and easy task. We were allowed to bring the snow globes home and they now have pride of place on our fireplace - I wonder if Santa will recognise them on Christmas Eve?
Meet Elf Pooper Scooper
Our final stop of the morning was to meet Elf Pooper Scooper who the children found to be hilarious - they loved shouting his name when he dozed off and learning a new rude version of Jingle Bells. A lovely end to our day.
What we loved
- Father Christmas was magical, personalised and the gift was fantastic.
- If you can afford the price tag I think the event offers very good value for money with hot drinks, cookies, a decent gift, Santa visit, reindeer food, snow globe plus 8 separate places to visit.
- The staff were wonderful - they stayed in character throughout and took the time to chat with our children and make them feel extra special. Costumes and staging had obviously had money spent on them and weren't just sourced from poundland which is so often the case at this sort of thing. Everything was very professional.
- Little touches such as blankets, hot chocolates at the right temperature for children and Santa knowing everyone's name really made the day special
What could be improved
- It really is freezing - more heaters would be fab.
- We were advised by staff not to use the portaloo's so headed into the hotel when the kids needed to spend a penny. This is a fair trek from some of the tipis and you do miss out on some of the action. 4 hours is a long time not to go for kids who have had a drink though so maybe there could be a loo break incorporated into the morning?
- The day did feel rather long and some of our group left before the end. It is a long time for children to stay outside - I think the whole thing could easily be condensed to 2.5 hours.
- We sang Jingle Bells about 8 times with various characters or the elves. A bit of variation would be nice and my 9 year old was rolling his eyes by the end.
We popped into Whitworth Hall before we left and I loved the Christmas tree in the hotel bar. The smell of Sunday lunch was AMAZING and if I was to plan my day again I would certainly finish with a family lunch inside the hotel restaurant - the perfect way to warm up.
I have been reading reviews of Lapland UK this week and I think An Enchanted Christmas seems fairly similar but on a smaller scale. If you can't make the journey to the New Forest (and don't want to pay the £65 per person price tag), I think An Enchanted Christmas is a good compromise and probably the closest you will get to that sort of experience in the North East. If your children are aged 3-7 years old, they will definitely love it, just make sure you wear lots and lots of layers and three pairs of socks!