Believe Christmas at Hardwick Hall Review & Tips

AD - Thanks to our writer Cat for this post based on a visit in December 2022. Any shares / edits beyond this date have not been asked or paid for. Believe is set in the grounds of Hardwick Hall Hotel at Sedgefield. It's an immersive, premium Christmas event suitable for the whole family.

Believe Christmas at Hardwick Hall Review & Tips

There is plenty of free parking in the hotel car park and the walk from the car park to the event space is very short. The grounds and teepees were all accessible and we did see someone using a wheelchair and quite a few pushchairs being used.

Believe Christmas at Hardwick Hall Review & Tips

Believe is not your traditional type of Christmas event, it features a range of theatrical performances and interactive activities as well as crafts and a visit to see Santa and it lasts for a full day.

When you arrive, you're directed to the rear of the hotel where Believe takes place. There are a number of marquees and teepees dotted around a central area. The food and drink vans are also located in this area so here isn't far to walk between the different areas.

When you purchase your ticket for Believe, you choose the name of the group you'd like to be in.  They're all very festive with names like Snowmen, Jingle Bells and Christmas Trees, and this will be the group that you'll be with for the duration of your visit.

There were elves around the edge of the event space each holding a sign with the name of the group they would be heading. We quickly found our group ' Candy Canes' and were ticked off the list and given wrist bands.

The children were given a blue Believe bag which they would be able to use to keep their mementoes in from the day which was a nice and thoughtful touch. 

After a short while, a rather jolly,  snazzy rainbow elf explained to all visitors what to expect during the day and important things about toilets, baby change and where we would be able to sit to eat lunch.

Every group does all of the activities but in a different order which I think is a brilliant idea. It's a great way to reduce crowds and ensure everyone sees each of the activities. We started our day off at Believe's very own Pantomime. Two groups joined together to watch the fun in a large marquee. Once we were seated the elves came round and gave everyone a candy cane to eat during the performance. It was raining heavily outside so it was nice to have our first activity inside.

The Evil goblin, Gullion McMullion is a Sugar Plum Mary's kitchen scullion and instead of his usual menial job, he wants to be head of Hospitality!

After Mary organises a 'Bake Off' Gullion does everything he can to sabotage it including turning off the oven. The pantomime was lots of fun and we heard plenty of laughs. It was perfectly suited to children, but with some things that definitely tickled the adults too.

After the Pantomime, our elf guided us to the next activity, The Post Office. This activity was inside a cosy teepee which was decorated with twinkly lights. Children and adults were asked to sit at large wooden tables before the children lined up to collect a blank letter to Santa. Back at the table they were asked to fill it in while the friendly elves moved around the tables chatting to the children about what they hoped to receive from Santa for Christmas.

Then the letters were posted into Santa's magical post box. There were plenty of opportunity to take photographs with the elves and of the children posting the letter.

Next up was another cosy teepee. This time the children were able to do some crafting. Helpful elves brought round some stickers and stuffing to fill up plastic snowman. Children could then add stickers and a sparkly bow to complete their snowman. Both my boys enjoyed doing this, it was a pretty simple task but they loved being able to take it home and put it up with the other Christmas decorations.

The children visited a small tent and our elf helped them to fill some small drawstring bags with reindeer dust ( bird seed) and some coloured sprinkles to take home to put outside for the reindeer on Christmas Eve before taking a short walk to see some real reindeer!

Elf Pimpernella Pinefrost chatted to the children and gave them all a cute little wand and encouraged them to help her create enough magic to ensure the reindeer could fly on Christmas Eve.

We had a lunch break at 1pm for an hour. We were able to get seated inside a large marquee easily and decided on food from The Greek Street food van.

The food was quite pricy but the portions were good and it was very tasty. We shared 2 Chicken Gyros, 2 trays of fries and some Halloumi fries between the four of us and The Gyros were £9 each, chips were £3.50 and the Halloumi was £4.50.
As well as The Greek Street food van, there was a van from The Impeccable pig, a van serving hot meat sandwiches, hot drinks and a bar. 

After lunch people started to gather in the centre of the event space while we waited for the next part of the day. It didn't take long for the elves to start dancing. It was a little surreal dancing along to a techno version of Feliz Navidad but it was also lots of fun. The kids seemed to love it and it was a fun way to warm up.

After our Elf rave, we headed off to the a cool inflatable Imaginarium Planetarium dome to watch The Alien who Stole Christmas.  It was an immersive experience where you were able to lie on the floor of the dome and watch the story unfold on the ceiling above you, it wasn't too dissimilar to the Planetarium at the Life Centre in Newcastle.  Both kids really enjoyed it and loved the fact they got to lie on the floor. As well as the Imaginarium Planetarium, the marquee was home to a snow machine which fired 'snow' at visitors, the kids absolutely loved it and all of our group were covered in white, foamy 'snow’.

  Upon leaving, everyone got a wooden 'Believe' star, which is perfect to thread a ribbon through and hang on the Christmas tree.

Another cosy teepee and we got to meet Mrs Clause in the Ministry of Elfin. Her and crazy assistant elf, Shelfie had the teepee in fits of giggles, as Shelfie strode round the teepee full of fun, showing everyone dance moves that they had to follow. 

I think this was probably the most engaging activity, you couldn't help laughing and joining in with Mrs Clause and Shelfie and their silly antics.

The Ice King and his magic glass balls were next on our busy schedule. The children ( and some of the adults) were mesmerised by his sleight of hand which made it look like the glass balls were truly moving by themselves.

Another teepee was home to VR experience, Virtually Christmas.  Both children and adults were able to watch a reindeer sleigh ride through the snow via a VR headset. There was a head set for everyone so no waiting around to have a go.

The penultimate activity for us was a short walk into the woods to see Chris Mystery, the mystical, talking Christmas Tree. He chatted to the kids and encouraged them to help him illuminate the lights in his branches and made the adults chuckle with some references to current affairs.

The last activity of the day was a visit to see Santa himself. When you book your tickets for Believe you're asked to fill in some details about your children for Santa. This allows him to personalise their visit and make it as unique as possible.

Santa is tucked away his Laplandish Tipi. It had such a cosy atmosphere with twinkly lights and a massive teddy bear. Santa was sat at the front with his special book which contained all the information about the children. Santa looked very authentic and 'real' and my 8 year old came out convinced it was the real one.

Believe Christmas at Hardwick Hall Review & Tips

The elf he had with him was brilliant too, she had great rapport with Santa and was really engaging and chatty with the children and adults. Each child's name was read out by Santa and he mentioned some of the things we'd included when the booking was made, both children were mesmerised by the fact he knew things about them, particularly my three year old who was very impressed that Santa knew he was Paw Patrols biggest fan. Each child was given a small soft toy ( that they were able to chose themselves) as a gift, alongside a certificate. Each child was encouraged to stand with Santa and parents were able to take photographs. At no point did we feel hurried or rushed. It was a nice experience and probably my favourite part of the day.

Overall, we enjoyed Believe, we were there for about 5 hours and enjoyed all the different activities. Although it is a pricy day out, the range of activities and things to see, do make it good value for money. Both boys said they'd really enjoyed their day and would definitely like to return next year.

I was particularly really impressed by how engaging and friendly all members of staff were throughout the whole day. They were brilliant with the kids and adults and despite the cold, wet weather seemed genuinely happy and smiley all day.
Nothing felt rushed during our visit, and because the groups were small, we felt like we had plenty of space and time to complete our activities before moving on to the next. 

Tickets are available for Believe Christmas on the following dates:
  • 3 & 4 December
  • 10 & 11 December
  • 17 & 18 December
  • 19 - 23 December
It's a 10:30am start and the experience ends at around 4:30pm. Postcode: TS21 2EH (in the grounds of Hardwick Hall Hotel).

Tickets are expensive at £37 per adult, £39 per child, £20.50 per toddler (babies under 6 months old go free) + booking fee.

However this price is comparable to other full day Christmas events in the region and there is a lot included so we do feel as if this event offers good value for money if you are looking for full day out with lots of festive fun and activities included. The only extra you have to pay on the day is food/drinks. 

Activities included with your ticket price: 

  • Complimentary parking
  • FREE Believe Backpack
  • A dedicated elf guide
  • Family pantomime
  • Letter writing and posting to Santa activity
  • Create your own snowman decoration activity
  • Reindeer dust making & magic wands
  • Elf rave
  • The Alien who stole Christmas Planetarium show
  • Snow machine fun
  • Believe Christmas tree decoration
  • Mrs Claus and Ministry of Elfin comedy show / experience
  • Ice King Magic Performance
  • Virtual Reality Reindeer Ride
  • Chris Mystery magical talking Christmas Tree
  • Santa Meet & Greet (he knows a secret about each child) plus photo opportunities
  • Soft toy gift and certificate from Santa
  • Lots of photo opportunities across the day

Tips for visiting 

  • It is VERY wet and muddy. You will need wellies or waterproof boots. It was also very cold during our visit so I would recommend some thermals and thick socks or at least plenty of layers.
  • Bring a bin bag / large bag to pop muddy boots / wellies into for the trip home.
  • Take a dry set of clothes and blanket to help you warm up on the journey home.
  • There is plenty of free onsite parking
  • The grounds are accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs with paths between teepees but it can get muddy
  • You're not able to take your own food into the event space or any of the teepees, you can only eat food from the vendors on site which are quite pricy. If you don't want to buy food while you're there, I would recommend a large breakfast beforehand and some snacks for the car when you leave.
  • If you're taking younger children, I would recommend taking something to keep them entertained during the Pantomime. My 8 year old loved it but it was a touch too long for my 3 year old who started to fidget and lose interest.

Find out more and book tickets here.  


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