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Kent Christmas grottos opening 2018

By Angela Cole

A visit to Father Christmas is a must with young families. Check out our guide for where to visit near you:

ALREADY OPEN:

BLUEWATER

Santa and his elves are in The Village until Christmas Eve. Your festive journey to see Santa will begin with a traditional Christmas story presented in 4D, followed by crafts with Mrs Claus and then meeting Santa. For prices and sessions, which runs until Christmas Eve, go to bluewater.co.uk.

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Santa has arrived at Bluewater for the start of Christmas celebrations
Santa has arrived at Bluewater for the start of Christmas celebrations

SANTA'S GROTTO, HOWLETTS

Father Christmas and his merry elves will be bringing festive joy to the wild animal park every weekend, from Saturday, November 24, until Sunday, December 23. Children will be able to share their wishes with Santa and receive a gift, between 10am and 4pm. Entry to the grotto costs £10 per child, with free admission to the grotto for adults. Details at aspinallfoundation.org/santa

Christmas at Howletts
Christmas at Howletts

HEMPSTEAD VALLEY, GILLINGHAM

The popular grotto opened last weekend with the help of kmfm and panto dame Ian Good of the Central Theatre panto.

The grotto stays open at the centre until Christmas Eve. Tickets are £5 per child. You can pre-book at hempsteadvalley.com though you don't have to book in advance, if you don't mind queuing on the day.

Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre's grotto - panto dame Ian Good meets Santa Picture: Steve Crispe
Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre's grotto - panto dame Ian Good meets Santa Picture: Steve Crispe

THE FORUM, SITTINGBOURNE

The free grotto runs every Saturday until Saturday, December 22 with Father Christmas in his grotto from 11am to 3pm. Every child receives a festive treat. For more details visit theforumsc.co.uk.

Christmas at Bedgebury
Christmas at Bedgebury

COMING SOON:

CHRISTMAS AT BEDGEBURY

Visitors to Christmas at Bedgebury this year will be greeted by the sights and sounds of Christmas from next week, Friday, November 30 and running until Sunday, December 30, and get to see the site in a whole new light. Admission is £17, £10.50 for children, £50 for a family, with under fives and carers free. There are additional costs for some activities. To book call 0844 995 1365 or go to christmasatbedgebury.co.uk

BEWL WATER, LAMBERHURST

Festive fun in the secret woodland wonderland, fairground rides, ice skating, Christmas crafts and marshmallow toasting on a fire pit are a bonus to meeting the elves and time with Father Christmas at Bewl Water this year. Opening days are all weekends in December, starting on Saturday, December 1, with the final weekend running from Friday, December 21 to Christmas Eve. Tickets are £18 for adults and £35 for children. To book go to bewlwater.co.uk/christmas.

HEVER CASTLE

Nothing says Christmas quite like a visit to find Father Christmas in the picturesque surroundings of Hever Castle. Though pre-booked visits to meet Santa in his grotto have sold out, drop-in sessions to see him in the toy workshop are still available on Saturday, December 8 and Sunday, December 9; Saturday, December 15 and Sunday, December 16, and Thursday, December 20 to Sunday, December 23, between 11am and 4pm. The chance to meet him is on a first come first served basis.You'll need an entry ticket to the Castle and drop-in to see Father Christmas is £8. To book go to shop.myonlinebooking.co.uk/hevercastle.

BROADDITCH FARM, SOUTHFLEET

A tractor sleigh will take families to find Farmer Christmas and his elves in a cabin in its enchanted wood this winter, where storytelling and gifts await. Farmer Christmas will be ready to greet young visitors from Saturday, December 1. Booking is essential. To book go to farmerchristmas.co.uk

Santa Special at the Kent and East Sussex Railway Picture: Lewis J Brockway
Santa Special at the Kent and East Sussex Railway Picture: Lewis J Brockway

SANTA SPECIAL, KENT & EAST SUSSEX RAILWAY

From Victorian carousel rides at Tenterden Station to decorated steam trains the one hour and 10 minute return journey promises to be a magical experience from Saturday, December 1. Look out for elf helpers with sackfuls of presents, festive chocolates for teenage passengers and a small free gift for babies under 18 months. There are only a few tickets left, starting at £19. For details and bookings go to kesr.org.uk/santa-specials

HOP FARM, PADDOCK WOOD

See Santa in the Big Red Grotto, meet his helpers, enjoy storytelling, balloon models, Christmas tunes, crafts and write a letter to Father Christmas to either post to the North Pole or hand to him personally and receive a free printed photograph for your group from Saturday, December 1. Tickets start at £18 for a child which includes up to two free adults and a child under one. Grotto tickets also allow for free entry to the family park and indoor soft play centre. Book at thehopfarm.co.uk/events

Santa will be at the Hop Farm
Santa will be at the Hop Farm

KENT LIFE, MAIDSTONE

This December Santa will be stopping off at Kent Life in Maidstone on selected dates from Saturday, December 1 to Christmas Eve. Jump on board the land train driven by the head elf. Book a special moment with Santa in his grotto with kids getting to take home a special gift - and parents getting a cheeky mince pie. Kids can also send a letter to Santa in the post office, visit cuddle corner, and try some gingerbread decorating. Time slots are available from 10.15am. Tickets cost £7.95 and £12.95 for one to 15-year-olds. Book by calling 01622 763936 or visit kentlife.org.uk

CHRISTMAS AT BROGDALE, FAVERSHAM

Take a magical ride on the Faversham miniature railway to Santa’s grotto and hunt for all the hidden elf doors to the North Pole. Kids can join in and get creative with the Christmas crafts, special baking sessions led by Great British Bake Off finalist Jane Beedle, say hello to the Christmas owls and Carlos the goat, and take a seasonal selfie in the giant inflatable snow globe. Christmas at Brogdale runs from Monday, December 10 until Saturday, December 22. Visit brogdalecollections.org or call 01795 536250.

MAGICAL MEDIEVAL CHRISTMAS, CANTERBURY

The Magical Medieval Christmas will be at the attraction in Margaret Street on Saturday, December 15 and Sunday, December 16. The time travelling adventure returns with Santa being transported back into the Middle Ages - and young adventurers need to save him and bring him back in time for Christmas. There will be songs, games and dressing up, plus a visit to the grotto and a gift for each child. Entry is £10.95, £13.95 for children, with £5 for under twos. The experience has been created and written by Callum Donnelly, of CBeebies' Spotbots and Justin’s House. To find out more, visit canterburytales.org.uk or call 01227 696 002.

The Canterbury Tales grotto will be a Magical Medieval Christmas
The Canterbury Tales grotto will be a Magical Medieval Christmas

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