Liverpool’s famous “bombed out church” at the bottom of Hardman Street has been transformed into a Winter Wonderland for Christmas, so with the promise of an action packed creative hour or so, culminating in a visit to Santa, 5 year old Oscar and Martha and I went along to sample the fun.
You book a time slot (we had 5pm) and it is worth noting that you are in a group and all the activities are specifically timetabled, so you do need to arrive on time to make the most of it!
Inside the church are a collection of marquees decorated with trees, snow and lights and in the dark it all looks quite magical. You are guided from one area to another by lovely cheery elves.
First stop was the friendly Mrs Claus and her art studio – where tables were laden with stickers, pens and stampers and each child was given a pack with a scraper foil reindeer, Christmas card and letter to Santa all for them to decorate and make. My two got happily stuck in and were disappointed when a (jingle) bell chimed to say time had run out before they got to finish them all, but they all fitted neatly into a provided bag to be taken home to be completed there, so crisis averted!
Mrs Claus took us through a little door into a new land where we met Elves Carol and Noel who were upbeat without being too “in your face” and welcomed our group to come and sit on the big cushions and hear their stories. My two were a little hesitant at first, but quickly relaxed and joined in. The children all had to create the story, by calling out ideas which Noel and Carol improvised along with. We began with Martha’s idea of a castle, which Oscar then decided was guarded by hungry foxes and it all went on from there. We only had a small group but everyone got involved and Noel and Carol turned it into a fun and engaging tale with plenty of actions for everyone to join in with. When the foxes had become kind and the princess saved, everyone was invited to choose a candy cane from the tree – which naturally went down well!
Our next move was the elf workshop. Everyone was in the swing of it now and had fun limbo dancing, searching for the hidden little elf, dressing up in costumes from the rail (Oscar was thrilled to be Iron Man with a Danny Zuko style jacket as an added twist, and Martha predictably and very happily chose a silver sparkly number with a tiara!!) and learning to throw a few elf themed shapes…
The last bit was in preparation for the next room – the silent disco! How have I never done this before? I was in my element, “Mum Dancing” at its best. We all got given high sound quality headphones and started dancing around to “Merry Christmas Everyone”, YMCA, and more! My children were a little bemused to start, but once they saw me giving it loads, soon warmed up – maybe they hoped I’d stop if they started!! As the last tune faded, the kids took off their costumes and prepared to meet the great man himself!
Because the groups were small on the day we went, there was no queuing. A quick chat with another charming inhabitant of the north pole and it was our turn! We went through the red velvet curtains to find a gorgeous cosy room, complete with a “roaring fire” and Santa beckoned them in. Santas have definitely got their act together these days. He was great in both personality and costume and had them enraptured from the start. “Well hello, how nice to see you again! remind me of your names would you?… Ah of course, I remember you both well, you really have grown haven’t you. So what have you been doing this year?” and so it went on. They chatted away to him like old friends, and I particularly liked that the conversation was about them generally, rather than just focused on what they wanted him to bring. He did of course ask that, and I was relieved that their answers were consistent, with no wild cards thrown in at this stage! It ended with a photograph, which was put into a keyring for each of them to keep (included in the price, which I thought was an excellent touch) and a wrapped gift each – which turned out to be 2 lovely Christmas story books.
Then they bid Santa farewell, promised to leave him a mince pie or two on Christmas eve and left declaring the Winter Wonderland 10 out of 10!
And I have to say, that if you have children from about 4-8 years old, who enjoy being creative and you are looking for a Santa experience that is just a little bit different, then I would give it 10 out of 10 too! The quality of each activity was excellent.
Our Winter Wonderland experience lasted around 90 minutes and all the craft materials, a souvenir oversized keyring photo and a present from Santa were included in the price. I was a little surprised at the price of the adult tickets, but thought the children’s price was reasonable.
Tickets are available from Ticket Quarter and are £14.29 for adults and £20.89 for Children (including fees) or £66 for a family of four.
NB: We were invited by Winter Wonderland, but all the opinions and comments are my own.