Don’t be a Grinch; don’t fear the queues. Sprinkle a bit of Christmas magic over your kids this year and book in a visit to Santa.

Unless you’ve done some serious spending over the past twelve months, you won’t be taking your offspring to Harrods’ Christmas Grotto this year. The plush London store has implemented a new invitation-only system, whereby only the children of the store’s most loyal customers are welcome. We mortals don’t get a look in any more. Bah humbug!

But do not panic: there are plenty of other options out there. Your children needn’t be deprived. Here, we have selected five of the finest grottos in the land. (They all book up fast, however, so waste no time in reserving your tickets.)

Santa’s Snowflake Grotto, Westfield London


This souped-up grotto is nothing like those of your childhood. A hi-tech haven of all things festive, it delivers the goods. During a visit that lasts 20-25 minutes, children create their own snowflake, meet Santa, have their photograph taken with him, receive a gift and are then transported back to London through the “infinity room”.

Father Christmas, Eden Project


Inside this “beautifully done” tent, which is festooned with fairy lights, your little one will feast his eyes on the elves’ bunk-beds and scores of stockings laid out in preparation for the big day. Then he will settle down beside an open fire, listen to a story and spend time with the man of the hour. The costumes here are glorious.

Father Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall


You get an hour-long, interactive experience when you come to visit Father Christmas and his bevy of enchanting toy soldiers, fairies, workshop elves and toymakers at the Royal Albert Hall this year. The ticket price includes a joyous visit to the pick n’ mix stand, too.

Father Christmas, Hamleys


Visit the London, Manchester, Glasgow or Lakeside store, and Hamleys Elves will guide your child through a series of games and activities, which includes writing a Christmas wish list and sending it to the North Pole. After visiting the big man himself, each child gets a gift bag and a cup of delicious sweet treats to take home.

An audience with Father Christmas, Lacock Abbey


You get to meet Mother and Father Christmas in their kitchen at the gorgeous Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire. In this cosy setting, the former will be telling a story, while the latter doles out gifts. Dress festively but wrap up warm, they say! Adding to the abbey’s appeal is the fact that some Harry Potter scenes were filmed here.

October 2018