The best Santa’s grotto near me, here in Northamptonshire, is without a doubt the one at Riverside Hub. However, there are some other pretty good places to meet Santa in Northamptonshire, and further afield in nearby Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes.
Things are a bit different at the moment though, what with Covid-19, so I’ve updated this post with Santa’s grotto 2020 information. I’ll keep updating it as things change.
Given tickets to Santa grottos usually sell out pretty quickly I thought I’d round up the best ones. There’s only a 22-month age gap between my two children, who are now 3 and 4, so I’ve seen a fair few over the last four years. We often visit more than one a year.
Santa’s Grotto in Northamptonshire 2020
1. Christmas at West Lodge Farm
West Lodge Rural Centre, Back Lane, Desborough, Kettering NN14 2SH.
I love this farm, so it’s great to see they’re hoping to run a 2020 Christmas event. The details are live on the site and the tickets have now been released. Be quick as I’m sure they’ll sell out quickly.
The organisers are hoping the 2020 event will include magical glasses, a walk through the twinkly wood to the elves village, making magical reindeer food, decorating a card, Elf School, a visit to Father Christmas in his magical grotto, a gift AND a Nativity Play in some format. Woah, what a line up!
Recommended Reading: The Best Events in Northampton (for the Whole Year)
2. Santa’s Grotto at Dobbies Garden Centre
Dobbies Garden Centre (formerly Wyevale), Newport Pagnell Road, Northampton, NN4 6HP. From £13.99 for children and £6.99 for adults.
Tickets for this 2020 event are now on sale and the event has been tailored in line with Covid-19 regulations.
Book a table for breakfast with Santa! Your ticket includes food (pre-book from the menu) and for the children, activities and a gift from the man himself.
If you’d rather visit a more traditional Santa’s grotto you’ll need to head to the Milton Keynes branch, where little ones will enter a winter wonderland and receive a gift. Tickets are offered on a refundable basis should the event be cancelled.
Are you a dog-lover? You might want to take a look at their Santa Paws event, where you can spoil your pooch with a visit to Santa. And no, I’m not joking!
3. Christmas at The Hub
Riverside at The Hub, 7 Carousel Way, Riverside Park, Northampton, NN3 9HG. From £3 for babies, £16 for children and £4.50 for adults
The Christmas event at Riverside at The Hub has now been announced – hurrah – and the tickets are on sale. Some sessions have already sold out, so nab some quickly.
The fun and lively Santa experience includes a festive disco, biscuit decorating (and eating!), Christmas games and the chance to meet the main man. Little ones get a present take home too.
The grotto staff are what makes this one of the best Santa grottos in Northamptonshire. They’re lively, bonkers for Christmas and make sure that everyone joins in. You can’t help but smile.
Normally a ticket to the Christmas event also gives you access to everything at Riverside Hub, which includes one of the biggest soft play centres in the UK, a vintage carousel, ride-on motorbikes and more. It’s a whole fun family day out in Northampton.
In terms of your own photos, usually you’ll be offered an official photo with Santa (for an extra cost), but you can also take your own ones.
Still not sure? We’ve been for the past four years, which speaks volume in itself and tickets usually sell out. We can’t wait to go again!
Tip: The weekend slots sell out very quickly, so book as soon as they go on sale in September.
3. Meet Santa at Northampton & Lamport Railway
Northampton & Lamport Railway. From £5.50 for infants, £12.50 for children and £11.50 for adults.
Northampton & Lamport Railway has been accredited as an official AA ‘Covid-19 Confident’ attraction and has signed the Covid Confident Charter, so I have high hopes their Christmas special will be on for 2020.
They’ve just announced a spooky Halloween train ride, so I wonder if perhaps it’s a test to see how well it works before launching the chance to meet Santa at Northampton & Lamport Railway.
If it runs as 2019, not only do little ones get to meet Santa, they also get to enjoy a short train ride on a heritage locomotive, along with a drink and biscuit. They, of course, get a little present to take home too.
Better yet, parents get a glass of sherry (or a soft drink) and a mince pie.
4. Delapré Abbey Santa
Delapré Abbey, London Road, Northampton, NN4 8AW. From £5 per child.
Covid-19 has hit a lot of event organisers and Santa’s grotto at Delapré is no exception. A 2020 version has yet to be announced. That said, events have been starting up again at this venue, so fingers crossed it’ll run.
If it’s like 2019, it’ll be a classy chance to meet Santa by the fireside. Little ones get to chat to Santa and as usual, a little present to take home.
Pair your visit with a walk in the beautiful gardens and grounds or a cuppa in the beautiful cafe.
Recommended Reading: 30 of the Best Things to Do in Northampton
5. Further Afield From Northamptonshire
An hour away you’ll find the Christmas activities at Blenheim Palace (going ahead for 2020 – click for my review and details) where children can follow the pretty festive lights in the beautiful grounds. We’ve been the past few years and really enjoy it.
A bit closer, you’ll also find lots of magical Christmas fun at Waddesdon Manor (also on for 2020 and again, click for review), including illuminations, letter writing to Father Christmas, lantern making, Christmas market stalls and more. We’re heading there this year after plenty of recommendations from friends.
Milton Keynes Santa in 2020
1. Christmas at Frosts Woburn Sands
Frosts at Woburn Sands, Newport Road, Woburn Sands, Milton Keynes MK17 8UE. From £6.99 for babies, £14.99 for children and £4.99 for adults.
This event has been confirmed again for 2020 and is offering individual family visits into the grotto to help with social distancing.
When I first started in the Santa grotto circuit this was one of the best places to meet Santa in Milton Keynes. Even at a 40-minute car journey from Northampton it was worth it.
The set-up has changed over the last few years, but normally follows a visit to a number of Christmas-themed rooms where Elves get the children to make reindeer food, dance and sing. Little ones listen to a story from Santa, have the chance for a quick photo and then get to choose a present to take home.
During my last visit (2018) I found the staff let it down a bit. The Santa part is a bit rushed and some of the staff seemed a little overworked. However, that might have been a one-off.
Oh and don’t miss the life-size singing reindeers and other fun decorations in the shop. Free fun!
2. A Vintage Milton Keynes Santa Grotto
Bletchley Park, The Mansion, Bletchley Park, Sherwood Drive, Bletchley, Milton Keynes MK3 6EB. From £7.50 per child, free for adults with a park entrance ticket.
It’s yet to be confirmed if this 1940s vintage Santa’s grotto will go ahead again, so watch this space.
If it’s like the 2019 Christmas at Bletchley Park, there will be craft activities to entertain children whilst they wait to meet Santa, including making a pop-up Christmas card, an Origami Father Christmas and a festive puzzle. The ticket usually includes a chance to meet Santa and a gift to take home.
There are also normally autism-friendly slots available.
Recommended Reading: Over 80 Cheap Gifts for Children Who Love to Travel
3. Thrift Farm
Thrift Farm, Buckingham Road, Milton Keynes, MK17 0EQ. From £9.95
At present there is no mention of a Santa’s grotto at the farm. Previously, a trip to this Santa’s grotto included the chance to make reindeer food, decorate a cookie and of course, a present from Santa. The ticket included free child admission to the farm too.
4. Further Afield from MK
Happy to travel a bit further? 40-minutes from Milton Keynes is Farmer Christmas Land and this one is confirmed for 2020, along with new social distancing measures.
Gone is the sleigh – Father Christmas rides a red tractor at this fun family day out! Little ones get to sit in the tractor when they meet Santa, as well as the opportunity to search for gold tokens in Santa’s Snowpits, walk through the Enchanted Forest, meet Christmas animals, make a star for the Wishing Tree, and feed real Reindeer. What a treat!
Another option that’s 40-minutes from Milton Keynes is The Panto Express. It’s a full Christmas experience, including a 30-minute festive panto and a ride on a vintage train. Children meet Santa on the train and get a present to take home. However, this event has been suspended for now.
Santa’s Grotto in Bedfordshire for 2020
1. Christmas at Frosts Willington
Frosts at Willington, Sandy Road, Willington, Bedford, MK44 3QP. From £6.99 for babies, £14.99 for children and £4.99 for adults.
Essentially the same Santa’s grotto as the one mentioned in the Milton Keynes section, but at a branch in Bedfordshire.
Children are hosted by the elves who get the children singing, dancing and making reindeer food. Little ones listen to a story from Santa, have the chance for a quick photo and take home a cuddly toy, as well as a present.
Recommended Reading: 11 of the Best Days Out in Bedfordshire
2. Santas Grotto in Bedfordshire at Poplars
Poplars, Harlington Road, Toddington, Dunstable, LU5 6HE. £10 per child, free for adults.
There’s no mention of this event for 2020, so who knows if it will get reconfirmed.
In 2019, a visit to this Santa’s grotto included a gift from Santa, a bag of reindeer food to leave out on Christmas Eve, a real life ‘magic growing’ miniature Christmas tree and a child’s hot chocolate, topped with cream and marshmallows.
£1 from every ticket was donated to the local NSPCC branch, which was a nice touch.
3. Further Afield From Bedfordshire
It’s worth mentioning the Christmas event at Whipsnade Zoo, which is about a 45-minute drive away from Bedford. Tickets are due to be announced soon.
Children get the chance to meet both Mr and Mrs Claus, join in with crafts and receive a Christmas gift.
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