*UPDATE* Since writing this post Father Christmas World Customer Service have been really helpful, so please do read through it again as I have added something very important to the ice skating write up.
At the weekend, Craig, Chester, Millie, my Sister, my Brother in Law and I visited Father Christmas World. We were all very excited, as you can imagine! We all really love Christmas time so to go somewhere that claims to offer families a magical and enchanting world sounded perfect for us!
Father Christmas World is at Salomons Estate near Tunbridge Wells, it was very easy to get to and was sign posted as we got nearer. I expected the traffic to be worse than it was, so that was a pleasant surprise.
The car park was well organised and we had no trouble at all getting a parking space. You can only visit Father Christmas World if you have pre booked, you can not book on that day. So we took our confirmation to the one of the huts and they handed over everything we needed for the day. Which included tokens for the Carousel, the Snowball challenge and also the childrens workshop. We were also given a time slot for the Ice Skating. Our Father Christmas time had already been pre booked so it was just a case at turning up 10 minutes before our time.
Next we excitedly waited for the Tinsel Train. The que was not really that long, but as they chose not to stagger the trains and bring all three down in succession we ended up waiting 45 minutes for the train! As you can imagine, some of the excitement had gone by that point! The train was lovely, an elf helper was sitting in front of us, and he spent the journey telling us about the elf village that we were passing, and about how Father Christmas is getting prepared for the big day. It certainly was a magical train ride for the children!
We had some spare time before our Father Christmas visit so we decided to head to the Childrens workshop. Where we had been told that they could either decorate a gingerbread man or decorate a bauble. When we got to the door, we were disappointed to find out that in fact there was no choice at all. It was gingerbread or nothing. Nethertheless the Children got stuck in and in the end they really enjoyed decorating (and eating) their gingerbread snowman!
We spotted some elves carrying big sacks of presents, Millie loved that they spoke to her and commented on her panda hat!
We tried to wander around the shops but they were the size of a postage stamp, you could fit no more than 3 people in them! The children were just getting stressed so we gave up!
It was then our turn to visit Father Christmas! So we went and signed in. We had to wait a little while, but mince pies were handed out and the children could draw on chalk board to keep them occupied if they wanted too. So all was fine!
When it was the Childrens turn and elf lead us to Father Christmas. It was a lovely area, Chester and Millie were mesmerised and little bit star struck! They were both amazed that Father Christmas knew their ages and that Millie was obsessed with Pandas! He also knew that Chester has been a bit of a pickle lately and looked in the good list book to confirm that Chester was only just in it! It was a really magical time, the children were given a polar bear each which they have not put down since, Chester has even taken his into School today! They were more than happy for us to take pictures and we were happy for them to take pictures too. We had the option of purchasing the photos at the end of the day, and I was happy with the no pressure approach.
Next we headed down the Snow Ball Challenge. In our heads, possibly because we had the snow globe in mind too, we had visions of a big area where we could throw snowballs at each other! The reality was that we were given a bucket of 5 snow balls that we had to aim at elf targets! I don't even think Chester was impressed with this!
Right next to the snowball area was an inflatable snow globe, where you could go in and have fake snow fall down on you. Chester and Millie had a go and really loved it. There was not enough snow in there for it to pump round as much as it should of, but they were more than happy with throwing it at each other!
The Victorian Carousel was next on the childrens to do list. It was a lovely Carousel, we handed over our tokens and went round to find a horse. To our surprise the Carousel started moving before I had got Millie onto a horse! Other people were not on their horses either as soon as the lady realised she stopped the carousel and THEN went round to make sure we were all on! Aside from that, we had a really lovely carousel ride.
A wander around to the Ice Garden was essential, it was beautiful. We all really enjoyed it. The perfect setting for a family photo as well!
Our Ice Skating time was approaching so we headed back up to that area. It was an indoor rink, and again, not very big. There were only 4 orange seals for the children to use (to help keep them up), which was understandable given the size of the rink. However, the way they were given out was a total shambles. The staff were not confident enough in telling the really older children they couldn't have them, this resulted in lots of the younger ones not having one. Millie was lucky enough to get one at the beginning, and after a short go, we let someone else use hers. But no one else was as considerate, meaning that we were just left at the side of the rink until the time was up! The member on the staff could see what was happening (it was not just happening to us) yet chose to do nothing about it, even when parents complained.
*UPDATE* Since writing this post I have had confirmation from Father Christmas World that they have ordered some more orange seals to try and prevent this problem. This, in my eyes, can only be a good thing. With more seals, more children will get the most out of their time on the ice.
We had a separate issue with Chester, which resulted in him hurting himself quite badly. But it all came down to not enough seals for the children. I think that the Ice Skating could've been a big success, if it was bigger. When you are catering for an event aimed at Children, I think they really need to be at the top of the consideration list. The ice rink was too small, so why not have a limit to the amount of children on the ice at any one time? Rather than overcrowd it with small Children, most of whom were stuck on the sidelines for most of their time slot!
We really did want to see the Polar Bears, however, after seeking first aid for Chester, it was just too late in the day and we had all had enough.
Finally I should mention the food. You are not allowed to take your own in, it states that on the website. However, the choice when you are there is very limited. There was nothing that my children would of eaten and the prices were very over the top. A pulled pork burger was £6 for example.
It saddens me to have to write such a negative review, but I am sure you will appreciate I will always give an honest review. We all agreed that the visit to Father Christmas was excellent, that really was a magical experience and certainly the highlight of our day. The Train ride was lovely on the way and the Ice Garden was beautiful. However, due to the small size of the rest of the 'attraction' we feel really let down. We didn't feel like we got the magical experience that is advertised. At a cost of £35 per person (anyone over the age of 2) we had really high expectations, and sadly those expectations were not met. However, due to the customer service we have since received, I am confident that my comments have been taken on board.