Where to meet Santa in Bucks & Oxon this Christmas
It's a moment we all remember from childhood - so make it a cracker, with these fab local grottos, from steam trains and magical gardens to log cabins and vintage buses
The elves have been busy and the tickets are flying off the shelves, so get booking – some have already sold out…
Green Dragon Eco Farm, Hogshaw
The rare breeds and wildlife sanctuary puts on quite the animal-assisted show at Christmas as part of its Christmas Land set-up. They’ll be able to make reindeer food, search for gold coins in the snow, make tree decorations and decorate gingerbread, meet ACTUAL reindeer, chat with Santa, and choose their own gift. It’s open weekends from 20 Nov then everyday 20 Dec – 24 Dec and costs £16.95 per child.
It’s an atmospheric setting for Santa’s grotto at Oxford Castle and alongside meeting the Big Guy, kids will receive a photo of them with Santa, listen to a story, sing a Christmas carol, decorate an ornament, get a bag of snacks, and a place on the ‘Nice List’… as well as a toy – in an experience lasting an hour. That should be your £17.95 worth (or £6.95 for under 2s). It’s open every weekend between 27 Nov – 19 Dec plus 21 and 23 Dec with slots at 10.30am and 12.30pm.
Centre: mk, Milton Keynes
At centre:mk Santa is being joined by Peter Rabbit and friends who’ll engage the littlies in a spot of immersive theatre before they decorate elf biscuits then meet Santa in a gorgeously decorated burrow-meets-grotto for a chat, photo call and a gift. It’s open already and up to Christmas Eve and costs £12.50.
The Trout Inn, Oxford
Brunch with Santa? Now there’s an idea. How about a glass of Moët and salmon and avo on sourdough while the kids meet FC, have their own choice of breakfast and go home with a gift. It’s a genius idea from The Trout Inn. Everyone’s happy! Costs £15 for adults (champers is extra), £8 for kids and bookings are available from now right up to Christmas.
Yarnton Home & Garden
The Yarnton garden centre has had its Christmassy makeover and is ready to enthrall the little ones with its gratto, and inside it, Santa’s lodge. There’s list and letter writing, carol singing, and a gift room (they can choose which one they want!), plus the ever popular Magic Garden Soft Play. The website shows availability for each of the days, with many closer to Christmas already sold out. It’s £14.95 per child.
Fairytale Farm, Chipping Norton
There’s a Fairytale Castle, a Secret Forest and of course, the grotto, at Chippy’s Fairytale Farm, so it’s hard to imagine the kids will be anything but blown-away by it all. Add to that dancing penguins, a toymaker and Santa’s sleigh, a festive-themed treasure hunt and mulled wine for the grown-ups and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! It’s open on Saturdays and Sundays 4-12 Dec, then daily from 13 Dec to Christmas Eve and costs £13.99 per child.
The Polar Express Train Ride, Wallingford (nearly sold out)
The Cholsey & Wallingford Railway is hosting a special arrival between 27 Nov and 23 Dec when the Polar Express Train is in town. Passengers are offered a trip to the North Pole, chefs serving hot chocolate (just like the movie) and a visit from Mr Claus himself. Turn up dressed in your PJs – yes, you too – for the full immersive experience all the way to the North Pole and back. Availability is low, with only a few premium tickets left, from £35 each.
Didcot Railway Centre
The Didcot Railway Centre is another Christmas winner for train (and Santa) fans. It’s a short steam ride to the locomotive shed then there’s time to check out the restored locomotives, meet Eddie the Engine Driver, grab a mince pie or gingerbread with hot chocolate and meet the big guy before returning back. It’s on every weekend in Dec plus 21-23 Dec and costs from £19.35.
A magical reindeer grotto called Believe opens at Westgate 26 Nov – 24 Dec on selected days and is your classic Santa’s grotto experience – a one-on-one with the man himself and a pressie, all for £12 (a tiny reindeer called Norbert may also make an appearance)’.
Cogges Manor Farm, Witney
Father Christmas is popping down to Cogges on the four Sundays from 28 Nov leading up to Christmas, 10am – 4pm. Each 20 minute session for up to 10 kids includes a craft activity, story with FC and a small gift, all for £10 (£7.50 for under 3s).
Bicester Garden Centre
Santa is setting up a grotto at Bicester Garden Centre on 27 Nov – 24 Dec. Expect the usual elves in attendance and a gift to take home, but you can also book tea of breakfast with Santa, so it’s a meal plus a pressie to take home – a festive win! £13.95 for the meals, and £12 for the grotto alone.
Kingham Village Hall
Kingham Christmas Fair and Santa’s Grotto is a fab village event this Sat, 20 Nov, with stalls, games and a cute grotto. The chichi village is a gorgeous place for a winter walk, or you could head to nearby Chipping Norton for some Christmas shopping. There’s antiques shops galore as well as a great little bookshop, and of course, Clarkson’s Diddly Squat Farmshop for that ironic gift for the hard-to-buy-for uncle in your life…
Oxford Bus Museum, Hanborough
If you don’t fancy the Santa train or sleigh, how about a bus ride? On 12 & 19 Dec, Father Christmas will in his grotto at the Oxford Bus Museum, and granting all visitors a a free vintage bus ride.
Spiceball Park, Banbury
Spiceball Park is a pretty epic place to go with the kids at any time of year, but on 5 Dec (10am-2pm) your kids will have no problem meeting Santa, because the park will be filled with hundreds of them! The annual Katharine House Hospice Santa Run is a local fave. It’s a £16 registration (£8 for kids) and you get a free Santa suit to run in! Plus there’s 5km and 1.5km courses for every length of leg and food and drink stalls to reward yourself at the end. If you’re further south, on the same day is the Style Acre Wallingford Santa Dash, a 2.5km charity run where everyone gets a Santa suit and a medal. And if that sounds too pacey, perhaps the Santa Stroll in Old Amersham is more your bag? It’s a 3km route and all the family is encouraged to join, including the four-legged members.
More festive fun times…
Know of any other special places where Santa will be popping up? tell us about it, below