Best Santa's Grottos to Visit in Kent

**this blog has been updated in 2023

There’s nothing more exciting than meeting Santa and some of his jolly elves at Christmas. But how does Father Christmas manage to be in so many different places across Kent? Christmas magic, of course!

So, if you are wondering where to see Santa Claus in Kent this Christmas then look no further. With grotto’s popping up all over the county, make sure you catch him this festive season with our guide to Kent’s top Santa’s grottos.

1) The Polar Express on the Spa Valley Railway

The Polar Express experience is returning to Spa Valley Railway for 2023. The magical, immersive experience will recreate the 2004 film for you and the family to enjoy. Gather on the platform to hear the faint familiar whistle and as the train pulls into the station you’ll be greeted by the chef’s and conductor. Climb aboard and snuggle down in your cosiest Christmas pyjamas on your journey to the North Pole. As you make your way, the singing, dancing chefs will serve everyone delicious hot chocolate, and scrummy chocolate cookies.

Once you reach the “North Pole”, Santa will work his way through the train giving everyone a sleigh bell. The train leaves the station on 17th November, 2023 and will be having its last journey this festive season on 23rd December.

Tickets are on sale now, but it’s already very booked up so be quick to book your ticket aboard the Polar Express!

2) Bluewater Shopping Centre

If you're busy with some last-minute Christmas shopping at Bluewater, you may just see a familiar face, Father Christmas himself! No, not shopping but at Bluewater’s enchanted Grotto, located by the lakes at The Village. Santa and his elves will be daily from the 1st December until Christmas Eve (when he will obviously be hard at work elsewhere).

Children will help Santa’s mischievous elves as they sort through Santa’s letters from children around the world ready for the big day. Guests will able to decorate their own delicious Christmas gingerbread treat and capture Christmas cheer at the Elfie Selfie posting point, before being invited to meet the big man himself in his cosy study. Families can pose for professional photographs and children will receive a special present to take home.

Tickets are priced at £15 per child and accompanying adults are priced at £6, there is also a booking fee. Tickets can be purchased on the Bluewater website.

3) Reindeer Centre, Ashford

Father Christmas and his team of elves will be returning to the Reindeer Centre near Ashford to meet all the good boys and girls, parents and grandparents from the 18th of November. Santa’s grottos will be open weekends starting the 18th November and every day during the first week of the school Christmas holiday. 

Each family will enjoy meeting with Father Christmas in his magical Christmas cabin where all the good boys and girls will receive a gift. After meeting with the big man himself you will then enjoy an enchanting walk through an animated magical grotto leading onto the animal barn where you can meet Carter the giant tortoise, a family of meerkats, and the stars of the show, the reindeer themselves. Learn all about the reindeer by chatting to the handlers and you can even feed the reindeer too! Donkeys, alpacas and ponies will also be there to wish your children and magical Christmas time. 

Your ticket will also include play on the soft play assault course and pirate ship sandpit, and a snow pit in the barn to have a fun snowball fight. And for all those Instagrammers you will find Christmas Selfie rooms to take those all-important selfies with your family. 

Tickets start from £20 per child and £14 per adult. Prices vary depending on dates booked, tickets become more expensive during peak times. 

4) Dobbies Garden Centre

Santa's Grotto is one of the most exciting festive experiences at Dobbies. Bring your little ones along to explore the magical setting, be welcomed by Santa himself and receive a toy of your choice. Bookings are already open to meet Santa at both Dobbies in Ashford and Gillingham and the grotto is open right up until Christmas Eve. Parents can even give Santa a little helping hand in picking an age-appropriate toy when they book their tickets. 

Tickets are priced at £11.99 per child and all the details and booking options can be found on the Dobbies website.

5) Hever Castle

Christmas at Hever Castle is simply magical. The Christmas experiences including Father Christmas sell out very quickly so you have to be quick to get a ticket to the enchanting light experience and the Santa's Grotto!

The Christmas Lights experience starts from 4pm, wrap up warm and enjoy a walk under the stars to explore the grounds lit up by twinkly Christmas lights and festooned with festive decorations. This year’s theme is ‘Lost in the Festive Forest’ which tells a  charming story of Ted the lost bear who helps Red, the squirrel, find his way home. 

Children can explore the forest and meet an array of woodland creatures along the Christmas trail. The castle will be decorated with stunning Christmas decorations and is included in the ticket price this year. Outside the castle will be a small fairground – gallopers, a big wheel and hook a duck will add to the seasonal magic. And for animal lovers you will be able to meet Siberian huskies in the Husky Hideout! What’s not to love!

For more information and for ticket prices visit the Hever Castle website. Ticket prices vary depending on membership and time of day your experience is booked. 

7) Kent & East Sussex Railway

How about taking a magical steam train journey to meet Santa this Christmas on the Kent and East Sussex Railway. On board the festively decorated steam trains, you’ll meet Santa during the 1 hour 10 minute return journey. Look out for his elf helpers with sacks of presents and a mice pie or two for the mums and dads. 

Tickets are selling fast to catch a Santa Special service this December and only a limited number of tickets remain, so you need to be quick! For details and bookings visit the Kent and East Sussex Railway website.

8) Kent Life

This December Santa will be taking time out of his busy schedule to stop off at Kent Life. Jump on board the festive Land Train driven by the head elf and meet Santa in this magical grotto. Children can decorate festive gingerbread and meet the animals around the farm. There will also be mince pies and mulled wine for grown-ups too. Tickets allow entry for the usual attractions at the farm which includes indoor soft play.

Dates that Santa will be at Kent Life are as follows: 25th and 26th November, 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 10th, 11th of December and then every day from the 15th December until Christmas Eve.

Tickets are priced at £18.95 per child and £13.95 per adult, with discounted rates for members and concessions. For more information head to the Kent Life website.

8) Ruxley Manor Garden Centre

This garden centre in Sidcup is always hugely popular with families and it appears this year is no different. Take a very special journey through the magical Christmas Grotto, where you will be greeted by Elves and Mother Christmas who will help you make her very own secret, reindeer feed to sprinkle across your lawn on Christmas Eve. Join Mother Christmas in the sewing room to make a special Christmas decoration to take home.

The garden centre even offers reduced capacity sessions for those with special needs. The Grotto is open from 12th November.

Tickets are priced at £18 per child and £5 per adult, tickets for children under 1 are  priced at £9. You can find out more information and book your tickets on the Ruxley Manor website.

9) The Elf Express at Quex Park

Climb aboard the Elf Express at Quex Park for a magical Christmas ride in this unique, theatrical experience your little ones will never forget. Ride through Elf Woods onboard the Elf Express past twinkly lights and cheeky elves. Next stop The Big Elf Show at the Round Tower, before setting off down Candy Cane Lane and Santa’s Farm. Then onto Elf Kingdom, the home of Santa, to visit some more of the Elves and two of Santa’s real-life reindeer. It’s then time to climb the ramps to the woodland treehouses where an audience with Father Christmas awaits.

Tickets start from £21.95 per child and adults charged from £12.95, prices increase the closer bookings are to Christmas Day. Under 1’s are free. Book your tickets on the Quex Park website

It appears that the big man is very busy this year and some popular venues have unfortunately already sold out. But if you weren’t lucky enough to grab yourself a ticket, hopefully our guide to these grotto’s in Kent should give you some inspiration for somewhere else to go or if all else fails a reminder in your phone for next year! Many bookings open in September for the most popular venues. 

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