This time of year a lot of people have booked some sort of magical Christmas experience for their family.
Now G is no longer a baby, not even classed as a toddler in fact, I fancied the Santa special steam railway experience. They run from various locations up and down the country, the nearest to me being with Lancashire rail departing from Bury. They look wonderful and it reminds me of the Polar express. Unfortunately funds are short this year so it's not an option but fingers crossed next year we'll be jumping on board!
Winter Wonderland in Event City looks worth a visit too and further from home LapLand UK looks amazing!
There is one magical Christmas experience we are lucky to have had, which was at Stockeld Park. We went when G was just 16 months old and I would love to go again now she is a bit older.
Stockeld Park is a magical place in Wetherby, West Yorkshire and conveniently this is where G's grandparents live. It was they who very generously took us in 2012.
There is so much to do whatever time of year you go but Christmas at Stockeld Park is particularly special. We went in the evening to experience the Enchanted forest.
Stockeld's Christmas Adventure is a magical experience and I know G would be so amazed to see it again now. The forest is illuminated by beautiful lit sculptures along the walk, more twinkling lights, a talking tree, little doors with doorbells to ring and a lit up troll bridge. There are lovely musical instruments along the way to make the experience more interactive and a small open play areas with toadstool houses which G enjoyed investigating.
Since our first visit they have added some wonderful adventure play areas which we took full advantage of on our Easter Visit this year. They are open until dusk but I'd suggest to get the best out of the enchanted forest this time of year to go when it's dark to experience the forest lit up.
If walking through the forest is too ordinary for you and you've got no young children with you, you can always take the Nordic Ski option!
Along side the wonderful enchanted forest there is the Giant maze to explore, Santa's Grotto to visit or the ice rink to try out.
There is also the fabulous gift shop to peruse which is magical in itself. There are endless beautiful, original or quirky decorations, baubles and ornaments. Wonderful Christmas gifts and so many other pieces of Christmas magic in material form. It's probably the best gift shop I've ever been to! The site also grows it's own Christmas trees which can be brought from the emporium and for food and drink you can visit the lovely woodland cafe.
With G being so young we obviously didn't try out the Nordic ski option, or the ice skating, the latter of which Stockeld suggest an age limit of 4 year plus for. There are penguin aids available for children but only for 30 minute slots due to limited availability. I've taken G ice skating in the past year and it was like Bambi on ice! Luckily they had Sammy Seals (and penguins for older children) so I know we'd be fine trying out the rink if we return next year for Christmas when she'll be 4.
We also didn't try the Maze due to having a 16 month old with us but it is suitable for all ages supervised, I just wouldn't keep her out for too long late at night and in the cold obviously and if she had needed something at the time, being stuck in a maze isn't the best place to be. We have however since tried it out when we visited in Easter this year and it was great fun! At night for the Christmas season it is beautifully lit up for you to find your way round after dusk.
One thing we were hoping to try was Santa's Grotto, however at the time of visiting (December 2012) it was a queuing system and the queue was ridiculous. Again with a 16 month old or even now a 3 year old, in the cold and dark, it's not the best idea!
However Stockeld have now changed the system to a ticketed one which I think is brilliant! No more queuing up for ages in the cold wasting time. Instead you can 'enjoy all the park has to offer and wait for your allocated number to be called on screens that are dotted around the site'. Once it has you make your way to the Grotto and are given 'magic gold coin to give to Santa' which 'lets him know if you have been naughty or nice'.
Obviously Father Christmas is a very popular man so tickets will go quickly 'particularly in peak season' so you need to book your tickets as soon as you get there.
If that's not enough the park also has new 4D sleigh experience open this year.......
All in all it's a fabulous place to visit anytime of year but Christmas is particularly magical. Good times to go if you don't want it to be very busy are November (if planning for next year) or weekdays in December. You'll have more of a chance of grabbing that special meeting with Santa for your little ones.
Price wise I think it's very agreeable and it gives you different options to suit different budgets. You can purchase tickets for just one or two activities or you can buy day passes that give you entry into everything except the grotto and new 4D sleigh experience. You need to buy a separate ticket for these. You can also buy family tickets and get discounted prices for big group bookings.
For a full list of prices follow this link.
Here are a few photo's from our trip through the Enchanted Forest:
I would definitely recommend a visit to Stockeld Park for Christmas and would definitely go again ourselves. There's no doubting it provides a magical festive experience for the whole family.