Father Christmas at Hamleys Cardiff is about as close to the real deal as you can get – and that’s a bold claim. I’ll never forget seeing the excitement in our three-year-old’s face as he played games with him and read through his Christmas list at the weekend. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it was magical.
After last year’s five Santa visits (slight overkill, no?), I decided that this year we were only going to visit one – and Father Christmas in Hamleys Cardiff was the one we chose.
Dressed in our Christmas jumpers, we were met at the shop entrance by two of Santa’s elves, who had name badges for all the children so Father Christmas would know who they were. What was really nice was that one of the elves actually remembered us from our visit last year and the superhero party me and Santi went to in the summer. That made Santi feel really special and was a lovely personal touch.
We sang our way through the shop to the party room, where a bit of magic elf dust was needed to open the door. This is where Santi really got involved, shouting the magic word “Hamleys” at the top of his voice. He ran into the room in front of us, and took a seat at the head of the table (of course) to get stuck in with some Christmas crafts.
Last year we decorated biscuits, which I think was less of a faff than the new sparkly stickers we made, but it probably makes sense not to have children eating in there so Father Christmas doesn’t end up covered in icing and crumbs!
The room was beautifully decorated, with festive designs on the walls, a Christmas tree with coloured lights, Hamleys baubles and presents underneath, and a fireplace next to Santa’s armchair. There was even a rug for story time – it felt so homely and welcoming.
It wasn’t long before the elves announced that Santa had landed on the roof of Hamleys, and we all sung jingle bells to welcome him into the party room. Santi started jumping around when he walked in, and I thought he was going to burst with excitement. Father Christmas made his way around the table, taking time to speak to each child and addressing them by name.
All the children sat down to listen to him read The Snowman and the Snow Dog – a story I hadn’t heard before, but it was really lovely – and then it was time for party games. We played Santa’s footsteps, musical snowmen and elf, elf reindeer. It was amazing seeing how much Santi enjoyed, and by this point even Ezra had given up on trying to take the presents from under the tree and joined in.
The highlight of the games was watching Santi chase Father Christmas around the room after being chosen in elf elf reindeer. It was genuinely like he had been singled out by a superstar. No other Father Christmas visit can give you that memory.
After the games it was time to write our Christmas lists and take them to Santa to look at. There is no rush, and every child had as much time as they wanted with him. He listened intently to what everyone would like to receive on Christmas Day, and it was as if each child was the only one in the room when it was their turn.
We were able to take as many photos as we liked too, and there was no official photographer selling pics to add to the cost of the visit. So of course I made the most of it!
Until Ezra had enough and decided to make a break for it that is!
Before we left, the elves handed out goody bags and balloons, and everyone was given a cup to fill at the sweet station. The gifts were impressive – a Hamleys teddy bear, a Christmas tree decoration, a pack of coloured pencils and a book called I Met Father Christmas at Hamleys, which we read at bedtime. It would make the perfect Christmas Eve story and was so full of anticipation and excitement that Santi got out of bed to check his stocking just in case Father Christmas had come early.
Tickets for Father Christmas at Hamleys Cardiff cost £19.99 per child, which sounds expensive but I think it’s worth it if you make this your one Father Christmas visit of the year. The amount of time you get with Santa and the attention the children get is way more than anywhere else we’ve visited.
The visit is suitable for children aged 2-8, although Ezra enjoyed and he is 18 months old. There is a maximum of 14 children per session.
*We were invited to Hamleys Cardiff to review the Father Christmas experience, but all views are my own