Christmas wouldn't be the same without a trip to see Santa, and with grottos having come a very long way since the curtained-off crepe-paper and cotton wool festooned department store alcoves of yesteryear, a visit can make for a whole day out for the family.
We've found the best Santa experiences countrywide.
A Farmyard Christmas Willows Farm Village Santa's Spectacular Grotto & Festive Wood Ride 24th November to 24th December 2010
Willows Farm Village is billed as a 'twinkling journey through the festive wood', which takes in a visit the elves house to write a letter to Santa, and culminates in a visit to the main man himself, where every child gets a golden key to his Toy Shop. Other attractions included an undercover synthetic ice rink and children's shows, fun fair rides and farmyard animals. See
Chessington Zoo and Sea Life Centre Christmas Zoo Days, Surrey
Take a winter wander around the zoo to see the animals tuck into their Christmas dinner, before enjoying an interactive mini-Christmas show 'A tale of Christmas present' in the Greedy Goblin between 18th-24th December, where children are entertained by crafty elves and get a chance to meet Father Christmas.
18th December and 3rd January 2011
www.chessington.com or www.holidayinnchessington.co.uk
Santa Claus is coming to town...on a submarine, Gosport, Hampshire
Father Christmas and his reindeer and elves will be taking over the historic WW2 submarine HMS Alliance at The Royal Navy Submarine Museum. There will be the opportunity for children to make sure they aren't on the naughty list by helping the elves make toys, as well as plenty of snow and mince pies for all.
4th-5th December and tickets cost £9 per person.
Santa's Cellar Grotto, Denbies Vineyard, Surrey
Denbies Vineyard will be opening it's Santa's grotto through December, where children can see Santa and receive a gift whilst Mums and Dads enjoy a Christmas tipple.
£6 per child with an accompanying adult.
Santa on the Slopes (Milton Keynes)
Santa will be at SNO!zone in Milton Keynes from 4th December in his hideaway hut on the slopes. Children can ride the Santa Express, receive a free gift and enjoy the real snow.
Tickets cost £9 per child and it's best to book to avoid disappointment. www.destinationmiltonkeynes.co.uk.
Santa and Skating at Ascot Racecourse, Ascot (Berkshire)
Ascot's Christmas family day, 18th December, will include an ice rink, reindeer rides and elf face painting, as well as carol singing and Santa's grotto.
Entry is £16 per adult and is free for children under 18.
Sail the Thames with Santa, Henley (Oxfordshire)
Hobbs of Henley is offering families the chance to take to the water with Santa on a Christmas river cruise. The cruise, on the Henley Royal Regatta Reach, includes a welcome drink and mince pies for all, followed by a visit from Father Christmas.
£15 per adult and £10 per child and includes a present for every child.
Santa's Winter Wonderland at Dickens World, (Rochester, Kent)
Santa has taken up residence in his Winter Wonderland at Dickens World, which along with his grotto has fun for all the family with fireworks, brass band, ice rink, Christmas fair, mince pies, mulled wine and carols round the tree in the Dickens World Courtyard (free entry).
Santa is in residence for visitors until he sets off on Christmas Eve.
Santa's Christmas Wonderland, Poultons Park, New Forest, Hampshire
Poultons Family Theme park welcomes Santa to its winter wonderland Christmas themed village life museum this year at the popular family focused theme park.
Santa by Steam, Bodmin, Cornwall
Enjoy a steam train ride and visit Santa in his grotto on the train during your journey. Free present from Santa for the children, mine pies and seasonal refreshments for adults.
Adults and children £10.00, Family ticket (2+2) £37.50. Special Fares available on 5th & 6th Dec.
Santa in Edinburgh
Catch up with Santa at a range events throughout the city of Edinburgh this December - hop on board the Santa Express for a ride through a winter wonderland, and listen to Christmas story-telling in Santa's igloo village
The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Beaulieu, Hampshire
Experience Victorian Britain and learn all about Christmas past at Beaulieu Palace House. With characters walking about the house, learn all about how life used to be back-in-the-day. With a dressing up box bursting with period costumes, the kids can delve in whilst the whole family can enjoy the burning log fire and carols around the grand piano.
From 18th December- 5th January
Christmas at Wallington, Northumberland 2-19 December 11.30am - 3.30pm
Thursday to Sunday throughout December. 11.30am-3.30pm on Thursday and Fridays and 10.30am-3.30pm on Saturday and Sundays.
Admire beautiful decorations and listen to carol singing in the House, and at weekends take part in festive crafting sessions with Krafty Kidz. Youngsters can take part in the Christmas trail and meet Mrs Santa in her storytelling grotto.
Normal Admission Charges Apply
For more information call 01670 773600
Chistmas at Chirk Castle, Wrexham, - a country castle Christmas, 4 – 5 December 11am - 5pm
Celebrate the festive season and experience a truly homespun Christmas by joining the woodland trail to Father Christmas's hideaway cabin. Visit the Elves Workshop and make your Christmas dreams at the Wishing Tree. There will be children's Christmas craft activities and trails, country craft stalls and local festive foods and hot mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.
Tickets cost £6.80 per adult, £3.40 per child and a grotto visit £2.50, including NT members.
Call 01691 777701for more information
Do you know of a fabulous grotto, or a magical Christmas themed attraction?