The letter from Father Christmas sat on the mantlepiece until POD returned from after school club. She was thrilled to discover she was one of the children invited to help the elves in a secret toy factory at LaplandUK.
Having arrived via “Official Reindeer Post”, the attention to detail on the letter was superb. From the personalisation and festive stamps on the front to the Lapland illustration and seal on the back. Inside was personalised too which certainly help make POD feel she’d been specially chosen.
Located in the heart of the heart of Whitmoor Forest in Ascot, Berkshire, LaplandUK is part of the Windsor Estate which is managed by the Crown Estate. It’s an award-winning theatrical experience that recreates Father Christmas’ arctic homeland for one month a year. Each visit lasts around three and a half hours with the objective to keep children believing in the magic of Father Christmas. With POD’s sixth birthday fast approaching, we hoped LaplandUK would be an experience to remember.
It didn’t take long to reach the Enchanted Forest from our home in Surrey – just as well given how many times POD asked how far away it was! Parking was a breeze and the entrance just a few minutes walk from the car. Even before we set foot inside we got a glimpse of what might be in store, the staging and attention to detail outside providing just a taste.
The Check In area is just as lovely with the woodland theme continuing inside. You need to arrive at LaplandUK 30 minutes before your allocated departure which is great as it provides ample time to explore the area, grab something to eat and go to the toilet. As well as take photographs and do a bit of filming of course.
POD was given a Team Reindeer sticker by an elf on arrival – another group starting at the same time as us (but not with us for the duration) were Huskies. She was delighted to receive her very own Elf Passport. This included the all important Magical Pass Rhyme to Lapland and the Elf Song. There were also spaces for stamps that could be collected at the Toy Factory, in Mother Christmas’ Kitchen and at the Elf Post Office. A Golden Bell is awarded to children at the end who successfully complete their Elf Training.
We missed ordering some Elf Jingles, the elf currency, before we arrived at LaplandUK but you can purchase these from the Post Office in Elf Village. Each British Pound is worth one Elf Jingle (so £1=J1) and they come in a snazzy velvet pouch.
The Reindeer Tour was introduced by a very friendly and informative elf and we departed right on time. POD insisted on being lifted up so she could see everyone and everything although we were swiftly down a secret woodland pathway adorned with coloured lights. It really felt like we were off on a magical adventure – even the grown-ups were excited about what was in store next.
The winding path opened up into a beautiful woodland setting where we were greeted by Eeko – an elf as old as an oak tree. He shared enchanting tales, like how fir cones turn into elves, and introduced us to a lady elf called Sage. She taught everyone the Elves’ Magical Pass Rhyme To Lapland: “Wiggle your fingers, squash your nose, dance in a circle to curl your toes. We’re Eeko’s friends with a happy wide grin, so open the door and let us in”. Once we’d got the hang of it, a large door at the back of the room opened to unveil a magnificent snow scene outside. A bit like the Chronicles of Narnia but without Mr Tumnus.
We took the path past snow-covered buildings and fir trees towards the Toy Factory. The cold probably making the “elf snow” feel that bit more authentic. POD has never seen snow before (that she remembers anyway) so it was all fascinating to her. Everyone was eager to reach the Toy Factory to see what was in store – even the grown-ups were excited!
Inside we were treated to an entertaining show with much of the hilarity down to two elves called Whittle and Conker. POD sat with the other children at wooden tables while the grown-ups stood behind them. The attention to detail in the Toy Factory was exceptional from the toys that were displayed (there was even a rocking horse) to an array of tools plus of course the elf costumes. If you looked up you could see working cogs suspended from the ceiling with beautiful wooden toys circling round them.
The first job in the Toy Workshop was to give a soft toy reindeer some innards. After a demonstration from the elves, each child was given a basket with everything they needed. The children then embarked on building a wooden bear before being awarded a sticker and having their passport stamped. I thought POD might not want to part with the toys but she took everything in her stride and loved it. You can purchase the reindeer soft toy and wooden bear in the Elf Village at LaplandUK if you’d like to.
After the Toy Workshop we headed down more snow-filled paths to Mother Christmas’ Kitchen. There the children were treated to stories and singing before donning their own aprons and hats. They then set to work icing and decorating their gingerbread man with sweets. All the children got to keep their gingerbread man and also received another stamp in their Elf Passport. Mother Christmas read everyone a lovely story before we left for the Elf Village.
It was the most magical wander down woodland tunnels which sparkled with fairy lights. It was kind of how you’d imagine a magical wonderland to be. The Elf Village was just a few minutes away. There was ice skating, pretty shops and the Elf Post Office. While there’s a cafe and an array of snacks on offer, we fancied a hearty sit down meal at the Elf Restaurant. It was delicious and around £30 for all three of us to eat and drink like kings.
POD and her Daddy then hit the ice rink to work off some of their feast while I waved like a buffoon from the sidelines. POD did really well given it was her first time skating – the penguin definitely helped. The rink was certainly a feature in Elf Village, colourful with a giant Christmas tree as the centrepiece. After the ice skating shenanigans, we headed over to the Elf Post Office where POD wrote and posted a letter to Father Christmas with help from Elva the postmistress.
She was going to ask Father Christmas for a dog but instead opted for a pair of left handed scissors. Very sensible. POD also received her third Elf Passport stamp in the Post Office. There was no set agenda in the Elf Village so we were free to explore until we saw Father Christmas. POD got to stroke the husky dogs, see elves juggle and meet Pixie Mixie in the Elf Sweet Shop before we checked out the goodies at the Elf Emporium. All the elves remain in character around the Elf Village so you can expect silliness at any time!
Each child has an allotted time to see Father Christmas in his arctic homeland to minimise the wait time. We had about ten minutes before we were off down pathways even more magical than the ones we’d already experienced. The best being a snowy bridge with blue lights just before we saw Father Christmas’ reindeer (actual reindeer) and his sleigh.
There was a speedy check-in process to ensure none of the personal details we’d provided before arriving had changed – away from POD obviously. Then we were then guided by an elf to Father Christmas’ cabin. POD greeted him with the biggest of hugs before they settled down for a chat about what she’d been doing. The room was spacious and much like the rest of LaplandUK felt authentic. Given POD originally wanted to ask Father Christmas for a dog, it was apt his gift to her was a husky (since named Husk). They both gave each other an Elf wave before we had a family photograph taken. POD also received the most fabulous hard backed book “Lapland: The Untold Story of Father Christmas” and we bought a few souvenir photos of us all together too.
LaplandUK is a theatrical experience that’s about instilling a belief in Father Christmas. It delivered exactly that – do check out our short film below to get a taste. Our five year old had the most amazing time but to be honest we all did. From the theatrics, the staging, the timing and the attention to detail – everything was absolutely spot on. The 3.5 hours we spent at LaplandUK was a great mix of beautifully planned activities with sufficient time to explore ourselves too. POD will now receive a thank you for helping card from Father Christmas on Christmas Day itself. To make it a little bit special, she may well find she has a pair of left handed scissors to go with it.
Disclaimer: We received tickets to LaplandUK for the purpose of this review. Opinions are as always our own.