When we were invited along to the opening weekend of The Magical Journey, given it’s tagline of ‘your ultimate Christmas experience’, how could we refuse? I’d been keen to take the children as I’d seen a fair bit of press and hype about it, especially as it’s situated just 10 minutes away from where we live, so it’s kind of a big deal around here lately.
So we went along yesterday evening, on opening day. The children were looking forward to seeing Santa, and I was intrigued to see what all the hype was about. On arrival, we were checked in straight away, which was nice as I’d expected a queue! We then roamed around the room which held the market and cafe whilst we waited to be called for our time slot. We were called promptly and the experience then began.
We were then led through a few rooms, always by elves, where the story begins. In the first room, it was Santa’s museum, then we met Mrs Christmas as she told a few corny jokes, had a little fun baking and engaged the kids well, before getting the call that Rudi the baby reindeer has escaped. And so started our mission and the point of the journey, to find Rudi.
We were then led to a room with an X-Factor-style elf, who then moved us onwards and outside to the woodland. After the train journey (not really a train, but fun all the same), which Little Man absolutely adored and he wanted to just get back on that from then onwards!, we entered the forest. It was all lit up, in an array of colours, which looked beautiful and magical at night. There were elves dotted about chatting to us, getting us chanting, dancing and checking out the magic key tree…
It was then Santa time. The highlight was the visit with Santa. All Santa huts (and I’m guessing there were several!) were well hidden as you’re led down tree-lined pathways so children wouldn’t realise there might be lots of Santas around! We were led down a short, snow covered pathway to a cute little wooden hut, and on entering, it was decked out just as you’d imagine Santa’s snuggly home would be. Our Santa was lovely and chatted to Boo, trying to draw a shy Little Man into the conversation, too. The gifts were not quite what I’d have expected for an experience such as this, with Boo receiving a princess colouring set and Little Man a small foam rugby ball, but the children were happy enough.
After our magical meet, we were led back out to the reindeer glade…
This is where there needed to be a bit more, I felt. The whole journey had been about trying to find the escaped Rudi, yet we came out of Santa’s house, and came upon this glade and that was kind of it! No-one spoke to us, even just to say ‘hooray, here’s Rudi’ and tie the whole thing up a bit.
The Good Points:
– Very slick booking and you can select slots throughout the day. Prior to your booking, you also receive an email with tips and suggestions for making the most of your visit.
– Easy free parking right outside, and marshals signalling where to go, also easy to get back out, and I’d kind of expected it to be mayhem!
– On arrival, check-in was smooth and fast, and we didn’t have to queue.
– It’s original. I’ve not been on a ‘story’ visit before to see Santa, and it does take you nicely through each stage.
– There’s very little waiting and queueing. Having queued many a year to see Santa, this was refreshing! Yes, I realise that you are essentially queueing the whole way round, as you move from room to room, then walk through the woods with the elves stalling parties with little chats, but it doesn’t feel like one big wait, it feels like you’re doing things, and Boo was thoroughly entertained and even my 2 year old was content enough for the hour that it lasted.
– The Santa huts and Santa meet were lovely. We felt like we had as much time as we wanted to spend with him, just us and a friendly elf in a secret little hideaway.
Tips for Improvement:
– The elves could do with microphones or they need to project their voices a lot more.
– Perhaps some Christmassy music somewhere along the way?
– The two big tents that you’re led into, the first straight after the train ride and the other just prior to the Santa meet could be dressed up and decorated.
– The gifts may need a re-think
– The site itself stills shows signs of being built – pallets around the place and so on. Not too bad in the dark, but I’d imagine it’s quite unsightly in the day.
– End it properly! Make sure we feel that Rudi has been found! Both Boo and I were a bit confused about this bit!
My kids left happy, as they went with no real expectations, other than to meet Santa, which they did, and as I say, I thought that was a really lovely Santa meet, and it’s the nicest one we’ve experienced yet. So from that point of view, I’m happy. I loved seeing them meet him and I enjoyed their giggles on the ‘train ride’ and their gasps when we entered the beautifully lit up woods. From our point of view, having travelled just under ten minutes to get there and having been invited, it was a lovely night. But, I think there are improvements that need to be made to ensure that everyone leaves feeling happy, given the price of the experience. I am aware that there’s been a lot of first day criticisms levelled at the event, which I can understand. I’m also aware that they’re responding as quickly as they can and have closed the event for a few days to react to first day feedback, so I’d imagine future visits will be ‘magical’.
Disclosure: We received entry FOC for the purposes of this review, but all words and opinions remain my own.