This is our first real review!
Last week on Christmas eve we attended the grotto at Ruxley Manor.
It was FANTASTIC
A couple of days before attending this we attended one locally. It cost more and was in no uncertain terms RUBBISH!! I was so disappointed, and the kids were too. To the extent where i have put in a formal complaint to the operator, but i will get into that in a different post!
Now, we live a little over an hour away from Ruxley and left in plenty of time to ensure we got through the traffic on the M20. It was pretty simple to find and well sign posted.
The kids hadn’t eaten and we decided to eat when we got there. I had looked at the website and seen that there was a restaurant there, I hoped it was relatively reasonably priced – I wasn’t expecting a £40 bill for 2 adults and 2 children. Just for food which was on a par to a 1990’s school dinner.
When we arrived we parked in a rather large car park, which had a nice layout. We walked up to the entrance which we found by following the flow of people as there was no signs.
As you walk in for the first time it is a bit disorientating. you go straight into the outside area where they keep the pots and outdoor stuff and have to walk through that to get to the rest of the centre. It is HUGE! the whole insides were amassed with Christmas gifts and decorations. I found it particularly funny that the nativity scene which they had on display in the outside Christmas section resembled the cast of team America, complete with bad costumes and wigs. This amused me and the wife immensely.
After wandering about we went to find the entrance to the grotto. We had booked this months ago and our slot was 3pm. We were told to arrive early but when we got there we had to stand in the freezing cold for 15 minutes. Once in and checked in the fun began.
The children were given a “passport” to complete as we went around. They had to complete every stage throughout the journey, for which they were given a stamp. After everyone had been checked in, there was a small wait to go into the first activity. While we waited there were a few activities to do but too many children for everyone to have a significant go.
There was a special knock to get into the first activity room and once the kids had all engaged they let us in! This stage was making special reindeer feed. The children enjoyed this. They were made to sing a special song which was a re-worded version of a common song and they really did well.
As they moved off to the next room they were once again made to knock on the door. They added an action to the knock which the children copied. At this point i was really pleased how the “elves” were acting and how well the children were responding to them. Even Finn, who is very distrusting and shy was right at the front joining in! He was very excited when we went into the next room and couldn’t control his flapping!
In the next room the children had to colour in a Christmas decoration. They were really nice and came with their own set of pens. The elves circulated and took photos of families and with the children while they did their colouring, even taking a cheeky “elfie” on my phone.
After this we had to knock on the final door to get into see father Christmas. This door they make the grown ups join in too. After lost of spinning and stamping and twirling around they were let in to see the big man who was “asleep”. They had to wake him up quietly which was a challenge for the kids! Just as the children got their gifts the elves ran out of magic (oh no!!). At this point I actually thought my kids were going to have a nervous break down and start screaming. However with a bit more clapping, presents started appearing 1 by 1 from the fire place.
The gifts they got were great. And almost every child was super chuffed with what they were given. My two were ecstatic! Finn got a helicopter with Spiderman on it and Dylan got a Lip Balm making kit. Every bag with a present in had a child’s name on it which added to the authenticity of the experience. The children went and had a photo with Father Christmas and received a special book written about their visit to Ruxley which i thought was a nice touch.
Not the best photo of my children but couldn’t resist buying it. It was reasonably priced, cheaper than other attractions (i.e. legoland).
Overall i would give the grotto a decent 9/10.
Only marking it down by 1 as we had to wait so long in the cold! As well as this none of the correspondence said that the reindeers on site were being removed by 2pm which meant that i had two very disappointed children who wanted to see Santa’s Reindeers! If this was included in the emails then we would’ve made sure to see them first! Other than that it was a nice day!
Its tried and tested and would definitely recommend it!
As a side note, it may be worth them putting on a couple of special needs only sessions! When you book there is a part to write down if your child has any issues they need to know about which is nice. But when my autistic child says something odd and all the other parents laugh at him because they think he is funny is a bit off putting. So maybe an autism or special needs friendly session or evening would be brilliant!
I am a bit gutted we didn’t get to do the Ice skating there as it looked really fun. It was super busy and my kids wouldn’t of coped with that many people! So again, maybe a special needs session wouldn’t go a miss!