I’m surrounded by a dozen children who are all in utter Santa’s Grotto heaven.
Meadowhall’s ‘Wishmas Wonderland’ is a treat for the senses, with festive music, beautiful lights, and all manner of things to interact with – from fir trees, and pinecones in the ‘feel the forest’ section, to beanbag chairs and soft rugs to lounge on.
As we arrive at the vast grotto complex, outside the Sheffield shopping centre’s Oasis, we’re greeted by Santa’s head elf who goes out of her way to welcome each child, showing them around the many fascinating elements of the wonderland. She poses happily for photos, encourages them all to dive into the beanbags, and have their pictures taken on the sleigh, and even demonstrates her precious ‘wish-dust’ collection – with jars of varying strengths.
After a quick warm-up, to get the magic flowing, we’re guided onwards into the forest, where we all (big and little alike) take a seat on a tree stump and slip our headphones on as the immersive and interactive experience gets underway. We listen to elves on the screen talk about their jobs as ‘wish gathering’ elves and even learn their secret salute, so they we can all become honorary wish gatherers. Next to me, my four-year-old, Imogen, looks absolutely delighted at the prospect of this sudden promotion, and is quick to demonstrate the secret salute at every opportunity.
After returning our headphones we head into the grotto’s observatory where another elf demonstrates how secrets are loaded onto shooting stars and carried around the earth – even giving the children the chance to see for themselves through a giant telescope.
Next we are led to the crafting room, to create a wishmas star before finally being taken, one child at a time, for the final part of the honorary wish gathering elf audition – a face-to-face with the big man himself.
Santa welcomes Imogen, chatting to her about what she’s learned, and helping her lock her very own special wish into the wishmas star she’s made. He’s warm and charming and her awe is clear to see as we finally stand to leave.
40 minutes after the adventure began, we find ourselves on the other side of the grotto, with a bag of goodies – including a gift from Santa, the now incredibly valuable wishmas star, plus a couple of items we chose to buy as a memento of the experience, containing a photo of Imogen with Santa. What a great way to start the festive season!
Meadowhall Wishmas Wonderland grotto is now open daily until Christmas Eve. Visit Eventbrite to book.
- Which Santa’s Grotto is your favourite? We’re pulling together a round-up of your favourites, and we’d love to hear from you about which is best, and why. Are the gifts great quality? What extras does it have? Did Santa have a real beard? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts and photos.