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Santa number 4 was at Brookside Garden Centre
Brookside Garden Centre has won awards for it’s grotto. I tried to get tickets last year, but quickly found out that it’s very very popular. So popular, that it sold out before I even tried to book a spot for the twins.
This year, I wasn’t even planning to try. After all, we already had plans to see other Santas. But I was on Facebook and saw a post about how the tickets were going on sale that day and I thought, “why not?!”.
Surprisingly, I managed to get tickets, so I guess it was fate!
Brookside Garden Centre is much smaller than I expected
I don’t really know what I was expecting, but I definitely thought it would be bigger. But the displays were full of gorgeous decorations and gifts. They’ve managed to fit so much into a relatively small space. As well as the Christmas stuff (some of which came home with me), I spotted lots of bits that I want for my garden next Summer.
The grotto was really well organised
Considering it’s completely sold out, you’d never have known when we went to visit. The email I got confirming our tickets said there could be a 20-40 minute wait. And we did wait about 15 minutes after the time on our tickets. But there wasn’t a huge queue and we didn’t have to wait as long as I thought. And there’s a chalkboard wall for the kids to draw on, which kept the twins happy – brilliant idea! Even if we did all end up covered in chalk dust.
When it was our turn, we were greeted by a very friendly Elf
She directed us to two more elves – one stamped our ticket and the other took us on a tour of the grotto.
It was so beautiful! Everything was lit up and there was “snow” everywhere. If I’d been blindfolded on the way in, I never would have guessed that it was in the middle of a garden centre. It really isn’t difficult to see why this grotto has won awards!
From the moment you walk in, it’s just magical. Jack loved it! Especially the little huts with mechanical elves inside, making toys for Santa! Alice was a little bit more wary – surprise, surprise – but even she loved the little woodland animals dotted around.
Our Elf guide very kindly took a photo of me and the twins. My mum was there too, but I’ve got more chance of winning the lottery than I have of getting her to agree to be in a photo!
And, eventually, after a lovely walk around the most beautiful grotto I’ve ever been to, we got to Santa’s little hut. It was circular, with seating all the way around the outside and a firepit (not a real one, as far as I could tell) in the centre. It was all lit up with lights and decorated with letters and pictures that children have drawn for Santa.
He’s a real beard Santa, people!
Now, you all know that real beard Santas are my favourite kind! The Santa at Brookside Garden Centra was amazing. So lovely and authentic – a real, traditional Santa. Once again, Jack loved him and really enjoyed having a little chat with him, even though he was a bit overwhelmed and – for once – couldn’t say much.
Alice, as usual, wasn’t interested in getting too close to Santa. But she didn’t cry and she was happy enough to sit on my lap for a photo. She was definitely interested in the gifts and even more so in the magic key that Santa gave us. We already have a magic key for Santa, so we will gift this one to someone who doesn’t have one, but you can see Alice holding it in the photo below, and a couple more on the table in front of us, ready for other children. It was a lovely touch and Santa did a lovely job of explaining what they needed to do with the key, so that he can get in on Christmas Eve.
We were allowed to take our own photos
One of the things that I really dislike about a lot of grottos, is that you pay through the nose for tickets and then they charge for photos, too. And they’re not cheap, either! Our little local grotto lets you take your own photos, and so does Brookside Garden Centre! My poor mum very bravely used my phone to take photos for us, but I’m sure the Elf would have done it, if I’d asked.
Santa spent a really nice amount of time talking to the twins. It didn’t feel rushed at all, even though there were obviously other people waiting. In reality, it was probably only a few minutes, but it felt like longer.
Will we go back next year?
Hopefully! If we’re lucky enough to get tickets again next year, I would absolutely love to take the twins back. It’s a really lovely grotto and I’m not at all surprised that it sells out so quickly, or that it’s won awards, because it’s just so magical!
If you’re local (Kent), it’s definitely worth a visit next year!