With London due to enter Tier 2 post lockdown, it looks like families can take a trip to visit Santa after all! The Resident picks out some of the best Santa’s grottos in London…
Lead image: Santa at Home
*COVID UPDATE*: London has moved into Tier 3 since these listings were published so many IRL Santa’s grottos will no longer be able to go ahead. Please contact the organiser directly if you have already booked tickets, and check the organisers’ websites to see if a virtual alternative has been organised.
IRL SANTA’S GROTTOS
1 Alexandra Palace Santa’s Grotto
Santa Claus will be setting up camp at Ally Pally this Christmas from 5-23 December. The East Court will be transformed into a festive grotto where little ones will get to meet Santa, have their photo taken and will receive a small gift. A maximum of five people per group will be able to visit the grotto (this must include one adult and all members of the group must be from the same household), face masks are required and social distancing will be in place. The grotto will be cleaned between each visit. Unfortunately, this grotto has sold out!
Alexandra Palace Way N22 7AY; alexandrapalace.com
2 Greenwich Market’s Santa’s Grotto
Greenwich Market is hosting a socially distanced Santa’s Grotto to help raise funds for Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice. Opening after lockdown, on 3 December, the grotto will spread some Christmas joy to one and all! Open from 10am-4pm from 3-6 December, 10-13 December, 17-20 December, 21-23 December and Christmas Eve (10am-3pm). To help keep everyone safe, all grotto visits must be booked in advance this year via eventbrite from £7.50 per child (including an age-appropriate gift). Santa will also be offering personalised Zoom calls from his virtual grotto from 30 Nov-2 Dec and 7-9 Dec (also £7.50).
3-3a Greenwich Market SE10 9HZ; communityhospice.org.uk/santas-grotto
3 Santa’s Grotto at Bentalls Kingston
Santa’s Grotto returns to Bentalls Kingston in a Covid-19 secure fashion, as well as Santa’s Breakfast and Supper Club, combining a meal with the grotto experience. Find the Grotto Arrival Station on the third Floor of the Toy Department, where elves will lead you into the magical snowy forest with a singing reindeer and Santa’s Christmas Plate Factory, where you can decorate a ceramic plate to take home and leave out for Santa come Christmas Eve with a mince pie and a carrot. Then, via a secret door, you’ll head into Santa’s workshop, where you can snap an ‘elfie’ in Santa’s sleigh before meeting the big man himself. Running daily until Christmas Eve priced £9.50 per person. All event bookings are open to single households or bubbles only, the number of people visiting the experiences at any time will be carefully managed and regular cleaning will take place.
Wood Street, Kingston upon Thames KT1 1TX; fenwick.co.uk
4 Santa’s Grotto Workshop at Hamleys, Regent Street
Every day is like Christmas at world-famous toy shop Hamleys, but that doesn’t stop them pulling out all the stops for the festive season. Taking place in The Hamleys Party Room (aka Hamleys North Pole), the wonderful workshop offers kid the chance to take part in seasonal activities, meet Santa and his elves, and take home a gift. Each session is 15 minutes long and is limited to one family bubble per session. Tickets are £45 for a bubble of three people, plus £15 for additional guests.
188-196 Regent Street W1B 5BT; hamleys.com
5 Father Christmas at Fulham Palace
Fulham Palace is hosting Father Christmas for one weekend only, meaning tickets were like gold dust and unfortunately they have all sold out. However, you can still book free tickets to the Fulham Palace Christmas Fair on the weekend of Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 December, where real fires, festive decor and mince pies await, and if you’re lucky, you might just catch a glimpse of Santa in Bishop Sherlock’s festively decorated Georgian dining room.
Bishop’s Avenue, Fulham SW6 6EA; fulhampalace.org
6 Whippersnappers, Dulwich & Herne Hill
Whippersnappers in Dulwich had a whole Winter Wonderland Immersive Theatre Experience planned for 2020, but unfortunately had to cancel it due to all the uncertainty brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, with London exiting lockdown into Tier 2, Whippersnappers is now considering offering a simplified Santa Meet and Greet Experience. Sign up to the mailing list for the latest of keep an eye on their website.
College Lodge, Dulwich Park SE21 7BQ & Brockwell Lido, Dulwich Road SE24 0PA; whippersnappers.org
VIRTUAL SANTA’S GROTTOS
1 Santa at Home
23 November-24 December
Santa at Home offers children of all ages, from all over the world, the unique opportunity to meet Santa in a personalised and private Zoom session, live from the North Pole. Up to six kids can meet Santa alongside unlimited family members – aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandads, cousins – who can watch the children meet Santa live from the North Pole in an entirely safe and super socially distanced online session. Thanks to his unique magical powers, Santa will know each and every child on the call by name and will also have inside information on them to ensure the experience is completely personalised. You can even opt to record the session, which will last up to 12 minutes, and get a free video file to cherish forever. Sessions start at £42 for up to six children from multiple households (equivalent to £7 per child).
2 Merry Marylebone Santa’s Grotto
Marylebone Village is determined to keep things merry this year by livestreaming Santa direct from Lapland! Join in the festive fun on Saturday 28 November, where families can enjoy a virtual meet and greet with Father Christmas himself, offering children a magical experience from the comfort of their own homes. To book a slot, email firstname.lastname@example.org and, once your slot is confirmed, make a donation to The Hidden Network directly (minimum donation £10). Tickets are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.
3 Greenwich Market’s Santa’s Grotto
Greenwich Market is hosting both a socially distanced IRL Santa’s Grotto and a virtual version to help raise funds for Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice. For kids that can’t make it to the physical grotto, Santa will be dialling in via Zoom for personalised 5-10 minute sessions between 10am and 4pm on the following dates: 28 November, 30 November to 2 December, 7-9 December and 21-23 December. Book in advance via eventbrite from £7.50 per child (an age-appropriate gift will be posted to you before your virtual grotto session).
3-3a Greenwich Market SE10 9HZ; communityhospice.org.uk/santas-grotto
4 Sharky & George’s Virtual Grotto
Sharky & George has to cancel their IRL grotto at Under the Bridge in Fulham, but don’t despair, for the virtual grotto is here! During the 15-minute experience, one of the Sharky & George elves will greet your family on Zoom for some fantastic games and activities before you go to meet the big man himself. Father Christmas will check to see if you’re on the naughty or nice list, and chat about the presents you would like. You can also buy a Christmas Pack as an add-on, full of crafts that you can make along with the elves, plus some special surprises. £60.