Whether you’re staying in the UK or venturing further afield – or are looking for some inspiration for a Christmas trip – we’ve sought out some of the most brilliant Santa encounters to be had.
For the best Santa’s grottoes in the British capital, see our annually updated feature Top 12 Things to Do in London this Christmas.
Stay: One Aldwych, with luxurious family accommodation, afternoon teas and festive films in its private cinema.
LaplandUK, Whitmoor Forest, Berkshire
This award-winning recreation of Santa’s Arctic homeland has an enchanted forest, elf village, toy factory, gingerbread-house making in Mother Christmas’ kitchen, ice rink and, of course, the chance to meet Santa in his hidden log cabin.
Stay: Coworth Park Hotel & Spa
National Coal Mining Museum for England, Wakefield, Yorkshire
Meet Santa in a unique setting – at the bottom of one of Britain’s oldest working mines, 140m underground at the end of a snowy walkway (helmets and lamps are provided).
Stay: Cottages in Yorkshire (with an exclusive discount for Takethefamily newsletter subscribers).
Lure kids into a tour of these 19th-century ‘back to back’ courtyard houses – decorated as they would have been in different eras – with a promise of meeting Santa in his grotto after they’ve learnt all about how working-class kids would have experienced the festive season. Some tours are candlelit; all need booking ahead.
Stay: Aparthotel Adagio Birmingham City Centre
REST OF EUROPE
Disney goes whole hog at for its Enchanted Christmas (even opening on Christmas Day itself), with meet-and-Greets with Santa and other Disney characters and the chance to snap a selfie and pose with Jack from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas in his Santa suit. Father Christmas also features in Disney’s Christmas Parade and in the carol sing-a-long. Meanwhile, Disney hotels and restaurants host festive meals and entertainment in the company of Disney characters and Santa.
Stay: The Disneyland Hotel
For true festive ambience, you can’t beat Lapland – especially this site with its glass and snow igloos sleeping up to four (some with private saunas and kitchenettes), rustic log cabins for up to 10, traditional Finnish house for four, and turf chambers for two. There's also the chance to meet Santa in his home, a picture-perfect red cabin. Activities include skiing and snowboarding, reindeer safaris, horse-riding or horse-sleigh rides in the snow, snowmobile or snow-tank safaris, aurora-hunting and ice-fishing. There are also two husky farms next door.
Stay: On site, or at the Hotel Snowflake in Saariselkä.
Lapland’s other mega-resort dedicated to all things festive, ‘Tomteland’ near Mora also claims to be Santa’s year-round home and enchants young visitors with its troll kingdom, elves’ area, plays (the likes of ‘Hansel and Gretel’), dancing round the Christmas tree and prank school (‘no adults allowed’!).
Stay: Mora Hotell & Spa
REST OF WORLD
Rockefeller Center, New York
A much-loved tradition among New Yorkers, Breakfast with Santa is available at both the Rock Center Café and The Sea Grill in this landmark building, followed by the chance to cut some spins, twirls and crazy-eights with the man himself on the famous ice rink (bypassing the queues). Tuck into the likes of brioche French toast, applewood-smoked bacon, classic bagels, gingerbread men and chocolate fountain goodies – and, for parents, Bloody Marys and Mimosas! – as Santa and his elves do the rounds of the tables.
Stay: The Kimberly Hotel and Suites
The Canadian city's Bright Nights Christmas Train takes you through the forest decked out with festive displays, accompanied by entertainment by live performers and photo opportunities with Santa. Munch on hot buttered popcorn or book a package including dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Proceeds go to local firefighters.
Stay: Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver
Behind the themed window displays of this upmarket department lies Santaland, where kids can buy a ticket to board the Santaland Express and travel through snowy tunnels to meet the man himself and hand over their Christmas list. There are also Santalands at Myers in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart.
Stay: The Westin Melbourne
See also our hand-picked winter breaks with Santa's Lapland.