Quirky places to visit Santa around Wales
Santa in Wales Of course we believe in Santa Claus. We’ve seen him. In fact, we’ve seen lots of him around Wales. But if you’re looking for somewhere really magical to meet Santa this year, here are 10 unusual spots for some festive fun.
Cardiff Castle is magical at any time of the year, but its lavish Victorian décor makes it the capital’s most atmospheric Santa’s Grotto. Hidden away in the fairytale setting of the Black Tower, Santa awaits by the fireside to meet all good boys and girls. There are some bilingual sessions if your little ones would like to speak to the big man in Welsh. Tickets sell out quickly, so watch out for when they go on sale to snag some for yourself.
There are plenty of other castles around Wales that will have special visits from Santa throughout December. Visit the Cadw website for more information.
More than 100 original historic buildings have been reassembled at the St Fagans National Museum of History just outside Cardiff. Their Christmas Nights make the most of the setting, with carols in the chapel, traditional Welsh Plygain singing in the church, a brass band, and Christmas shopping at the Makers’ Market. While you’re waiting to meet Santa, his missus (yes, Mother Christmas is there too) will keep little ‘uns entertained with stories. In runs at the start of December so keep an eye out for the exact dates on their website.
On board a steam train
There's definitely something magical about steam trains in winter! Most of our heritage railways run Santa Specials as we get closer to to the Big Day and they usually pull out all the stops to make it super special for the little ones. The whole family will enjoy the festive atmosphere of elves, mulled wine, hot mince pies, brass bands playing jolly tunes and the noise and smell of steam in the air. On some railways, you’ll chug through the countryside to Santa’s Grotto; on others the Big Fella will actually be on the train, handing out presents as you go. Some railways have a Welsh speaking Santa - check before you book though.
Narrow gauge railway Santa Specials information can be found via the Great Little Trains of Wales website. The standard gauge Gwili, Llangollen and Pontypool & Blaenavon railways have the details on their websites.
They used to dig coal at Rhondda Heritage Park, but during the festive season they’ll be mining a rich seam of Christmas cheer at Santa’s Toy Mine instead! Your challenge is to join their toy miners on a magical adventure underground on the hunt for Santa’s hidden cottage, which we’re reliably informed is somewhere past the toy mine, sweet mine and ice cave.
If you’re going to visit a grotto, then it may as well be the massive natural caverns at National Showcaves Centre for Wales at Abercrave. This year they’ve lavishly decorated two of their biggest caverns, Dan-yr-Ogof and the Cathedral Cave, and Santa will be appearing at both, simultaneously (that’s the magic of Christmas for you). He’s there for most of December – see Showcave Christmas for full details.
Somebody at the National Trust clearly has Santa on speed-dial, as he’s appearing at lots of their historic Welsh locations in December. You can grab supper with Santa at Erddig, or have a close encounter with the big man in the stables at Tredegar House. The most popular locations (including Chirk Castle and Dyffryn Gardens) sell out well in advance.
Santa pays his annual visit to the SeaQuarium in Rhyl, because he clearly enjoys their Christmas-themed Seal Show as much as the kids do. Admission includes a visit to the grotto and a gift, and also access to all the SeaQuarium’s nine zones.
The half-timbered mansion at Gregynog has played a major part in Welsh cultural life, but for a weekend in December (8 & 9) it’s more focused on Lapland culture. Follow the trail through the enchanted woods and you’ll find Santa in his grotto, attended by his busy elves, who’ll be helping to hand out the hot chocolate and gifts.
You can’t accuse the Bluestone holiday park in Pembrokeshire of not getting into the festive spirit. The whole place turns into the Kingdom of the Elves for the holiday period, where you can catch the Elf Express through Elftopia to the Sugar Plum Land!
Handily, the 90 or so species at Folly Farm include reindeer, which adds a certain authenticity to the Santa’s Grotto experience here. Father Christmas is there for most weekends in November and December, with his elves dishing out gifts for the children, and mince pies and mulled wine for grown-ups.