The Santa Explorer – Pensthorpe is a brand new Christmas experience from the award winning Pensthorpe Natural Park near Fakenham, Norfolk. We were lucky enough to be invited on its maiden Journey and WOW what a treat it was.
Pensthorpe Natural park is a haven for adults and children all year round but this years festive offerings have really put the children front and center. Pensthorpe is not just a wildlife sanctuary and adventure playground its plays a huge role in conservation and is developing the next generation of David Attenbouroughs and Mary Adams. Take a look at my previous reviews here of this fantastic natural playground.
What to Expect
The Santa explorer is a 90 min experience which includes a magical trip on The Santa Explorer to find Santa. Taking place after dark you will board the tour and enjoy a bumpy ride around the reserve before a craft activity in the viewing gallery including complimentary hot chocolate or mulled wine (for the adults) and nibble on a mince pie or gingerbread biscuit before visiting the big man himself and recieving an early present. Sadly due to the arrival of bird flu in the country, the government has put an Avian Influenza Protection Zone in place to help us to protect our birds from it. Although this strain is not harmful to humans, it is to birds, so to limit the spread the craft activity is in place instead of a bird feed talk.
Elf and safety
We arrived to a welcoming party of joyful elves who made each and every child feel special. The elves read out the children’s names in turn and announce who had made it on the ‘Nice’ list. Thankfully mine scraped through and were presented with a Santa Explorer ticket and gift coupon. The children then received a Santa Explorer trail card to be filled in during the journey. The Boy especially liked ticking off the various light up animals on the way.
Once boarded and given our cosy red blankets (which I was very thankful for) it was time for Mrs Christmas to introduce herself and tell us about the North Norfolk pole. Mrs Christmas kept the kids entertained all the way round with stories, facts and Christmas songs. She barely stopped for breath and put her heart and soul into her role.
The light trail itself was so wonderfully pensthorpe . We were driven in a beautifully decorated bumpy trailer through gates into the nature reserve and passed some lovely understated light displays. Snowflakes, deer, robins, hedgehogs, toadstools and hares punctuated the paths. All the characters native to the area and magical in their own right. True to Pensthorpes ethos magic doesn’t just mean fantastical beasts or mythical creatures its can be found in mother nature. Just take the humble snowflake for example. According to the Guinness World Records, the largest snowflake in the world was 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick.
After our trip we arrived back at the main building to the friendly elves and were escorted to the viewing gallery where we warmed up with a mulled wine and mince pie. The kids got stuck into some premium quality crafts before the lights dimmed and Santas sleigh was seen across the lake. All the children shreiked with excitement as we watched the sleigh move closer to the building. We didnt have to wait long for Santa to arrive and greet all the children before making his way to his grotto. Each family was then called in turn to see Santa in his wonderful grotto. The grotto itself was beautifully decorated and a bubble machine and snowman snow ball targets game kept the kids amused as we waited. There were lots of places to take a picture and the elves were only too willing to oblige.
Our meeting with Santa was great, the children were given a chocolate and time to chat. After Wilba had given her extensive list of presents it was time to pick a gift. I love grottos where you can pick your own gift as it avoids the dissapointment I’ve found on previous experiences where the present isn’t age appropriate. Pensthorpe have gone one better. They have a display of the toys available (including Orchard games and premium soft toys) for your child to select but then wrapped ones below so they still have the fun of opening either in the car home (like mine) or to be pit under the tree for Christmas day.
The Santa Explorer – Pensthorpe was an absolute triumph from start to finish and the price is well worthy of the experience. This is a must do Christmas activity for adventurous families like ours. Sadly tickets are all sold out this year for The Explorer and Stand alone Santa visit but definitely one to look out for next year as I’m sure the team will only improve it further.
Under 2’s free
All tickets exclude park entry on the day. Unfortunately this is not a wheelchair accessible event and Under 2’s will need to sit on their parent’s lap.
The park is still open and theres also some late night shopping events and £2 Hootz house entry for the kids to enjoy so head to their website now for more information.
Thanks to Natalie and everyone at Pensthorpe for such a fantastic experience we thoroughly enjoyed it.
*Dislaimer – Tickets were kindly gifted as part of this review but as always my words are my own.