A magical journey to see Santa at Tong Garden Centre
On Sunday, we were invited along to experience “A Magical Journey To See Santa” at Tong Garden Centre. It’s about an hour from Malton but was well worth the trip. A great place to meet friends who live in West Yorkshire, Leeds, Manchester etc. For those not sure where it is, it is 15 mins from Ikea (at Birstall, Leeds).
More than just a trip to see Santa, it promised to take us on a journey to his magical land, a place where wishes come true! With the help of Santa’s little helpers – and a magical wish or two – we’d make our way through Santa Land to the grotto where we’d meet Santa to make our very own wish for Christmas and receive a gift from his toyshop!
At £12.50 per child, the Tong experience is one of the more expensive ways to visit Santa. So we were keen to find out if it is worth it. Read on to find out.
Getting to the experience
Slots for the journey are available every 10 mins, from 10am-5pm throughout Dec. We were booked into the 3pm slot. The car park was busy but we found a space quickly. We headed round to the start of The Journey, situated next to Grasshoppers play area. Whilst the centre itself was very busy, once we got to the Grotto, it was actually a little oasis of calm.
We joined a small queue of 9 other children and their parents (it’s 12 children max per session). Each child was given their ‘Passport to see Santa’ and bang on 3pm we were ushered in to start our journey.
The Journey Itself
The journey to see Santa is based on the idea that Santa’s world is powered by wishes. The children journey along a number of corridors lined with life size polar bears, mischievous elves and twinkling Christmas Trees.
Along the way they meet Santa’s little helpers – a team of mice who look fresh out of Narnia. The mice tell the children a story of how the wishes work and ask them to help make them and collect them along the journey to help Santa.
The script and actors are provided by the excellent Sneaky Experience (of Leeds Secret Market fame) and they don’t disappoint. The children were really bought into their story telling and gave them their full attention throughout.
At the end of the 15 minute journey the children were gathered together and ushered into Santa’s living room. Santa himself was excellent and by far the most Yorkshire Santa we’ve ever met!! He took several minutes talking to each child and letting them have their photos taken. He was particularly good with any children who were a bit nervous or upset. Siblings were allowed on his wide bench together. In our case Daddy had to sit on the bench too, at my daughters request but Santa was not perturbed.
After meeting Santa, every child was allowed to go into his workshop one at a time and choose a present from the rows of toys. The quality of the toys to choose from was really good. My daughter chose a lovely jewellery making set in a hard plastic case and my son a transformer. Both are very pleased with the presents and I was really impressed with the choice.
In total the whole journey lasted about 30 mins, with the final stop being passport control where everyone was given a sheet of stamps to put in their Passport to prove they’d completed the journey.
What else is there to do and see once you’ve visited Santa?
The short answer is lots. Tong have really gone to town this year on the free elements for guests. There is a Polar Express scene in the entrance and some lovely displays of their decorations, toys and train sets. New for this year is also the Christmas Cabin, where you can get some festive refreshments, have a chat with an automated Rudolph, have your picture taken inside the massive snow globe, and even enjoy donkey rides! Be aware though that the Christmas Cabin is all outside, and if the weather is like it was on Sunday you’ll want to wrap up warm.
In addition, there’s the usual fun things to do including the Grasshoppers Play Area, large cafe and aquariums to view, making it a great place to come all year round.
So was it worth paying a bit extra? We think for the standard and length of the experience, quality of gifts and other things to see and do whilst there – it’s worth paying for as a special treat this Christmas. We’d highly recommend.
If you’d like to book for the Journey visit the website here. Be sure to book quickly though to avoid disappointment, as some days are already fully booked.
We’d also love to hear where else you’d highly recommend this Christmas. Why not share your experiences with us in the Ryedale Mumbler Chat Group