It is no secret that my mum’s events company run Enchanted Christmas which was previously held at Whitworth Hall. I don’t hide it when writing about it as I am not trying to give a false review or sell tickets ( I don’t need to!), even if it may seem like I am technically biased. I have really enjoyed the last couple of years it has been running however I will be honest that there were some things that could be improved and with it being a new event, there were always going to be teething problems. That being said, it was still an absolutely brilliant event but could definitely be made even better and moving to a different venue actually resolved most of the niggles we had. They also made sure to take on any criticism and listened to reviews, even though most were very positive! My mum’s company will always strive to do better no matter how great their events already are.
My mum and her team really are about making magic, especially at Christmas time. It is mainly a family run business and you just have to see the lengths we go to for our own Christmas with the kids and with family to understand how important it is to them that the event really is magical. They aren’t just about spending the smallest amount of money to get the biggest return and will even admit to spending more than they should on the event and could have made a much bigger profit. They really can’t help themselves when going all out and they will make sure every single effort is made to ensure the event is the best it can be. Whether that is the Managing Director of the company (my mum) working as an elf completely unpaid and mucking in most weekends or them buying the more expensive presents for the children to receive from Santa (even though the other ones would have been more than good enough).
The things that could be improved last year were mainly to do with the venue. Having the event at Whitworth was in hindsight a great idea as it is a deer park and you can wander in to the grounds with the deer and feed them by hand. However, whilst that was most of the time amazing, there were times when the deer weren’t hungry so they wouldn’t come near to you. Or they were were a bit boisterous or a bit too excited near the children. There was also a lot of deer poo everywhere and the ground would get very muddy which meant people and buggies were getting caked in mud. The food wasn’t great either unfortunately which was another thing that was down to the venue as they provided all food. The one other main thing that was mentioned was how cold it was with it being an outdoor event. Obviously the weather is not something that can be controlled but a lot of the activities/characters were outside which meant 4 hours in the cold apart from Santa who was in a Ti pi with a firepit.
This year having the event at Hardwick really did make such a difference. The biggest difference I noticed was that we had paths to walk on when going to and from activities. I came prepared for mud but came back with very little mud on my boots which was great and no mud on the little one’s clothes. The other great thing was the amazing food on offer. The hotel provided the food again but this time Hardwick’s food was actually great with a good selection from meat/vegetarian chilli and rice to macaroni cheese, sandwiches and a selection of cakes/biscuits. I would definitely recommend having food after the morning session to warm up or come down earlier and have food before the afternoon one depending on when you are booked in for. There were also some food vans selling chips, hog roast sandwiches and mulled wine for a quick bite. But I can highly recommend the hotel food! Every activity was also in a tent apart from one which made such a difference with the cold. I actually didn’t feel cold until probably 15 minutes towards the end of the event.
When we arrived there was a big entrance with a big sign saying Enchanted Christmas followed by a string of fairy lights all the way along the path to the event. It really did build up the excitement walking there and not being able to see much. When we arrived we were greeted by elves and music and lots of ti pi’s dotted around. There were children jumping about with excitement and lots of fun Christmas props to have photos with. There was a giant gingerbread man greeting all the children and giving big hugs and posing for photos. We certainly took advantage of all the photo ops around there although little man wasn’t in the mood for gingerbread man cuddles today! We also grabbed a bite to eat and found our elf and got signed in. We were in the snowmen group which was perfect as little man had a snowman jumper on! The elves all looked brilliant as usual and I always love how their costumes are way better than the poundland variety that a lot of other events tend to go with. They genuinely look like elves and even had the realistic looking pointy ears and had the most fantastic hats (I know the team splashed out on them! They were rather expensive).
The first character we went to see was Mrs Claus. She certainly looked the part and she was brilliant at telling stories and talking about Mr Claus just like any women talks about her man. Complaining about him eating too much food and saying she is always having to adjust his trousers to fit him. It had us laughing too and the children were all joining in with the questions and the story. We also got to make a decoration for the tree which really was lovely made out of wood and was so much better than just a paper cut out! For the children who finished early Mrs Clause told a story and it was great that children weren’t waiting around for others to finish. The children still making their decorations could still listen to the story but weren’t rushed to finish. This really helped with impatient toddlers!
Banta Claus was the second character we visited and he was the ‘bad’ character there. He was Santa’s bad older brother and he told a story about how he made the reindeer fly backwards and how he is always trying to ruin Christmas and expressed his jealousy of his more successful younger brother. The children (and adults) really loved him and especially loved his song and dance which we all were up doing. The props in his Ti pi were really quite good and I loved the big chair! He even got a phone call from Santa on his phone whilst we were all there and all the children saw him calling on Banta’s iphone. It made it a lot more real and you could see the children looking really excited and amazed by this.
We then went to visit Elf and Safety who was in charge of making sure that no one ever got near Santa in the North Pole and was there to make sure no germs or illnesses came his way either. He was armed with a spray bottle ready to squirt anyone with a cough! So be prepared to be picked on if you have a cough or a sniffle! He also had us doing funny dancing and jumping around and I have to say he was one of my favourites as he just had so much energy and was hilarious. The children were giggling a lot and everyone was joining in, including the adults!
We got chance to have a little break after Elf and safety and we got to go and relax for a bit in the food/shop tent and were given letters to write to Santa. To be honest, at this point, just sitting for a minute and having a look around the shop was more than enough whilst we had a break but being given the letters meant that the children were always entertained, even when not doing an activity. You could tell it had been really well thought through and it was a nice touch. The shop had some amazing things in and I felt the prices were really good and even better than last year. There was also a bigger selection and more for children too. The break was a good time to refuel and I got myself a nice bailey’s hot chocolate!
We then moved on to Fairy Pimpernella Pinefrost which was the one bit that was outside and not in a tent. It was very dark at this point and not as easy to see however it really made it more magical. Especially since this bit was in a forest area surrounded by trees and fairy lights and it all looked very magical. I did struggle to see the fairy though (although all the children were stood at the front and didn’t have a problem). I think they will be adding a bit more lighting there but obviously not too much as the darkness really ads to it. It still looked magical in the day time but it really did come alive at night! We did a very small bit with our cockney fairy and she then lead us to a pen of Reindeer which were hidden away from sight. Our Elf told us a bit about each Reindeer and their names including one called Greedy.
The main man himself was next, Santa. We were very excited and there was a short train ride taking us there which made it even more exciting. When we entered the tent we were told by Elves to be quiet as Santa was asleep. We all tiptoed in to the very magical looking tent where Santa was asleep on a big wooden throne. The whole setting really was amazing and it was enough to put a little lump in your throat. I will always stand by saying that visiting Santa at this event is by far the best. Not only is Santa very convincing and the tent is beautifully decorated but the Santa experience is just amazing. He has a big book which has all the names of children who have made it on to the nice list. He reads each Child’s name out and refers to what they would like for Christmas and personal information about them like their pets or something they have done recently. He makes it seem like he genuinely knows who each child is and he also adds a bit of comedy in there and keeps all children and adults interested. He makes each child feel special and at the end of the session children line up to get a bag of presents each and they can have a little chat and a photo before being handed a certificate to say that they are on the nice list. As we all left us adults were handed a little gift too. We were given a glass mug with marshmallows and chocolate in to make a yummy hot chocolate when we got home. It was another really nice touch which I am sure they could have spared the expense on.
The final character we went to visit was Bookshelf the elf who looked like something out of Harry Potter. When we arrived we were all enrolled in to ‘elf school’ and all sat around tables. The props in this tent were my favourite and I loved the throne chair made out of books. It was very Harry Potter and was very magical. He was very entertaining and kept telling us off for not putting our hand up and shouting out answers which everyone found funny. He also had us doing a funny dance which had me looking a bit loony but was fun. It was a great session to end on and I liked that we all passed Elf school and became honorary Elves. We were given a certificate to say we had passed and had to come up with our Elf name. Reid decided on Reid Snowman which made sense with his jumper and my suggestion of Reid Reindeer didn’t go down well..
Well I am sure you can tell from what I have written, it just was the best day. I honestly came home in the best mood ever and I think it really did make me feel excited for Christmas. Considering it was a 4 hour outdoor event and we attended the afternoon one which finished at around 6.30pm, the cold weather really wasn’t a problem at all. It was actually a lot warmer in the tents and little man didn’t even seem bothered by it at all. He lasted the whole event and although he can easily be distracted at this age he really was having the best time and he joined in with everything. They managed to keep his attention a good 90% of the time and that is absolutely amazing for a 3 year old! I loved that not only did he have a good day but we had a great day. Us adults were involved and made to stand up and join in with dancing and singing. The fact that we even got a present really made it feel a family event rather than an event you are just bringing your kids to. The characters were brilliant and you would never think it was the first weekend there and the first time at Hardwick AND the 3rd ever year doing the event. It all went so smoothly and the organisation was brilliant. What can I say, my mum knows what she is doing!
There were a few teeny tiny things that I know they will be changing for the following weekends and it’s mainly just adding a bit more lighting in areas it gets really dark later on. But apart from that there really wasn’t anything I would change! It’s amazing how changing the venue just transformed an already very good event and made it just perfect. The details put in were so fantastic too and I think this is what really made the event. The props including the hand made impressive thrones and the gifts for the children from Santa you honestly couldn’t beat at any other event. You get so much and it really is good value for money! The only thing I would say I miss from the other venue was the Reindeer. I actually worked as an elf the previous years and I felt I bonded with the friendly Reindeer. They would wander up and let me stroke them and it felt so surreal having them just wandering around next to me. They were just unfortunately too temperamental and whilst they could totally make an experience for one person they could ruin it for the next. So overall it is just not worth it! I loved the food at this event and it was a huge improvement from the other venue. Myself and all of my family actually stayed behind to sample more food and had big plates full of macaroni cheese and chilli. The brownies were amazing even if I did feel rather sick after eating a full one (so much chocolate!!).
Things to note:
The event lasts 4 hours, so be prepared for this. Bring bottles and anything you might need for the day.
The event is outdoors, so wrap up warm! Although most of the characters are in tents and it isn’t bad at all, they are still at the end of the day just tents so layer up.
Wear boots/wellies. The event really isn’t bad for mud but it is best not to wear nice shoes in case the weather is wet
If you can avoid bringing a push chair I would advise it. Although the event is very accessible for pushchair users it can get extremely squishy in tents once you add in pushchairs. So I would advise using a baby carrier or a small trike instead of a big bulky buggy. You don’t walk far at all and you could also leave your buggy outside the tent if you would prefer.
The portaloos can get rather dark in there when it gets later in the day. So If you have a mobile phone with a light that is very helpful. You could even bring a torch if you want to be extra prepared!
Arrive earlier if you are doing the afternoon session so you can have some nice warm food and browse the shop as you won’t get as much chance to do this once the event starts. I recommend staying and having food after you finish if you are booked in the morning session. It is a great way to warm up and means not having to bring packed lunches with you and no cooking when you get home!
Finally bring your camera! You won’t want to miss any of it and there are so many photo opportunities and so many amazing moments you will want on camera, especially with Santa. Also if an adult gets picked on with Banta Claus, you will want that on camera!
If you are thinking about attending this event you can find out more info online. You can also buy tickets on there and book although a lot of dates are either full or booking up fast!