A few thoughts went through my head when I was kindly invited to the Santa Experience in the Ilac Centre, Dublin. Firstly, it’s a long 1.5 hour drive each way to see Santa with a baby. Then, there’s the fact that the baby is only 9 months old, he hasn’t a notion about Christmas. Then I thought, feck it, I’m back to work next week so we may as well enjoy ourselves while we can. And even if the baby has no idea, it would be a good start to get us all in the Christmas spirit – and test him out around Christmas trees…
So we set off for the big smoke on a frosty Saturday morning, timing everything so we’d be in the car for nap times. It worked well, he napped most of the way. We parked in the Jervis Centre car park to minimise time out in the cold. It was a handy walk across the street to the Ilac Centre. The Santa Experience is upstairs in Dunnes Stores (the smaller Dunnes). We met up with my parents who decided to join us so 4 adults and 1 baby headed to see Santa!
First Impressions of The Santa Experience
We were welcomed to a waiting area where there were lots of elves to entertain the little people along with colouring sheets, crayons and cartoons on TV for older children. There were tables and chairs set up for comfort. Tea, sandwiches and cake were given to us too. The place had a lovely festive feel; I was glad I’d worn my Christmas jumper.
The Santa Experience Journey
We only had to wait about 10 minutes before we were called. They have a system where you book your time online which means no long queues like you have at traditional Santa visits. One of the many elves brought us to the first stop on the Santa Experience. This was Santa’s Post Office where another very informative elf explained to us how all the children’s letters get to Santa and how they are sorted by country. The baby loved all the lights in here!
Next stop was the Santa’s stable where some of Santa’s reindeer were kept including Rudolf and a baby Rudolf. A helpful elf explained to us how things worked in the stables.
After this was the Sleigh Room. Here, two very entertaining elves explained the magic behind the sleigh which we got to sit in. Again, many flashing lights kept the baby entertained and there was plenty of shouting from the rest of us on cue!
Then we moved on in the sleigh through to the North Pole, this was done really well, the sleigh moved with a flashing yellow light on front and there was a snow shower on us when we entered the North Pole with polar bears, penguins and Christmas trees. Here, the next elf led us up the magic path to Santa’s house.
Santa’s house was beautifully decorated with an open fire, more elves, a big bed, a Christmas tree and the big man himself sitting beside the fire. We were all asked to sit on the couch across from him where we had some great banter with him before it was time to give the little man his first present from Santa. He was mesmerised by Santa and we got some lovely photos of his staring up at him as well as a lovely group photo. We were also delighted he didn’t cry!
The Santa Experience – The Verdict:
I would highly recommend this for children from the age of about 3 and up to get the value of it. While it was a lovely experience for our little guy and we have photos we will treasure forever, I do think he would have enjoyed it more if he was a bit bigger and could interact more. It’s also great fun for adults, my parents were so happy they got to come with us and they’re still raving about it so definitely a great family day out.
The Cost of The Santa Experience:
The Santa Experience is priced at €10 per child and €3 per accompanying adult (and there is a €3 booking fee per transaction online). You get an age appropriate gift for the child included. You also give a few extra details like what the child has asked for at Christmas and who their teacher is so Santa can have a good chat with them. They don’t usually allow you to take photos but there is a photographer there and you can purchase photos on the way out. The experience is in association with Dunnes Stores and supports Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Dublin and Mercy Children’s Hospital, Cork.
Locations of The Santa Experience:
We were at the Dublin venue in Dunnes Stores in the Ilac Centre but there is also a Santa Experience in Dunnes Stores, Patrick Street in Cork and The Jetland Shopping Centre in Limerick.
This Santa Experience opens from Friday 25th Novemeber 2016 until Friday 23rd December 2016. To book, or for more information, go to www.santaexperience.ie
Disclaimer – I was not paid to write this review, however I was invited to try out the experience for free. There was no request for a blog post, I just felt it deserved some recognition for being so well done.