Last year my four-year old muttered those words that every parent dreads, “he wasn’t the real Santa was he mummy?” We were on our way home after our third visit to Santa in a month. Charlie was only four, although he was old enough to realise that the teenager in a badly fitted felt red suit did not look anything like Santa!
We never intended to visit Santa three times, we just got carried away. I think it’s really easy to do in the run up to Christmas with every event/attraction having their own Santa. We booked a last-minute trip to the Christmas markets in Copenhagen and visited Santa at the Winter Wonderland in Tivoli Gardens. Two weeks later we visited London to meet Santa at Harrods which we had booked six months earlier. Both of these Santa’s truly looked the part with big bellies, real white beards and red satin suits. Hence why my son questioned the scrawny looking Santa at our third visit!
This year, my husband and I made a pact to visit just one Santa as a family. We were therefore keen, as every parent is, for the one we attended to be absolutely magical. We have several local friends who have visited Clearwell Caves for many years and so based on their recommendations we arranged our visit and I am so pleased that we did!
Our visit lasted around two hours, including a refreshment stop in the underground cafe. Clearwell Caves are transformed for the event with lots of beautifully decorated Christmas trees and thousands of twinkling lights.
My boys particularly loved the named presents under each tree and both took great delight in finding ‘their gifts’. We visited at midday on a Saturday, (two weeks before Christmas) and so as you would expect it was busy. Due to the timed ticket policy however, we only had to wait ten minutes for our turn with Santa. We could see Santa at all times during our short wait and so my boys were quite content checking out the decorations in the cavern and practicing what they were going to say to him!
Santa spent a few minutes with each young guest, asking if they had been good girls and boys, checking that they knew what they wanted for Christmas and posing for photos. We were most impressed that an elf offered to take photos using our camera. (During visits to other grottos personal cameras have not been permitted and we have paid for professional photos which are often over priced).
After meeting Santa we walked to his stall, staffed by another friendly elf, and my boys deliberated for what felt like hours over which gift they wanted! The stall had a range of gifts to suit all ages and interests. My boys finally decided on a dinosaur building kit and a Thomas the Tank engine jigsaw.
Leaving the Christmas grotto we followed a story trail featuring a little girl called Evie who opens a toy aeroplane in her Christmas stocking. I don’t want to give too much away, I will just say that it is an adorable story with magical scenes for each part of the story set up through the caves.
Midway through the story the path leads into another large cavern set up with Christmas market stalls and an underground cafe. We enjoyed hot chocolate and cakes whilst listening to a steel band playing Christmas carols.
What we loved about Christmas Fantasy at Clearwell Caves
– Traditional Santa with a realistic beard, belly and red suit!
– Magical underground grotto
– Kids pick their own present
– No extra charge for photos, take your own camera
– Underground and so unaffected by bad weather
– Festive, friendly atmosphere
– Good value for money at £10.00 for adults and children, including gift for children between 2 and 14 years old. (Please note – Prices have increased for 2017 – £12.00 per person – Children 2 -14 years will receive a present from Santa. Under 2 years Free. Baby gift from Santa optional £5.00).
Top tips for visiting
– The attraction recommends that you book in advance.
– Wear wellies or suitable flat walking shoes
– If your toddler is unlikely to sit in the pushchair don’t take it with you! (You need spare hands to assist little ones along the uneven paths).
– The underground cafe only serves drinks and cakes/treats. For meals check out the cafe located above the gift shop.
The Christmas Fantasy runs from 1st December – 24th December 2017 and the displays re-open 27th Dec to 1st Jan. 10am to 4 pm daily. There is a late evening every Friday (10am – last entry 7pm). For more information check out the Clearwell Caves website.
If you would like to read more reviews featuring attractions in the Forest of Dean check out our – Tried & tested family attractions in the Forest of Dean!
Disclosure – We attended as guests of Clearwell Caves in December 2016 in return for this honest review.
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Copyright – All photos copyright Travel Loving Family