When we booked for our four year old son to go and see Santa at Funland in Hayling Island, we expected little in return for our money – five minutes in a dingy little room with a so-so-looking Kris Kringle, perhaps, a cheap present thrust at us, then back outside into the crisp winter air to seek amusement in the on-site theme park.
Oh us of little faith. We should have raised our expectations, because this experience was simply incredible.
When we arrived, because the queue was short, we were let in early. Plus point for great customer service. While we waited our turn, an elf by the name of Lenny entertained my son with an improvised story about how he inadvertently gave Rudolf his much-famed nose.
Not long afterwards, we were chaperoned upstairs, whereupon my son was greeted by one of Santa’s many helpers. Our little boy was given a magic key that glowed and asked to touch a glowing orb that electrified when he touched it with his hands – he was so excited.
Every time we thought it was over, we were guided to another area, where an expertly in-character member of staff worked overtime to make our son feel like the centre of attention (you are sent in as a family group – so there are no groups, which means you are treated very well).
Santa was very patient with our son, who was a little nervous but ended up enjoying the experience very much and had a photo taken with him. The present Santa gave him was of a very good quality – not cheap at all – and we never felt rushed, even though it was busy.
Although you have to pay for a photo with Santa, there is no hard-sell and you can put your picture in a keyring or a picture frame that is filled with glitter. There are some nice festive toys to choose from in the gift shop outside Santa’s grotto, but, again, there is no hard-sell.
Afterwards, a train takes you and your children on a little round trip and you are then guided back outside.
The whole experience felt homemade and authentic, not at all commercial, which we liked. The staff enjoyed playing their parts and did not seem to be merely going through the motions.
The theme park was open and rides were included in the price, so my son was able to go on the roller coaster and other attractions that excited him.
There is soft play area next to the Winter Wonderland, and this is also included in the price that you pay – so the whole thing is great value for money.
The adults get a free glass of mulled wine afterwards and mince pies are provided. There is a Wimpy on-site if you want something more substantial.
We are going again next year and would recommend visiting. This is a perfect experience for all the family and so much thought has gone into creating this event by the organisers.