This is the ultimate guide to where to see Santa in and around Milton Keynes during 2017. They range from free to what I consider to be rather expensive. Some will be a Santa experience, others a full day out that incorporates the big man hence some of the price differences. You will find that some of the more popular grottos have already sold out at peak times. I will be adding to this list as more details about other places to visit become available. I have included some of the quotes of followers of this blog to give you an idea of what each place was like in 2016. Please do only take this as a guide as it can vary from year to year and the Santa you see in the photos may also look different each year. Do keep checking back as I add more to the list. Thanks to Corale, Joanna, Thais, Helen, Kerry Louise, Michelle, Simonne, Katy and Louise for all the photos.
Santa arrives at Frosts Garden Centre.
10am – 5th November – FREE
This is an event to mark the arrival of Santa at his grotto at Frosts Garden Centre. It’s not obviously for a one to one with Father Christmas but simply to watch his big entrance. Last year he arrived on a big red bus. There were snow machines as well. It was quite good fun, although the aim is obviously to get you in the store to look around (it gets rammed, I suggest you go on another day if you want a quiet look at the decorations) and to promote their grotto starting, but if you’re in the area it’s worth a look. Inside the store the decorations are cool. There’s a talking reindeer – just one, not three like last year. There’s a (weird) singing Santa tree. The Santas sound like they’ve had a few too many sherries. There’s a giant polar bear, Cinderella type carriage, peekaboo train and a static reindeer. Newport Rd, Woburn Sands, Milton Keynes MK17 8UE. If you’re not local to the area, but want to do other stuff with the kids, then there’s a few places within walking distance of Frosts. Come out of the entrance and turn left you’ll see Wyevale Garden Centre. (MK17 8UF) Inside they have a couple of animatronic Christmas animals, as well as a small soft play and fish in a tank. Carry on walking down Newport Road and take a left down Walton Road and eventually you’ll come to the school and behind that is Wavendon park (MK17 8LH). Or from Frosts take a right and start walking towards the centre of Woburn Sands. Go over the train crossing and when you get to the pedestrian crossing cross over and Woburn Sands park is just behind there.
Meet Santa at Xscape MK
Free experience in the building which houses the snowdome in Milton Keynes.
Last year Xscape MK hosted free visits to see Santa. You had to book in advance online. From what I recall there was a problem with one of the days so they had to get people to rebook, but otherwise it was fine. The Santa was brilliant and is highly likely to have been the big man himself. Children got a free gift. I imagine the reason they did it was in the hope that people would stick around and plan to have dinner or do other activities. This year I’ve had it confirmed they will be doing it again but it’ll be a different Santa. UPDATE – Tickets on this website. There will be some walk up availability on each day but you may need to queue.
Your 2016 reviews…
Claire says “Was really pleasantly surprised by the free one at Xscape last year – my (then) 2 year old was really hit and miss with characters and mascots so didn’t want to pay a lot for a ticketed one only for him to have a meltdown. The Father Christmas was extremely patient with him, taking the time to gently coax him into coming and chatting to him and even though it as free and there was a queue it didn’t feel rushed or impersonal at all. (Plus he was the ‘real deal’ beard wise! He got a choice of present to take away (he chose a snowflake stationery set) and then got to sit with the elves and make a craft and have a go on the virtual reality sleigh ride”
Sasha says “I thought the free one at the Xscape was exceptional! Quality Santa and quality present. All for some coins in a charity donation bucket. It was bookable on line last year but they did have turn up on the day slots also. I think they had arts and crafts also”
Helen says “The free one at xscape was fantastic! There were arts and crafts while you waited and a virtual sleigh ride (headset and iPhone). It was very busy and ran behind time but was worth the wait and donation. It was bookable in advance online.
Gemma says “You had to book online and there was no just turning up only on certain days, he was absolutely brilliant he took the time to talk to the children , let you take pictures and they got a good present which they chose , donations were welcome as it was free. We will be going back this year”
Free Santa and Christmas activities at Bunnings, Milton Keynes
Visit Santa for free in his grotto Saturdays and Sundays throughout December between 11am – 3pm. More details on their website. I don’t know how busy it will be so be prepared to queue if it’s popular. They also have a free indoor play area that is suitable for children aged 4 and up – you can read all about the play area here. Bunnings is a homeware store and is located at Winterhill, Milton Keynes, MK6 1AP
Community & charity events
26th Nov – Woburn Sands Christmas Fayre
1pm – 5pm – Rides, craft and food stalls as well as a Santa. Lights go on about 4.30pm. I’ll be there too! I’m helping to run the mulled win stand between 1pm and 3pm, come and say hi! The fayre is on the high street so best to park on a nearby street and walk up. MK17 8QY
2nd Dec – MacIntyre Charity Fair at Woburn Abbey including Santa’s grotto
Entry price £2.50 adults, £1 children, under 5s are free. Cost for grotto is £2.50.
10am – 3pm. Stroll the cobbled streets of the Antiques room at Woburn Abbey this Christmas in search of your perfect present. With over 50 stalls including crafts, jewellery, sweets, cards, mince pies & mulled wine. Grotto includes small gift for children. Woburn Abbey, MK17 9WA. Free parking. Tickets may be available on the day but best to book in advance to avoid disappointment. Book tickets for the event by calling 01908 230100 or email on email@example.com or through this link.
9th / 10th December – Meet Santa at Alban Hill Nurseries, Sherington
9.30am – 12pm on both days. Stroke, groom and walk Miniature Shetland Pony “unicorns” Louis and Bella. Face Painting, Glitter Tattoos and Christmas Craft Activities. Santa £3. I imagine it’s donations for other craft activities. We went last year, it was quite a nice event. Money raised goes to Sherington Pre School. MK16 9QP. Details on their facebook event. You could always combine it with a visit to Emberton Country Park which is just down the road.
16 / 17 December – Santa Express at Caldecotte Miniature Railway
There’s a miniature railway near Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes. You sit on it and go around a circular track twice. At this event Santa will be there too. It costs £1 each for two trips around the track. My boys quite like the play area there too. There’s also a pub/restaurant in what my youngest refers to as ‘the Thomas windmill’. MK7 8HP.
18th November – 24th December. Price is £9.95.
Meet Father Christmas in his Grotto and receive a toy of either Playmobil, Lego, Sylvanian families or BigJig. Thanks to Thais and Joanna for photos below. Booking details on their website,
Your 2016 reviews…
Angela says “Santa at Dobbies was really good last year, you could as many pics as you liked and their santa was very good. The present my daughter got was very good too”
Thais says “Dobbies is nice, cheap and great if your child is not sure about meeting Santa! (Good if he is sure too!)”
Joanna says “Dobbies was fantastic last year. No real beard though but still very magical”
Lily says “We went to Dobbies. It was fun but the Santa didn’t have a real beard and you could see his black hair although he was lovely! My son who was 4.5 didn’t believe us and we had to say he was helping the ‘real’ Santa out as he was so busy.”
5th November – 24th December. £14,99 child, £4.99 adult. £7.50 photo.
Regarded as one of the most popular Santa experiences in Milton Keynes over the last few years, tickets go on sale really early for Frosts, and despite some negativity on social media around the prices increases in 2017, as I write this in mid-October, tickets for weekends in December have sold out, as has the entire week before Christmas. Sing with the elves, make reindeer food and listen to a story read by Santa. Lasts 45 minutes. Ticket details here If you want to catch a glimpse of him for free then have a look at the start of this article – he makes his arrival on 5th November. Milton Keynes, MK17 8UE
Holly says “Took 2 little ones to Frosts last year. Yes it’s not cheap but it’s only once a year! Apart from a fire alarm it was amazing. The best Father Christmas I’ve seen in a long time. He had a real beard. My 4 yr old was speechless. The longest she’s ever been quiet! Definitely going there again this year’
Suzanne says “Been to Frosts for the last 7 years. Best santa, older guy with a real beard and a lovely voice! Last year the whole experience went a little downhill so we have decided not to return this year especially with the price increase.”
Catherine says “I did see santa at frosts last year but i am starting to find it impersonal and expensive. The way in which it is done makes me think of a production line of children being shovelled through. Our photo was rushed and I don’t like having to do that in front of everyone. The old frosts experience where you wandered through a grotto was much more cosy and authentic if you ask me. The Santa at Frosts has always been amazing but it’s more about the personal experience for me and the kids”
Selected times on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in December. Carols in the parlour, Christmas crafts, chestnuts, visit to Santa and a gift. £7 in addition to normal yearly museum cost for people who aren’t members.
We’re big fans of Milton Keynes Museum as an indoor place to take children locally. Our favourite bit is a telephone gallery, but there’s also a street with Victorian shops, old fashioned toys and a transport gallery – loads for the children to look at. Unlike other places, annual membership is really cheap – £9 adult, £6 a child and under 5s a free. You can read all about our previous visit to the museum here. All their special events throughout the year are included. Unlike other places you have to book to see Santa by phone or in person. Milton Keynes MK12 5EL
Your 2016 reviews…
Karen says “Mk museum all day long. This will be our 3rd year. You have to pay entry to the museum and then extra for Santa but retain the receipt and you can return to the museum for a year for free”
Lisa says “We went to MK Museum and it was absolutely awful! Rubbish Santa, badly organised and as a result we didn’t get to do anything! I ended up getting a refund”
Michele says “We went to MK museum last year. It was very nostalgic, like going back in time to the Victorian era. FC was very realistic, both my children loved it, will book again this year” Thanks to Michelle for the picture below.
2nd December – 23rd December, £6 per child in addition to normal (yearly) ticket cost for adults.
Home of the Codebreakers, Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes is well worth a visit as an adult or have slightly older children. It’s fascinating seeing the top secret huts used during the Second World War and there are loads of exhibits – a great place to take grandparents too. I have taken my boys (aged 4 and 2) there. It wouldn’t be my first choice for young children as they weren’t really interested in the exhibits, but actually they were more than happy walking around with headphones and a tablet guide. There’s also a park and lake with ducks. The Christmas grotto is 1940s style and there’ll be festive crafts and a gift from Santa. Under 12s can visit Bletchley Park for free all year. Adults are £17.75 and children over 12 are £10.50. Ticket details here. Bletchley, Milton Keynes MK3 6EB
9th, 10th, 16th, 17th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd December – £5 child, adults free.
Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton is a good, fun, free day out at any point of the year. It has a good transport gallery, lovely gardens and a nice play area. You can read all about our previous visit here. At Christmas they have a grotto which at £5 is one of the cheapest we’ve found and it does include a present. You can do festive craft activities for an additional £5. Booking details on their website. Stockwood Park, London Rd, Luton LU1 4LX
Your 2016 reviews…
Helen says “It was great & definitely the real Santa. Lots of activities as well. And not expensive.” Thanks to Helen for picture below.
1st – 24th December. Prices range depending on whether you book online or in person and are more on peak days. Range from £10.95 to £18.95 online per child in advance to up to £25 on the day. Adults range from £10.45 to £11.95 online but I imagine could be more on the day.
Mead Open Farm is a full on day out, hence the price. If you don’t book in advance you could be looking at £70+ for a family of 4. There’s a big adventure playground, indoor play area, digger area, tractors and farm animals. Their Christmas Kingdom includes a walk through Christmas village, 3D film, meet real reindeer, learn how to be an elf, visit Santa and a toy. Ticket details here. Stanbridge, Leighton Buzzard LU7 9JH
Your 2016 reviews…
Kerry-Louise says “We love mead open farm and will be going for the 3rd year. The prices aren’t that different to Frosts but you get a whole day out for it too, the walkthrough and Santa experience are lovely too” – thank you for the photo below!
Lia says “We will definitely be going back to Mead Open Farm to see Santa this year. It was an amazing experience, the santa was so sweet and very genuine, i almost believed myself. The build up too was equally as magical and the Elf show was funny for all ages and not rushed”
Corale says “Been to Mead Open Farm for three years and going again this year (if baby no.2 plays ball). It’s pricier than other places but I love their Christmas walk through, their Santa is lovely, the shop, the movie and the soft play and a whole farm to play at too. Would recommend!”
22nd November – 24th December – prices range between £11 – £34 per child depending on how close you go to Christmas
Loads on here, but potentially one of the most expensive days out if you go at peak times. Meet Santa and get a toy to the gift shop to choose a gift, make a reindeer cuddly toy, elf academy, 3D film, Christmas shows, write a letter to Santa, Festive funfair rides. Normal activities are included like indoor and outdoor play, Peter Rabbit adventure playground, farm animals etc. Ticket details here. St Albans AL4 0PF
Your 2016 reviews…
Maria says “We’ve been to Willow Farm in London Colney for the past two years and it’s brilliant but definitely not cheap ! It’s all inclusive so once you’re in nothing more to pay and they have the standard feeding/ petting animals, brilliant indoor play area, peter rabbit playground, peter rabbit shows / meet and greets, create a Christmas cuddly toy, arts and crafts area, walk through Xmas wonderland and then get to see santa in his own room, with fireplace/ tree etc. Decent amount of time with santa who gives you a key to his toy shop where you chose a toy. Photos were extra at about £10.”
Michaela says “We also have been to willows for the past two years. Agree it isn’t cheap but we always have great fun. Didn’t feel rushed when we met santa, even though my little one was under 2 and cried when meeting him. They tried to be really accommodating but itdidn’t work. She enjoyed choosing a present afterwards though. Lots of extras included in the price, like build a bear, little rides, a synthetic ice rink etc.”
Shopping places and others
18th November – 24th December. £8.99 per child, £4.99 per adult. Under 1s go free.
40 minute experience including writing and posting a letter to Santa with the help of elves, visit Santa’s toy shop, collect reindeer food, story with Santa, and walk through the snow to make a wish in the wishing well. Booking details on on their website. Barton Le Clay, Bedfordshire, MK45 4RF
Your 2016 reviews…
Simonne says “brill experience real beard and you also see Mrs Claus and write a letter which you post and there is a walk around I felt it was very similar to frosts experience and a lot cheaper”
Rachel says ” I was nervous as our twins were around 18 months, it was brillant and I felt quite cheap compared to others, only downside for really young is no prams but they had a buggy park, also santa had a real beard and came down the chimney”
Weekends from 25 / 26 November until 23rd December. £4 for English Heritage members. Additional visiting charges apply if you’re not a member. (£10.40 adult, £10.20 child, under 5s free)
Meet Father Christmas as he tells tales of Christmas past amidst the yuletide decorations. Lucky visitors will even get a festive treat from the man himself. Price includes small gift. Tickets must be booked in advance by calling them.
Your 2016 reviews…
Katy says “Father Christmas & his helper are brilliant – entertaining for both parents and children. Not rushed at all and groups are limited in size. The children tiptoe in and have to wake Father Christmas from his nap, he then tells a story, gives out gifts, and there’s plenty of time for photos for each family. We thought it was magical!”
2 / 3 Dec and then 9 – 24th December. Prices range from £15 – £20 per child depending on when you go. £2.50 per adult. £7 for the photo.
Interactive Christmas theatre experience and visit to Santa which lasts 60 minutes. Join the elves at Santa’s workshop as they prepare to get the sleigh ready. Visit Santa in his drawing room with his Naughty and Nice book as part of a group of children with parents. Santa will then greet each child individually to give them their gift and have their photo taken. They ask for information in advance about your child to make it a more personalised experience. You can’t take your own photos with Santa but at other times they allow it. NN7 1JW.
I'm Laura, mum of two boys - aged five and three. I started this website at the end of Sept 2015 whilst on maternity leave. I now work four days a week and do this blog late at night once the little boys are sleeping. It's won several awards over the last three years and I continue to run it for free and mostly focus on free, cheap, and good value days out. Do drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to contact me. Don't forget to follow all of our latest adventures on facebook, instagram and twitter and have a look at all of the videos of the places we visit on my new Milton Keynes Kids YouTube Channel - subscribe to it for notifications every time I add a new place. And remember... you may been reading this post months after we visited, do check with the destination you're visiting for up to date opening times and prices. If you find this blog useful then please do comment on my posts and leave me a Facebook review - it makes doing this all the more worthwhile.