When we arrived in Peterborough, we didn't really know too much about what was around, so when it came to our girl's first Christmas we had to rely on recommendations from those who were local of things to do. The overwhelming response to where we should take her to see Father Christmas was Baytree Garden Center, and ever since that is where we have gone!
This year, we actually went twice! We had very different experiences at each one, but they were both mostly positive; and so I decided that this amazing place was worth a write up.
The first time we went this year was on a Sunday in November. We had organised a joint trip with some friends of ours for December, but we decided that we would go a little earlier to ensure that R didn't miss out on the experience. This was, of course, because we knew Little L was due - and we had no idea I would have her, as we have had plenty of moments where we thought she was coming!
One of the best things about Baytree is that Christmas doesn't just appear within the Winter Wonderland - they have an amazing set up from the decorations room to the Christmas lights to the garden items that fill the area just outside the cafe.
Heading in to the Winter Wonderland
From the moment we arrived - as you can see by her face in the photo below - R was enamored by everything that she saw. My best friend - who attended the Winter Wonderland and Santa's Grotto with us in November - absolutely loves snowmen. Hence the photo that had to be taken in front of the giant snowman in the outdoor area just before heading into the Winter Wonderland.
Depending on when you decide to go, you may discover that this Winter Wonderland is not only amazing but also SUPER popular! Our first trip this year was on a Sunday, and even though we went early to avoid the crowds, we still ended up in a queue that was over an hour long!
On the bright side there is little bits along the way such as magic mirrors and a little cart selling hot drinks, sweets and a few other snacks (at low prices too!).
Inside the Winter Wonderland
Once you arrive at the wonderland itself, it is awesome. Your first stop is the train ride. Every year they have something different set up beneath Santa's sleigh being pulled by reindeer across the ceiling. This year we saw polar bears and a Santa band as we rode the train around the center. It's only a loop but for children who are young, it doesn't matter... it's awesome anyway!
Once inside there is so many different things to see and do.
There are plenty of parts that children can be involved with too, with the buttons that can be pressed to animate the characters that they have around the route that you follow as you head to Santa's Grotto.
R absolutely loved being able to reach all the buttons, as this year she was able to do it all herself. She enjoyed watching the animated characters too - and even had a go at singing along with the reindeer that were along one of the walls!
At every stage, she had a massive smile on her face. There was so much to see, so many different aspects of the winter wonderland from the characters, to the lights, to the parts you can interact with. She loved all of it, and being able to see the joy that she found in each part of the route around the entire set was amazing.
Seeing Father Christmas in his Grotto
On our first trip with my friend, R unfortunately got a little upset and decided she didn't want to see Santa! I think that she had been so over stimulated during the entire trip - from the long time that we spent in the queue to the sights and scenes in the winter wonderland that she had just had enough.
On our second visit, R was so much calmer and happier; and we got a lovely photo of all of us with Santa! I am so glad that we managed to get one in the end - as it would have been a massive shame for us to not have one after having one for the last couple of years!
After the Winter Wonderland
Every year there is a little hut selling mulled wine and other Christmas drinks and snacks, set up right next to a stand where you can put your head through and become an elf.
There is also an activity of some description - there has been a carousel in the past but this year there was tea cups. It was R's first experience of them, and she loved it! When we went for our second visit, she dragged our friend's son and his girlfriend on them because she enjoyed it so much the first time!
She spent the whole time shouting, "faster, faster!" as the guy running the ride span the cups manually to increase the speed of their spin. It was most amusing.
Visiting the Real Reindeer
The real reindeer that are set up in pens in another part of Baytree Garden Center are definitely worth a visit!
This year, they had carrots which you could feed them with - they were not hungry on our first trip but the late night trip that we made in December they were... and they gobbled them up pretty quickly!
R absolutely loved them, and was super excited to be able to see them. She made sure to tell Santa that was where we were going before we left his grotto on our second visit this year too - which was so cute. Santa was great, and made a point of replying to her and talking to her about them as well, which made the experience so special.
I has such a lovely time with my little family and our friends on both the trips that we have made in previous years, and the two that we made this year. As it has now become a bit of a tradition for us to attend, I know that we will be going again (as long as they continue to open it!)
I can't wait until next year, when we will be able to go once more - and this time we will be taking both of our girls to see Father Christmas!