As we head full throttle into the festive season, Santa Claus is getting ready for his busiest time of year.
And as you can imagine, there are lots of opportunities for families with children across Manchester to catch up with the big man in the weeks ahead in a variety of different grotto settings.
Here we round up some of the best and quirkiest grottos where you can meet Santa, from a LEGO grotto to a Father Christmas river cruise.
Many offer the chance for children to deliver their festive wishes, get a hand-wrapped pressie from Santa himself and a photo or two with the man himself, his elves and maybe even a reindeer in the run-up to Christmas Day.
Father Christmas’s winter kingdom may have a new home up on the fifth floor in Kendals on Deansgate this year after a store reshuffle, but it will be as magical as ever throughout November and December.
Colouring and biscuits (courtesy of McVities) will be provided to children as they wait to enter the magical winter kingdom before catching up with Santa himself in his grotto.
There’s also the chance for an extra special treat with an audience with Santa at his own breakfasts held in store on selected dates at plush Italian San Carlo Cicchetti on Sundays throughout December.
Price: £15 for children, adults free. No booking required for the grotto, just turn up.
Booking is required for breakfast with Santa (£25) which includes a grotto visit and breakfast – call the store on 0161 832 3414 for details.
Dates: From 23rd November to December 24th from Wednesday to Saturday 10am to 6pm, and on Sundays 11am to 5pm.
Breakfast with Santa starts on Sunday 1st December and then every Sunday until December 22nd.
Start your journey in the snow-covered garden of Santa’s Scandinavian log cabin by casting your wishes into the wishing well, and hang out and have fun with the Lapland Elves while waiting to see the main man.
Santa’s Grotto will once again be located on the Arndale Upper Mall near Argos, and will be open for visits from Thursday, November 21st until Monday, December 24th.
Price: £5.50 plus booking fee which includes a gift.
Dates: From 21st November until 24th December – you can book morning, afternoon or evening sessions, depending on the date.
intu Trafford Centre
The Peter Rabbit winter wonderland grotto returns to the intu Trafford Centre with new characters and surprises after its successful debut there last year.
Families will be taken on an enchanting journey in search of Father Christmas, meeting Peter Rabbit and his friends along the way.
Little ones can decorate their own Christmas biscuit with Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, spot Squirrel Nutkin’s secret stash of golden acorns, and should keep their eyes peeled for that cunning Mr Tod and his twinkly lair.
Then they’ll visit Father Christmas, where they’ll receive a special gift to take home.
Price: Adult tickets are priced £5.50 and child prices are £8.50. Booking is recommended to avoid disappointment.
Dates: From 14th November until 24th December.
The Ice Village
There will be plenty of photo opportunities, and each child will get a small gift hand-picked by Santa.
Price: Tickets are priced at off peak £7 (plus £1 booking fee) and peak £8.50 (plus booking fee) and each child ticket includes one accompanying adult free.
Dates: From November 20th to December 24th – it’s not open Mondays or Tuesdays except for December 23rd and 24th.
Santa River Cruise
If you’re looking for something a bit different, how about heading on a Santa cruise around Salford Quays?
Santa will swap his sleigh for the Princess Katherine for a special hour-long Manchester River Cruise along the Manchester Ship Canal on selected dates in November and December.
There’s mulled wine and mince pies for adults, and cookie and juice for the kids. And each child will get the chance to visit Santa in his grotto, with a goody bag for those aged 2-10 years old.
Price: £11 per person.
Dates: November 23rd and 24th and December 1st, 7th, 15th, 18th, 19th and 20th.
Christmas at Cockfields Farm
It’s a full on festive experience at Cockfields Farm park in Ashton once again this year – where children collect their North Pole passport and head on a range of activities across the site including a visit to the Elf School, decorating gingerbread men in Mrs Claus’ kitchen and, of course, meeting the big red-suited man himself in his grotto.
There’s also a visit to the Elf Workshop to make a teddy bear and a stop-off at Santa’s stables to meet the real reindeer and perhaps even pet a guinea pig.
For those with younger children, there’s a also a special Christmas Toddler experience, tailored for the under-5s.
Price: Advance bookings only. The Christmas Experience has different prices depending on the date, starting at £24.95 for children and £12.95 for adults and £4.95 for under ones. The Christmas Toddler Experience is £18.95 for one adult and one child.
Dates: The Christmas Experience is selling fast – with current availability left on November 30th, December 1st, 7th and 8th. The Christmas Toddler Experience has availability on December 12th, 13th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th.
For any of you with LEGO-loving children, there’s an entire Christmas Bricktacular going down at the Legoland Discovery Centre at the intu Trafford Centre.
As well as visiting the LEGO winter wonderland, on selected dates in November and December children will have the chance to meet LEGO Santa in his own Grotto at the Barton Square attraction.
Children get to write a letter to Santa and receive a special reply in the post before heading into the brick-built grotto to meet the big man, have a photo and get a LEGO gift.
Price: Visits to Santa are included in entry price to Legoland at Barton Square. Prices are from £14.41 for children and £17.81 for adults when booking online, and advanced booking is strongly advised with multiple savings offered online.
Dates: Christmas Bricktacular runs from November 23rd to January 6th, 2020 – but the LEGO grotto itself is only open on weekends during November and December, plus 23rd and 24th December.
This is the place where you can be guaranteed there will be festive snow for your Santa visit. For the under-3s you can visit Santa in Mini Moose Land, or head into the main Snow Park for added snowy fun for older children.
Everyone attending this one will need a ticket for entry, so be sure to factor that into your budget.
Price: From £9.50 per ticket for Santa and Mini Moose Land off peak, rising to £12.50 peak; and £25 per person for Santa and Snow Park, increasing to £28.50 at peak times.
Dates: From 16th November to 24th December.
Not a grotto per se, but it’s a magical experience for children as Santa will host a series of special Story Time events at Selfridges in the intu Trafford Centre.
Storytime with Santa will last approx 1 hour and will include craft activities, story telling and a meet and greet with Santa himself.
Children will also receive a copy of the book The Night Before Christmas and a tasty treat to take away.
Price: £10 per child (recommended age 5-10), adults go free.
Dates: Sundays from December 8th, 15th and 23rd all at 4pm.