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Santa's Grotty? (not at all)
Member Name: colin.lawson
Date: 09/10/04, updated on 13/10/04 (288 review reads)
Advantages: Very well produced, The best I have visited, FREE!!!
Disadvantages: Can be some long queues
Santa’s Grotto in the Metrocentre
The weather is turning colder, the nights are getting longer and that time of year is fast approaching. It’s almost time to think about all things Christmas. Things like the baby Jesus, Turkey, gifts, twinkling lights, snowmen and of course Santa, bless his red, fur-lined cotton socks.
One tradition that many families follow each year is taking their little ones to see good old Santa in his grotto at some place in their area. This usually involves paying an admission charge so that the wee ones can whisper what they want in Santa’s ear then they are given a few quick “Ho-ho-ho” type sounds, handed a ‘gift’ and whisked away before the next child is dragged in like some kind of yuletide kiddie sheep-dip.
All of this changed last year (Christmas 2003) when we took our children to see Santa at the Metrocentre.
Here, by the main entrance on the ground floor of the Yellow mall, Santa is in his own snow-filled wonderland surrounded by mechanical (and real live) elves and helpers. There is Xmas music playing at a nice subdued level with plenty to see while you wait to see the man himself. Be warned, there can be some long queues to see old Saint Nick at times but we went on a week day and the queue wasn’t all that bad, only about five or ten minutes.
The good thing about this grotto is that while you wait there is plenty for you to look at and enjoy. The Grotto takes up quite a lot of space and is not at all CLAUStrophobic (see what I did there?) . It is covered in snow, candy canes, reindeer, elves, snowmen, giant lollipops etc. etc. -This is no low budget affair and the wait soon passes, even the youngest children rarely get bored.
Once you get to a little wooden bridge you know you are close to the magical moment. A young elf then comes and collects you and takes you to see Santa in his Victorian style wooden grotto. He is seated on a large wooden and red velvet throne, all very classy. This has to be the real Santa because he looks like him in an immaculate traditional suit that positively emanates light.
He looks like Chris Cringle should, he sounds like him and by George he even smells like the real deal – no stale cigarettes or Jack Daniels aromas here. I swear I could smell sweet mince pies and cinnamon in the air as we stood by him, I was tempted to get on his knee and ask for a train set myself but the wife would have killed me and I weigh in at 18 stone so Santa may not have been fit for his work on Christmas Eve.
Santa talks to the children in a jolly old voice that is like a doting grandfather, not at all scary and takes his time with each kiddie. He doesn’t rush the child and does not get flustered if the child is shy or bawls their little eyes out.
Once the child is good and ready Santa waves him or her off with a wave of his pristine white-gloved hand (you can take a photograph too if you want) and an elf hands you the gift for you little one in a wee Metrocentre bag. It is all a very nice experience and you don’t go away disappointed.
You may have noticed I have not mentioned the charge for this visit. That is because there was not one – it was FREE! Yes it cost absolutely nothing because various stores within the Metrocentre sponsor the grotto. This makes this meeting with Santa excellent compared to any other I have had over the years, some of which cost up to £5 and were not as good.
Surely the gift could not be up to much when we paid nothing. Well it was pretty good by most standards. The small goodie bag contained some vouchers for various stores in the Metrocentre, A Metrocentre musical CD from the Metrognomes, the Metrocentre’s own children’s entertainers who sing songs suited to teeny-boppers and finally a large Gingerbread man from Greggs (one of the sponsors). So I think that was pretty darn good for no fee.
The important thing is that the kids loved it and that alone would have been worth an admission fee, they went away thrilled to have met the real Santa. The children had the Gingerbread man to eat during the rest of our trip, we got some vouchers and they had a musical CD to play when they got home. Plus of course they have a picture of them with Santa to treasure, or wince at when they grow up, bring their first girlfriend home and we get the photo albums out.
As a parent I was happy because it made the kids’ day, it cost nothing other than a little time and it was a genuinely positive moment that the kids will remember for years. Can you say that about most other grottos?
After this experience I would recommend this grotto to anyone.
We live in Scotland but would be willing to drive the 140 miles to Gateshead again if the Grotto is as good as last year. I telephoned the Metrocentre today to enquire if the grotto would be the same format this year. The girl who answered the phone confirmed there would be a grotto but details weren’t available just yet. She suggested calling back at the start of November for more information.
The Metrocentre Information Line is on: