The Magical Journey

When we were invited along to the opening weekend of The Magical Journey, given it’s tagline of  ‘your ultimate Christmas experience’, how could we refuse? I’d been keen to take the children as I’d seen a fair bit of press and hype about it, especially as it’s situated just 10 minutes away from where we live, so it’s kind of a big deal around here lately.

So we went along yesterday evening, on opening day. The children were looking forward to seeing Santa, and I was intrigued to see what all the hype was about. On arrival, we were checked in straight away, which was nice as I’d expected a queue! We then roamed around the room which held the market and cafe whilst we waited to be called for our time slot. We were called promptly and the experience then began.

We were then led through a few rooms, always by elves, where the story begins. In the first room, it was Santa’s museum, then we met Mrs Christmas as she told a few corny jokes, had a little fun baking and engaged the kids well, before getting the call that Rudi the baby reindeer has escaped. And so started our mission and the point of the journey, to find Rudi.

the magical journey

We were then led to a room with an X-Factor-style elf, who then moved us onwards and outside to the woodland. After the train journey (not really a train, but fun all the same), which Little Man absolutely adored and he wanted to just get back on that from then onwards!, we entered the forest. It was all lit up, in an array of colours, which looked beautiful and magical at night. There were elves dotted about chatting to us, getting us chanting, dancing and checking out the magic key tree…

boo and the magic key

It was then Santa time. The highlight was the visit with Santa. All Santa huts (and I’m guessing there were several!) were well hidden as you’re led down tree-lined pathways so children wouldn’t realise there might be lots of Santas around! We were led down a short, snow covered pathway to a cute little wooden hut, and on entering, it was decked out just as you’d imagine Santa’s snuggly home would be. Our Santa was lovely and chatted to Boo, trying to draw a shy Little Man into the conversation, too. The gifts were not quite what I’d have expected for an experience such as this, with Boo receiving a princess colouring set and Little Man a small foam rugby ball, but the children were happy enough.

meeting santa

After our magical meet, we were led back out to the reindeer glade…

the Christmas Reindeer Glade

This is where there needed to be a bit more, I felt. The whole journey had been about trying to find the escaped Rudi, yet we came out of Santa’s house, and came upon this glade and that was kind of it! No-one spoke to us, even just to say ‘hooray, here’s Rudi’ and tie the whole thing up a bit.

The Good Points:
– Very slick booking and you can select slots throughout the day. Prior to your booking, you also receive an email with tips and suggestions for making the most of your visit.
– Easy free parking right outside, and marshals signalling where to go, also easy to get back out, and I’d kind of expected it to be mayhem!
– On arrival, check-in was smooth and fast, and we didn’t have to queue.
– It’s original. I’ve not been on a ‘story’ visit before to see Santa, and it does take you nicely through each stage.
– There’s very little waiting and queueing. Having queued many a year to see Santa, this was refreshing! Yes, I realise that you are essentially queueing the whole way round, as you move from room to room, then walk through the woods with the elves stalling parties with little chats, but it doesn’t feel like one big wait, it feels like you’re doing things, and Boo was thoroughly entertained and even my 2 year old was content enough for the hour that it lasted.
– The Santa huts and Santa meet were lovely. We felt like we had as much time as we wanted to spend with him, just us and a friendly elf in a secret little hideaway.

Tips for Improvement:
– The elves could do with microphones or they need to project their voices a lot more.
– Perhaps some Christmassy music somewhere along the way?
– The two big tents that you’re led into, the first straight after the train ride and the other just prior to the Santa meet could be dressed up and decorated.
– The gifts may need a re-think
– The site itself stills shows signs of being built – pallets around the place and so on. Not too bad in the dark, but I’d imagine it’s quite unsightly in the day.
– End it properly! Make sure we feel that Rudi has been found! Both Boo and I were a bit confused about this bit!

My kids left happy, as they went with no real expectations, other than to meet Santa, which they did, and as I say, I thought that was a really lovely Santa meet, and it’s the nicest one we’ve experienced yet. So from that point of view, I’m happy. I loved seeing them meet him and I enjoyed their giggles on the ‘train ride’ and their gasps when we entered the beautifully lit up woods. From our point of view, having travelled just under ten minutes to get there and having been invited, it was a lovely night. But, I think there are improvements that need to be made to ensure that everyone leaves feeling happy, given the price of the experience. I am aware that there’s been a lot of first day criticisms levelled at the event, which I can understand. I’m also aware that they’re responding as quickly as they can and have closed the event for a few days to react to first day feedback, so I’d imagine future visits will be ‘magical’.

Disclosure: We received entry FOC for the purposes of this review, but all words and opinions remain my own.

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27 thoughts on “The Magical Journey”

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    I read the Facebook comments with an open mouth yesterday – so much criticism but none really constructive. I see that they have closed it today for a couple pf days which is really commendable that they have actually listened to customers. I think that Facebook was rather unfair yesterday as people were jumping on the bandwagon screaming merry hell when I actually never saw any photo/video evidence yet people were demanding refunds when they hadn’t even been
    It will be very interesting to see how it plays out. It’s a shame it’s received such heavy critism but I’m glad you all had a nice day. Let’s hope everyone else does too xx

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      We did enjoy it and the kids loved it. I can see why people were upset, but it did really escalate on Facebook. I’m sure they’re doing all they can to improve it now and it was only the first day

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        I notice you blog ended “We received entry FOC”. If two adults took two kids on a weekend and both had their picture take, the total would be £95.

        That, to me, is an extraordinary amount of money for what you go, and I’m just wondering it you’d have REALLY felt the same way had you paid just under £100 to go to some woodland near an airport in exchange for a poundland softball and a picture a bloke in a cheap polyester beard?

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          As I said there, I’m well aware that we just popped down the road for a free event, which is why to us it was fine. But yes, they absolutely need to make improvements, which is why I’ve pointed that out and I think they’ve made the right decision to close for a few days. But I do ‘really’ believe that the Santa meet was lovely, gift aside, as I mentioned.

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            OK, fair enough. PS – I just re-read my post and saw a horrendous litany of typos (you=your, take=taken, go=got) so I’m in no position to criticise anything done in a rush and not checked before being presented 😉

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      Yes, and I think with closing it for a few days and having listened to the feedback, they’re doing all they can to get it back on track.

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    I missed all the hoo ha on Facebook, but sounds like they’re improving things (if a bit late). Such a shame when things aren’t as amazing as expectations…going on last year’s disaster of Winter Wonderland at Milton Keynes, which closed after the first disastrous weekend (luckily prior to us going), I’m always bit more wary now to hear what others thing. But things do escalate quickly on social media and not always fairly.

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      It blew up very quickly yesterday, which I can understand as improvements do need to be made. But, there were also lots of things that they got right, in my opinion, which is why I was keen to share our experiences. I’m sure it’ll be much-improved when it reopens.

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    I read an article on the BBC news website about this being closed for improvements so it sounds like they are listening to the feedback they’ve received and hopefully it will be much better when it re-opens. I think your review is very balanced – yes there are things that were not good and you have provided that feedback in a very constructive way. Glad Boo and Little Man enjoyed it even if it wasn’t quite as good as it could have been.

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      Yes, my two were happy enough. They’re right to close it, but they did also get a lot right, so I wanted to share that, too.

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    What an interesting experience! I hadn’t heard about this attraction but I have certainly read a lot about it this weekend. Some great points there and it sounds as though they are going to improve things which is good

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      Yes, they’ve reacted quickly and are working to put it right. They do need to improve it, but there was good things, too. The Santa meet was lovely.

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      It is a lot of money, so I am hoping they’re working hard with all the feedback they’ve had & you’ll get to go to something magical xx

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    I suppose that’s what we have to remember, what the parents are seeing isn’t necessarily what the kids are seeing, seen through the eyes of innocent children, the experience was probably a lot better for them but obviously there is much improvement needed for the price we’re expected to pay for this type of thing. Lovely honest review x

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    Read your post on Sunday morning but haven’t had a chance to actually comment. It’s positive that they are making changes. We’d have been disappointed with an hours journey to get a plastic ball. But not quite as disappointed if we’d booked for the Sunday as planned and then not been able to go. What frustrates me with these themed events is the lack of foresight, does no one given these events constructive feedback before they open to the fee paying public. I just don’t understand it. I hope the improvements are wonderful because it did sound like a magical experience, which is exactly what parents expect when taking their children to these types of events. I’m glad the kids enjoyed themselves, even if you thought it needed improvement x

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      They were quite happy, but then they had no real expectations. It’s a shame as they did get some things right, but it all gets lost and overshadowed by all of the areas that they needed to improve. Here’s hoping they’ve reacted and sorted it.

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    Going to see Santa can be a bit of a lottery, you never quite know what it’s going to be like when you’re there and lord knows we’ve seen some bad ones. But when it’s coupled with a high price tag that’s when it seems rather unfair to the parents. But there do seem to be some good points here – real reindeer, the lack of queuing in a traditional way – and the fact they have taken on board consumer’s comments is also very positive. I think your post is very factual and gives a very clear picture for people to make up their own minds.

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