Last year we visited Lapland UK and it was, undoubtedly, the best day we have ever shared together as a family. Even now, twelve months later, the children still talk about the elves they met, the gingerbread they made, the ice skating, the reindeers and meeting Father Christmas. Every now and then, when I tuck them up into bed and read them their Lapland story book, they tell me in sleepy murmurs, still clutching their husky dogs tightly, how Lapland UK was the best day of their whole lives.
And so when we were offered the chance to return to Lapland UK this year my main concern was, could it ever be as good as our first visit?
Because I’ll be honest with you, I just didn’t see how a return visit could ever be as truly magical as that first time. I didn’t imagine that the look on my children’s faces would ever be quite as mesmerising, the ice skating quite as exhilerating, those snowy paths quite as enchanting. I found it impossible to believe that we could ever recreate a day as perfect as that first one.
So what if I told you, without a word of a lie, that our return to Lapland UK was even better than the first?
It began weeks earlier with the receipt of their invitations, the way in which they had squealed with delight as I read them aloud, how they had declared incredulously, “Father Christmas chose us again!”. Every day they would ask me, “How many days now?”, their excited chatter filled with talks of their favourite moments, of Pixie Mixie, Conker, Whittle and Bauble, their lengthy discussions over which sweets they would choose from the village sweet shop, whether they would be so lucky as to get a second gift from Santa this year.
This year we decided to make a weekend of it, spending two whole days down in Ascot in order to milk every magical moment from the weekend. As we travelled down to the Hilton at Bracknell, just ten minutes away from Lapland UK, it was lovely to know that we could take our time the following day without rushing back and cutting short our fun.
The short drive to Lapland UK was met with excited anticipation, “I remember this!” Eva said, “This is the right way!” Megan told us. “My want to see Rudolph!” Harry declared, his nose pressed up against the window, his little face flushed with excitement. As we parked up at the Enchanted Forest the children hopped from one foot to the next, “Come on it’s this way!” they told us impatiently, running ahead with a familiar confidence, chattering between themselves about all of the wonders which lay ahead.
The entrance was just as beautiful as we had remembered it to be and, although it was bustling, we were promptly checked in, given two pin badges as a thank you for returning this year, and we took our place ready for the start of our tour. Each tour is split into two teams, the Huskies and the Reindeers, and this year we were the Huskies – much to the children’s excitement.
And then the moment we had been waiting for, the doors swung open to reveal the snowy paths ahead, and where as last year the children had felt a little overwhelmed, clinging to my legs as we inched through the door, this year they were off like a shot, charging through with whoops of excitement shouting, “Come on Mummy!! The elves are this way!!”.
In just the same way as last year, we found ourselves in a fairy lit woodland glen where we were met by two elves. And as they told us the story of Lapland, about the elves, Father Christmas, and what lay in store, the children sat there with eyes as wide as saucers, completely silent for the first time in months, just drinking it all in.
And never once did they complain, “Oh we did this last year!”, or lose interest having experienced it all before. Never once did they fail to “Oooh!” or “Aaah” with every surprise and every twist and turn. Their excitement was simply heightened by the memories of the previous year, sometimes knowing exactly what was to come, sometimes being taken completely by surprise!
At our next stop, the toy factory, the children were delighted to see some of their favourite elves again, throwing their heads back and laughing at every joke, drinking in every carefully thought out detail from the rotating toys above our heads, to the new addition of magical glasses which allowed them to see a room filled with rainbows.
This year the children were asked to help the elves make polar bears and where as last year Lewis and I needed to help the children do this, this year they got stuck right in, doing it all by themselves, looking so utterly proud as they carried their baskets to the front and sent them off to Father Christmas.
I got quite emotional at seeing how far they’d come in just twelve short months, how much more capable they are, how independent they have become. In a year that seems to have flown in the blink of an eye, I realised just how much had changed
Seeing Eva chatting away to the elves was such a lovely moment, even more so given the difficult year she’s had, and when they were all rewarded with another stamp in their elf passports I felt incredibly proud of them all.
Our next stop was Mother Christmas’s kitchen where we were greeted by Mother Christmas and her team of helpers.
“This is where we make gingerbread men Harry!” Megan whispered, and then stopped in her tracks as she discovered that this year it was gingerbread Christmas trees! I love that they make these little changes each year, keeping the same successful format but adding in small differences to keep the children on their toes!
One thing which was exactly the same, and just as special as I remembered, was the walk up to the elf village, wandering down the snowy paths with the fairy lights and music in the distance. Despite knowing what ahead, the excitement was no less and, as we entered the village, I felt that overwhelming rush of emotion knowing that it was everything we had remembered it to be and more.
I’m not sure it’s even possible to describe the atmosphere in the Elf Village, nor sum it up in just a handful of photos. It’s as though you can literally smell Christmas in the air, as though every detail, every sparkle, every snowflake, every emotion that you feel on Christmas morning is right there all in one place. And that’s a feeling none of us will ever forget.
And that’s what it’s all about for us, making those moments we’ll never forget. The look of determination on the children’s faces as they wobbled around the ice rink, the sound of their laughter, and their cries, when they took a tumble, the feel of their cold little hands enveloped in mine.
The concentration as they wrote their letters to Father Christmas at the Post Office, carefully listing every last toy they had asked for, posting it through the letter box with their eyes closed and their fingers crossed.
Their excited cries as they saw the husky dogs, the way one nuzzled against Megan’s leg and she had looked at me, her eyes sparkling with delight, “Mummy! This one loves me!”.
The smell of hotdogs and mulled wine, the juggling elves, the stilt walkers, the jingle of bells and the twinkling lights.
The moments when I looked at Lewis, who at thirteen has long been a non-believer, and saw a sparkle in his eyes which reminded me of a time when we shared so many magical moments of our own.
The pride I felt at seeing the girls chatting away to Pixie Mixie, to see Megan hop up for a cuddle, to see Eva over come her crippling shyness for the first time in months.
The feel of the children’s arms around my neck as they told me, over and over, that this was their best day ever. The sad look on Harry’s face when he whispered, “My will miss Lapland.”
Those are the moments which are just ours, just for the six of us, the moments that we will look back on, year after year, and feel all of those emotions long after the children have grown.
Our final part of the day was the children’s favourite, going to see Father Christmas himself! And the thing I love most about Lapland is that, unlike other grotto experiences we’ve had, the children can really enjoy that moment. It’s no secret that Eva, Megan and Harry are the type of children who need time to “warm up”, the type of children who spend the entire time clinging to my leg, only to have the best five minutes of their life just as it’s time to go home.
And that’s the thing with Lapland, that with four hours to experience it, even the most timid of children will be running ahead down those snowy pathways, slipping their hand into that of an elf, and telling Father Christmas every item on their list with a confidence that melts your heart.
When our day at Lapland UK was over, instead of piling into the car and going home as we did last year, we went back to the hotel, enjoyed a delicious meal, and chatted non-stop about our favourite parts of the day. And as we went up to bed, the children worn out from such an exciting day, it was lovely for Gaz, Lewis and I to just relax, to forget the thought of a long drive home the following day, and to allow ourselves to stay oblivious in our cocoon of magic for a little while longer.
When we woke the following morning to see the snow, the children could not have been more excited. “He sent it!” Megan screeched, the three of them pressed up to the window, their eyes wide with amazement, “Father Christmas sent us the snow!”. And as they danced around the hotel room in their pyjamas, their eyes sparkling, the memory of those magical little faces still so fresh, I knew that the magic of Lapland would just keep growing and growing.
And no matter how old we get, we always will.
We made a video of our day at Lapland UK, our first ever vlog, we hope you like it!