Alton Garden Centre in Essex has a new grotto this year. It charges £8-£10 per child depending on the date. Adults (up to four per group) are free.
Director Andy Bunker sources Christmas tree seedlings as gifts for each child: “We have been doing it for years and in some cases we have third generation coming in, telling the story that their little grotto tree is bigger than their house now. Some have trees they have had for several years and all are still growing. We charge around £10 subject to the time of season. They get, obviously, to see a very good Santa, a good little present and a tree that will grow.”
"These are actual proper rooted saplings direct from the grower. Needlefresh do us a great deal costing around £1. It’s a great give away or a promotional idea and in this day and age a great ethical idea."
Some other Tillington Group centres run similar schemes. Whitehall Garden Centre also gives a mini Christmas tree to each child as a reminder of their visit.The Father Christmas Grotto Experience includes a festive story read by Father Christmas. Guests also meet his Elves and real reindeer. In addition to this, each child ticket includes a present, which they can personally choose.Price is £14.99 per child and £2.99 per adult.
Elsewhere, prices vary as garden centres improve the grotto offers nationwide, with prices now up to £16.99 a child. Garden centres' Christmas displays are now up and Christmas preview evenings are running this month. Garden Centre Association member Christmas sales were up 6.54% in December 2018.
Otter Nurseries at Ottery St Mary, Devon is charging £16.99 per child with a set time visit lasting between 20 and 40 minutes depending on the size of the group. Adults and accompanying children over 16 are free. Babies 0-12 months are £7.99. The visit includes a singing elves, meeting Santa, a Magical Kingdom, a train ride, a present from Santa, a packet of secret cookie mix (worth 2.99), reindeer food, and a Christmas activity book (worth £7.99). Presents available to choose are cuddly dog, target shot, slime splatter game, set of paints, glow in the dark rocket, hair/nails fashion kit, block tech racing car, decorate your own Christmas decorations, dinosaur model making, pink poodle, make your own jewellery, Leon lion, fairy garden, toy vehicles, earphones, window stickers, CBeebies dough set, festive bib.
Dobbies is offering a grotto experience from 24 November for £11.99 at 57 centres, including four autism-friendly quiet grottoes. Gifts available are Lego, Playmobil, Bigiigs, WOW Toys, Ravensburger, Baker & Taylor and GALT toys.
British Garden Centres' Brigg grotto is £14 (up to two adults free) for 40 minutes and includes elf training, a personalised gift bag, create your own Christmas tree decoration, present, reindeer food making, singing with elves, a chat with Santa and a train ride.
At Frosts, elves will sing and dance. Then in Santa’s toy workshop children become elf apprentices and choose a cuddly toy to create with a birth certificate to take home. Santa has a gift for the whole family and a small gift for each child. Children also make reindeer food. Prices are adult: £4.99. adult £4.99, baby £6.99.
Squire’s grotto is £6 per child, with £1 from every ticket being donated to Squire’s local charities.
Ruxley Manor is £14 for 45 minutes for 2-15s, £5 for adults and £10 for under twos.
Gates Garden Centre’s grotto is £12.99 with adults free.
Burston Garden Centre is £10 per child and £1 per adult.