This year we’ve been on a bit of a Mission Santa now that Travis is a bit older and has more of an understanding of the festive season. We’ve been trying to open up to as many festive experiences as possible, preferably meeting Santa if possible.
Last year we had a bit of a hurdle to overcome as Travis absolutely hated Santa and was scared of anyone with a white beard wearing red! This year we’ve worked a bit on turning that around, and one of our first Christmas experiences was at The Falkirk Wheel.
We visited on the first weekend of their Wheely Festive Boat Trips (Saturday 14th) which run until Monday 23rd December. The idea is that the normal Falkirk Wheel boat trips have a Chirtmassy twist. The boat essentially goes on the same journey up through the wheel as with the original trips, but there’s a whole lot of festive fun on board – think elves leading the way, singing Christmas songs, festive decorations. Then, as if by magic, a grotto appears at the end of the tunnel, ready for a special visitor to board.
Santa joins the girls and boys for some songs and gives out presents according to age, with the option to have a photo with Santa too. That pretty much takes up the second half of the boat trip as you make your way back down the wheel and back to land. However there are loads of great festive elements within The Falkirk Wheel’s visitor centre which add to the overall experience and make it a great day.
Firstly, (and quite importantly!) parents are met with a voucher for (unfortunately, non-alcoholic) mulled wine and shortbread available in the cafe area. Within this area there are other activities for kids, including cupcake decorating, colouring in and the chance to write and post a letter to Santa. There’s also the chance for kids to have their face painted, and a snowman hunt which rewards a prize for finding all the images of snowmen hidden around the centre. Best of all, these activities are all free to take part in, meaning you can enjoy a cup of coffee while they colour in Rudolf or release their inner Mary Berry.
If you make a day of it, the cafe has plenty of food options catering to most requirements. Plus at this time of year there’s a festive menu, which included a foot long (!) pigs in blankets baguette when we were there. Need less to say I had to try it, and was exactly as amazing as it sounds! There’s plenty for little ones to pick from too, and a lunchbox option which gives the choice of a sandwich, juice plus three snacks (think fruit, yoghurts, crisps and chocolate) for around £4.
It’s worth noting the Wheely Festive boat trip takes an hour, which might be a struggle for some toddlers. We had a few whines from Travis, but managed to keep him appeased with some juice and crisps on the trip. Usually there are great views to distract toddlers with lots of things to point out the window at too, but we went on one of the single wettest days of the month – hard to avoid in Scotland in December, but it didn’t really impede our trip.
Tickets are £13.95, or £2 for under 1s (to cover the cost of the gift) and are available to book online. Tickets include the boat trip, chance to meet Santa and a gift. The pictures with Santa are extra, but make a great souvenir, plus digital copies mean you can print some as pressies for grandparents etc.
Overall I’d say this makes for a great day out with toddlers – the experience offers enough to do for a whole afternoon. The boat trip may be a little long for younger toddlers, but the other activities balance that out. Well worth a spin I’d say!