Christmas is coming and Santa is in town. Choose from Hamley’s instore meet and greets in the Trafford Centre, Santa’s snow grotto at the Chill Factore, wave to him from a giant slide in Bolton or check out the Arndale’s famous grotto. Here’s our pick of this year’s crop:-

1. Santa’s Snow Kingdom at the Chill Factore
Santa’s Grotto at the Chill Factore offers a chance to gamble about in real life snow as well as meeting the big man himself. Guests make their way down a festie path, past Christmas trees and twinkling lights into the country’s only grotto with real snow guaranteed. Of course, a gift is part of the package, as is playtime in a festive playground with lights, giant mooses called Mini Moose Land. Guests can add on a session in the Chill Factore’s permanent family Snow Park for around £25 per person.
Until Sat 24 Dec, Chill Factore, Trafford Quays Leisure Village, Trafford Way, Stretford, Manchester M41 7JA. Tel: 0161 749 2222 from £17 for one adult and one child, times vary,

2. Meet Father Christmas at Hamley’s in the Trafford Centre
As every parent of young children knows, kids love the giant talking Christmas tree just outside the entrance to John Lewis in the Trafford Centre – and there’s even more for kids to enjoy this year, as Father Christmas has set up shop in Hamley’s toy shop. Each 60 minute session includes Christmas activities and stories in a specially themed area, festive snacks, goodie bags, and the chance to meet the famous Mr Claus and take away a gift and a selfie. Suitable for ages 2-8.
Sat 26 Nov – Sat 24 Dec, Hamley’s, Trafford Centre, intu Trafford Centre, 19-23 Peel Avenue, Stretford, Manchester M17 8AA, Tel: 0371 704 1977, times vary, £25 per child,

3. Bolton Winter Festival Santas Grotto & giant slide
Santa’s Grotto is part of Bolton Winter Festival this year, and a meet and greet with the big man – plus a gift – costs just £2 per child. While you are at it, why not have a go on the Winter Festival’s Giant Slide? The 55 metre giant snow slide returns after its debut last year. It looks terrifying and it’s open Sat 10 Dec – Sun 8 Jan. Book tickets here.
Santas Grotto: Sat 10 – Sat 24 Dec, Winter Festival, Victoria Square, Bolton BL1 1SA. Tel: 0843 208 1854 £2 per child (including a gift),

4. East Lancs Railway Santa Specials
This famous Meet Santa experience is already nearly sold out. It’s worth trying to grab one of the last places though. There’s a wonderful grotto that you walk through on the way to the old fashioned steam train. Kids get age-specific badges so Santa knows which gift to choose for each child. Carol singing takes place on the train with the onboard musicians plus there are mince pies and snacks for all – and sherry for adults.  Entry to Bury Transport Museum is free with your Santa Special ticket.
Until Sat 24 Dec, East Lancashire Railway, Bolton Street, Bury BL9 0EY
Tel: 0161 764 7790, times and prices vary,

5. Santa’s Christmas Tree Star Grotto in Manchester Arndale
Why not combine a visit to Santa with a shopping trip? Santa has his own grotto which is also shaped like a Christmas tree. The queues are often big for this particular incarnation of Santa so fans are advised to book tickets in advance.
Until Sat 24 Dec, Halle Square (next to Build A Bear workshop), Manchester Arndale, Market Street, Manchester M4 3AQ, times and prices vary,

Tue 29 Nov - Sun 8 Jan
Ruth Allan
Published on:
Tue 20 Dec 2016