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Our Top Picks of where to meet Santa in South Devon this Christmas

Christmas 2022 is fast approaching and Father Christmas is already filling his calendar with appearances across South Devon. As you can imagine he’s a very busy man so he’s squeezing in as many venues as he can. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best places across South Devon where you can enjoy a fun-filled day out and fit in a visit with the big man himself this festive season, and you may even be able to indulge in a mince pie and mulled wine whilst you’re there! Please note that at most of the venues pre-booking is essential so it’s best to check out their website for details before you go.

Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company, Paignton

Have your tickets ready and step aboard the magical Train of Lights where you will travel in a carriage decorated with thousands of lights, inside and out! As you journey on towards Kingswear you will be propelled through the 450 metre Greenway tunnel that leads to an enchanted forest. Santa will present each passenger with a gift accompanied by his special helper to assist him. Once you reach Kingswear station you have the opportunity to disembark and take photos of the twinkling magical lights before heading back to Paignton to experience the spectacle from a different perspective. Be sure to book this popular event quickly, but if you can’t get a ride with Santa, the train runs from the 25th November until the 30th December, so you can still enjoy the ride.

Be sure to checkout our previous blog here for more information on the Train of Lights and other ‘Illumination’ events lighting up Torbay this Christmas.

Woodlands Family Theme Park, Totnes

Woodlands Christmas Grotto is an intimate family experience where you are led through a series of interactive rooms by Santa’s elves. You then get a private audience with the big man himself where each child receives an age-appropriate present, reindeer food and a sweet treat and adults get a non-alcoholic festive drink. Santa will arrive on 26th November and be available for visits every weekend until 18th December, then daily from 19th to 23rd December.

Woodlands is a great family day out and easily accessible from Torbay, you can even combine it with a ferry crossing from Kingswear to Dartmouth and get the chance to see the enchanting Train of Lights making its way to the station.

Paignton Zoo, Paignton

Santa is heading back to Paignton Zoo this December and has convinced Mrs Claus to come too! Children will be able to meet Santa and his elves in his magical grotto, receive a gift and listen to Mrs Claus read a magical Paignton Zoo Christmas story. They will be arriving on 3rd December and be available right up until Christmas Eve when the reindeer will be picking Santa up for his busy night ahead. With over 2000 animals and countless amazing plants spread across 80 acres of beautiful grounds to explore; Paignton Zoo offers you an inspirational family day out so make sure to get there early and spend the whole day exploring this wonderful zoo.

Kents Cavern, Torquay

The magical spectacle that is Santa in the Caves returns once more to Kents Cavern. Twinkle the naughty elf has taken Santa’s magic key and it is up to you to help her return it to Santa! After being sprinkled with magic elf dust that turns humans into elves you will join Twinkle on a quest through Santa’s workshop meeting magical toys and characters along the way. The interactive pantomime performance ends with each child receiving a gift from Santa and adults receiving a mince pie and mulled wine to enjoy as well as complimentary return tickets for 2023. The event runs from 3rd December right up until Christmas Eve. Why not make a day of it and combine your tour of the Prehistoric caves with a circular walk along the Southwest coast path taking in some of the UNESCO Global Geopark sights and historic buildings. House of Marbles, Bovey Tracey

Santa and his elves are returning to House of Marbles every Saturday and Sunday from 26th November, as well a few extra dates in the run up to Christmas. Children can share their Christmas wish and receive a gift and goody bag filled with seasonal treats.

What about my four-legged friend I hear you cry? Fear not as Santa will be welcoming your dogs too! The ‘Santa Paws’ event will be on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November. A contribution from the ticket sales will be donated to PDSA.

Whilst you are there, don’t miss out on the marble runs, games garden and glass blowing studio, it’s also a great chance to buy some locally crafted Christmas presents too

Princesshay Shopping Centre, Exeter

Visit Father Christmas in his cosy, festive lodge grotto from 26th November right up until Christmas Eve. There is no need to book in advance as families are able to enjoy an impromptu visit with each child receiving a Christmas keepsake. signed visits are available on 17th & 18th December. Don’t forget to get some Christmas shopping in as Princesshay has over 60 shops including the best high street brands and independent stores. Christmas at the Castle, Powderham Castle, Nr Exeter

Santa will be visiting his grotto at Powderham Castle where you will also be able to experience an evening light walk, petting zoo, Christmas State Rooms Experience, secret garden, Christmas trail and The Exmouth Miniature Railway. Make the most of your day out and combine this with a visit to the nearby Exeter Cathedral Christmas market; a magical event with over 100 festive chalets, global street and entertainment to name but a few of the seasonal treats on offer. South Devon Railway, Buckfastleigh

Hop on board the Polar Express and embark on a magical journey to the North Pole to visit Santa and his elves. Get your ticket punched by the conductor and be entertained by the singing chefs on this theatrical journey, just watch out for those pesky caribou on the track! Once you reach the North Pole, Santa will join you on board and if you are on the nice list, you will receive a silver sleigh bell, just like in the movie!

Just a few minutes away from the South Devon Railway, located at the centre of a picturesque valley is Buckfast Abbey, home to a community of Roman Catholic Benedictine Monks. The Abbey church, gardens, gift shop and restaurant welcomes 1000s of visitors a year and is a must see if you are in the area.

Shaldon Zoo Wildlife Trust, Shaldon

Santa will be visiting his animal friends at Shaldon Zoo on 17th & 18th December and is excited about welcoming all the children to his magical grotto. Each grotto visit includes time with Santa and a special gift. Shaldon itself is an unspoilt village on the banks of the estuary with lots of interesting sights to explore. Venture through the smugglers tunnel and see what awaits you on the other side, take a stroll along the beach or catch the small passenger ferry across the river to Teignmouth to visit a traditional seaside town. Bygones, Torquay

Step back in time and meet a traditional Victorian Santa who will be visiting Bygones on the 23rd & 24th December 2022. Children will receive a present, drink and a sweet treat and adults can enjoy a complimentary drink and mince pie. Tickets also include entry into Bygones, where you can walk freely through interactive displays showcasing over 100 years of British history with over 2000 genuine artefacts from yesteryear, and a children's Christmas hunt.

Whilst in St Marychurch why not take a short walk to Babbacombe Downs and enjoy a brisk winter walk along the cliff coast path. If you’re feeling adventurous you could even make your way down to Babbacombe or Oddicombe beach, just remember the famous cliff railway closes during winter months so be prepared for a steep climb back up!

Marldon Christmas Tree Farm, Marldon

Visit the enchanted snow-covered grotto in the North Pole, where children will have the chance to meet Santa and his elves, encounter a real reindeer, and receive a special Christmas gift. The grotto will be open Friday afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays from 1 – 16 December, and all day every day between 17 to 23 December. All profits from Santa’s Grotto go to Rowcroft Hospice to care for people with life-limiting illnesses across South Devon. Just down the road from Marldon Christmas Tree Farm is Occombe Farm, a family friendly all weather attraction where you can say hello to farm animals, enjoy a coffee, take a woodland stroll or visit the farm shop filled with produce from local suppliers. For more information about farm shops in the area look out for our upcoming blog about local farmers markets and farm shops.

Crealy Theme Park and Resort, Clyst St Mary

Join in the festive celebrations between 26th November and 23rd December at Crealy and enjoy the seasonal Christmas attractions including a meet and greet with Santa experience, a live ‘The elves and the toymaker’ ice show, Santa’s interactive post office, Santa’s toy shop and Sooty’s Christmas show. Children will also have the opportunity to decorate their own tasty treat in Mary’s Christmas Bakery and join Jingles the Elf on his adventure through the enchanted Wilderness.

Pennywell Farm, Buckfastleigh

You’ll need to put aside 2-3 hours for this spectacular Christmas experience as there is just so much that Father Christmas has arranged for you. Arrive at the North Pole and check in with the elves who will give you your Christmas passport for you to collect stamps as you journey through the Christmas experience. Immerse yourself in the retelling of the Nativity, head to Noah’s Barn for some festive treats, visit the elves sweetshop where each child receives a bag of sweets then hop on the tractor for a festive ride around the farm. There is also the opportunity to have Christmas cuddles with some of the Pennywell animals. Finally, enter the sparkly enchanted forest where Father Christmas will be waiting in his grotto with a special gift for every child. Running from 18th November until Christmas Eve.

Ullacombe Farm, Bovey Tracey

For two days only, Santa will be visiting Ullacombe Farm for all the Christmas fun. Join him for lots of lovely food, drink and gift stalls from local businesses. Entrance is free but tickets for the Santa experience are bookable by going into the café or emailing Ullacombe farm directly. Why not work up an appetite and go for a stomp on Dartmoor before filling your stomachs? Haytor Rocks is a popular site with visitors all year round but especially so in winter where the possibility of snow has locals and visitors alike digging out their hats, gloves and sledges ready to whiz down the lofty slopes of this beautiful National Park.

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Click here to book your family festive getaway with Saltwater Escapes.

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