Where to see Santa in York this Christmas: the 2013 grotto guide

Father Christmas, as depicted on a Victorian Christmas card at York Castle Museum
3 Dec 2013 @ 10.58 pm
| Entertainment
Father Christmas, as depicted on a Victorian Christmas card at York Castle Museum
Father Christmas, as depicted on a Victorian Christmas card at York Castle Museum

Santa’s Grotto: a magical place, which captures the spirit and wonder of childhood. There’s just one issue, the incorrigible use of the word Santa. This Americanisation crept up on us stealthily, replacing dear old Father Christmas.

Through some dedicated research we can reveal that the Dutch are to blame for this turn of events, as it was their Sinterklaas that inspired the American Santa, where as our own Father Christmas was based in the Germanic folklore of St Nicholas.

It seems over time all these European traditions have melded together to create the chubby, red, cola drinking pensioner we imagine today.

Anyway, there’s nothing that Father Christmas / Santa / Sinterklaas / Kris Kringle / St Nick enjoys more this time of year than being five places at once. Here’s your guide to the greatest grottos in and around York.

Santa by steam

A chuffed Santa arrives at the NRM
A chuffed Santa arrives at the NRM

One of the more inventive opportunities to meet the bearded one is at the National Railway Museum. Returning for a third year, Santa’s Steam Adventure is an interactive journey to the North Yorkshire Pole. Visitors are invited to help Santa sort letters before taking a trip on the magical train.

  • Santa’s Steam Adventure runs on December 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15 and then every day up to and including Christmas Eve. Tickets cost £11.50 for children and £7.50 for adults

Museum of Farming
The Yorkshire Museum of Farming is offering much more than just an overweight man handing out presents. Guests are invited to tour Santa’s village and house, via railway and on foot. There is also an opportunity to meet his elves and yes, you receive mince pies and a gift for your trouble.

  • The Santa Special will be running for the three weekends before Christmas as well as Monday December 23. Tickets cost £6 for adults and £8 for children

Further afield
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is running its popular Santa Specials from Pickering, Grosmont and Whitby stations. Dates and ticket details here.

Santa by boat

Santa and deck: on board YorkBoat
Santa and deck: on board YorkBoat

Perhaps the most original of all the grotto experiences is YorkBoat’s Santa Cruises. This one-hour boat cruise with the big man includes complete with face painting and obligatory present.

Father Christmas on water has proved appealing as many of the tours are already fully booked. On a side-note their use of Santa is excused due to its role in wordplay.

  • Tickets for the Santa Cruises are still available for trips on December 7, 8 and 23. The trip costs £9 per adult and £11 per child

Santa on ice

Falling for Father Christmas

The Designer Outlet based Winter Wonderland has capitalised on the fact that Christmas is no longer just a day, but an experience, and one to throw money at. As such, as well as Santa, visitors can enjoy an ice rink, Christmas market and funfair.

Santa will be in residence from every Thursday to Sunday in the first half of December, then every day from Monday December 15th until Christmas Eve.

Santa at t’Mill

Why am I at a windmill?

A more left field venue for Santa to choose you might think, but Holgate Mill will host the great man for the two weekends before Christmas. Parents will be warmed to know that they will be offered free mince pies and refreshments.

Santa in Narnia

Exactly what your experience will be like. Photograph © Ian Burt on Flickr”width=
Exactly what your experience will be like Photograph © Ian Burt on Flickr

Meet Santa in Narnia, or rather the Rock-plex Centre on Priory Street. Visitors are invited to travel through the wardrobe full of fur coats, touch the lamp post, meet Mr Tumnus and of course Aslan the lion. After avoiding the White Queen you are then rewarded with an audience with Father Christmas.

  • Santa in Narnia is available on the three weekends before Christmas. Pre-booked tickets cost £6.50 per child and £3.50 per adult

Santa at the museum

Kirkgate at the Castle Museum. Photograph: York Museums Trust
Kirkgate at the Castle Museum. Photograph: York Museums Trust

York Castle Museum
Father Christmas, as they so properly call him, is back in residence at the York Castle Museum. Children can meet him in the Toy Gallery and write what they want him to bring in the museum’s Big Book Of Christmas.

  • Father Christmas is at the museum on December 7 and 8, and from December 14 to 24. Times 12pm, 1.30pm, and 3pm, excluding Christmas Eve when the museum will close at 2.30pm
  • More here (PDF)

Barley Hall
Bedecked with medieval style decorations, this is a special place for dear old St Nick to entertain children and their parents. He will be spreading cheer and giving gifts.

  • Father Christmas is at Barley Hall at weekends from noon till 4pm throughout December. The £5 ticket includes a child’s gift. accompanying adult
  • On December 7 and 8 there are also two-hour children’s parties with Santa in attendance: £14 per child with one free accompanying adult

And Santa is also at another JORVIK Group attraction, DIG on St Saviourgate. He will be helping the Little Diggers explore Christmas.

Santa on the farm

Some of the goodies awaiting Santa at Piglets Farm Park
Some of the goodies awaiting Santa at Piglets Farm Park

Well, he’s got the boots for it. Father Christmas has a grotto among the animals at Piglets Adventure Farm Park at The Farmer’s Cart on Towthorpe Moor Lane.

Santa on a float


If all these residences weren’t enough, Father Christmas will also be touring the streets of York in a float from December 5 and running until December 20, taking in Copmanthorpe, Bishopthorpe, Woodthorpe, Dringhouses and Acomb. Last year the the Rotary Club raised £6,000 for local charities through donations to the passing float and are hoping to match that total this year.

Coca Cola truck
If a corporate Christmas is more you thing then you may want to stop by Church Street between 1pm and 9pm on Wednesday, December 4. The famed Coca Cola truck that has become so associated with the festive period will be making an appearance.

No Santa in person, although his picture will be plastered all over the lorry. Though we can’t guarantee it’ll be the real thing.

By, but he’s a busy man. Let us know if there are any Santas we’ve cruelly overlooked.