As many of you may know, we visited Lapland a few years ago and since then we have found it really difficult to find a Santa experience in Ireland to get excited about. Was Santa at Aillwee Cave going to be any different?
Last years experience in Dublin was pretty poor, I won’t name the place but suffice to say I came away promising myself we would do something better this year. I decided to ask my readers on Facebook for recommendations and to my surprise, ‘Santa at Aillwee Cave’ was mentioned numerous times. I didn’t even know they had a Santa Experience! I read some reviews and liked the cave idea and decided to give Santa at Aillwee Cave a try. We decided to make a weekend of it so we booked an over-night stay in the Connacht Hotel in Galway and booked the Santa Experience for 11.30am the following day. It was perfect. We arrived in Galway and enjoyed a few hours at the Christmas markets, had a swim in the hotel pool, a leisurely meal and set off for Aillwee the following morning. It is only a 50 minute drive from the Connacht Hotel and we arrived in plenty of time.
We were greeted by happy elves who gave the kids their own book on Santa at Aillwee Cave, while discretely placing a sticker on their coats with their name on it. Mums and Dads are not overlooked either and we received a Christmas Bauble embossed with ‘Christmas 2016 at Aillwee Cave’. There was complementary tea, coffee, hot punch and minced pies, a lovely touch. There were merry go rounds and waltzers for kids to play in before or after the visit, also free of charge. Jack Frost and Mrs Claus were in constant view and ready for pictures and a chat. Everywhere they went it seemed the elves, Mrs Claus and Jack Frost knew their names – a simple sticker worked wonders! My daughter got her face painted and we had time to catch the puppet show too, so getting there early was a good idea!
Twinkle the Head Elf called out the names of the kids who Santa wanted to see, and off we went. Each visit is divided into a small group and we set off deep into the cave in single file. The acoustics in the cave made for a great rendition of jingle bells and set the tone perfectly. We searched for some clues before arriving at Santa’s workshop, only to discover he was asleep. Luckily we had a group of children who were only too delighted to wake him up! The setting was magical. Santa’s Finnish accent and the rows of presents behind him added to the authenticity. The children were seated in two benches in front of Santa while the adults stood behind. Siblings were called up to stand beside Santa while he recounted their achievements throughout the year. My son. Luke, was a little nervous, but when Santa calls your name, you have to go! It was amazing to see Santa complimenting him on his sports achievements and when Santa’s farewell words were ‘ May the force be with you’ – I could see the magic in his eyes. How did Santa know he was a Star Wars fan? He also knew what my daughter Alex favourite toys were and told her that she needed to start cycling her bicycle! Santa then presented them with toys, and even these were a step up from the usual cheap ‘tat’ that we have been given on previous Santa visits.
Listening to Santa’s unique words to all the boys and girls was fantastic. No standard lines about how good they had been all year. The personal touch in Aillwee Cave was evident throughout, especially during the visit with Santa. We collected our souvenir photo, which incidentally was the only thing that you had to pay for. In fact you could take the picture yourself and not buy one at all. This was really refreshing. I have been to many Santa visits and you always end up spending a fortune on extras, in Aillwee everything is included in the price.
Once the visit was over, we decided to pay a quick visit to the Christmas shop and post our letters in Santa’s post box. We were just in time to catch the 1.00pm ‘Birds of Prey’ show, also included in the price! They have two shows per day so try to time your visit with one of them as they worth staying for. The kids loved seeing the hawk, vultures and falcon perform and there is a selection of birds available to view on site afterwards.
Santa at Aillwee Cave is special with personal touches that the kids will not forget. Make a weekend of it, you may not have many left! Believe me it is worth the drive, even if you do have to listen to Christmas songs the whole way home 😉
Click here for more information on our visit to Santa at Aillwee Cave.