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Where to see Santa in the Forest of Dean

Enter a world of enchantment and festive wonder in the heart of the Forest of Dean, where the spirit of Christmas comes alive in the most magical way. In this guide, we’ll embark on a journey through the woodland charm and discover the best places to encounter the jolliest figure of them all, whether you call him Saint Nick; Saint Nicolas; Santa; Father Christmas; or Santa Claus, there is something truly magical about kicking off the holiday season by seeing your children tell Santa what they want for Christmas. The Forest of Dean, nestled in the picturesque landscape of Gloucestershire, offers an array of hidden treasures and secret spots where Santa and his holiday cheer are waiting to be discovered. Join us as we uncover the top destinations and experiences that promise to make your visit a merry and unforgettable encounter with the big man himself.

This post has been updated for 2023.

Little Boy Hugging Santa
Photo credit: Moments by Katie Mitchell

Perrygrove Railway

Perrygrove Railway has 2 different Christmas experiences this year and they are set to be truly magical. They are bringing back the extremely popular Christmas Twilight Trains this year and are a sight to behold. Your journey starts at Perrygrove station where Santa’s elves announce the musical arrival of the steam train. You then journey along the track on narrow gauge steam locomotives while you marvel at the stunning light displays. Once you reach the end of the line, there is a short break where you will be given a cup of the most delicious hot chocolate and Santa will come to each carriage with a gift before you return to Perrygrove Station.

Alternatively, you can attend the ‘Down the Chimney Show’ experience where you will enjoy a train ride around Perrygrove before visiting the festive carriage shed theatre where Mrs Claus will be waiting to greet you. Once the whole family is settled, she will call Santa Claus down the chimney for stories and a gift for each child. 

Both the Perrygrove events are running on various dates throughout December.

Dean Heritage Centre

Throughout December, the Dean Heritage Centre will have the traditional Christmas experience to suit all preferences: 

  • crafts with the elves where you can also write your letter to Santa before it is magically sent to the North Pole
  • a Christmas Bazaar where you can stock up on festive treats, find plenty of stocking filler ideas, and head to the coffee shop for a warming drink, mouth-watering food, and a delicious range of locally made cakes
  • breakfast with Santa on Sunday the 17th of December
  • Santa himself in the Foresters Cottage. Prices start from £15 which includes a personalised visit to Santa, a gift, and entry to the museum and Gruffalo trail. Phone 01594 822170 to book. 

Harts Barn

Harts Barn in Longhope has two different Christmas events taking place this December. On the 2nd of December, they are holding a craft fair where you will be able to visit Santa’s grotto as well as pick up locally produced gifts that are a little different such as a gift voucher to have a go at forging your own iron! For a truly unique experience, why not take the children along to Harts Barn Cookery School on the 23rd of December where they can have a go at making gingerbread with Santa. Tickets for this event cost £20 per child, price includes all the ingredients to make and decorate gingerbread, a presentation bag to take their bake home, and a gift from Santa Claus.

Clearwell Caves

Clearwell Caves is incorporating its Santa experience into a storytelling adventure about Bernard, a young boy who finds a baby polar bear floating on an iceberg and decides to take it home…

Meet Father Christmas (children 2-12 receive a gift), then join Bernard in ‘the land where snow covers the ground for most of the year’! Halfway through there are Christmas stalls selling gifts and decorations, as well as the underground café selling hot drinks and delicious cakes, before the story resumes…

Dean Forest Railway

The Dean Forest Railway is once again running its Santa specials trains where guests can take a scenic ride through the forest visiting Norchard Station, Lydney Junction Station, and Parkend Station onboard a vintage train pulled by a real steam engine. Onboard you will meet Santa. Prices start from £10 and include an alcoholic drink and mince pies for the adults and a gift for each child over the age of 2. There is also the option to add a festive afternoon cream tea for each guest which includes a turkey, cranberry, and stuffing sandwich, scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, a slice of Christmas cake, and a hot drink with options of tea, hot chocolate and a range of coffees. If you fancy something lighter, you can add on a Christmas picnic box or a bacon roll with a hot drink.

Lunch with Santa at the Lyon Inn

The Lyon Inn at Westbury-on-Severn is hosting a lunch with Father Christmas on Saturday the 16th of December from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. where children of all ages can write their letters to Santa, do some Christmas crafting and gingerbread decorating, and receive a special gift from Father Christmas. Make sure you take your own camera to capture all the Christmas magic. This event is priced at £10 per adult and £12.50 per child and includes a family lunch platter of waffles, garlic bread, BBQ chicken tenders, winter slaw, pigs in blankets, Korean cauliflower bites, fries, beans, onion rings, brownie and flapjack bites and chocolate covered strawberries to share. There will also be a create-your-own hot chocolate station. Call 01452 760221 to book

Why not try…

If you do Elf on The Shelf, having the elves deliver the tickets to see Father Christmas is a lovely idea and is a nice easy one for you. For more Elf on The Shelf ideas, click here where I share over 30 ideas for your cheeky elves!

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