Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Airfield Christmas Experience ~ A Magical Time for All!

We were invited to Airfield in Dundrum to bring our 5 children to their Christmas Experience and from the moment we arrived we loved it! Having visited earlier this year with Fun.ie to film for Ireland:AM (see that adventure HERE), we heard all about their plans for the upcoming festivities from Marketing Manager Shauna. Being a self professed Christmas nut, I advised we would most definitely be back to see their Winter Wonderland.

For those of you that have never visited Airfield it’s a 38 acre urban farm, visitor centre and restaurant just off the M50 near Dundrum shopping centre. They’ve recently undergone a multi million euro renovation so everything is in pristine condition. We arrived on Sunday late afternoon so we still had some daylight to visit the farm yard. Two wonderfully jolly elves Twinkle & Buddy were at the main gate to greet us. They gave us a map and a rundown on what we would be doing.

Twinkle was our guide throughout the experience and I have to say she was fantastic with our over excited children. As we walked through the estate they chatted away to her and she never once broke character even while speaking to me. With 5 little ones aged 9 and under we’ve gone on a lot of Christmas outings, through experience we’ve learned that the staff either make or break the whole enjoyment of the visit. Every elf & staff member we encountered were lovely to us.

I won’t spoil all the surprises but I will tell you that there are lots of festive things to see and do like seeing if you can find the fairies along the route. On our journey to the farm yard we passed by two donkeys and stopped to see them as they are my son’s favourite animal. When we got there we saw some really cute calves; some of which were only two weeks old. My little ones were amazed to see Blitzen and Comet relaxing in one of the stables.

It was soon time to go to the letter writing station where the children wrote and posted their letters to Santa in the magical post box with some help from McSprinkles the elf. There is also a fabulous sleigh in this room for a family photograph, they cost €10 each and €5 for copies. We got one and unfortunately it turned out really dark. So if you get one make sure you check it as I’m sure it can be rectified there & then.

Mr & Mrs Claus’s bedroom was really well decorated and Seamus my 7 year old thought it was hilarious that he saw Santa’s long johns hanging up to dry! It was funny to see them sneak in for a look as if they would be caught by Mrs Claus any second. From this point on there are speakers on every lamp post so you can listen to Christmas carols while you wander through the magical forest to Santa’s hidden grotto. Giant nutcracker soldiers, oversized presents and real Christmas trees with twinkling lights line the walkway right up to the grotto. The smell of the Christmas trees instantly gave me that festive feeling. They did a great job of creating the perfect yuletide atmosphere.

Before we entered the grotto we had to leave the baby’s buggy in the buggy park, it was great that they thought to put a cover on it so we had no worries in case it rained while we were inside. There were more elves here to greet us and provide the children with hot chocolate and mulled wine for adults. I loved that they served all the drinks warm and not hot so we could drink them straight away as the smells were divine.

The visit to Santa is a group visit but they are limited in numbers so they are small groups. The children all sat on cushions around Santa’s feet beside the fire while he chatted to them about what they’d like for Christmas and then told them a funny Christmas story before giving each of them a gift. There was time at the end where we got a quick picture of our family with Santa. Not once did we feel rushed or in a hurry to move on as we have with other Christmas experiences we visited in the past. When we left Santa’s grotto we visited Overends house to see their decorations, it was like walking into a storybook of yesteryear, I think my photographs can tell you more than I ever could. 

Gifts are unisex and are appropriate for either 1-3 years or 3+, 4 of our children received the age 3+ gifts. All the gifts are presented in a printed cloth bag which I think was much better than wrapping paper as they can keep them for years to come with our Christmas decorations. There are two variations of gifts; one is a little wooden music box along with three wooden spinning tops, a Christmas tree cookie and a packet of reindeer food to put out on Christmas Eve. The second is a wooden music box and a xylophone. While I wouldn’t have ever bought a xylophone for my 9 year old daughter she hasn’t put it down since she got it, she’s thrilled with it.

We didn’t pay for our tickets but like all of our reviews, this didn’t in any way influence my views on our visit. Tickets are available from www.airfield.ie priced at €22.50 for children over 12 months, €12.50 for adults with a 20% discount for members of Airfield Estate. While I did initially think that these prices were on the high side and there are places that are more expensive, you actually pay for what you get. It’s great that you don’t need a ticket for babies under 1 year old as when we visited Rathwood a couple of years ago we were made pay full price for our 6 week old baby, despite not wanting a gift for him.

My advice would be to get there early and make a day of it by having lunch in Overends restaurant. While we didn’t on this occasion the last time we were there we had a delicious lunch. They are very reasonably priced for fresh farm to fork meals in a lovely relaxing environment. I've recommended the restaurant as a standalone attraction to people in the Dundrum area so many times since. 

We had a wonderful Christmas experience at Airfield and will pay to go back again next year. If you are planning to go make sure you book fast as most weekends are nearly booked out!


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