Thursday, February 02, 2017

How to do Lapland on a Budget & Make it Feel Like Anything But! (Part 3) SantaPark

Lapland really can be done on a budget! Over this series of posts I’m sharing exactly how we did it so you too can have a magical holiday in Finland. We flew to Helsinki from Dublin with Norwegian costing €826 for 2 adults & 5 children we then took the overnight Santa Express train to Rovaniemi paying €294, we stayed in an Airbnb beside the train station costing €219 for 2 nights.
Throw in a few extras like a couple of days in Helsinki and a trip across the Baltic Sea to spend the day exploring Tallinn and our total spend was less than €2k for a family of 7 for 8 days, a fraction of the cost of a day trip with a tour company. 

Last week I shared our experience at Santa Claus Village this week I’ll tell you how we got on at SantaPark when we took up their invitation to come visit while we were in Rovaniemi. 

What is SantaPark?

Located just 8km from Rovaniemi and 2km from Santa Claus Village SantaPark is a Christmas themed amusement park. It’s a portion of a 12,000m2 population shelter so it’s all underground in a large cave with 40m of rock overhead as you enter. The only place in the world that you can undercross the Arctic Circle is at SantaPark; my kids thought that was pretty cool.

Transport to SantaPark:

A taxi from Rovaniemi town centre to SantaPark will set you back about €20 but we decided to use the number 8 Santa Express bus for our visit. The bus drives a loop from Train Station – Rovaniemi Town Centre – SantaPark -  Rovaniemi Airport – Santa Claus Village costing €7.20 per adult return, €4.00 per child return, under 4’s travel free.  

What’s in SantaPark?

There’s a lot to do apart from the obvious visit to Santa! When you arrive at SantaPark you walk down a long wide ramp into a small cavern here you’ll find the ticket office, loos, wheelchairs and buggies for hire and a large cloak room where you can leave all of your outdoor clothes as you won’t need it underground. There’s also a room full of ski wear for the people who are on day trips with tour operators to borrow so they can go outside.

A little further along a corridor is a shopping area with 5/6 shops, prices are expensive but I did find some lovely ornaments for just €3.90 each & my daughter Orla bought herself a reindeer teddy for €19. There’s a lovely post office where you can send post cards home or order a Santa letter for your little one for next year for €10.

Stone Travel Tip: I found it impossible to get ornaments with SantaPark on them so I bought some key rings for €5 and replaced the metal ring with some red ribbon for our travel tree.

This is the point where you undercross the Arctic Circle to be greeted by a beautiful Ice Princess, my daughter Aoife was in awe! We donned hooded winter cloaks to enter the Ice Sculpture Gallery and Ice Bar. It’s small enough with only about 20 ice sculptures and a bar at the end of the room where you can buy a hot chocolate for €3 or an alcoholic drink if you prefer.   

You have to walk back along the corridor to get to central plaza where there’s a restaurant, large seating area and a stage. The Elf show takes place here a few times a day. We had a bite to eat while the acrobatic Elf show was on. Upstairs is the Angry Birds playground to be honest we were a little disappointed with it as there wasn’t much to do so you’d only spend about 20 minutes up there. The kids loved using the slide to get back downstairs and the clear tunnel they crawled through that’s suspended over the dining area.

The magic sleigh ride is a short ride through Santa’s workshop my son’s loved it so much they went on it three times. Then it was on to meet Santa, we weren’t waiting long at all maybe about 10 minutes. This is a free visit as it’s included in the entrance fee. A bubbly Elf greeted us and ushered us into see Santa. Here you can take as many photos as you like with your own camera, an Elf will also take 3 family photos for you. Santa was lovely and had a great chat with my little 5 year old Cillian about tractors as he wanted one for Christmas. Printed photos are €27 each or you can buy a golden key USB with all 3 photos on it for €32, I couldn’t resist the key so we bought one.

Stone Travel Tip: Children don’t receive a gift from Santa but if you want you can buy a gift from one of the shops and slip it to an Elf that’ll have it ready for Santa to give to your child.

We also visited the Elves workshop where the kids got to make their own Elf Christmas decoration from wood, felt and cotton wool. You can leave them there to be hung on the wall but ours decided to take them home. My little ones decided to skip the calligraphy school, we also bypassed the ice cream shop and headed straight to Elf School where two of Santa’s best elves taught us how to peek in windows without being seen among a few other required Elf skills, we all passed with flying colours and received a certificate as well as a Santa hat!  

Lastly we visited Mrs Gingerbread’s Bakery, for €2.50 you can buy a gingerbread heart and decorate it yourself at one of the many workstations that are already set up. Our 5 little ones had a great time decorating them and an even better time eating their masterpieces. At this stage our youngest lad who is 2 years old started crying as he was overtired. Mrs Gingerbread was so lovely with him, she came out from behind the counter to talk to him to try and calm him down.

I decided to leave my husband there with our children while I took Lorcan off to change his nappy, on the way to the loo one of the Elves saw us walking down the corridor towards her so she started dancing along to the piped music to entertain Lorcan. It worked a treat and he was shoulder dancing and head bopping in his buggy in no time!   

Eating and drinking at SantaPark:

We had a bite to eat at Kota Restaurant located in central plaza. There are sandwiches, wraps, crisps and cakes available to purchase but we opted for the hot buffet. You can have a salad, a plate of hot food and a bowl of soup with a cup of water or berry juice for €16 for adults and €10 for children. We weren’t that hungry so I bought 2 children’s buffet meals for them all to share in an effort to stave off hangry children. They got a little taste of everything including salmon, chicken nuggets, wedges, lasagne, mashed potato, reindeer stew and tomato soup.   

How much is it into SantaPark?

As I mentioned earlier we were invited so our visit was complimentary. Winter season admission fees are €33 for adults, €27.50 for children and free for under 3’s. Tickets are valid for two consecutive days; this would be handy if you encounter huge queues. They advise that you’d have it all done in 3 hours but because we’ve 5 little ones, we stopped to eat and we had a blast outside playing in the beautifully lit snow covered fields we spent nearly 5 hours there. We got there about 1pm on Wednesday 14th of December so it was high season but we were very lucky as there were no queues. While tickets are expensive we felt we couldn’t visit Lapland and not experience SantaPark, we’ll be visiting SantaPark again next year when we return to Lapland.

*** Disclaimer: As advised above we received complimentary tickets to SantaPark. As usual all thoughts are my own, I was not asked to write this review. As ever neither free services nor payment would ever sway my opinion. ***

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