This post was written in 2011, so some information may be out-of-date. Please be sure to check their website for the latest event details!
In my recent post on Hartford Holiday Happenings, I mentioned an opportunity to visit with Santa at Wickham Park in Manchester. The only thing we knew about this place was that it was recommended by the hairdresser at Scissor Kids and was promoted as an “opportunity for children to experience a uncommercialized Christmas experience”.
Since we had never been, Shawna and I decided to meet up there and check the place out for ourselves (oh and with the kids).
The event began last weekend and then runs today through December 23rd. We headed over there last Saturday around 2pm for our visit.
As we pulled into Wickham Park, we drove through a beautiful landscape. You could see that there were several places to park and explore and many walking trails to partake in. As we followed the signs to “Santa” we also passed a kids playground and an aviary. For older kids, this may be a fun place to stop before or after your Santa visit.
We continued to follow the path up to the house where Santa was staying. There was a large parking lot with plenty of parking available.
I saw a line for people waiting to get in the house which surprised me a bit. Based on the little bit of information available on their website about the event, I had made the assumption that it was an indoor event and hadn’t even thought about potentially having to wait in line. At this point, I was happy that it was pretty mild outside, otherwise I would have been in trouble with the attire I had chosen!
Shawna and her family were on their way and my kids were both napping, so I asked my husband to sit in the car with the kids and I went and got in line.
When I got there, the line had wrapped around the side of the house back to the first lighted archway. Many parents were doing the same thing that I was doing, they were holding their family’s place in line. The kids, on the other hand, were having a grand old-time running around the property which was expansive. As I waited in line, I could enjoy the beautiful views of the city.
It took me 45 minutes to get up to the entrance. As I got close, my husband put the kids in their stroller and brought them around the front to meet me. We watched as the elf working the door would pop in and out letting another family inside each time. We waited for our turn.
Finally the door popped open and the elf told us it was our turn to head inside. We parked the stroller near the entrance and headed in.
First stop once inside was to check in with the Head Elf. There each child provided their name and what they wanted for Christmas. The Head Elf made sure all this information was properly recorded.
Bruiser wasn’t quite able to provide all of the information needed, so mommy had to help out.
We then waited a little bit longer til we got to see the head honcho. During that time, we enjoyed the roaring fire and took a peek at the toy trains and the elf workshop.
When it was our turn to see Santa, it was a very relaxed process. No one was rushing us and there were no pushy sales people trying to get us to buy a fancy photo package. I placed Bruiser and Sparkles on Santa’s lap and he was very warm and friendly with both of them. That, however, didn’t keep Sparkles from screaming bloody murder at the sight of St. Nick. We quickly took her away, and I took a picture of Bruiser solo with Santa. There isn’t anyone there to take pictures for you, so make sure you bring your own camera if you want a shot. A picture is not a necessity, though. I saw many kids who just visited with Santa, no photography session required.
After the Santa visit, each child is given an apple. Then they can head on over to see Mrs. Claus and get some hot chocolate and a cookie. There is also a donation box where you can give some money to support this great event.
We hung out for a few minutes to enjoy our cookies and cocoa and tried to soak in some of the Christmas spirit in the room (for which there was plenty). When we were ready to leave, we headed right back out the door from which we entered. Shawna and her family were next in line to check out inside. We chatted for a moment before they were summoned by the Elf to head inside. We took a quick spin around the property near the house and enjoyed the pretty views before heading home.
All in all, this event definitely lived up to its advertising! The kids had an opportunity to visit with Santa Claus and there was no ulterior money-making motive. Just a nice, relaxed afternoon visit with Santa. Definitely a must-see!
30th Annual Santa’s Workshop at Wickham Park (runs through December 23rd)
1329 West Middle Turnpike, Manchester, Connecticut
Hours & Admission:
Ticket Prices: FREE (though donations accepted)
Date(s) & Time(s): December 15-23; 3:00 pm to 6:00pm on weekdays and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm on weekends
Make sure you dress warmly if it is a chilly day! You may have a little wait outside before heading in to see Santa.
Check in next week for our review of the two-mile light display in Hartford! A great family event to experience before the holidays are here.