5 Places in Hertfordshire to Visit For That Festive Feeling

Are you trying to find festive things to do with the kids that will get you all into that Christmas spirit? Here are five places to visit in Herts for some family fun that will leave you feeling wonderfully festive…

1. Willows Farm Santa Spectacular

We go to this Santa Spectacular event every year and it’s a fantastic day out. Not cheap but plenty of festive fun to be had! More information on my previous blog post here.

2. Notcutts, St Albans

Notcutts is a nice place to pop into on a tight schedule, because you don’t need much time to enjoy the festive magic yet is still well worth a visit if you are local, mainly for the giant dancing snowman! I have heard santa also visits on occasion, sometimes even for breakfast or tea with guests! (Event must be booked in advance). 

Notcutts, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Christmas, Santas Grotto, snowman

3. Ayletts Nurseries, St Albans

I have already written about this lovely local garden centre, because it was Christmassy enough to warrant its own separate post! Great festive atmosphere.

4. Van Hage Garden Centre, Great Amwell (nr Ware)

Again, Van Hage is so fabulously festive that it has a post of its very own! With an ice rink, grotto and wonderful Christmas displays, it is enough to take the scrooge out of anyone! 

5. Christmas Drive or Walk

Earlier in December, St Albans Christmas market would probably have taken this spot. But a Christmas walk or drive to see beautifully decorated houses is something that we all really enjoy and is a well-loved activity for many families. Our personal favourite is Beech Road in St Albans, who are raising money for Mount Venon Marie Curie Cancer Wing with their amazing display, but I’m reliably informed by Diary of an Unexpectant Mother that there are also brilliantly decorated houses on Brocket Road near Lemsford and lovely lights on Handside Lane in Welwyn Garden City. Amy from The Smallest of Things also suggests Blair Close in Hemel Hempstead too. Wherever you walk or drive, you are bound to spot plenty of festive sights! 

Beech Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Christmas, festive house, charity fundraising, go fund me, living life our way

And two more just outside of Hertfordshire…

Centre: MK (Milton Keynes)

There is an excellent Christmas event in Middleton Hall, which is situated within this large shopping centre. There is a carousel, train, snow globe and huge igloo which houses santa and his elves. The activities charge separately and aren’t cheap, but it does mean you can pick and choose, and it is a great treat. Plus, even if you skip any of the parts that cost and just have a general wander, it is still beautifully festive.

Crews Hill Garden Centres (Enfield)

If you aren’t familiar with this area, Crews Hill has a long row of garden centres. It’s a fab place for garden or outdoor enthusiasts at any time of year, but during Christmas it becomes a mini winter wonderland. Don’t miss Springtime nurseries, which is particularly festive! It has real reindeer, plus an indoor train ride to visit the grotto, an ice rink and a snow globe. 

Springtime nurseries, Crews Hill, Christmas, garden centres, Living Life Our Way

Do you have a favourite place to visit for that wonderful festive feeling? Please share yours with me in the comments section! 

Christmas Tag!

I love reading about how other families spend their Christmas and sharing abit about how we spend ours, so thank you to Bell and Bear for tagging me in this festive Q&A! Here are my answers…

What’s your favourite Christmas movie?

Love Actually. I have already watched it several times this month! I used to love Santa Claus: The Movie when I was a child. The bit where the reindeer finally does the super duper looper to save the kid always made me cry bucket loads. Every. Single. Time.

Have you ever had a white Christmas?

Not that I can remember. Perhaps when I was a child, maybe? I’m not sure.

Where do you usually spend your holiday?

At home. I have never been away for Christmas. When I was a child we used to go round to visit my grandparents on Christmas day but they were local (well, same county anyway!) But that’s the furthest I have ever been for Christmas lol!

What is your favourite Christmas song?

Merry Christmas Everybody – Slade

Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?

Of course not, how could we? Santa won’t have been yet! 😉

Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?

In a word… no! Erm, Rudolph obviously. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Blitzen…  How many are there? Oops, I think I just failed the parent test. Oh dear….

Which holiday traditions are you looking forward to this year?

Making our gingerbread house together on Christmas eve.

Is your Christmas tree real or fake?

Fake. It’s child size, blue and decorated by an 8 year old. What could be better than that? (Do not answer that! 😂)

What is your all time favourite holiday treat/food/sweet?

I can’t think of a specific answer to this really. But I loved the vegan meal we had last night for our Christmas do, it was delicious!

Be honest, do you like giving or receiving gifts better?

Giving. Honest answer.

What is the best Christmas present you ever received?

Anything from my daughter!

What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season?

New York would be high on my list, definitely.

Are you a pro present wrapper or do you fail miserably?

Terrible, I fail miserably. I hate it and I suck at it. Fact.

Most memorable Christmas moment?

There are lots of memorable moments! My daughter spotting ‘Santa’s sleigh’ in the sky for the first time a few years back, that was magical!

What made you realise the truth about Santa?

I have no idea what you’re talking about… 😉

What makes the holidays special for you?

Spending time with family.

Christmas, festive, Christmas Tag, about me, blogger, Q&A

So, that’s my Christmas tag answers! And I’m tagging LeeLee Loves, Mum Times Two, Adventures in Homeschool, Emma and Family, BecsterJust Average Jen and Emma Plus Three to take part too!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!!

Eco- Friendly Christmas Decoration Ideas

We love it when it’s time to decorate for Christmas and turn our home into a festive wonderland! For us, it’s all about getting into the spirit and having fun together. But one thing that is also important to me is finding ways that we can make our Christmas decor abit more eco-friendly. We always try to be mindful of the materials we buy or choose to use, and the amount of waste we create, but Christmas can be an extra tough time for the environment. So on that note, here are some wonderful creative festive ideas that won’t cost the earth…

If you are looking for an alternative to a traditional Christmas tree then take a look at these great DIY versions by Inhabitots. We have a cardboard tree from IKEA (sadly no longer in stock) which we love because it can be reused – ours is on it’s third year – and can be easily recycled once finished with. The design could easily be recreated at home if you are feeling creative!

Christmas, decorations, reuse, recycle, eco, environment, DIY, festive decor, cardboard tree

The Forestry Commission have some beautiful suggestions for natural homemade decorations on Pinterest. Squiggle has been asking to make our own wreath, and there is a lovely design for us to try out.

I also love these ‘reuse and recycle’ ideas from Festive Lights. I didn’t know that gingerbread cookies can be varnished to make longer lasting decorations; I’m very keen to try that out, such a simple but effective idea, and a fun family activity! I also particularly love the snowman fridge too, so cute!

Christmas, decorations, reuse, recycle, eco, environment, DIY, festive decor, infographic, Festive Lights

Salt dough Christmas tree ornaments are natural and fully biodegradeable, yet are easy to make and look great! There is an excellent detailed step-by-step guide by MommyPotamus here. Squiggle had fun making some recently!

Christmas, decorations, reuse, recycle, eco, environment, DIY, festive decor, salt dough hanging ornaments

Do you have any eco-friendly decoration ideas? I would love to hear about them!

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Willows Farm Santa Spectacular (St Albans, Herts)

Santa Spectacular Willows Activity Farm is a great day out at any time of year. But Squiggle particularly loves their festive event Santa Spectacular, which runs daily from the last week of November until Christmas eve. There are a variety of seasonal activities on offer, such as ice skating, writing a letter to Santa, Festive Wood Ride, shows, making a cuddly toy, and of course an opportunity to meet the man himself! In addition, there are also some new activities for this year, including elf school, snowball shoot-out and a 3D film sleigh ride. We didn’t do anywhere near everything, but that is what is so nice about having so many options, families can pick and choose what they most want to do! 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

We visited on a weekday in November so it was fairly quiet. At the entrance we were greeted by an elf, which I’m sure many children would be delighted by! For a minority of children it might be slightly daunting to be approached on arrival, but the other elf and the lovely lady at the ticket kiosk were aware of this and discreetly addressed it by calling her over to give us some space. I must say I was really grateful for their help and support in starting our day off on the right foot! For most though, I’m sure it is a great welcome that adds to the festive atmosphere and magic of Christmas. 

Once in the farm, we headed to the magical ice rink first because this is one of Squiggle’s favourite activities to do there. When we arrived, it had just opened and was still empty so we had it to ourselves! Squiggle can no longer fit into over-the-shoe style skates so she wore proper ice skates for the first time, which she was very excited about. The rink is synthetic, which makes it less slippery than real ice, but the polar bear and penguin supports are handy for less experienced skaters of any age! 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Squiggle was keen to meet Santa so we made sure to fit that into our day next. We got very lucky and found it completely empty! This meant we were able to browse the cute Christmas scenes and displays on the way through to the grotto at our leisure then go straight in to see Father Christmas as soon as we were ready, with no queuing. 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

We had a quick chat with Santa in his wonderful homely grotto, then he presented Squiggle with a key to his magic toy shop (where they can choose any toy they want!) and the photographer took some photos. Squiggle then hurried excitedly to the toy shop, which is filled with a good selection of toys to suit a variety of interests and ages, where she promptly found a cuddly toy seal – that she had just told Santa was on her wish list! (What luck!!!) We also purchased a couple of the professional photos taken because own cameras are not allowed in the grotto. They certainly weren’t cheap but they are lovely photos!

Back outside, there was a meet and greet with a gorgeous real husky dog. This seemed like a good cue to go and make our own cuddly toy version, which included in the entrance price. This is also where you can write and post a letter to Father Christmas, but Squiggle opted to do this at home instead when she was less distracted!

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Dotted around Willows, both inside and out, are lots of festive displays that really add to the atmosphere. For example, this one is next to the ice rink by the entrance to the grotto.

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Aside from the festive fun, there are plenty of regular Willows Farm facilities available too. Squiggle let off some steam in the indoor soft play and outdoors too, including the fab new Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground that opened earlier this year. We also popped into the animal barn quickly to see the animals, including the reindeer.

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

It was a fantastic day out that we all really enjoyed. For more information, and to save money by booking tickets online, check out the Willows Activity Farm website. We are feeling very festive after our visit, Merry Christmas everyone! 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Farm at Christmas

Squiggle had a lovely day enjoying the festivities at Willows Farm in St Albans. The main downside was that even during school hours it was alot busier than we would have hoped as it seems a popular destination for school trips at this time of year. That aside, we really enjoyed the range of Christmas activities on offer as well as the usual Willows fun.

It was not possible to take full advantage of the developments they have made recently to the sand area, that now includes additional features for water play, but it looked brilliant. Also looking forward to the future developments planned for the adventure playground, on the theme of Peter Rabbit.

From an SEN point of view, we appreciated the fact that disabled tickets did not have the same restrictions as other ticket types on the internet advanced booking system. Such a simple thing made a big difference and says alot about their attitude I feel. So big thumbs up for that! The staff generally seem understanding towards SEN families and have a positive attitude, based upon our experiences there anyway.

Father Christmas was very accepting of Squiggle’s additional needs too, and he interacted with her beautifully. The only issue was the difficulty with waiting in the queue, especially when other customers unfortunately lack the same understanding, but thankfully it wasn’t as long to wait as it can be at times so we were fairly lucky with that. The larger toy shop was a big improvement, a far less claustrophobic experience than previous years!

Overall, really pleased with our visit, fantastic day out. Feeling very festive now!

Here are the photos…

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For more info see their website www.willowsactivityfarm.com