Last week we were invited to head into the city and experience Liverpool’s Famous Grotto. Originally based in Lewis’s Department Store, the Grotto is the world’s first and oldest Grotto and is now in it’s 139th year! This year it has been relocated to St John’s Market. As you might expect with a big city, there are plenty of Santa’s Grottoes taking place so I was interested to see exactly what ‘Liverpool’s Famous Grotto’ would have to offer.
We caught the train to Liverpool Central and it took us about five minutes to walk to St John’s Shopping Centre which is where the market can be found. Once you are inside, it is very easy to find the Grotto…you just need to follow Santa’s snowy footsteps. There are two different routes you can take but they are both clearly marked so there is no chance of getting lost or turned around. The Grotto itself is tucked away upstairs in the Market but we found it easily enough and the kids loved spotting the footprints as we went along.
We absolutely adore all things Christmassy so were very excited to head on down for the grand opening. On this occasion, there was a red ribbon cutting by Claire, one of the presenters from Radio City and as we had been invited for the media opening we didn’t have tickets but the desk to collect yours is right at the entrance so very easy to navigate.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about exactly what you will find in the Grotto as I think that would spoil the surprise but I will just say that it is fairytale themed, with a few local touches such as models of Liverpool landmarks and two bears who are ready for the derby (this was a particular favourite with Meg and Eli who sit very much on opposite sides; one red, one blue!)
I thought the whole experience was well thought through with lots for the kids to spot on their way to meet Santa. Although we never visited the Grotto when it was at Lewis’s, it is my understanding that a lot of the same set-up has been kept with just a few new additions for 2018. I’m also not 100% certain but I got the impression there are a number of santa’s operating at the same time so I would imagine that this helps to keep the waiting time down for kids (and adults!) once you have wandered through to the Grotto entrance. The tickets are also sold in 20 minute time slots so hopefully that reduces waiting times as well.
As you go in, you will pass through the festive wonderland, which as I mentioned, has lots for children to see. Then you join the queue for Santa. On our trip, Santa spent a good deal of time talking to both Meg and Eli, asking them what they wanted for Christmas and all the typical questions you would expect. Then it was time for a quick photo opportunity and out the other side, presents in hand.
After exiting the Grotto you enter a Christmas shop where you can pick up the photo if you choose and a small section where children can write and post their letters to Santa. There is a small refreshment kiosk as well as lots of Christmas themed goodies. My only criticism of the whole experience would be that there is no way to avoid the Christmas shop. I have a personal preference when we go on days out that you are not forced to go through a gift shop but I know it is not uncommon. Although in the end we were shaken down for Christmas themed squishes for the kids and they were fairly priced which is a positive.
The Grotto is open now until Christmas Eve although opening times vary. Tickets are £10 per child and £1 per adult with time slots available every 20 minutes. We would definitely recommend going if you are heading into the City over the Christmas period and with the Christmas Market now at St George’s Hall, it would be only a short stroll from the Shopping Centre if you wanted to extend the festivities.