Reviewed by Louise Totton
Yesterday (Sunday 18th November), we were lucky enough to be invited along to visit the Nicktoons Christmas Grotto at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. My girls (aged 6 and 9) love the Pleasure Beach, particularly Nickelodeon Land, because they get to see and meet some of their favourite TV characters whilst wandering around. So, you can imagine the excitement of being able to meet a number of these characters along with the November and December man of the moment – Santa Claus!
We arrived on a lovely sunny but cold day, and because the main Pleasure Beach park is currently closed, there was absolutely loads of free parking available near the Pleasure Beach. Not being local, we didn’t realise that The Arena, where the Grotto is held, had a separate entrance to the rest of the park (via Watson Road Tunnel), so it did take us a short time to find our way to where we wanted to be. But once there, it was very obvious where to go, and the staff were all super helpful and absolutely in full-on Christmas mode!
The magic started pretty much as soon as we set foot in the grotto with cheerful elves waiting to greet us and chat to the children. The kids were happy enough with this, but then Donatello from TMNT came along and their world was blown! ‘Donnie’ and his chaperone spent a lovely few minutes playing with the kids, getting them to write their names in chalk and high-fiving them. We were then taken through to meet Santa, who was asleep in a rocking chair in front of a lovely open fire (we all had to shout to wake him up).
Just like Donatello, Santa spent plenty of time talking to the kids and posing for photos. There is an official photographer there (you can buy the photos at the end should you wish), but we were also allowed to take our own photographs which doesn’t often happen in places like this. One of the elves even offered to take a photo of all of us with my phone which was a lovely touch. We were each presented with a Pleasure Beach goody bag, which the kids then clung onto for dear life!
We then wound our way through the grotto and met lots of other familiar characters. I have to say that my personal favourite was Spongebob Squarepants, but they were also lucky enough to meet Leonardo TMNT and Marshall from Paw Patrol.
There is plenty for the kids to actually do inside the grotto. They decorated little wooden keys with a North Pole princess and stuck their most wished for Christmas wish onto the Wishing Wall. They were able to meet Professor Slime, who spent ages chatting to them and allowed them to help her make and dispense some very special Nickelodeon green sparkly slime into test tubes to take home with them.
They had a go at the Paw Patrol computer with Marshall – I would have assumed my nine-year-old would have been a little too old for this, but I think she got even more involved than her younger sister! They had great fun at the Reindeer Dust Station, making their own magical reindeer dust to take away with them to use on Christmas Eve.
I have to say that at no point did we feel rushed at all, and every single person we encountered was wonderful with the children and happily spent as long as was needed chatting to them. We took loads of photos with all of the characters, and I think meeting and posing with them was a real highlight for my youngest.
Both me and my other half thought that this kind of interactive experience was far better than a traditional Santa’s Grotto. There was just so much to do, the kids got really involved and into the spirit of the day. As well as the photos, characters, slime making, key decorating and reindeer food station, there were other crafty bits that they could sit down and do, as well as a little chill-out area with Nicktoons videos showing. However, my two were so keen to move onto the ice skating that they didn’t want to sit and watch the videos, so we moved on to the skating rink.
This is located just across the way and there is a little coffee shop area, so you can grab a warm drink and a bite to eat if you wanted to warm up before hitting the ice. The kids were so keen to get skating that we headed straight for the skate hire window to pick up our (included) hire skates.
My nine-year-old is a pretty reasonable roller-skater, whereas my six-year-old can really only just stay upright on wheels so we knew the ice would be a bit of an experience! Within minutes, my eldest was pretty comfortable on the ice, but it took my younger one about twenty minutes to do her first circuit of the rink, clinging on for dear life at all times.
We stayed on the ice for about an hour, and by the end of the time I had one child who was actually pretty confident and competent, and another who was getting there and was able to skate short distances without holding on. They have both since asked if they can do ice skating again, so the few slips, falls and bruises that they suffered clearly didn’t affect their enjoyment one little bit.
I think ice skating is a fabulous way to round off a festive visit to see Santa, and was a real treat for both girls, especially as it was their first time on the ice. The goody bags handed out were lovely and included a Nicktoons themed gift as well as a Diamond Pass for the 2019 season, which allows free entry into the Pleasure Beach for all of next year (not the rides, but there is then a discount on an unlimited ride wristband).
We had an absolutely wonderful time at the Nicktoons Christmas Grotto. It was a real treat for the kids and was different to the usual grotto experience. With the included ice skating, it made for a fantastic day out and we thought it was great value for money, especially if booked in advance.
Tickets cost £15.99 per person when booked online (£17.99 per person on the day).
For more information or to book tickets online visit www.blackpoolpleasurebeach.com.
Pleasure Beach Arena, Watson Road, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY4 1EZ | 0871 222 1234