It’s been a while since I wrote about one of our days out. I’m not sure why, I seem to have less time on my hands these days and tend to use the time I do have to write about products I’ve been using of the things I’ve been wearing. But recording memories of our days out is one of the main reasons I set up this blog and we had such a magical time at Tulleys Farm on the run up to Christmas that I didn’t want the memory to slide by without recording it.
Tulleys Farm, Sussex
Tulleys Farm is a large seasonal entertainment venue located in the heart of West Sussex close to East Grinstead and Crawley. Traditional to its farm roots, it has an an animal patch and Pick Your Own Pumpkin event which runs throughout October half term every year, but the main thing the farm is famous for, is it’s elaborate seasonal entertainment experiences such as Shocktober Fest, the more family friendly Spook Fest and the Tulleys Christmas Experience which we visited. Tulleys Farm also has some of the best Escape Rooms in the country with four elaborately themed rooms and a licensed bar and lounge – but thats a story for another day.
Tulleys Farm Christmas Experience
The Tulleys Farm Christmas Experience is designed by the same team who put together the award winning Shocktober Fest and Escape Rooms so authenticity is key. When you arrive at the experience, you drive into the woodland heart of the farm and are escorted to a row of admin desks where ‘elves’ check you in, and tell you all about the day ahead.
There are around nine different experiences included within the price of a ticket and I actually think it was good value for money. I will go into more detail about each of them below, but for approximately £34 per child (depending on when you visit), you get the chance to make some reindeer food, walk through an enchanted forest, make Gingerbread men with Mrs Clause, visit the 3D cinema, build a bear, go on a sleigh ride, post a letter to Santa, watch a puppet show and most importantly meet Santa Claus himself!! If that isn’t a full day’s worth of magical activities to keep the whole family entertained, I don’t know what is. Then on top of that you can go ice skating, visit the fair ground and go shopping in the lovely and festive Christmas shop.
In order to ensure that everyone doesn’t arrive and try and bombard Santa at the same time, the day works by booking your Sleigh Ride prior to arriving at the farm and then working your experience round it. Novices at this game, we stupidly booked the Sleigh Ride quite early in the day and ended up missing our allotted slot because we got delayed in the morning sorting Ollie. However luckily for us, we’d also arranged our visit really early in the season (the first weekend in December)meaning it wasn’t too busy and the elves at the check in desk couldn’t have been more helpful booking us onto another sleigh ride to make sure Ettie wasn’t disappointed. I thought this was really lovely of them, especially as I think they could see we were pretty stressed on arrival! Once we’d checked in, they gave Ettie a little passport and a map showing all the activities she could do that day, and the idea was to get a stamp at each one to make sure she didn’t miss any thing out.
Tickets sorted and Christmas cheer now fully running through our veins, our first stop was to the log cabin for a hot chocolate and a chance to plan our day. I loved this part because they served Ettie a hot chocolate in a mini cup and she was so pleased with it. She looked like such a big girl holding it. This was the part where we sat her down and told her all about Santa’s workshop and how if she was lucky she might even get to see him that day. I could see her little mind working overdrive and because of the surroundings the magic of Christmas really started to sink in.
This was our first family Christmas day out where Ettie was old enough to have a grasp of what was going on and so all the little touches, like the mini hot chocolate, made the whole experience just lovely from the start.
Even though it was a dull day, we didn’t let the weather dampen our spirits. We bumped into Rudolf and and Elf on the way to our first activity and they were more than happy to pose for a photo – even though it was pouring with rain at that point.
Making Reindeer Food
Our first activity was to go and make some reindeer food and get the first little stamp in our passport. We were greeted at the door by some more elves and shown into a room with lots of different grains that reindeers like to eat. The elves showed Ettie how to fill her little bag with food and then tied a ribbon around it at the end so that she could take it home and leave it out for the Reindeer on Christmas Eve. It was so lovely for her to be able to take something away and I think it really helped her understand that something exciting was about to happen. When we were home she kept talking about the food for Santas reindeer, and being able to scatter it by the fire on Christmas Eve was another lovely little thing we had to help add to the excitement.
Bellies full it was time to visit the main man himself! We all congregated at the North Pole station and waited for our Sleigh Tractor to come and pick us up. We couldn’t take Ollie’s pram on this bit so that might be something to bear in mind when planning your trip. There was a buggy park and places to lock them up with a bicycle lock if thats what you wanted to do, but if you have a tiny baby it might be worth taking a sling too.
Yet another Elf accompanied us on our Sleigh Tractor ride to Santa’s log cabin and got all the children excited panto style asking lots of questions about Christmas.
When we arrived at Santas Log cabin, he was fast asleep so the children all had to shout to wake him up. Because Ettie had never really been to anything like that before, it was lovely watching her little face take everything in and shout with all the other children. Once they had managed to wake him up, Santa told them all a story and there was an opportunity to meet him and tell him what they wanted for Chrisrtmas, On the way our they were given a star which they could exchange for a present back at his workshop, then it was back on the Sleigh Tractor before the next group arrived.
Apologies this isn’t really a very jolly photo of Santa, we were asked not to take photos at this bit and I read the sign just as the shutter was being clicked so I think I caught him a bit off guard!
Santas workshop was a lovely idea but a bit chaotic. There was a choice of presents, but the main attraction was to build a bear and there was a HUGE pile of bears in the centre of the room for the children to choose from. Now if you’ve ever ‘built a bear’ before, then you’ll know how many stages there are once you’ve chosen a heart, made a wish, given the teddy a name, lined up for their birth certificate… all lovely ideas but with a stampede of indecisive children marching none stop through the door, you can imagine how the Elves in this section were a little low on Christmas spirit. Ettie was really happy with her Christmas Monkey that she affectionately called Tilda – but we did feel a little bit like cattle!
‘Tilda’ the Monkey.
Santa’s Post House
Next on the list was a visit to Santa’s Post House and I have to say that this was one of my favourite activities from the day, mainly because I think for a the year old it was really authentic. The Elves working in the Post House had brilliant costumes on and asked us Ettie’s name on the sly as we first arrived meaning they were able to call her by her first name, as if Santa had already told them.
They helped Ettie write her letter and then showed her the way to the magical post house so she was able to post it. I’m not really sure she understood why she needed to write a letter to Santa at this stage but when she posted it in the letter box it all made a bit more sense.
My favourite part about this experience and perhaps in fact the whole day, was that when we were leaving the Elves hand the parents a little red envelope which they are to hide under the children’s pillow as soon as they get home. Inside is a letter from Santa saying that he’s received their letter from Tulleys Farm and that he’ll be watching to make sure they are good until Christmas. I hid Ettie’s letter and waited for her to find it when she got in and the excitement in her eyes almost made me cry, She simply couldn’t understand how Santa had got in the house to put it there and kept running downstairs to check the chimneys (I actually forgot we had another fireplace in the kitchen when I was trying to explain how he could have got in and she reminded me).
This little extra touch is exactly why I think Tulleys Farm at Christmas was so great. They really had thought of everything!
After stopping to watch the puppet show, taking a trip round the enchanted forest and stopping to buy the biggest bag of pic and mix you’ve ever seen (and that was for Stuart not Ettie), it was time for a quick go on the dodgems before hitting the 3D Cinema. If you haven’t yet taken your toddler to see a 3D film then you really must add that to your list. It was absolutely hilarious watching her duck away from and trying to grab the presents and candy canes that were jumping out of the screen in front of her. The confusion in her eyes when she took the glasses off was a picture.
I just love these pictures of Ettie and her Daddy on the dodgems. She looks so happy. She’s actually quite a shy person and not very brave, but when she’s with her Dad she suddenly gets this big boost of confidence and decides she wants to tear around the floor in a dodgem car.
Making Gingerbread Men
Our final stop was to decorate some gingerbread men with Mrs Claus. Here the elves took us all into what seemed like a big school hall with rows of decorating materials all laid out. Mrs Claus showed the children what to do from up on stage and then popped down at the end to meet them all and give them a hug. This was a brilliant activity for all ages and again really nice that they had something they were able to take away.
All in all we had the LOVLIEST day at Tulleys Farm. The attention to detail and thought they had put into everything really made it so heartwarming and I simply loved watching the excitement in Ettie’s face grow as she slowly began to understand what was happening. We’ll 100% be returning next year.
If this has ignited your Christmas sparkle you might find this post interesting too: – The Best Christmas Markets in the UK