Our second encounter with Father Christmas took place in Rovaniemi – the Finnish Lapp capital and so tied up with Santa that they have two places you can see him. Santa Village, right on the Arctic Circle is great with a post office and other quirky things to see. Husband and I went there in the past, this time with Son in tow we decided to try out the other option – Santa Park. Once again we broke with our normal traditions and booked this excursion via a tour operator before we left the UK. This did turn out to be a good call, hassle free they sorted coach transfer to and from the park, entrance tickets plus a few goodies for the children thrown in for good measure.
We were ferried by coach to Rovaniemi from Levi, the drive takes over two hours and sometimes closer to three dependent on the weather conditions. It was a very comfortable journey though and they played a selection of festive movies so all was well and the time flashed past. Not a lot to see en-route, the landscape is exceptionally flat and white covered as far as the eye can see. Rovaniemi does not exactly impress at first glance. Razed to the ground by the Nazis at the end of WWII, the rebuilding then and in the ensuing decades has left much of the city featureless in my opinion and just an expanse of concrete. Still, no matter, we whizzed through and headed outside the town to Santa Park. This place did impress us at first sight.
We descended into a huge man-made cavern through the most impressive and festive entrance. A group of very friendly and smiley elves welcomed us and posed for pictures.
There was a show about to start on the main stage just as we arrived so we decided to watch that first. A mix of dance, gymnastics and acrobatics it was very good and got the thumbs up all round. Snacks in the café to sustain us for the rest of the day, we enjoyed the Santa touches everywhere – even the trays. Son was keen to explore the toy factory and we had a look at the various outlets selling Santa themed souvenirs.
Son found the delightfully themed Fairytale Corner, perched in front of a friendly elf he listened attentively as a Christmas story was read to him.
He wrote his letter to Santa then posted it in the Drum of Dreams. We wrote our postcards home and mailed them from the post office here – they arrived a week or so later with an Arctic Circle postmark and a Santa stamp.
After all that it was time for the important business, a visit to Santa’s office. It is open all day, you can come back and see him as many times as you like. Son found a peephole and had a look, this helped with nerves we witnessed at the last Santa meeting and all previous shyness evaporated.
Santa’s office was beautifully themed and decorated and he was warm, jolly and everything you expect that great man to be. Full of chat, very friendly and lively, he proved to be as big a hit with Husband as Son thanks to a very keen interest in football and the fact they supported the same team. Who would have known!
Son’s face was a picture, he was full of conversation and loved this meeting. We spent quite a while with Santa and had no pressure at all to move on. You could take as many pictures as you wanted and they did have a professional photographer here too but no pressure at all to buy.
Elf School was our next activity – another big hit. It takes place three or four times a day, we entered through a long, narrow corridor and into the “classroom.” Once inside we saw we’d used the fireplace as the entrance – clever and cute. The children sat at the front, adults at the back while the Chief Elf and her helpers taught the little ones how to be a good elf. Son loved every second of this experience too, we enjoyed it but I must admit to finding it just a teeny bit tedious as everything she said was translated into a host of different languages, one after the other.
We took a sleigh ride through Santa’s workshop and past some Christmassy scenes before finding the bakery. Son decorated a gingerbread cookie with icing and sprinkles, hasty pictures were taken as it didn’t last too long after that.
Our day here ended in the Ice Bar – fun and different. We paid extra to enter the small Ice Gallery for a guided tour of the ice sculptures. Once inside we hastily put on the white furry coats they offered, then the Ice Princess showed us around and told us a bit about each sculpture. To be honest we should have saved the money and given this a miss. It is not worth the extra charge, especially since you can see the sculptures through the window for free.
We did though all enjoy the Ice Bar, again a charge to enter but this time it was worth the money. Everything inside, from the counter to the bar, walls, shelves and stools are all made of ice. We paid extra too for a shot of cranberry vodka in a flashing glass. The lady who worked here was friendly and fun so an all round good experience.
We spent three hours in Santa Park and all agreed it was definitely worth the two hour drive. Touristy and gimmicky, a completely different experience to the previous Santa visit but a wonderful and highly memorable day out.