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Tinsel town... SNOW BUSINESS LAPLANDUK always has the white stuff; Why take the kids all the way to see Santa in Lapland when he has a magical base in the UK?

Byline: LYNNE HYLAND

Boarding a plane hand in hand with the kids and whisking them off to Lapland has always seemed like a wonderful idea.

A wonderful idea for that sort of parent, that is.

You know the kind: hellbent on ensuring their little darlings will experience every single potential magical moment of childhood, no matter the cost, time or downright faff involved.

My husband and I, on the other hand, are firmly in the "that'll do" school of entertaining kids, particularly while ours are still too young to notice Mum and Dad are a bit slack.

So when it came to arranging a meet and greet with the real, actual Father Christmas, there was no doubt in our minds.

Why haul the kids (and, more to the point, ourselves) out of bed at 3am to schlep to the airport for a trek to the Frozen North when Santa has a secret UK base near Ascot? That's right, Father Christmas is now one of those global players: think Amazon with sleighbells on.

And what a gorgeous spot he's bagsied, tucked away in a special corner of Berkshire's Whitmoor Forest where the pine trees and fairylight-strewn pathways are always magically sprinkled with snow. There's a catch though. Only the very bestbehaved children are allowed in, and strictly on the understanding they'll help Santa's elves who are struggling this year to get enough toys ready for a bumper "good list".

When an invitation explaining all this arrived by Reindeer Post, my two kids had rather different reactions.

"This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me. Oh. My. God. I think I am actually going to faint," shrieked Cara, five.

Meanwhile Connor, six, looked a mixture of mystified and guilty. 'Are you sure I've been good this year?" he blurted out.

Toy supply issues aside, it transpires Father Christmas is running a slick operation at LaplandUK.

A visit here is less a casual noseyround, more a full-scale theatrical extravaganza. Parents will definitely need a fully-charged camera phone to capture all the big-eyed moments. Our MAGIC MOMENT Connor and meet Father Christmas pair looked gratify-ingly gob-smacked right from the moment an enormous door inside the elves' woodland home swung open to reveal the winter wonderland outside. The day is nicely paced, slotting in group tour activities like the toy workshop and gingerbread decorating in Mother Christmas's kitchen between free time in the snowy elf village to eat, drink, shop and ice skate.

The currency here is Elf Jingles and there's an exchange bureau back at the start of the tour but if you're the sort of parents that have, say, arrived late and Daddy's sporting a mild hangover (OK, steaming hangover) you'll be able to use your credit card to buy much-needed coffees and mince pies.

Many glugs of caffeine later, we were all set for the grand finale. An elf rounded everyone up and led us deep into the forest to meet the Big Man himself.

I must confess, as we stood with all the other families in the waiting area, I feared it was going to be the equivalent of a drive-through - quick, massproduced and unsatisfying. I couldn't have been more wrong. We were taken, just the four of us, down to a log cabin where an unmistakable "ho-ho-ho" booming from within had Connor beaming and Cara scuttling behind Daddy's legs.

A little cajoling (aka a shove) got the pair of them inside, where any shyness evaporated like snow in sunshine.

To say much more would spoil it for others but let's just say Father Christmas was everything they - and we - could have hoped for.

Weaving our way out through the forest, there were so many questions in our minds.

How could Father Christmas possibly know so much about the kids? How could he welcome so many families at once, all in such a unhurried manner? And how did visiting his UK home make a pair of "that'll do" parents feel like they'd delivered the full works? Well, it's simple - Father Christmas is magic, of course.

And so is LaplandUK.

TRAVEL FILE TICKETS: Prices start from [euro]76 and the visit lasts for around three and a half hours. Prices include gift for the kids, activities and meeting Father Christmas. laplanduk.co.uk Get inspired at mirror.co.uk/travel

This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me. Oh. My. God. I'm going to faint

CAPTION(S):

DECORATIONS Cara gets to work on a gingerbread man

RED NOSE WAY Connor helps put a toy reindeer together for elves

MAGIC MOMENT Connor and Cara meet Father Christmas

CARRIED AWAY Lynne with Cara and Connor

SOME SKATE EXPECTATIONS Lynne and Cara take a twirl on the Lapland ice rink
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 6, 2015
Words:793
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