Santa has steamed into Havenstreet and has set up residence there in his grotto until Christmas. Known as ‘Santa Specials’, a visit to see him has become part of the Isle of Wight Christmas timetable. New for this year are children’s entertainers and activities and a crowd of festive characters are wandering around at the IW Steam Railway.
First of all you get to visit the railway’s ‘Winter Wonderland’ that has become more wonderful as the years go by with decorated trees, Christmas scenes and showers of Christmas lights. Then you arrive at Santa’s grotto and every child gets a quality gift.
Next it’s on to the Santa Express for a ten mile round trip on one of the railway’s wonderful old steam trains that are all seasonally decked as are the stations you chuff through on your magical ride. The carriages are all heated and in recent years these trips have been especially pretty in the snow.
Adults get mulled wine, or soft drink, and a mince pie and the children can tuck into a little bit of seasonal fayre with more substantial lunches and yummy cakes on sale in the Refreshment Rooms. There’s a well-stocked shop with lots of quality Christmas toys and gift ideas.
Obviously you can do the train ride before you see Santa but most children want to see him as soon as they arrive – luckily the Winter Wonderland that you walk through lessens the pain of queuing, which can occur at busy times. Opt for lunchtime and you may find it less so.
Santa Specials are over every weekend in December and between December 21st and 24th inclusive. The first trains leave the station at around 10.30am with the last train leaving at about 4.30pm. The children’s entertainers finish at 4.30pm too, so it’s best to get there at about 3.30pm at the latest in order to get the full benefit of the experience.