As far as children are concerned, there is only one reason to take a trip to the North Pole with kids – to visit Santa. The town of Rovaniemi in Finland lays claim to being the official hometown of the jolly red man and has two different ways that you can meet the “real” Santa in the North Pole. For a fantastical and whimsical day trip, here’s how parents can tick the Arctic Circle box and the kids meet Santa Claus.
Rovaniemi’s claim to fame is that it is a stopping point for visitors to experience the home of Santa Claus. Because of its location in the Arctic Circle, in the wintertime this is an especially magical experience wandering through the blanket of snow listening to the carols and colourful blinking lights. In the summer it can get quite warm – hot enough to be wearing shorts and flip flops – and for adults the town can lose a little of it’s charm and seem a little too commericalised.
As an entry point into Finnish Lapland with kids, Rovaniemi makes for a good stopover for a few hours before you head up to try to catch the Northern Lights in the winter. Along the drive into Rovaniemi you will often spot reindeer grazing quietly on the road.
But for children who really believe in Santa, visiting the official town of Santa Claus can be a wondrous lifetime experience because of the fact that they will really have been to the North Pole.
There are two distinct and quite different ways to meet, greet and have a photograph taken with Santa Claus. [For travel tips on how to celebrate Christmas in London with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Santa Claus Village is something like an open air shopping village with a few stores, the Santa meet and greet, a post office and not much else. It is all outdoors so you will be required to walk through the weather to move from building to building.
Because it is a collection of stores, there is no entry fee to get into the Santa Claus Village. Any member of the public can join the queue to take your photo with Santa in the North Pole and have a five minute chat with him. Afterwards, you have the option to purchase photos and a video recording of your conversation. Parents can pre-select presents that they want Santa to give to their kids at the meet and greet too.
The other major attraction at Santa Claus Village is the post office where you can see where mail from children all around the world addressed to Santa is stored. Here you can also order letters and postcards from Santa to be sent to you at home to arrive in time for Christmas.
If you are traveling without kids or with older kids and all you want to do is get a picture with Santa in the North Pole, this is the place to do it.
Santa Park is a small theme park where everything is all about Christmas and Santa. You pay an entrance fee to enter the park which is all underground (making it a great respite in the depths of winter). [To read more about other theme parks with kids, see the suitcases&strollers interview with the Theme Park Guy.]
Once there, you can also queue to have your picture taken with the “real” Santa or send a postcard from the post office.
But the difference Santa Park has over the Santa Claus Village is the option to really immerse the kids in the full Christmas experience for a few hours. There are quite a few activities for kids including a small train ride, a live stage performance, workshops where you can do arts and crafts, decorate gingerbread or attend elf school and an indoor play centre for the kids to just run around. There is also a room of ice sculptures including an ice slide and a café where you can stop for refreshments.
Because it is quite small, Santa Park is definitely better for under 10s and younger children (it is the sort of place older kids would get bored in quite quickly) and it doesn’t require more than a few hours to do everything.
To read more about other theme parks in Europe, see the suitcases&strollers story Disneyland Paris.