Want the full on Santa weekend experience but don’t want to have to travel all the way to Lapland to do it? Scotland is a great place to start. We knew we wanted to take Piper to visit Santa but December is such a busy time for us, we couldn’t spare the time it would take to fly somewhere so when we found a Santa weekend at the Macdonald Hotel in Aviemore it seemed like the perfect solution.
They offer great value 3-night weekend breaks in December with everything xmassy thrown, it came to around £600 for the 3 of us. But was it as good as promised? Read on to find out what we thought.
Communication before we arrived was great, Santa keeps in touch by email and sent us a letter, asking for Pipers help to prep the toys which we presented to her on the morning of our visit. You phone the hotel to book in meal times and your Santa visit, everything else is pretty much ad hoc.
Top Tip: Try to book your evening meals at about half five – six, that way you have a chance of the kids eating and having a quiet chat before the evening entertainment begins.
It was a 7-hour drive for us up to Aviemore and unfortunately we got stuck in traffic so didn’t arrive till half six so it was a pretty manic rush to get checked in and receive our all-important wristbands – not quite the relaxed visit to the elf post office whilst sipping the promised hot choc, munching on mince pies we had been promised but at least Piper got to post her letter and have her first elf encounter.
The resort has 3 four star hotels and various lodges, we were staying in the Aviemore Hotel, two mins drive from where you check in at the Morlich Hotel. It’s a little run down but the rooms were big and cosy enough to make us feel at home. We did have a pretty nice view of the surrounding mountains.
Presumably as we were late arriving we were put in one of the rooms furthest away from reception, and the lifts were broken for the whole of our stay, a nightmare when lugging our bags up the three flights of stairs in our rush to get to dinner (and there’s no concierge to assist) and a mild annoyance every time we wanted to pop back to our room.
No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t get the shower to get any more than lukewarm, maybe due to the large number of people using the water in the hotel. It was a bit disappointing when visiting at such a cold time of year. I was surprised to discover that there was no conditioner or body lotion in the bathroom, just shampoo and shower gel – make sure you bring some along!
If we were to visit again, I think we would choose to stay in one of their lodges, they looked fab!
On arrival, Mrs Claus had left a note and a small pressie for Piper on the bed – a nice touch but we didn’t really have chance to enjoy it as we were rushing off to our prebooked dinner slot.
Something the resort has got right is the evening entertainment. All evening meals are included in the price and you eat in the huge Osprey Arena with all the other guests – a few minutes’ walk from the hotel. The first night was a Street Food style buffet, with loads of food stalls set around the arena with delicious food from around the world.
It really was surprisingly good quality and great to have something to suit all tastes.
Obviously, Piper’s favourite part was the pudding table with a huge selection of sweet treats and a huge gingerbread house!
All the evening’s entertainment is also set up in the arena. On the Friday night, Santa arrived through the beautifully decorated fireplace to greet the children to Aviemore, then there’s a children’s disco and some singing later on.The kids absolutely loved it and totally tired themselves out learning new dance moves and joining in with the games led by the team of elves and entertainers. After our long day of traveling, it was pretty overwhelming for us adults but we lasted till the bitter end and all crashed out afterward.
Top Tip: Everyone and I mean everyone dresses up festively (not even sure that’s a word!) so make sure you pack plenty of xmas jumpers and T shirts, it will make you feel even more Christmassy!
Breakfast is taken in each individual hotel, again, it’s completely manic (you will probably need to queue to wait for an available table) and buffet style but the food was fabulous. We all filled up so much, we didn’t have lunch on any of the days we were there.
They offer up everything you could possibly want to start your day from fruit and cereals to a full on cooked breakfast, there’s even a gluten free station. Unfortunately the coffee was awful but there is a Costa in the Activity centre if you need an extra fix.
On our first morning, we decided to visit the onsite cinema (included in the price) and saw Paddington 2 – a fab movie and a nice start to our weekend. Then we explored the resort before our allotted Santa visit.
For this, it’s a quick walk through the woodlands to Santas highland home where you’ll be met by the elves and put in a cabin to wait until Santa is available. We had to wait for about 20 mins in a cabin with very little festive magic. The visit itself was OK, probably more suited to little kids and a little disappointing that Santa hadn’t swotted up on Pipers wish list before we visited, he just got out his folder of letters whilst we were in there. It took us about 3 minutes in all and I don’t think Piper was convinced!
The pressie was a cute set of Russian Doll owls to paint so we found a nice quiet corner at the Morlich Hotel, ordered a drink and warmed ourselves whilst Piper got creative.
Then it was a quick swim in the activity centre before heading back to our room to change/warm up before dinner.
Dinner on the second night was a full on family Gala dinner, a three-course Xmas dinner served to your table.
Again, totally delicious with party hats and crackers to add to the festive feel.
Then more dancing and elf entertainment followed by the Big Christmas Show. We felt a bit more chilled as we knew the drill and Piper was able to meet up with new friends she had made the previous night.
After dinner we popped into our hotel's bar for a nightcap – its beautifully designed with screens for sport and table football, perfect for chilling out after a busy day.
After another huge breakfast on the Sunday it was time to go and meet the reindeer. They were in an enclosure near where Santas cabin is and it was lovely to meet these wonderful creatures. Again, no particular magic here, none of them were called Rudolph but Piper enjoyed feeding them with bits of moss she picked off nearby trees, and you can always make up your own magic! The reindeer handler was very informative and happy to answer questions about each of them, their different sizes, ages and why their antlers shed.
We managed to pop out to a nearby Loch on the Sunday for a quick walk and a little explore, the town of Aviemore itself is lovely and made us want to revisit for a ski trip. There are plenty of cosy restaurants, coffee shops and ski shops to discover if you feel the need for a break from the hotel itself.
Top Tip: It’s cold, even if there’s no snow the Scottish weather is unforgiving in December so take plenty of warm clothes and boots so the freezing temperatures don’t ruin your stay.
We spent a lovely few hours in the Aviemore Activity centre. They had set up a Santas workshop at the Elf Village where we made crackers and Piper was treated to a few Xmas cookies then had a swim in the pool which even has a wave machine and flume (again the pool showers were pretty cold!). There’s a good soft play area next to the Coffee shop if you need a sit-down whilst the kids burn off some energy!
The highlight of our Sunday was the panto, this year it was Sleeping Beauty and was performed brilliantly by the Aviemore entertainment team and is included in the price of your stay.
Dinner on the final night was a delicious carvery with all the trimmings and the usual treats for pud. This was followed by a kid-friendly magic show and some songs from the movies.
Along with an opportunity to take some all-important selfies with the friendly elves.
In summary, was it perfect? No, but let’s face it, anywhere would struggle for perfection with that many super excited kids in one resort and it’s easily the best value Santa weekend we’ve found. We would definitely return.
There's still some availability for the last weekend befor Christmas 2018 so book your magical Santa weekend in Aviemore before it sells out!
This post contains affiliate links which means we may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through these links at no extra cost to you!