We took an early trip on the iconic Santa Express to see what magical moments it brings for 2017.
Oakfield Park in Raphoe has been transformed into a winter wonderland again to make way for the Santa Express – one of the biggest Christmas events in Donegal.
Elves, reindeer mascots and twinkling lights fill the park throughout December to create Christmassy scenes and an atmosphere that seems straight out of a festive film. A little train toots through the park to deliver children and families to marvellous merry places.
The Santa Express visit involves lots of things to see and do. So, to help you plan your trip, we have a guide on what enchanting experiences you can expect:
The Santa Express train is the most outstanding feature of the visit. The novelty train departs from a sparkling station where a jolly conductor welcomes you aboard and elves help you get settled in. Blankets are provided for the journey and add to the cosy feel.
An extraordinary element of this Christmas train is that it only runs on Christmas cheer. Guests have to sing Jingle Bells as loud as they can to get the engine going.
Once the train starts moving you are whisked through the park on a journey with many lovely sights. Twinkling trees, lit-up reindeer displays, candy canes and little scenes of elf life are dotted along the way. The train takes guests to one of two grottos to meet the big man in red – Santa.
A special Santa visit
Santa greets his guests from two locations in the park. He has a room in a magnificent castle by the lake, as well as a charming wooden cabin.
Families get a private meet and greet with Mr Claus and a special gift to suit their age. A professional photographer captures the moment and a photo print costs €10. (Note that this is not included in the ticket price).
As soon as you arrive at the park you are greeted by cheery helpers who guide you on the experience.
Kids can meet Frozen’s famous Queen Elsa, Rudolph the Reindeer and a merry band of elves at various locations. The elves are chirpy and helpful rosy-cheeked characters that will ensure you and your children enjoy each moment.
Christmas cheer that’s not just for kids
Adults are given a hot chocolate or mulled wine to warm up after the chilly train ride and the excitement of meeting Santa. (A complimentary drink is included with your ticket.)
You can sip these winter warmers while browsing the small Christmas markets outside the station. This is the first year of the artisan market, which is a lovely chance to get unique locally-made gifts and fashion items.
Extending the festive fun
Kids can prolong the fun with a visit to the elf workshop. A large outdoor marquee contains tables and chairs for crafty youngsters to create Christmas artwork.
A huge tree and sleigh outside the Buffers restaurant is an ideal place for a family photo. Plus, there’s a beautiful big post box inside the restaurant to send off letters to the North Pole. Families can get a table in Buffers to sit and enjoy festive drinks, meals and sweet treats, because writing that Santa list may take some time!
Top Tip: Wrap up warm for this visit as the majority of activities take place outside.
Tickets for the overall Santa Express experience are priced at €15 for adults, €18 for children and €10 for infants under 12 months. Once you have your entry ticket you can spend as long as you like eating, drinking, exploring the markets, and enjoying the sights.
There are very limited ticket options available for December 2017, you can browse the times and dates here to see if a day suits you: www.oakfieldpark.com/events
If you haven’t got a booking this season, you always put a visit on your wish list for next year!