Lantern Magic at Chester Zoo

Yep, it’s February, and I’m about to talk about Christmas. Lantern Magic was too good to not write about though!

I had never been to Chester Zoo before, but Richard had taken our girl when I was in the States for a friend’s wedding over the summer. You don’t actually see any real animals during Lantern Magic as it takes place at dark yet I was still very much looking forward to seeing the large animal lanterns.

We had pre-booked tickets months in advance, and as the day drew nearer, it was calling for rain. It did rain most of that day and a little bit whilst we were there, but it didn’t spoil the fun for us. We just layered up and wore raincoats. A certain little girl was particularly excited to be wearing her Peppa Pig wellies to splash through the mammoth puddles!

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When we arrived and entered the zoo, each child was given their own little lantern to carry around the path. (Our girl would not let go of hers and ended up holding it in the car seat for most of the drive home. It was quite cute!) Then, each family was given a large lantern to be used and returned. These lanterns were heavy as they were a bit wet, but the various colors added to the atmosphere of the night. Richard and I took turns carrying around our lantern.

There was a path that everyone followed around the zoo in the same direction through various themed areas, such as an enchanted forest and a butterfly garden. Each area had its own lanterns that pertained to the theme.

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Our favorites (and I think this went for most people there) were the large animal lanterns. They were quite spectacular! A few of them were even animated by people, which was a unique touch. There was a giraffe whose head and neck was operated by a person to move in an extremely life-like manner. There were also two people wearing flamingo lanterns, who walked and carried out flamingo-esque mannerisms. We were very impressed!

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Around the path, there was at least one place to stop to purchase a snack and hot chocolate, but we chose to keep moving and head to the cafe at the entrance that was serving a few winter meal options for adults and kids.

I would definitely recommend Lantern Magic as a fun and unique Christmas event. It was well organized and reasonably priced. It has been added to our list of must-do’s for Christmases spent in the UK. Next year, I’m hoping for a dusting of snow because the lanterns would look even more stunning on a bed of the white stuff!

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The Santa Special Steam Train

Yes, Christmas is long behind us, but I can’t not blog about the fun we had on the Worth Valley Railway’s Santa Special steam train. In the autumn, we had talked about looking into a Santa train ride, but it slipped my mind a few times. Then, my parents booked their flights to be here for two weeks in December, and we thought about how fun it would be to do this train ride with all four of the grandparents. I booked in October and they were only able to get all 7 of us on the 3:55 train out of Oxenhope. (If you are interested in this for Christmas 2015, I would definitely try to book in September when the tickets first become available. That’s our plan this year!)

At first, when I saw the nearly £17 (roughly $25) ticket cost for adults, I thought we should maybe give it a miss. But, that is because I thought the 10-mile journey with stops in Keighley and Haworth would be on a train similar to the commuter trains with the TransPennine Express. Oh, how wrong I was! This gave Richard a good laugh and he set me straight by explaining that this was actually a proper old-fashioned steam train, I became extremely excited. Honestly, I could not wait for the 13th of December!

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We arrived at Oxenhope station and it felt so Christmas-y — from the old-fashioned gas-lit lamps lining the platform to the ‘Winter Wonderland’ they had set up in the railway museum. Of course the moment we had to step outside to wait for the train, the rain started, so we kept the little lady covered as best we could and the rest of us anxiously awaited the train’s arrival with the hope of warmth once aboard.

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It was so neat to see the proper steam engine pull into the station (because of the rain I didn’t catch a clear photo of the engine), and it felt as if we had been transported back in time. We boarded our carriage and found our seats then were greeted by the jolliest woman who made sure we were comfortable and ready for a good time. I loved that the carriages had the original seats, upholstery, and luggage racks. Those details along with the Christmas decor really added to the festive nature of the train ride.

Soon, we were on our way and prepped for what was to come – a visit from Rudolph, Scrooge, and Santa and his elves. Well aware that we had a one-year old with us, the hostess on our carriage was kind enough to let us know there would be loud singing once Scrooge arrived as we needed to scare him off with our Christmas cheer in the form of Christmas carols. We would quite certain it wouldn’t bother our girl, but it was nice of her to forewarn us just in case. As we suspected, she was completely fine with the additional noise plus she loves music, so I think she enjoyed watching us sing along.

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I can’t remember at exactly what point they came through the carriages with mince pies and sherry for the adults, but that was a big hit with our parents…particularly our mothers who seemed to let that sherry go right to their heads! Hilarious. Our little lady surprisingly loved the mince pie. They do have a very specific (and almost spicy) taste to them, but she finished one on her own!

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Soon enough, Santa came through the carriage with an entourage of elves. It was a pretty impressive operation to ensure that each child received a gift appropriate to their age. Our girl got a great gift set that came with a book about an eskimo and a stuffed penguin like the one in the book. She LOVED the penguin!

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We were so happy with the entire train journey and our sweet girl seemed to enjoy it, especially the food part of it! We’re definitely planning to make this an annual tradition and look forward to making more memories on the Santa Special steam train in years to come!