All Aboard the Santa Special from York

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Last Saturday Red Rose Daddy, Bud and I went to York for the day. I used to live in this beautiful city so I was very pleased to have the opportunity to revisit some old haunts and show the city off to my little family.

We had been invited to go and meet Santa at the National Railway Museum so this was our first port of call. We parked in the museum car park and set off to explore. It really is a fascinating place and, because it is a national museum you can visit it for free.
There are lots of historic trains, including the Mallard (fastest steam train ever) and a model of Stephenson's Rocket. They also have an exhibition featuring the Flying Scotsman (the route passes through York), a Japanese Bullet Train and a number of Royal Trains. Bud's favourite part of the museum was actually the viewing platform which allows you to look out over the very busy York Railway station and see the moving trains arriving and departing. Bud was incredibly excited by this and his Daddy and I have decided that we need to take a family train journey very soon so he can experience these trains up close.

We were booked on the Santa Express at 12:45pm and were advised to arrive early to enjoy the grotto as part of the whole experience. The grotto was a platform in the Station Hall which had been converted with various wagons and train carriages stacked high with Christmas presents and decorations. We meandered through this and took quite a few photos of Bud. Here was where he found his other favourite part of the day - a pedal train which he immediately climbed on to. I'm not sure if he should have been on it or not but it was clearly a toy and not an antique so we let him play for a little while. You can see how much he was enjoying it here.
We also found a beautifully decorated Christmas tree which Bud was fascinated by. He attempted to remove all the baubles he could reach within about 12 seconds so that doesn't bode very well for our Christmas tree this year!
Anyway, we spent so much time prising Bud away from the decorations that we suddenly realised that the train was due to leave so we had to hurry to catch it. Thankfully we weren't the last to board. The Santa Express was a steam train named Teddy pulling two carriages, the first was empty but we quickly climbed onto the second.

It was rather full, with other bloggers and their families. I recognised quite a few from the blogs that I read but was a bit too shy to say hello. There were cushions and blankets supplied so everyone could get cosy and ready for our story.
We set off on our train ride and, very quickly the train broke down! Oh no! Our storyteller quickly got all the children involved helping to fix the train, by hammering, using the screwdriver and then singing 'Jingle Bells'. After a couple of rousing renditions of Jingle Bells our very special guest arrived - Santa! I am pleased to say he was a very authentic Father Christmas, the best I have seen 'in real life' for quite some time. He was very round (OH and I were trying to decide if it was padding or not) and very jolly. All the children were invited up to come and meet Santa and receive their present. The children were all impeccably behaved and queued beautifully to wait to have their moment with Santa. There was an opportunity to have their photo with Santa too. As predicted by his Daddy and I, Bud did not want to meet Father Christmas and wanted to stay as far away from him as possible. We did manage to get a photo of him (and me) in the same shot though
As you can see, both Santa and his assistant were really friendly and smiley. You can see Bud doing his little nervous twitch here, this was as close as he was going to Santa. He was clinging on with his knees with grim determination! The present we are holding is not the present we took home as I quickly realised that we had received an age 3-6 gift. As Bud is only 19months I asked if we could swap it for the 0-3 present and they were happy to do this. When we opened his gift we were really pleased. He got a 'Hickory Dickory Dock' jigsaw and book set. The jigsaw is a little advanced for him yet as it contains 20 pieces but he enjoyed completing it with his Uncle on Sunday and we have done it a few more times with him since. I will be putting it away for a little while though because we may lose pieces if we leave it in the toy box at the moment. The toys generally seemed really good but I did notice that some of the 3-6 year olds were getting Winnie-the-Pooh books which I thought would probably have been more appropriate to the 0-3 age group. The train journey isn't especially long, just a few hundred metres each way but the whole experience is perfectly timed for their audience I think.

The tickets for the Santa Express cost £7:50 for children and £5 for adults. Included in this is entry to the grotto, the short train ride and story and the visit from Santa. Adults also get a mince pie and hot drink in the restaurant while children get a candy cane. The mince pies were really lovely with a crumble topping and the coffee was rocket fuel which was more than welcome as Bud hadn't had the best night's sleep the night before. As we hadn't had lunch we also ordered some potato wedges to share but Bud loved them and so his Daddy and I didn't get much of a look in!
After exploring the museum some more we decided to have a trip into York and boarded the road train to do this. The road train costs £2 for adults and £1 for children (under 3s are free) and gets you from the museum up to the Minster in no time at all. Bud really enjoyed this little train and was gripping tightly on to his present throughout our journey. Just a bit of advanced warning, if you have a pushchair you will need to fold it up to use the road train.

We had a lovely walk around York and I showed the boys my old front door on Goodramgate (right in the centre of the city) and after a drink in my old local and a wander around the shops we headed home after a really lovely day.

The Santa Express will be operating 8 times a day, every weekend from now until Christmas, and every day between 17th and 23rd December. To book places contact their website or call 0844 815 3139.

We received free tickets for the Santa Express and free parking for our visit to the NRM. The thoughts and opinions contained in this post are all my own.