Everything You Need To Know About Marsh Farm's Father Christmas Experience

(Gifted) Whenever I share my videos or photos of Marsh Farm’s Father Christmas Experience people say it looks amazing, but they then go to the website and come back to me saying something along the lines of “How much???”. I totally understand because as Father Christmas visits go it is one of the more expensive ones, but it isn’t a simple grotto where you are popping in to see Santa, have a photo, a present and be off. The Father Christmas Experience is aptly named because it is an experience.  We were kindly gifted tickets by Marsh Farm to visit this year.

In this post I share full details of what happens at The Father Christmas Experience at Marsh Farm (including spoilers), what you get for your money so you can decide if visiting Marsh Farm for Christmas is worth the money for you and how to make the most of your visit.

An in focus close up of a Christmas tree with a blurred parent and child holding hands and walking out into a winter wonderland
Review of The Father Christmas Experience at Marsh Farm

From the moment you get to Passport Control you enter a magical world of Elves and Christmas magic and you stay inside that world for the next two hours or more. During this time your elf guides take you around from Elf Academy to the Magical Forest to Mother Christmas' Kitchen before seeing Father Christmas himself. You meet different characters on the way and it’s easy to get caught up in the magic.

There are a few changes this year including you being part of a smaller group of people, the benches in most of the venues are now socially distanced and the Toy Shop where you choose your present is now at the exit of Marsh Farm. This last bit I’m less keen on as I really liked it being in Elf-Ville, but it does mean they have more space for toys, a larger collection to choose from and you don't have to carry the toys around with you for the rest of your visit.  Whether you have been before or not, read on to find out what it's all about.

A child holding a document saying Passport for the Father christmas experience
The passport lets you track your journey through The Father Christmas Experience

Review of The Father Christmas Experience at Marsh Farm, Essex

What You Need To Know Before Visiting the Father Christmas Experience at Marsh Farm

  • Passport control where you check in to start the experience is on the far side of the farm so leave at least 15 minutes from parking your car to get there.
  • Go to the toilet before you get to Passport Control so you don’t miss anything, however if someone does need to go during the experience just let an elf know and they will direct you through a magic door to the nearest toilet.
  • You have access to the rest of Marsh Farm before and after your booking (within opening hours). Assuming the times are the same as when we visited, the ice rink was closed for an hour at lunch, but open late. The rides didn’t take a break but closed earlier.
  • The Father Christmas Experience is mostly inside with the only outside sections the parts where you are moving between venues through special pathways cut off from the rest of the farm. This means in wet weather you will mostly be inside, but the rooms are well ventilated so not very warm. Dress for the weather. Other than Soft Play and the Ice Rink the rest of Marsh Farm is outside.
  • You will have been asked to provide various information to be passed to Father Christmas in advance, if you haven’t done this they will ask for it at Check In making the process take longer.
  • The gingerbread decorating box has the ingredients on the back of the box, it doesn’t contain dairy, but does contain wheat. If your child has intolerances or allergies you might want to think about bringing something for this part, although we didn’t have long to decorate them anyway.
  • A photo is taken when you are visiting Father Christmas which you can buy in Elf-Ville in various formats.
  • In Elf-Ville there is some paper you can write a letter to Father Christmas on.

a rustic wooden sign with writing on saying "passport control this way"
The journey starts at Passport Control

What Happens At The Father Christmas Experience at Marsh Farm (contains spoilers)

Passport Control

You check in at Passport Control where an Elf will make sure they have all your details and hand over passports for the children and a hot chocolate voucher for adults. You can get the hot chocolate from any of the open food places after you leave Elf-Ville.  You then wait on benches while your Elf guides entertain you until everyone in the group is checked in and the first event is ready for you. It’s really nice that all the elves have their own name and personality and all the characters really get into the spirit of it making it very easy to believe.

Elves at passport control ready to check everyone in to The Marsh Farm Father Christmas Experience
The elves check you in at Passport Control and give each child a passport

Elf Academy

At Elf Academy the children learn how to perform Christmas magic to not only make a “non-believer” believe but to fix a broken toy. The story was similar to the last time we visited, but not exactly the same. The children all receive a magic wand to help which is fun to wave around. My 2 year old keeps on telling everyone about the broken bear that got fixed so the story really captured his attention. 

2 elves on stage at Marsh Farm who has just magically fixed a teddy bear
In Elf Academy the children learn to use the powers of Christmas magic and believing

Enchanted Forest

You leave Elf Academy and walk to another building where you the door is opened by a song. Behind the door is a magical fairy light lit room where Shiver and some other elves perform a sketch to fix a broken wand and ultimately everyone helps make it snow. Last time we went there was a really cute polar bear which unfortunately didn’t make an appearance this year, instead there are a couple of cheeky musical elves. The children were still wowed by the snow though.

A Dad and 3 children covered in fake snow at Marsh Farm
In The Enchanted Forest children use magic to make it snow

Going through a snowy walk way at The Father Christmas Experience Essex
The magic didn't just work in the forest, it magically made it snow outside too

Mother Christmas’ s Kitchen

Leaving through a different exit (a bookcase no less) you go through another outdoor walkway.  The magic here is that not only did it snow inside the room, but outside the trees are all covered in snow. You head to Mother Christmas’s cozy kitchen where the children sit on benches at the front and the adults around the outside of the room (where you’ll be offered a shortbread biscuit).

The sketches here involve making a long scarf for Father Christmas and a Christmas cake for him too. Children are then given an apron (which you get to keep) and find a space on one of the tables where there are boxes with a gingerbread man inside, a tube of icing and some jelly sweets to stick on. How long you get to decorate will depend on whether they are running to time or not. It felt like we were slightly rushed and my children hadn’t finished decorating, but that’s not a problem as we just put them in our bag and took them with us.

Mother Christmas at Marsh Farm Father Christmas Experience
Mother Christmas welcomes everyone to her kitchen 

Decorating gingerbread men in Mother Christmas's kitchen

Father Christmas

The group then goes through to a holding area for Father Christmas where the Elves entertain everyone until they are called through the special red door to see the man himself. It’s at this point you say goodbye to the Elf guides. How long you wait in here will depend on how far down the list you are. They space out the calling of names and they manage it pretty well to maintain the magic, but as an adult you might notice that there are multiple doors when you go through the initial door and while each family will only see one room a similar experience will be had simultaneously by other families. 

The Father Christmases are variable quality, but Partyman spend a lot of time with them to make them as magical as possible. You aren’t rushed and children have plenty of time to chat and get comfortable with him before a photo is taken. He should use the information which was provided sneakily in advance to enhance this visit, but both times we have been he hasn’t done so. They did seem to have taken note of my written comment that our family only gets stockings and not big presents from Father Christmas though. 

The children each received a special heart and we were given a box of chocolate covered marshmallows.

3 children standing around talking to Father Christmas at The Father Christmas Experience
Talking to Father Christmas 

Make-A-Bear Market

After leaving Father Christmas you go into a market area where each child chooses a soft toy. The choice will vary depending on availability but we had the choice of a colourful bear, a monkey, a unicorn, a brown bear and a snowman. Children take their choice over to one of the elf manned stalls where they hand it over to the Elf. The Elf gets them to put the heart inside which they received from Father Christmas and then the Elf will stuff the bear (or might get the children to stuff it depending on age). 

Just like the rest of the Elves the Market stall ones each have a different personality so they will have a different conversation depending on which stall they choose.

There is the option to buy clothes or a voice box for the bear, but there isn’t any hard sell of these from the Elves (your children might be a different matter). Once the bear is made the Elf hands over a birth certificate and a “Snowie” which can be exchanged for a toy in the Christmas Toy Shop at the exit to Marsh Farm.

Making a build a bear at Marsh Farm Father christmas experience
Making a Build-A-Bear with the Elves


When we left the market and walked into Elf-Ville a couple of years ago it was at sunset and it looked stunningly beautiful. It was a real wow moment. This year it was freezing cold, had been raining and we had the remains of a storm from the night before so I don’t think it was looking at it’s best and my children weren’t in the mood for standing around in the cold and having pictures taken (which is basically the whole point of this area).

There is a barn like building where you can view and buy your photograph from the Father Christmas visit and a rustic sleigh children can sit in for another photo opportunity. You then leave the special area and go back to the main area of Marsh Farm.

Cuddling the stuffed soft toys in a freezing cold Elf-Ville

The Christmas Toy Shop

When you have visited every thing you want to see on Marsh Farm and head towards the exit, you can either go out through the red tent which is the Christmas shop, or down the secret pathway which takes you to the toy shop. 

There is a good range to choose from in the toy shop. My son chose a plastic robot suitable for ages 6 months and up, my 5 year old chose a barbie style mermaid and my 10 year old chose an art set. 

the Christmas Toy Shop for choosing the present from Father Christmas at Marsh Farm
Children get to choose a toy of their choice in the Toy Shop (this is less than half of it)

Is Marsh Farm’s Father Christmas Experience Worth The Money?

I generally avoid trying to comment on the value of days out and gifted products because "value" is very personal and depends on a lot of things including disposable income. My simple answer is that for some people it will be worth the money, for others it wont, but personally I think it is an incredibly experience and I’ve not seen anything as good other than Lapland UK. I think you get a lot for your money as well as magical memories so I happily recommend it and my children aged 2 to 10 all had a really nice time. Remember the cost is higher closer to Christmas, I think November is the cheapest time to visit.

With every child ticket you get: 

  • 2 plus hours in the magical Christmas world with entertainment
  • A passport with stickers to add as you go through each location
  • A bag to keep all your bits in
  • A magic wand
  • An apron
  • A gingerbread man (and the icing and jelly sweets to decorate it)
  • A private audience with Father Christmas
  • A make-a-bear soft toy
  • “A snowie” that is exchanged in the toy shop for their choice of toy

The elves give each child a Snowie when they have stuffed their Build-A-Bear which you spend at the Toy Shop on your way out

Adults get some shortbread, a sweet treat from Father Christmas and a hot chocolate voucher. I know people are critical that adults cost the same as children, but they are included in the experience too and hopefully it discourages families bringing too many “extras” a long to watch because the more adults there are the more crowded it feels and harder it is to see the entertainment. So personally I don’t have a problem with the equal pricing, particularly at the moment when numbers are limited and there have been a lot of rebookings from last year when most visits were cancelled.

In addition to the above you also get to enjoy the rest of Marsh Farm which this year includes an undercover Ice Rink (with real ice), a number of fairground rides including a carousel and dodgems, to see the animals, play on the playgrounds, play mini golf and most importantly go in the soft play. This is the second time we have been to the Christmas event at Marsh Farm and both times we have been on very very cold days so we have needed the soft play to warm up after doing some of the other activities. 

Once you have paid for your tickets you don't have to spend any more money on your visit. Car parking and all activities are included. You might want to spend money on food and drink. You probably will want to buy a copy of the Father Christmas photo (I paid £16 for a print out and a digital copy) and you might be talked into buying clothes for the bears. This isn't an event where there is a lot of pressure to spend money while you are there though.

Our official photo of 3 children with Father Christmas
Our official 2021 Marsh Farm The Father Christmas Experience photo

The Ice Rink at Marsh Farm

Just a quick note about the Ice Rink as this is new for 2021. It is on the same site as where the pumpkin village is if you have been at Halloween, basically you go in to Marsh Farm and head towards the soft play, soon after the mini golf you go back on yourself, through all the fairground rides (not the no entry road), past the train station and to the big tent. Don't worry you get a map on entry. 

When we were there it was closed for lunch between 11.30 and 12.30 and then open again until 6pm. You exchange your shoes for ice skates which start at around size 8, but they have double blade versions which strap to the shoes of younger children. Bags can be left at your own risk next to the exit of the ice. 

The ice rink is a decent size and there are plenty of penguins, polar bears and bananas for young inexperienced skaters. The penguins are for them to hold on to and push themselves along, the bears they sit down on while an adult pushes them a long and the bananas can have 2 children sitting on to be pushed.

If you are going this year I hope you have a wonderful time and if you are reading this trying to decide whether to book a visit then I hope you feel better able to make an informed decision. In 2019 I filmed our visit and while there have been a few changes it still gives you an idea of the magic. 

***Disclosure: We were gifted tickets to The Father Christmas Experience in 2019 and 2021 and have received free entry to events in the past, however this post contains my honest thoughts. It is based on our experiences and it will change slightly every year.***

You might also be interested in reading my post with information on the light trails in Essex this year or Christmas Tree Farms in Essex.

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