Round two of this year's 'grotto off' took us to the Castlereagh Hills where a winter wonderland lays nestled in Hillmount Garden Centre.
Their mega Christmas grotto is one of the largest in Ireland and features a magical walk through attraction before your one on one with the big man himself.
Children receive a snack and juice, and there is a quiz to take part in as you travel through the various Christmas scenes, with a gift voucher for one lucky winner. I can imagine weekends being very busy, given the scale of the attraction, so perhaps an afternoon visit like we just had would be less chaotic, with shorter waiting times for tiny ones.
Part of the quiz involves blind boxes & guessing what you can feel!
This was my favourite part. A little window in the floor with a birds' eye view of what Santa would see from his sleigh.
There's also a cute dolls' house display, with a teddy family which is just too cute.
The whole walk through attraction is very well done and would be totally magical for kids. It's the sort of memory you are making that they'll talk about with their kids when they are all grown up.
Santa photographs are extra on top of your visit, but your child will receive a present from Santa as part of the grotto cost. I found the photo prices a bit steep, with one copy being £10, or 3 for £20. I think it's due to a third party company doing the photographic work, but prices could be more competitive I feel.
We chose the mini photo in a snowglobe which costs £15
At the end of the grotto visit is an open area with a reindeer, donkeys and Pygmy goats. This part seems to be free to visit for anyone shopping at Hillmount. They have a good arm's length bumper barrier between the animals and the children, which as an animal lover, is always a relief to see. I can imagine many poking little fingers on a Saturday would end up being distressing for the animals, but as it is they are happy and even come over to try to give you a sniff!
After the grotto fun we browsed the store a bit. It's similar to the gifts I posted a few days ago from their Bangor branch, but with the Belfast store being bigger the range of gifts is even better.
The Christmas decoration department is absolutely huge with every colour scheme and tree theme imaginable.
I loved this little fella, a singing Christmas tree.
Hillmount are well known for their fantastic food and the restaurant part has been extended over the years to accommodate the ever increasing clientele.
We had some sweet treats.
Huge lemon meringue, the staple dessert of the garden centre. It was superb.
So! The scores!
Actual rating for Santa- ⛄️⛄️⛄️⛄️
Gift - ⛄️⛄️
Photo quality- ⛄️⛄️⛄️⛄️
Photo Gift Option- ⛄️⛄️⛄️⛄️⛄️
Queue time- ⛄️⛄️⛄️⛄️⛄️