UPDATE: This review is from our 2016 visit to Santa’s Workshop at Wickham Park. The 2019 season is open from December 13, 2019 through December 23, 2019. The hours are still 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. The event is FREE but guests are welcome to bring non-perishable food items to be donated to area food pantries. We here at This Connecticut Mom have not visited Santa’s Workshop this year, so please note that some information in this review may be out of date. Make sure to visit Wickham Park’s website for up to date information!
Christmas season is upon us. There are just 10 days to go until the big day! And finally, I took my boy to a Christmas related event!
We had visited Santa at the mall, enjoyed the tree celebration at Enfield Square, and drove around looking for Christmas lights, but I wanted to do something different, something special, and after weeding through all the ideas I came up with in my Guide to the Holidays, I chose to take us to Wickham Park‘s Santa’s Workshop!
The 2016 season actually opened last weekend. However, it is officially open every day as of December 14 and runs until December 23. On weekdays, they are open from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on weekends, they are open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. So, you have eight days to get over there and check out this amazingly special and … FREE event. Yes, I said free. Donations are of course welcome, and they are also collecting non-perishable food items to be donated to local food pantries.
If you are unfamiliar with Wickham Park, it can be found right off of I84, at Exit 60. It is a 250 acre park with playgrounds, an aviary, picnic areas, ponds, woodlands, hiking and more. You may have heard of them as being a wedding location, but they offer so much more. One of their special events is this popular Christmas event, which is sponsored by the Park for the public to enjoy.
The entrance to the Wickham Park is located on Route 44 (West Middle Turnpike). You’ll see the sign for Wickham Park, along with the sign for Santa’s Workshop! During their open season, there is a fee for park admission; however, during this special event, that fee is waived. You are able to drive right into the park without stopping at the entrance gate.
When you enter, you’ll see just how beautiful Wickham Park is! There are many open fields, as well as gardens, wooded areas and more. Since it is rather cold, and the park grounds are closed, you’ll want to save that exploration for the warmer months (they open in April)!
Santa’s Workshop is located in the Cabin, which sits atop the highest point in the Park. It is a bit of a ways in the park. They have lots of lights and signs though to help you find your way!
There is a fair amount of parking located right near the Cabin. Being the first weeknight they were open, however, that was full. They did have an overflow lot that was not much further of a walk. We arrived around 4:30 p.m., so my pictures started getting really dark!
The Cabin is decorated beautifully on the outside! There are lots of lights to enjoy, as well as a sleigh for a cute photo op.
And you’ll come to appreciate these wonderful decoration as you stand outside in the line. I cannot predict how busy it will be every night. But I will be honest and tell you that we waited over an hour to enter the Cabin. And then once inside, we waited another 15 minutes to see Santa. This is a very popular event. However, I was told by some other seasoned parents that last night’s long wait was not typical of a weeknight. The wait we experienced was more to be expected on the weekend. Again, this is a FREE event and it is well loved by the community, so expect that you will be standing in a line. And given that it’s December, and really cold, prepare yourself with hats, heavy coats, mittens, scarves, blankets, etc. And don’t do what I did… leave your hot coffee in the car!
We were all really cold. And of course, someone would not keep his gloves on… and wanted to be picked up the WHOLE time. I did bring the stroller, and while it was a little bulky (and there are some small step ups onto the Cabin porch), it was not terrible to deal with. Honestly, if he had been free to roam and run off the whole time, I don’t think I could not have waited in that line. While I did let him out sometimes and also held him a fair amount, he stayed in the stroller for most of the time.
Many kids were having fun on the sleigh! We took an opportunity for a posed photo on the sleigh as well– he just was not into it!
By the end of our wait time, we were entering meltdown mode… It was pretty cold. (I know, I’m awful, but I am totally a “take a picture first, than comfort” mom!! I promise he was given lots of hugs and cuddles in the line- he was just super upset when we finally reached the door, but it was not our turn yet, and then they closed it to keep the heat in).
But FINALLY, it was time to enter Santa’s Workshop!! We made it!
Once inside, your child will be asked to check in at the Head Elf’s Office! She jots down your name, whether you’ve been good or bad this year, and what you hope Santa will bring you for Christmas. Since he was a good boy, he got to tell Santa that he wanted lots of Thomas the train toys! I have to say, this was super adorable and added such a fun touch to the whole event!
After checking in, we waited again for a few more minutes for our chance to sit on the big guy’s lap! That’s right, SANTA CLAUS!
It went surprisingly well!
Until he realized, his momma was over there, and Santa was the guy holding him… And then we got this priceless photo.
After being traumatized yet again by Santa (this child), we enjoyed more of Santa’s Workshop. They have a nice fireplace and festive mantle decorations!
The whole Cabin is decorated beautifully and they incorporate so many special touches to make it really feel like you are in Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole.
Coffee and cocoa is available, along with cookies, served by none other than Mrs. Claus herself. And what a gem she was! She let my boy have two cookies!
The elves were also hard at work making toys for boys and girls, painting trains and building toy cars!
Of course, what made it all worth it in the end… the train display. Because trains make everything better in my boy’s life. He was so fascinated by them!!
And when he saw his favorite train of all, he could not have been any happier! It’s too bad that we had to deal with several meltdowns before he finally found his happy place. Oh, Thomas, you make life so much better!
We spent a fair amount of time inside. Not as long as we spent outside, but we enjoyed our time. Wickham Park has really created a beautiful event, and it is pretty magical. Most of the children inside were happy to see Santa, and were fascinated by the elves, the toys and Mrs. Claus. Plus, cookies always make anyone happy! Unfortunately, my child was just having an off day.
I will say I learned a few lessons after this event. Definitely, bring your spouse or reinforcement if you are taking your toddler to a popular, well loved event. Remember to bring extra warm clothing and blankets for the little one who are cold in their stroller. You never know how long you may be standing outside! And make sure you have ALL used the restroom before you go anywhere, because you never know when you’ll get the chance to go again (I did NOT see a bathroom in the Cabin). I think if he was better occupied and I prepared better for the long wait, he would have been happier once we finally reached Santa’s Workshop. Now I know for next time… and now you know to plan ahead for a possibly long wait!
This is an absolute must visit during the holiday season. We are fortunate as a community to be able to enjoy this free event. I truly appreciate everyone involved that makes this event possible. We will definitely try to go back next year- with daddy, warm blankets and lots of distractions!
This about sums it up…
1329 West Middle Turnpike – Manchester
Weekdays: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Weekends: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Free. Donations are accepted, as well as non-perishable items for donation to a local food pantry
- Dress warm!
- Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there!
- Bring your camera! Pictures with Santa are encouraged, and are free!
- Strollers can be brought inside but it can be tough to maneuver up the steps and in the crowded spaces.
- Parking is available outside the cabin
- No bathroom in the Cabin
- Cookies, cocoa and coffee available for free
- Expect long lines- line forms outside the building
- Train sightings!