Comparing Santa experiences in Lapland – Rovaniemi, Finland

Santa Claus is coming to town and he’s a very busy man in Finland! Catering to the many Santa needs in this region there are a fair few choices of places to meet the jolly red man. Here are my opinions on a few on offer from what I have experienced.

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Santa Park

Santa Park is located within a short, but expensive, taxi ride from our accommodation the Ounasavaaran Puritit, or the city centre. It’s an underground world of magic which involves all the aspects of Santa’s operations.

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From the cave and lights entrance to elf school, an ice kingdom and Santa’s post office. There is something for all age groups here and the layout is perfect for spreading people between activities. I loved the gingerbread decorating room, calligraphy area where we could sign our elf school graduation certificates and the elf toy making workshop.

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It was 31 euros to get in which was a little steep but we did spend 3-4 hours there and had a really great time. There were only a few extra things to pay for inside but most activities were included. Great fun for ages 2 onwards, we had a 2 year old who loved it.  I am 26 however and feel I enjoyed it more, wearing my “Santa Believes in me” elf hat with pride.

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Santa Village

The Santa Village is an outdoor Santa theme park essentially. There are a whole bunch of areas within the village with activities and things to do. My friends husband and I were not interested in going here initially as we felt we’d had our Santa experience with the Santa Park. She persuaded us it much different and we had time to kill in any case. He and I actually enjoyed it much more than she did. She had spent a lot of time researching everything and so felt the description didn’t live up to what she saw whilst we were pleasantly surprised.

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Activities included a Santa Museum, tobogganing area, giant ice slide, crystal store and restaurant, restaurants and cafes, many gift shops, reindeer sled rides and reindeer interactions. Of course there was the Santa experience which was extremely well done with an elaborate entrance and very anticipating and exciting way to enter Santa’s presence. He was a kind and sweet Santa and we got a video and photos of our experience (purchased of course.)

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The highlight was visiting Santa’s official post office and seeing elves hard at work reading all the letters. We also sent letters off with the official post office stamp from the Arctic circle. And then of course you get to see the official Arctic circle of the North line!

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We had a wonderful evening there and could have spent more time had it not been -30 by the time we left outside. Only disappointment, no reindeer to just visit and see, you had to do a sled ride for 17 euros and these had stopped by 5pm when we reached.

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Santa's Official Post Office

Santa’s Official Post Office

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This is an elf and Santa fantasy land experience. I cannot speak too much about it as I did not attend however my friend did. She read rave reviews and felt this would be the ultimate Santa experience. Unfortunately, again, reading and researching proved to be a bit disappointing. I also think the fact that we had 2 great Santa experiences the two days prior affected her opinion. The bus driver was rude on the way there, the tour felt a bit rushed and again…. No reindeer! She said the elves were great and it was beautiful. But for 160 euros…. She wasn’t sure she’d do it again. I think if you make this your only experience, it would be great. Also it’s more targeted at 6-10 year olds who would find it amazing!! A 2 year old was a bit young to take it and a 26 year old mother probably a bit old to get so wrapped up in the magic.

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Personally, I was very happy with the order in which we did the two locations, Santa Park and Santa Village and I feel they catered well to the magic of Christmas and the Santa experience. I could not justify 160 euros for another Santa experience when I had already done the other two so for me, I would do this over again.

Santa Park

Santa Park

So, wherever you decide is best to go, Rovaniemi certainly brings back the believer in me and the magic of the Christmas spirit to all who visit. Ho, ho, ho- Merry Christmas to you all!

Ice Bar at Santa Park

Ice Bar at Santa Park

Winter Wonderland at Santa Village, Rovaniemi, Finland

The official residence of Santa Claus himself and the line that marks the beginning of the Northern Arctic Circle is Santa Village in Rovaniemi, Finland.

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I must admit, I was hesitant to attend the Santa Village as we had the day before attended Santa Park. As a 26 year old woman, there was only so much excitement I could build about the big man in red and I felt I was in store for a same same experience as the day before. My friend insisted this was SO different as this was all outdoors and there was a lot to do in the area. As we had a lot of time to kill, I was happy to oblige. I was also delighted that there was no entry fee! WAHOO! Something free in Finland.

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I must say I was more than pleasantly surprised. This was one of the highlights of the trip and a fantastic village of entertainment for all ages. It was so beautifully decorated and actually looked better in the darkness with the giant Christmas trees lit up and the dazzling lights sparking in the trees.

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First stop was the “official” post office of Santa Clause. From here, you can post a card which will be stamped with the official and only stamp of Santa Clause and the North Pole, a novelty in itself. We saw the elves hard at work sorting letters, the countries boxes filled with letters from children all over the world and many people dedicated writing letters to Santa and home to family and friends. I of course had to send off my greetings to family, simply as a once in a lifetime souvenir and our little traveler helped me post them.
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We went on to some souvenir shops, of which there were many, and I have to say across the board this was my major disappointment with Lapland and Finland. The souvenirs were generic and not particularly relevant to the area. I expected in such a unique place that they would have some special gift and mementos that mentioned all the experiences. Many of them appeared to be readily available in all shops around Finland and could have come from anywhere in the world. More on this later.

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So it was time to meet Santa again. I must say, the entrance and build up was spectacular. We walked through a cave and ice tunnel to a large room. We went upstairs past a giant clock, counting down to Christmas. We then saw a hall of fame of famous visitors to Santa’s office in prior years. An elf then snuck out and played along, hiding from us, and poking his head around, enticing us to Santa’s meeting room. We went along and were told we would have photos and a VIDEO of our encounter with the big man in red! We entered the room which was filled with presents and wonderful decorations. I felt excited and nervous again and hugged our little traveler as we again tried to coax him to say hello to Santa. He was a kind and jolly man, very aware of Australia and thanking us greatly for coming so far to meet him. He was the perfect embodiment of the Santa we always dreamed of catching at our Christmas tree as he delivered our lovely presents. It was another nice encounter and I felt warm and happy after we left. We purchased our photos and videos and got lots of extra bonuses on our USB, including music and photos of Santa Village.

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We played on the ice slide and my friend missed the memo about the ice and did a wonderful stack! I took the little traveler down the slide and he cried “Wee Wee Wee” all the way down. It’s a pure joy to travel with a little person and see their wonder and amazement at everything. It’s all so new to them and even the simplest things can make them so happy. I hope I can always maintain some of this childlike wonder.

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Another thrill of the village was seeing the blue line that marked the beginning of the Northern Arctic Circle. I climbed a top the globe like structure and imitated sitting on top of the World. I tell you now, it’s not easy to climb on and it’s not recommended to try and plank it. I believe this was not the intention of the structure but it was too much fun to resist!

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One other let down was that we didn’t reach the museum on time as it closed at 5pm. Largely due to me excessive souvenir shopping and hunting for an adequate souvenir for my brother who collects them. There were also no reindeer which my friend had expected to see. We couldn’t visit the reindeers in stalls unless we paid for a sled ride. Again, these finished at 5pm so unfortunately we missed out entirely on meeting Santa’s reindeer in any of the locations we visited. It would be nice if they were more accessible but they are a key moneymaker of the winter season and so are protected in pay only areas.

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Finally we enjoyed a delicious burger, recommended by the staff as the best in Rovaniemi! And we had to agree. A hot chocolate and a burger after a hard days Santa sightseeing was much deserved. Also greatly enjoyed by all of us!!

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This was a wonderful experience and really was the perfect example of the Winter Wonderland. I couldn’t get the song out of my head as we walked around. I’m so glad my friend encouraged me to go and to share this incredible adventure and childhood fantasy with her and her beautiful family.

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Winter Wonderland and Christmas experience in Finland

In December 2013, I visited Finland with my friends Marieka, Jono and Baby Jacob. We had an incredible 5 days in Helsinki and Rovaniemi celebrating the Christmas spirit.

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We met Santa at Santa Park and Santa Village, rode on snowmobiles and went on sled rides with Huskies at the Husky Park with Safartica and stayed at a lovely resort, Ounasavaara Piritit. We also skied at Ounasavaara.

I will definitely be back for another visit!