If you live in Essex and you’ve not heard of Audley End Miniature Railway you’re missing out big time, it’s becoming one of our favourite places for magical childhood experiences. This blog is a review of their Christmas Special which is a highly anticipated event of the whole year for many! Last year I missed out on the Christmas Special because I didn’t realise how quickly it would sell out, I think 2 or 3 days after the tickets were released I went onto the website and was shocked to see that every single slot was fully booked! So this year from about August I stalked their social media accounts for an announcement of this year’s Christmas event and then on that day I was poised and ready on my phone for the 9am ticket release! Looking back through my emails it was the 2nd September when they were booked so a few months in advance, just to give everyone a heads up for next year!
Booking super early means that I was able to book the exact date and time I wanted, I went for the 1st December as I thought this would kick off our Christmas celebrations perfectly. You have the choice of booking a specific train time or an hourly slot but I’m not one of these people who likes to wait long and I also like to plan out my day so we went for a specific train time of 2pm meaning we would have a bit of time before and after our train ride to explore what other activities were on offer. We paid £15.50 per ticket (same price for adult and child) which I thought was very reasonable as in the previous 2 years I’ve been to the Snowflake Grotto at Westfield and paid around £8 per ticket which doesn’t really include any extras apart from a snowflake tree decoration and their photos are so expensive for what they are. We also went to Audley End for their Easter event this year and so I knew the pricing would reflect excellent value for money because of the great experience we had that time.
The months flew by and before we knew it we were on our way to Saffron Walden, we went from my mums house in Sawbridgeworth as it’s only around 40 minutes away and that way she could drive us, it is accessible by train as well (the nearest station is Audley End 1.3 miles away) but I didn’t want to take any chances with it being a Sunday as it’s quite a secluded area! From London you are looking at around 2 hours on the train so I would recommend staying somewhere close by if you aren’t driving as it’s a beautiful area away from the hustle and bustle of London.
We arrived for around 1pm giving us an hour to explore, if you’re booked in for later in the day you’ll have to park in the overflow car park which is only a few minutes walk to the venue but it was a bit muddy so I would recommend wellies / boots for yourself and children, I made the mistake of wearing a new pair of white trainers, oops (luckily they were only my Primark ones)! We gave our names to a lovely lady at the entrance to be told that due to a train fault earlier the trains were running around an hour behind schedule, we didn’t mind at all as this gave us some time to get settled in, usually the trains run like clockwork and if anything they’re able to get you on early (we never had any issues when we attended the Easter event).
A huge marquee was set up with many beautiful Christmas trees decorated in red and white decorations with a Post Office for those letters to Santa, it was all so perfect for those photo opportunities. There were many free activities for the children such as decorating baubles, write a letter to Santa, face painting and you could make your own bag of reindeer food. There was also a reading tent with a dancing area which we sadly didn’t get to experience as it was very busy! But Kimaarah really enjoyed the rest of the activities and considering the price we paid for the tickets this was brilliant, the only thing we paid for all day was some drinks and snacks, there was also a bouncy castle which was £2 a go but we didn’t go on as it was too cold outside.
During the bauble decorating we got talking to one of the staff members who we found out was responsible for all of the decorations inside the venue and along the railway, this was one of the most spectacular things to see on the day and you can see so much thought and effort goes into it so it was lovely to have a chat with her! All of the staff are super friendly and we never experienced any one unhelpful, everyone is there to make sure you’re having a great time!
We were called for our train ride at 2.30 so it only ended up being half an hour late, which was a result. If you’ve read my blog post about the Easter event at Audley End I answered some questions about the actual train ride but to recap, the train is suitable for all ages even babies, it doesn’t go fast and there are a couple of tunnels but nothing too dark and scary! Along the route there are many different things set up like wooden houses with snowmen, reindeer, gingerbread men, penguins and even a Pegasus. Everything was so cute and magical and reminded me of a life-sized Christmas themed Sylvanian Families village. When we entered we were given an ‘I Spy’ sheet with lots of things to find and tick off, myself and Kimaarah both had fun with this! After a short while we reached Santa’s Workshop where we met real life elves, I don’t know if Kimaarah was 100% convinced but it was very enjoyable to watch them, and of course the big man himself was there to hand out presents to the children and Kimaarah was able to ask him for her LOL Doll. Santa himself was very authentic and Kimaarah totally believed it was the real deal! The gift given to all the children was a beautiful small Father Christmas cuddly toy presented in a paper bag (save the environment and that) which was lovely and soft and a great option for all ages. After taking our photos we watched the elves dance along to ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ (sadly not the Mean Girls routine 😂) and we were on our way back to reality.
There was so much on offer and we spent around 3 hours at Audley End in total, on a warmer day you could spend much longer there especially when taking advantage of the outdoor woodland areas and they also have a new play area which will be opening next year for their Mothers Day weekend, where mums also go free! I would recommend following Audley End Miniature Railway on their Instagram @audleyendminiaturerailway and on Facebook under the same name, to make sure you’re the first to know about any of their amazing events that happen all throughout the year! The next event I’d love to visit is their elf and fairy walk next summer so watch this space! If you’ve ever been to this event I would love to hear about it so feel free to drop me a message on my Instagram @lifewithmybabydoll
Thanks Audley End Miniature Railway for a wonderful time!
These tickets were not gifted and I was not asked for a review, all views are my own.