Sunday, December 4, 2016

Meeting Santa... Over and over and over again!

'Tis the season, and everywhere we go, the child within is awakened by the magic of Christmas. And shopping. 

But mostly, it is the holidays. 

And it looks like Santa has recently moved to Dubai because he is literally everywhere! To the children's utmost joy and merriment of course (so many opportunities to redeem themselves and get on that "Good List" before December 24). 

So how about I go through last year's favorite Santa hangouts around town?

Christmas Sparkles at WAFI MALL

This is one we have been doing for years now. The Christmas village at Wafi is truly enchanting and we absolutely love it. Santa is always very "authentic" as stereotypical and racially biased as it may sound. What I mean is he looks like he just escaped from a book (or Coca Cola commercial) and he gives the best gifts in town, in our humble, yet utterly professional Gift Assessor opinion. 

The drill has been the same throughout our three-year history with Wafi: 

Last year's Fees: 60 dirhams per child (free for adults)

• 8th December: 7:00PM to 10:00PM
• 10th – 15th December: 10:00AM to 10:00PM
• 17th – 22nd December: 9:30AM to 10:00PM
• 9th, 16th, 23rd and 24th December: 9:30AM to 10:30PM

Perks: Meet Santa and have a little talk with the Man of the hour, get a (super) stuffed toy, take a photo and have it printed and framed. A bunch of vouchers and a big competition for a trip are also part of the deal. We always use the vouchers to redeem kids meals at the various participating restaurants because you know, meeting the Man in Red can be quite famishing!

Drawbacks: The massive waiting! For two years we went during the school vacation, in other words, when everyone in town started remembering that they had not yet taken a "holiday shot"! The first year, I ended up waiting in line for two hours and a half while the kids drove their dad and grand-parents insane! The second year... Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on... Well, shame on me indeed! But you cannot fool me thrice because last year I was prepared! We went on the second day of the festivities, at noon. I had called the mall beforehand to make sure what time Santa would be in and they had specified his lunch break between 1:30 and 2pm. So we were there at 1 sharp. Turned out the lunch break started at 1 so we ended up waiting for half an hour. But it was absolutely fine this time because the "play area" was empty and the kids could take a few photos on the backdrop there and play a little without getting overly anxious or tired. Then we were seconds in lien to meet Santa. That was perfect! Another tiny detail I would love to change is the size of the photo. It is quite small in comparison to all the others we get around Dubai at those events. And we get only one print per child (no copies allowed). 

Verdict: We love it, definitely going back this year!

Year 3: December 2,  2015

Year 3: December 2,  2015
Year 2: December 23, 2014

Christmas 2013: we were in Lebanon

Year 1: December 21,  2012

Souk Festive Market at MADINAT JUMEIRAH

This was our second time at Madinat Jumeirah's Souk Festive Market and with good reason. We loved it the previous year! Mia who had never been in the snow (actually she had, but she was way too young to remember) kept telling everyone she prefers real snow because it is warm, and she was certain the cold snow at Ski Dubai is in fact fake because it is, well, cold. It took months to convince her of the opposite!

Photo: Madinat Jumeirah

Madinat's elves are delightful! They are so welcoming and helpful every time. They will carry prams up and down the stairs and will help with children. We found Santa sitting in his sleigh ready to strike a pose with anyone and everyone willing to join him. He took the "jolly" to an entirely other level. He was loads of fun and the setup is gorgeous so it makes for nice photos but ours did not work. The photographer was not around and even though we took a few with our phones, none was worth saving. Jad was not in the mood and refused to let go of his iPad (unless he was on the move, that is out of the sleigh).

Last year's Fees: 50 dirhams per photo (no entrance fee) and each game is charged a separate fee per child

Perks: It is not about taking a holidays photo only, it is about the whole experience. The village is stunning and there are quite a few games including (real-fake-warm) snow ball fights and ice skating. Mia absolutely loved it, just like the year before. The grown ups also had a good time, waiting at Starbucks (above the Festive Market) after a delicious lunch at Meat & Co.

Drawbacks: Santa is loads of fun but do not promise your kids a gift because there are none (but a lot of games to enjoy nonetheless). It is outdoors and very crowded so not ideal for a private and professional looking holiday photo (although I am certain, with bigger kids or ones who are less hyper, things might turn up gorgeous).  

Verdict: We will return for the fun games!

Santa's Grotto at SKI DUBAI

Last year was our first at Ski Dubai and what a rush! The kids could not have enough! The minute they walked in Santa's village, they could not stop jumping and running and throwing themselves in the snow. It was like they were bitten by some magical snow bee! They were insanely happy! We had done the Penguins Encounter at Ski Dubai before and even though it was as intriguing as it was fun, the kids did not get the chance to go nuts. This time, they took it all in!

Last year's Fees: 100 dirhams entry fee per person for Santa's encounter

Perks: Welcome to the North Pole. Literally. I mean, how much more Christmassy can it get? Santa gave the kids a goodie bag with a small toy, a lollipop and a gift card from Magic Planet. It was nice and most importantly, we took our time playing in the snow which was brilliant!

Drawbacks: The photo prints are a little more expensive than at other venues. But as with any photograph taken at Ski Dubai, you can get as many prints as your heart desires (for a fee obviously) and in all the shapes and sizes you want. We had a snowglobe, a keychain and a fridge magnet made (one for the kids, one for grandma and one for mommy's kitchen). 

Verdict: We would be insane not to return this year. The kids had the best time!

Mamma Mia+Jad

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