REVIEW: Driftwood Land (Christmas 2022)

Join us on our family's inaugural visit to Driftwood Land, Derby's new family-friendly Christmas wonderland, which opened in November 2022.

Max in striped Santa hat with Father Christmas, who has spectacles, short beard, arm around Max.
Max sharing a moment with Driftwood Land's Father Christmas.

AD/ Our Arrival & First Impressions 🚗

We had the pleasure of receiving gifted tickets to visit Driftwood Land today (Sunday, the 11th of December, 2022), a brand-new attraction for 2022, situated in Dale Abbey, Derbyshire—just a short 20-minute drive for us from our home in Derby. Opting for a 3pm slot allowed us to enjoy the scenery as it grew dark, although we've heard 4pm (dusk) is especially enchanting. We chose this time primarily to avoid our two-year-old's notorious “witching hour” between 5 and 7pm, minimising the chances of a full-blown toddler meltdown during our meet-and-greet with Santa.

Sign displaying 'Welcome to Driftwood Land' with certain letters, like the 'i', replaced by Christmas icons such as a stocking.
Welcome to Driftwood Land.

Warm Welcomes & Initial Hiccups 👋

Upon our arrival, a lovely helper in a high-visibility jacket warmly greeted us and checked us in. While we had brought our pushchair, it turned out that they aren't permitted. Joe quickly returned it to the car. This member of the Driftwood Team briefed us on how to find out way around Driftwood Land, before handing each child a bag to add reindeer food to as part of the experience to take home with us. She also provided each of the children with a "Golden Token" to give to Santa when they met him.

Max smiles at camera, Mia gazes at icy lake. Both in green festive coats, hats, and black boots.
Max and Mia, hand in hand, beside the icy lake.

Breathtaking Sights & Activities ✨

Entering the attraction, a breathtaking sight awaited us—a stunning, frozen pond flanked by Christmas trees adorned with multi-coloured twinkling lights. Guided by a signpost, we noticed queues forming to see Santa and for refreshments. Hence, our first stop was reindeer food preparation. Following the signs, we encountered a delightful Gingerbread maze. Note: The terrain is quite muddy, which likely explains the pushchair restriction. This might also be due to the compact cabin sizes. Wellies are an absolute must!

Themed signs at Driftwood Land: Santa's House, Snowy Wood, Reindeer Hut, and Refreshments.
Signs pointing to Driftwood Land's festive attractions.

Reindeer Food Fun 🦌

Exiting the maze, we found a cabin illuminated with fairy lights, displaying name plaques for Santa's reindeer and hay on sticks for them. Inside, six different grain types were available for mixing. There were scoops to help get the grains out of the sacks and into the plastic bowls provided in the cabin to help mix into reindeer food. Wooden spoons were also made available to help with the activity. Max and Holly, eagerly participated, though Holly seemed to have more fun scattering her mix all over the floor! Inside the cabin, we also saw reindeer harnesses representing all of Santa's merry helpers. While we had a blast, an assisting elf might have been beneficial, especially as a queue began forming outside, making this aspect of the experience feel a little rushed. Nevertheless, it was so much fun!

Max and Alex mix reindeer food in Reindeer Hut; Holly observes. Max stirs with Alex's assistance.
Max, Holly, and Alex teaming up to craft reindeer food in the Reindeer Hut.

Cosy Refreshments with Jackie ☕

Seeking some warmth, we then headed to the refreshment hut, where another lovely lady named Jackie served us hot beverages. She was so incredibly friendly and welcoming! The setting itself was cosy, though seating inside was limited, so we opted to sit outside.

Jackie making hot chocolates; Joe & Max face away in the 'Refreshments Hut' as she smiles at the camera.
Jackie preparing festive hot chocolates for the Pendlebury family.

Dealing with Unexpected Challenges 💔

It's crucial to mention here that our daughter Mia experienced an autistic meltdown. Something triggered her before we got out of the car during our arrival to Driftwood Lane. The whole experience became a little too overwhelming for Mia, and while Joe tried to converse with Jackie, I had to intervene. We profusely apologised to Jackie for not being able to talk to her for longer, but Mia desperately needed to be taken back to sanctuary and familiarity of the car to settle. While Joe did that to help Mia calm down, I took Max and Holly to queue to meet Santa.

Close-up of Mia in green knit hat and coat by the lake, smiling at the camera.
Charming Mia captured in a moment.

Dressing for Driftwood & Meeting Santa 🧣

It's worth emphasising at this point that Driftwood Land is an outdoor event, and it can get extremely cold this time of year, so be sure to wrap up (lots of layers!) and dress for the weather. The queue time to see Santa was lengthy, but we waited patiently. He generously spent a considerable amount of time with each child, which was wonderful to see! Without a pushchair to strap a toddler into, and a wriggly, cold one at that, who doesn't understand the concept of waiting, it did make it quite challenging to prevent her from diving out of my arms at every given opportunity. Even so, there are so many elegantly decorated trees to look at whilst waiting and a grand sleigh to stand by, making for a perfect festive photo opportunity.

Max with blue eyes & smile, by a red sleigh with a tree, twinkling red/blue lights behind.
Max striking a pose next to the sleigh at "Santa's House".

A Magical Moment with Santa 🎅

When we finally met Santa, the experience was magical. His cabin was an epitome of Christmas warmth - absolutely stunning! His interaction was simply heartwarming, too. Max gave the Elf, his and Holly's golden tokens, and stood in wonder and awe. There were little chairs for the children to sit at while engaging in conversation with Father Christmas. It was all just so magical. He spoke to them both for what seemed like ages - nothing seemed rushed. He gave them both magical keys and let them pick a teddy bear to take home as a keepsake. He was genuine and kind, taking the time to listen carefully to Max, laughing and joking with him. He was so animated and interactive, but better still, he looked the "real deal". I took so many photos of the children with him!

Father Christmas and Max converse in "Santa's House", with a clock and festive decor behind them.
Max intently chatting with Father Christmas inside "Santa's House".

Santa's Extraordinary Kindness ❤️

What made the experience even more magical for us was that Santa even very kindly offered to walk up to meet Mia at the car, when I explained her circumstances to him, putting Mia ahead of the line of queuing guests waiting their turn outside. He was more than happy to hold the queue up outside to make sure Mia got her moment of magic, too. His understanding and kindness truly moved us. I was so touched.

Alex holds Holly, both smiling at camera. Father Christmas stands beside them with Max, all beaming.
Alex, Holly, Max, and Father Christmas capturing a memorable moment in "Santa's House".

Concluding Thoughts & Recommendations 🌠

All in all it was superb. It's not a huge place, so it's perfect if you are local to Derby, Derbyshire, and surrounding areas in the East Midlands, but you may want to think twice about travelling from further afield. We would highly recommend! It just felt very magical.

Max puckering lips to cool hot chocolate in red cup, wearing grey gloves.
Max trying hard to cool down his hot chocolate.

Final Verdict & Gratitude 💖

In conclusion, our visit was spectacular. Driftwood Land, while not expansive, radiates magic. A few things to remember: dress for warmth, pushchairs aren't permitted (not sure about the policy on wheelchairs), and come ready to capture precious moments. We're eagerly marking our calendars for a return visit next year. Expressing our sincere gratitude for the gifted tickets, we cannot thank the Driftwood Team enough for crafting such an enchanting experience. The dedication to detail is evident, making it a must-visit destination. 💖

Father Christmas giving a "Magical Key" to Max, who's facing away. Santa's in focus, dominating the shot.
Father Christmas giving Max a "Magical Key" keepsake.