Behind the scenes of Winter Wonderland

Elves welcoming guests into the Woodland Village

25 November 2021

Behind the scenes of Winter Wonderland

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It’s no secret that our guests love Winter Wonderland – but did you know it takes a whole year (and a lot of people) to make the magic happen?

From the mighty task of putting up all the lights and decorations to making sure our special guest, Santa, feels at home, there’s lots going on behind the scenes at Winter Wonderland.

We caught up with Lisa Shaw, Seasonal Development Manager for Center Parcs (pictured below next to The Wise Old Owl), and she told us what her job involves and how she never stops thinking about Christmas!

“As Seasonal Development Manager, I constantly work on our festive experiences, especially Winter Wonderland, all year round. From ordering, scheduling, and making sure everything is delivered and installed in time – for all six villages! For this role it’s important to be open minded and creative, often trialling new things to see what works and what our guests love to see – this is why you may see something at one village and not another.

We review Winter Wonderland every year to deliver something unique and exciting, removing anything that’s become outdated. This year you will see the new addition of Toadstool Cabins nestled around Santa’s Woodland Village. Our old huts were looking a bit tired so we worked on new concept ideas that fit well in a forest environment and decided on toadstools. We even looked at our animatronic elves that you will find in the Toadstool Cabins – these have been carefully designed to be gender neutral with a much sweeter look about them, and we sourced and dressed them in beautiful elf clothes.

The teams on our villages have been working like a military operation, digging up paths, planting trees and creating additional areas to enhance the Winter Wonderland experience. This year, Whinfell Forest has doubled the size of their Santa’s Woodland Village!”

Interesting fact: each Toadstool Cabin is fitted with a little radiator to prevent damp and of course we don’t want the little elves to feel the cold!

Our installation teams on village do an incredible job setting everything up, did you know we have:

  • Approx. 1,800,000 LED lights across our six villages – wrapped around trees, trip rails and archways!
  • Over 11,000 litres of falling snow
  • Bought 52,000 mince pies
  • Sold over 6,000 Christmas trees which will be delivered to lodges

One of the biggest tasks is making sure Santa’s Woodland Workshop is ready for little ones visiting Santa. This includes making sure Santa’s big red chair is in, all the toys have been made and secured away in Santa’s sack and that the camera is in the best place for that perfect family photo – the elves often have fun testing this out!

If you’ve visited Winter Wonderland before, you might find that your favourite elf is back to help Santa - but this year you’ll also find some new elves. These elves have never left the North Pole before and they aren’t used to cars, so they love our car free environment! Some even find it funny that we have names like Emily and John – Santa’s elves are named after their personality like Giggles and Sparkle. What would your family’s elf names be?

Santa’s elves are always full of energy and love to show off their magic tricks and dances. We got special access into the elves ‘staff’ room where we found lots of sweet treats – no wonder they are always playing around! One of the elves told us that their outfits are made to keep them warm so they don’t feel the cold when walking around Santa’s Woodland Village.

Santa has been visiting Center Parcs for many years now – it’s like his second home. Santa is very busy seeing lots of families and it can get very tiring for him, so we always make sure he has a secret stash of mince pies to keep him going. You will never see Santa leaving his workshop or walking around village as he has a magical way of getting around – but this is one secret we just can’t reveal!

Did you know that Santa loves hearing jokes? His favourite one this year is from The Wise Old Owl – who you can meet in one of the new Toadstool Cabins, “What wears a red suit and goes “oh, oh, oh”?... Santa walking backwards!”

“Music is a big part of the Winter Wonderland experience, and we’re continually reviewing and expanding our enchanting soundscape. It’s important that we have the right balance and don’t get too carried away with Christmas songs at the start of November because not everybody is ready for that! We look at the ones that get guests dancing and singing as they walk down the paths.

Winter Wonderland is so special to me, having worked on it all year round then finally seeing guests enjoying it – it’s quite emotional! It’s seeing little ones’ faces lighting up in awe that makes all the effort worthwhile. Every year we look at ways we can enhance the magic for all the family, from experiencing other visitor attractions, food and beverage markets and attending retail shows to bring new and exciting elements to Center Parcs each festive season.” – Lisa Shaw, Seasonal Development Manager

Do you have a favourite Christmas song? Listen to our Winter Wonderland playlist on Spotify here.

Don’t worry if you missed out on a Winter Wonderland break this year. Start your tradition off next year and get ready to see what new and exciting things we deliver in 2022.

Book your Winter Wonderland break here.

Lisa crouched down next to animatronic The Wise Old Owl
Santa and his elves around him in his workshop
A man spraying snow onto Christmas trees
A toadstool house with an elf smiling through the window

Center Parcs

This blog post was written by a former colleague of Center Parcs; the content in the post is still relevant for you to keep up to date with all things Center Parcs.

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