Recently we were invited to Drusillas Christmas event. Drusillas is somewhere that until today I called our “happy place”. I have spoken about Drusillas many times on the blog before and always in a positive way. We have had annual memberships for the last 4 years. However today we left feeling that we will not renew our memberships and saw Drusillas in a totally new light.
As you enter the park apart from the Christmas entrance signs and a small Christmas tree it doesn’t have a Christmassy feel to it. Having visited some other Christmas attractions such as Tulleys Farm recently we have seen some great displays. Although I understand Tulleys is purely a Christmas attraction, you can see where effort has been made, and Drusillas Christmas event has made minimum effort with the decoration.
The zoo itself I have reviewed previously and seeing the animals was good as usual. Despite having far less to offer than other attractions and zoos further away that we have been to, locally it is a popular choice with families including ours as it is the only zoo in the area.
Next we made our way to the Drusilas Christmas event area where our trip took a downward turn. In previous years there has been a large patch in the central part of the picnic area with a snow effect and Christmas animals placed to create a nice spectical for children to enjoy. This year it had been moved to the side, was a lot smaller and had significantly less of a wow factor. In previous years there were also some reindeers to see however they seem to have scrapped this as well. As well as this lacklustre display there was “Hug a Husky” and a small house where you can go and visit Father Christmas.
Hug a Husky
The queue to visit Father Christmas at the Drusillas Christmas event was long which we expected and is the reason that until this year we have always given it a miss, instead only going to see the huskies. However as I had been asked to review the Drusillas Christmas experience I felt it made sense for us to go and see what it was like to visit Father Christmas as well. I joined the queue and whilst I waited Joe and Lily went to see the huskies (joining another queue.)
Hug a Husky is an area where they have people in fancy dress winter clothing and a husky. The queue is much shorter than the one for Father Christmas so it’s a much better option for younger children. Joe and Lily waited for approximately half an hour for their turn.
Unfortunately as Joe and Lily’s turn approached one of the staff members announced everyone would have to “be quicker” with the huskies now as the queue was getting larger. Whilst I appreciate they have to manage these events and a long queue is never fun, to be told to “be quicker” and to be hurried along when you have spent time waiting is not very nice.
The actual experience of seeing the dogs Joe tells me Lily enjoyed, she was able to stroke the dogs who were calm and good natured. In previous years staff members were very friendly and answered questions about the dogs. This year Joe tells me it was a young man slumped in a chair looking disinterested. However overall Lily enjoyed seeing the dogs.
When Joe and Lily came out from seeing the huskies I had made little progress in the queue for Father Christmas. Standing outside in the cold for such a long time is not at all fun especially with young children.
After at least an hour if not more we eventually got to the front of the queue where we were asked for our ticket. What ticket? At no point had we been told that you needed a ticket to see Father Christmas. The woman told me we should have been told at the entrance gate to the zoo which we weren’t and that there is a sign “somewhere” which we did not see.
I went back and had a good look to see if there was a sign either near to the Father Christmas area or at the entrance to the zoo and there was no sign. I do not know how we were supposed to know we should have got a ticket. However I suggest in future there are clear signposts both at the entrance to the zoo and at the start of the queue. As the queue goes back so far it may also be a good idea to have a member of staff routinely checking people have tickets whilst waiting.
With no ticket we were turned away and Lily started to cry as she had been looking forward to seeing Father Christmas all day. We went across to the zoo shop Mungos where according to the woman you could get tickets. There we discovered that it is a ridiculous £15 to see Father Christmas! Joe and I couldn’t believe it, we expected perhaps £10 at a stretch but £15 seems to be crazily overpriced. The woman must have seen the shock on our faces as she said “were you not expecting it to be that much?”. I explained that as I’ve been asked to review the Christmas event I feel we should see Father Christmas but £15 for a ticket to see him it is a lot of money.
The woman suggested she make a phonecall to the general manager where she scoffed down the phone with a look of amusement that I was a blogger and could she come and talk to me about seeing Father Christmas. Now I do not expect to be given anything for free but as the woman in the shop suggested it and we had come purely to review the Drusillas Christmas event I felt it may be something they would do.
The general manager who arrived made it clear this was out of the question. This is fair enough, but the manner in which she spoke to me was extremely rude. She made it clear she was not at all happy about speaking to us and didn’t so much as smile. This is a company we have paid a lot of money to in the past and who I have always praised. It is also a company who have asked us to come and review their event and to be honest I didn’t expect to be paying such a high price for a visit to Father Christmas and a small cuddly toy that the children are given.
Heading Home Early
Needless to say after the long cold pointless wait, hearing about the extortionate cost of the ticket and after the rude woman spoke to us we had had enough and decided to head home. Luckily Lily is very understanding and after the promise of some treats from the shop she was ok, but joe and I were very disappointed and upset about the whole thing.
I feel that we have seen Drusuillas in a new light, the prices for entry have always been expensive but to expect guests to pay that fee or their expensive annual pass fee as well as £15 per child to see Father Christmas is extortionate . A family with more than one child would end up paying a fortune to simply see Father Christmas for a few minutes (no different than many other often free event) and to be given a small toy owl.
Children will go to the Drusillas Christmas event expecting to see Father Christmas and I feel the park is relying on parents feeling obliged, along with good old pester power to charge very expensive tickets. It is also worth mentioning that we visited on a quiet Sunday morning, during the Christmas holidays the queue is usually double in length.
Overall I do not recommend the Drusillas Christmas event. It was disappointing, expensive, badly organised and lacking in effort, with rude staff to top it all off. I feel the zoo have made minimal effort and are trying to charge as much as possible. I know some people travel from far away to come to the zoo especially for the Drusillas Christmas experience, but to people thinking of even just travelling locally I would say give it a miss.
I was given free entry to Drusillas for the purpose of this review, however as always all thoughts and opinions are my own.