Sunday, 24 November 2019

Santa's Grotto at Shrek's Adventure London Review

S is for South Bank Shrek and Santa

I've wanted to go to Shrek's Adventure for years since I heard it arrived in 2015 right on Westminster Bridge Road overlooking the Thames tucked between the Coca-Cola London Eye, London Dungeon and The Sea Life London Aquarium. You can in fact currently book 5 attractions - Merlin's Magical London Pass - online for £63 (£70 if booked on the day)
The [Shrek Adventure] 2,000 square metre experience is based on an adventure written by the DreamWorks team. It features a Shrek interactive walk through adventure, a character courtyard where visitors will be able to meet Shrek and his swamp friends, along with characters from Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon.
Outside Shrek's Adventure on the South Bank
We were so lucky to be invited to the official launch of Santa's Grotto at Shrek's Adventure which we attended Saturday 23rd November. This was a star studded breakfast for celebrities and bloggers.

The wait is ogre to meet Santa :-)

Santa poster for launch of Santa at Shrek's Adventure

an early start for launch of Santa at Shrek's AdventureWe travelled from Bristol by coach with Snap Travel, straight after school Friday, staying that night with Grandma ready to be at Shrek's Adventure before it opened for our Santa's Grotto launch breakfast event at 08:30. The kids didn't sleep at all on the coach and we went to bed at midnight, then up at 6 a.m. Yet this was them, not a blink in their eyes, leaving early doors before sunrise, full of Christmas excitement in the dark. On arrival below just after we had our noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation of a great adventure.

Speaking of adventures, Shrek's Adventure was so easy to find being so close to Westminster station, right on the Thames over the bridge at the foot of Big Ben who's currently clothed in scaffolding.
Entrance to Shrek's Adventure on the South Bank

Shrek's Adventure Begins

Shortly after walking through the entrance to Shrek's Adventure you enter a lift, with a screen in its roof, where Gingy the Gingerbread gives you a very warm and excited on screen welcome, which really gets the kids full of excitement for what's to come. This also acts as an introduction to how great the screens and animation are throughout the attraction. The standard of the cutting edge 3D projection, always popping up in surprising places is second to none like nothing I've ever encountered, with the onscreen characters even sometimes throwing things in such a way you find yourself doing a double take. So often throughout the tour I felt like I'd watched a Magician at work.

Anyway I digress, as for us the tour came later in the day, as first we went to the Santa's Grotto pre-opening Breakfast Launch and then off to the theatre and back to do the Shrek's Adventure tour at 2 o'clock that same day.
Face paint rainbow at Shrek's Adventure

Once mingling over breakfast whilst the kids played and had face paint, Ruth, RocknRollerBaby spotted Emma Bunton (Baby Spice) in the face paint queue, whilst I was still oblivious to the fact that there were even celebrities in the room. The standard of the face paint was exceptional, just look at Lottie. Aaron chose the Gingerbread Man. 

Baby Spice Again Meets Baby of RocknRollerBaby

In fact Ruth had already met Emma Bunton before, and her darling daughter beautiful 9 year old Florence had a photo taken with Baby Spice, back when she was a "baby". Well she is the original RocknRollerBaby after all boom boom! They recreated that precious photo yesterday at Shrek's Adventure:
Baby Spice Emma Bunton at launch of Santa's Grotto at Shrek's Adventure

Birds of a Feather

Having seen Ruth in action I was then brave enough to ask Linda Robson (who Ruth had to point out to me) for a photo, the modern day version of an autograph. She was so accommodating and so lovely. Just as you'd expect having spent years watching her on TV. I grew up watching Linda on Birds of a Feather with my Mum but of course know and love her in recent years from her regular appearances on day time TV show Loose Women.

Linda Robson at Santa's Grotto Shrek's Adventure

That's The Way the Cookie Crumbles

We were a very merry bunch as Cookie (see below) was with us too and I also got a great pic of her with Linda Robson. There's fun wherever Cookie is.


Team Work Makes the DreamWorks

Being that this is a DreamWorks attraction there were also Kung Fu Panda features and all of our children love Kung Fu Panda - there was even a large Kung Fu Panda computer game.

Shrek's Santa and Santa's Elves - Sensational and Shrektacular

As we were at the Shrek's Adventure Santa's Grotto breakfast launch media event we mingled and ate for over an hour before we actually met the Elves and Santa himself, but ordinarily you will meet him at the end of your Shrek's Adventure tour, provided you have a grotto booking. Make sure you purchase the Shrek's Adventure ticket that includes Santa, or if you are already booked on a Shrek's Adventure tour you can separately add on your Santa's Grotto ticket. Going around Shrek's Adventure takes 70 minutes and then the Grotto is in addition to that. Santa is lovely and he gives each child an individually wrapped gift (really great value for money once you see that gift in the souvenir shop later).
Photo taken by Cookie and kindly shared with me - thanks Emma xxx
Whilst queueing for Santa there are many Elves on hand to entertain and they're all so fabulous with children. Having been to many Santas over the years I'm used to many Elves (even in Harrods) not staying in character but these ones were true professionals, so the magic of the Grotto stayed intact for the children. The scenery is exquisite too and perfect for festive cheer. I left there very more than ready for Christmas and with a warm festive glow in my heart. Despite arriving at 08:30 and leaving at 10:30 the children - my 2 and their cousin - were thoroughly transfixed in their element the whole time. Aaron's not as into Santa as he once was, being that he is now 9, but yet he was grinning from ear to ear in the grotto.

Come and Meet Santa at Far Far Away


The kids spotted that this snowman had ears like Shrek so insisted I captured this pic. Very sweet and later once we'd opened our goodie bags from the launch event, these three were also wearing Santa Shrek ears just like this which reminds me you can add Shrek/Character ears to your online booking.


We rushed off to the Theatre to see and review The Snowman after meeting Santa at Shrek, but we returned to Shrek's Adventure afterwards to do the full tour at 14:00hrs. 


Shrek's Adventure - the actual tour

Shrek's Adventure on youtube doesn't at all do justice to this great attraction as there are so many parts where you are not allowed to film or use a camera, a rule the whole of the crowd on our booking totally respected and stuck to. Meaning so much of it is a delightful surprise especially for someone like Aaron who thought he knew it all, until he realised there was so so much more than he was expecting. 
It took a team of over 40 over two years to bring to life the hilarious fantasy world of Shrek and Far Far Away, including more than 100 builders from 20 different trades, plus animators, designers, engineers, artists, script writers, theatre directors and costume designers
The biggest model in the attraction is in the Arrivals Hall, where Toothless from the DreamWorks Animation ‘How to Train Your Dragon’, swoops overhead with a whopping six metre wingspan.  
SOURCE: Shrek's Adventure London Fun Facts

Magical 4D Flying Bus Ride Driven by Donkey

After leaving the arrivals hall you board the flying 4D bus which is breathtaking and truly amazing. It's what takes you from London's South Bank to Far Far Away and every window of the London bus to your left and right alongwith the windscreen become an immersive 4D cinema to the point where you feel like you are on a real life flying bus. Except it didn't give me that tummy roller-coaster feeling thank God. Due to the cinema being ALL AROUND YOU there's no need to rush to the front row AND given that this is a pre-booked tour with dedicated time slots there is a seat for everyone. 

It's GREAT that the bus drive is narrated by Donkey given how much we all love his voice and character so so much.

Throughout the tour you go from room to room:

  • to Shrek's Swamp
  • to Rumpelstiltskin's Carriage
  • to the Poison Apple Pub
  • to Pinocchio's Wheel of Torture
  • to the Mirror Maze of Insanity (don't worry you are rescued by Sleeping Beauty)
  • to cook up a spell with the Muffin Man
  • to Rumpelstiltskin's prison

finally to destination Shrek for a hug and a selfie.

When you consider that there are exceptionally talented costumed actors in each of the themed rooms above, this is a tourist attraction that is SO immersive and fun and doesn't at all disappoint. Fun for all ages. I was blown away by both the scripts and the sheer standard of the showmanship throughout the tour. Mind blown for sure. Just like the Shrek movies themselves there is humour for kids and adults alike.

The tour ends with you meeting Shrek himself and of course he dressed with the season to be jolly in mind as below. The kids were thrilled but Lottie was on her cousin's back as she's still at that age where she finds Santa scary. I remember Aaron going through that phase too but if I remember it only lasted one Christmas and then in the years after we'd meet several Santas a year and he'd always be grinning ear to ear, and actually at age 9 still is bless him:


What you need to know

Photos

There are several chances throughout Shrek's Adventure to have professional photos taken and you can purchase them at the end. You simply scan the barcode on your wristband which makes it possible to later view all of your photos before deciding which ones to buy.

Shrek Adventure Tour

You have to actually be booked onto a tour, which takes approximately 70 minutes. Shrek's Adventure is not a place where you can spend the whole day or just pay on the door and walk straight in. The tour is a walk through tour that shortly after commencing takes you onto an amazing bus for a 4D immersive cinematic experience, better than anything I've seen before. And actually there are on screen tricks and treats in all of the rooms the tour takes you through. I won't spoil it as you just have to experience it. It's so interactive that all ages that were there with us from tots to the elderly thoroughly enjoyed it and the same sense of humour that has adults loving the Shrek movies even more than kids was ever present.

Buggies

At busy times these must be left in a buggy park. 

Mobility

As there is quite a lot of walking it's worth bearing this in mind. Lottie had only had 6 hours sleep instead of her usual 12 and is only 3 and coped with the walking just fine. You're always shepherded from room to room by in character actors so the energy is high, and you're taken along by the crowds so no chance to remember tired feet. Also in several of the rooms you actually get to take a seat anyway and due to it being pre-booked there are always enough available yay!

Santa

After being thoroughly entertained by Elves you go through to a wooden lodge in which you privately meet Santa. He is lovely with a great sense of humour and takes all the time in the world to make children and adults very welcome. We were a group of 3 families and we all huddled in - what a buzz. Santa gives each child an individually wrapped gift which we all agreed was great value for money. The experience was right up there with the best of them (*coughs* been to Harrods Santa three times and to Hamleys so as sure as eggs are eggs I know my Santas) and I think both Santa and the Elves were very sincere whilst remaining in character. Adults can enter the Grotto with any paying child meaning adults don't pay to visit Santa yay, but at busy times it is limited to one adult per booked paying child.

Best Bits

The best bits for me were
  • The 4D cinematic experience in the flying bus - glasses provided!
  • The standard of the character acting of everyone we met throughout the tour
  • Shortly after starting the tour you enter a lift and the gingerbread man talks to you from a screen on the inside of its lid. This really sets the excitement for the tour that's about to come. Shrek is brought to us via on screen cinematic movies and so much of the tour brings characters to life in the same way, complimented by great characters represented by real actors. It's not just the bus that is 4D...
  • The mix of comedy, drama, thrills and suspense throughout the Shrek Adventure tour were paced and pitched just right. Aaron was more scared than Lottie I guess because he understood more of it. Scared in the sense that he was always wondering what would happen next, like a suspense with a great sense of excitement and trepidation. The walking talking equivalent of a page turner. This is not a tourist attraction where the adults are bored - not at all. Put your phone on silent and allow yourself to be carried away in a Shrek Adventure not to be forgotten.
  • The narrators regularly use props that the audience take from room to room - I won't say anymore as what I loved about it was how much of it I didn't know to expect.
  • The Mirror Maze of Insanity was a real highlight where we all got lots hitting dead end after dead end till eventually we got rescued. Everyone adults and kids alike, were in high spirits testimony to how good the tour is.
The only downside is that this is not an attraction where you spend the whole day but with the amount of Merlin Pass attractions all in one neat spot on the South Bank you don't have to. Make sure you book them all together as it's heavily discounted that way.

If you'd like to go to Shrek's Adventure the best prices can be secured on their website and book Santa to avoid disappointment.

  • Christmas Grotto experience including Shrektacular gift!
  • Selected dates from 24th November - 24th December
  • Parents must purchase a standard Shrek's Adventure ticket and enter the Grotto with any paying child

Our visit to the Grotto for breakfast and our visit later to the Shrek's Adventure Tour were gifted in exchange for an honest review. We honestly had a super time and I would highly recommend it. It greatly surpassed Aaron's expectations age 9, Lottie loved it age 3 (and didn't even get chance to think about being tired) and their cousin aged 11 was full immersed and engaged throughout too. A big hit all round. Us adults - me, Cookie, her hubby, Ruth and her Mum - all loved it too and had such a giggle and so much fun. Shrek's Adventure tour beautifully does justice to and complements the movies, which we've loved since before we even became parents.

Don't just take our word for it Cookie and Ruth have already reviewed the day too:
https://www.thatsthewaythecookiecrumbles.co.uk/2019/11/24/shreks-grotto-review/
https://rocknrollerbaby.co.uk/christmas-shreks-adventure-2019/

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