LaplandUK - the magical immersive festive experience located in the Swinley Forest, Crown Estate, Ascot - has welcomed thousands of families through their doors over the years. And although every child who walks through the door is a VIP, the experience received some special royal visitors last December - none other than the Wales family!
The Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis all travelled to the magical forest in Ascot, not far from their Adelaide Cottage home, to enjoy over four hours of enchanting activities with many other visitors. The family-of-five’s appearance didn’t go unnoticed, but like many other A-Listers that visit, their privacy was respected.
Co-founders and executive producers of LaplandUK, Mike and Alison Battle remember the royal visit fondly, telling HELLO! it was "an honour". They add: "It was wonderful that they could enjoy this special moment to be a family at Christmas time."
LaplandUK - which last week opened the doors for its 16th year - hosts some of the biggest stars from all over the world, including Elton John and David Furnish, the Beckhams, Paul McCartney and more. But the celebrity guests have never fazed the couple.
“To us, the children will always be the VIPs, although sometimes they bring their famous parents along too," they told HELLO! "We believed that if we could create a Christmas experience as authentic and believable as the one we sought for our own children, it would capture the hearts of families everywhere.
"However, the scale of the reception we have received is truly humbling. We feel honoured to have been entrusted with the Christmas moment, which we know is so precious for families.”
Getting tickets to LaplandUK is no easy task. They go on sale very early in January and sell out within minutes. So what makes it so special that many families return every year and they have visitors flocking in from more than 52 countries?
“LaplandUK is ever evolving, as our storytelling deepens and develops,” Mike and Alison tell us. “Every year the production continues to improve, powered by our commitment to create a believable world.”
And every year, new details are introduced. “This year, we will be unveiling a new, hand-painted toy factory, which was inspired by our own visit to the town of Oberragamau, Germany in 2022 where we saw traditional tales being told with hand-painted illustrations on house walls. We felt this would work beautifully at LaplandUK too, telling our own stories of Mother Christmas, Father Christmas and the Elves.”
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The couple say they will never stop trying to improve: "Because to children this is a real place, the home of Father Christmas.”
Fear not if you didn’t manage to get tickets this year as Mike and Alison have thought of everything. “We also want to spread the magic of LaplandUK to children far and wide, including those not visiting the event. We’ll be bringing new tales to the ears of children everywhere in the countdown to Christmas, through our podcast, ‘Elfcasts From The World of LaplandUK’, which you can listen to on Apple Podcasts.”
And the couple, alongside their children - who also work in the family business - are incredibly hard at work to make LaplandUK even bigger in the next five years, so as many children as possible can enjoy it.
"We have received interest from around the world for the live show and are in the planning stages of opening a second site in the UK," said the couple, who are also looking at offers to bring their stories to life through film and digital content.
Mike and Alison also told us about their plans to start a foundation "with the ambition, amongst other things, of placing a stocking on the bed of every child spending Christmas Eve in a UK hospital." They added: "Our hope is that in five years’ time, we will have achieved this mission and expanded our horizons further, fulfilling the Christmas dreams of children all over the world.”