Winter wonderland fails: from smoking elves to a 'dead Santa'

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen's Christmas attraction at Belfry Golf Club closes down after kids left in tears

A young girl is taken to visit Santa Claus at Lapland UK
(Image credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty)

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen's winter "wonderland" has been forced to shut down after just one day, following hundreds of complaints from angry parents.

Children promised a "spectacular" Christmas experience were left in tears after hour-long queues to meet Father Christmas, who handed out cheap plastic toys that weren't even wrapped, reports the Daily Telegraph. Meanwhile, Santa's Little Helpers sat around smoking and one mum said Santa had asked her daughter if she wanted "the ripped present or squashed one".

Families have been demanding their money back for the "shoddy" experience at the world-famous Belfry Golf Club in the West Midlands. Organisers confirmed they had closed down The Magical Journey attraction until Wednesday so they could "implement changes and improvements to the experience".

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It is not the first time that families in search of Christmas magic have been left disappointed.

Milton Keynes: plastic ice rink and a thin Santa

Last year, a Winter Wonderland event at Campbell Park in Milton Keynes was cancelled on its second day after visitors complained that it was "not exactly magical". The "ice rink" was just a few plastic sheets, while Santa's Grotto was closed for much of the first day and, when it did open, Father Christmas was described as being a young, thin man in a cheap outfit. "The Santa was disappointing to say the least," said one mum. "Unfortunately, his beard was falling down and you could see his normal clothes underneath his costume." Another child apparently asked her mother if she had "been bad" after the fake Santa experience convinced her that the real one didn't want to see her. Organisers apologised and offered at least 200 refunds.

West Midlands: tacky Lapland cancelled

For a £25 ticket, Lapland West Midlands promised an ice-skating rink, reindeer and fairground rides – but in reality it was just a few tents, a sawdust path and some tacky decorations in a muddy field. It later emerged that the local council had not even granted a licence for the attraction to take place. Dubbed "Blunderland", the event organisers were pressed to close down the 2008 attraction before it even opened. Excited children and families turned up to be greeted by police and trading standards officers telling them the event was cancelled, reports the Daily Mail, and ticket-holders were told that they had little protection if their tickets were under £100.

New Forest: 'Santa's f***ing dead'

The accolade for worst Winter Wonderland catastrophe is still held by the short-lived Lapland New Forest experience at Matchams Leisure Park near Ringwood in 2008. Advertisements promised a place "where dreams really do come true", with an ice rink and a nativity scene, but the ice rink was "broken" and the nativity scene was painted on a billboard in a muddy field. One Santa and several elves were attacked by angry parents, two dads brawled in the Gingerbread House and one snowman received so much verbal abuse he stormed off in full costume, reported The Sun. Trading standards received more than 2,000 complaints and the RSPCA launched an investigation into the treatment of husky dogs, reindeers and donkeys on the site. The attraction closed down after six days and families who turned up with pre-paid tickets were told by one helper: "Santa's f***ing dead."

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