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​With Christmas rapidly approaching, we thought it was time to advance our shopping by visiting The Centre. No matter what the weather may be doing, with everything under cover - and all in one place - it’s such an easy place to visit with the whole family.

With all the shops decorated and The Centre itself lit up with tiny twinkling lights, our visit instantly felt like Christmas. I don’t ever want Christmas shopping to feel like a chore, or something that has to be done. I like to start early and to do things a little at a time, so that I can think about each purchase and make sure I’ve really picked the right things for my friends and family.

In order to do that though, I think it’s really important to be able to enjoy shopping. I don’t like to be rushed or pushed about in crowded shops. I really don’t like to get cold and a source of coffee is incredibly important. Thankfully, The Centre is the remedy to all of those problems.

Visiting Santa

First on our agenda was a visit to Santa himself. Along with parents worldwide, we’ve been using promises (ok… threats too) that Santa is watching for the last few weeks. It’s important that this incentive to behave doesn’t lose its value in the run up to Christmas, so I find a good visit just helps add to all the magic and make-believe!

Santa at The Centre, resides in a Christmas tree stretching way up to the roof. The kids were quickly drawn to the lights and were absolutely beyond excited to meet the big man himself. I have to say they were not disappointed.

Santa greeted both children by name, remembered how old they were and commented on how much they had grown since he had last seen them. Instead of launching into a ‘what do you want’ routine, he actually thanked them for the milk and cookies they left last year and told them a story about how naughty Rudolf had been! Ever the pro, Santa took the kid’s request for a camper van in his stride and was great with the teething toddler too! 

Adding to the Christmas spirit were a whole host of enthusiastic elves ready to laugh and joke with the kids - generally just adding to the excitement.

Christmas Eve Preparations

Whilst my husband took the kids to replenish their stock of sweets at M&S, I took the opportunity to pop into Lush to stock up on some ‘must-haves’ for the holidays.

Each year, we like to put together a little box of treats together for Christmas Eve. I had already spotted a great selection of activity books in Waterstones but couldn’t resist grabbing some Snowman bubble bars and a Christmas Magic wand!

I love Lush for its commitment to the environment and for being against animal testing. But it helps that the products are gorgeous too! Lots of parents were going mad for the ‘Sleepy’ body lotion this year after finding out it really helps babies sleep - so this would also be a great shout for Christmas Eve too!

Lunchtime Treats

We were spoilt for choice when it came to lunchtime, but chose to head to one of our family favourites - Wagamama.

Some people are surprised when we talk about going to Wagamama but it actually is brilliant for kids. Lots of their food is actually quite plain and my kids really like that they can order things were the food isn’t mixed together. The ‘mini chicken katsu’ comes with grilled (or breaded), sticky rice, grated carrot, sweetcorn and cucumber. It’s rare that the kids leave any of this untouched. Sauce is served on the side so it can be poured over or simply be there as a dip - and there’s a choice of sauce too!

I’m a massive fan of their dishes as the food is so fresh. Everything is cooked to order so it’s nice and hot. I really like that it just comes when ready so there’s no food sitting round under heat lamps either. The service is always quick and friendly which suits us down the ground.

Christmas Dreams

After lunch, we headed back to the centre to grab a few more things for Christmas and of course, to fulfil dreams by visiting build-a-bear.

Although it was incredibly busy (unsurprising given The Centre attracts around 45,000 people a day!) the staff were brilliant with the kids. As we waited in line for the bear to be filled, numerous staff took the time to talk about what the bear’s name could be, to ask how school was going, and to ensure that the kids knew they were on Santa’s nice list. 

With one kid focused on creating a cat that makes monkey noises and with the other now sleeping. My husband could also take the opportunity to act upon some (less than obvious) hints and visit Pandora before bringing me a sneaky Costa Coffee whilst we were waiting too!

We had a wonderful day as a family; our visit to Santa really was magical, we had a delicious lunch and successfully bought some great gifts for some friends and family. In short, The Centre really does have everything we need under one roof!

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