A Santa's grotto can be a wonderful thing, but long queues, flashing lights and noisy music can quickly turn the ho-ho-hos into a big no-no-no.

Many venues have taken this into account and have provided quiet, relaxed or sensory-friendly visits that are tailor-made for neurodivergent children.

This can involve allocated times, to avoid crowds and queuing; subdued lighting and music; and staff trained to make the visit as accessible as possible.

Here's our guide to sensory-friendly Santa visits - let us know if you know of any more.

⬅ Dobbies run Quiet Grottos in 50 of their garden centres from 2.30pm to 5.30pm on Friday December 8, including Ponteland (book here), Birtley (book here), Gosforth (book here), Morpeth (book here), and Stockton (book here). All time slots are booked so there is no queuing, music and twinkling lights are turned off, you can choose to have a present wrapped or unwrapped, and you are sent a photograph before the day so you can visualise what you will see there.

Quiet Santa sessions at Beamish Museum, County Durham. Away from the busier grotto at Rowley Station, there'll be a Quiet Santa in the Masonic Hall on Sunday 3rd and Sunday 10th December. A session must be pre-booked and costs £8 per child; it doesn't include admission to Beamish Museum. For more information, email access co-ordinator [email protected] or call 0191 370 4003.
 ⬅ Winter Wonderscape: A journey to the North Pole, MetroCentre, November 20 - January 7. Relaxed SEN sessions every Wednesday at 11am, with reduced capacity and quieter music. Book the tickets here.

Dalton Park has a Santa's grotto outside the Next outlet, and every Sunday there is a quiet experience from 11am to 12pm. Lights are dimmed, music turned down and tannoy announcements switched off. It costs £6 per child and no booking is necessary.

⬅ Father Christmas at Gibside Stables is an interactive story event and there are five relaxed sessions where audiences will be smaller and noise levels reduced. These are on December 3rd, 9th, 16th, 17th and 23rd; see times and book tickets here.
The Bridges in Sunderland has a quiet hour for Santa visits between 11am and 12pm on Sundays (up to 24th December).
⬅ Auckland Castle is putting on six sensory-friendly sessions of its AGLOW light trail, which includes a Santa's village. They take place on Tuesday 28th November, Monday 4th December and Thursday 14th December at 4.30pm and 5pm, when the site will be less crowded and quieter. Book tickets here.
Elf School at New Hartley Memorial Hall, Whitley Bay. Learn Elf skills, win your Elf bells and visit Santa at the same time. There's a SEN session at 10.30am on Sunday 17th December. Book here.
⬅ The Quiet Father Christmas experience at Wallington, in Northumberland, is sold out .. but we're told that Mrs Christmas is a good experience for families. She will be at Wallington telling stories on 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 10th, 16th, 17th and 23rd December and no booking is required. Read more here.
Kielder's Winter Wonderland promises relaxed performances to be announced in coming weeks - see here.
⬅ Life in Newcastle has an animated show What Santa Sees in its planetarium as part of the general entrance ticket. There are no special relaxed sessions, but ear defenders are available from reception and you can download a visual story in advance from here.
West Boldon Lodge is running an Enchanted Forest Playschool especially for pre-schoolers on Friday 1st December, which includes crafts, games or walks in the woods and visit to Santa's grotto. Organisers say they are equipped to meet additional needs if they are informed in advance. Tickets cost £15 per child, £12 concession - book here.

Find out what our pupils from Thornhill Park School like about Santa!