‘Legendary' Santa Specials experience celebrates tourism award with more tickets on offer than ever
A decades-old Christmas tradition based in Kent, enjoyed by generations of families from around the country, has just picked up a prestigious annual tourism award.
The Kent & East Sussex Railway's Santa Specials, which run every weekend during December plus Christmas Eve, are to receive a gold, silver or bronze award in the 2024 Beautiful South Awards. In addition, they could also be crowned Event/Festival of the Year when the overall winner is announced at a ceremony in Brighton on Friday 15th December.
More tickets than ever for 2023
The popularity of the Santa Specials has grown every year with many visitors, who came as children, returning to bring not just their own children but now their grandchildren to enjoy the never-to-be-forgotten magic. As a result, tickets regularly sell out well before Christmas - some 14,000 in 2022.
This year the K&ESR has added both further days and an extra service on each running day to meet the continued rise in demand. There are therefore still some seats available on selected services - including in wheelchair-accessible carriages - but customers will need to hurry to book the remaining places before they are snapped up.
Beyond a steam train ride
The K&ESR Santa Special experience goes way beyond a heritage steam train ride through the wintry Wealden landscape. Along with the 70-minute journey it includes: age-appropriate educational presents for children; complimentary festive refreshments; a family photo; a magician performing on board and at the station, plus entry to the Winter Wonderland marquee and unlimited free rides on the vintage gallopers.
The main attraction, Santa himself, travels on the train, giving out presents and talking to children at their seats, assisted by his team of elves.
This year, the K&ESR is also running a ‘Quiet Day' service on Sunday 26th November for those who prefer a less intense visit, including families who have children with special needs. Whilst there are fewer departures and no Christmas music playing, the service includes all of the regular features of Santa Specials.
"We couldn't be more delighted and proud that this legendary Christmas experience has been recognised in the prestigious Beautiful South Awards, which are rigorously judged by experts in the tourism industry," said K&ESR General Manager Robin Coombes.
"The award is a testament to the hard work of our team, including hundreds of dedicated volunteers who give up many hours of their time to help deliver such a special experience every year. We can't wait to welcome everyone again this year."
Amongst the K&ESR's dedicated volunteers are Chief Stationmaster Geoff Colvin - voted VisitEngland Tourism Superstar of the Year by the public earlier this year for going ‘above and beyond' in his role - and Elliott Waters who has reached the finals of the Rail person of the Year in the Rail Staff Awards. Elliot has a day job on the regular railway but volunteers at the K&ESR at weekends and for special events including the Santa Specials.
For more information and to book for the Santa Specials, visit the website at: www.kesr.org.uk