'What the heck am I doing?' That was the thought that crossed my mind as I woke my two young children up early on Sunday. 

These two kids have woken me up early for the past six-plus years, now it was payback time. 

We were getting up, putting on our Christmas jumpers, and heading out - as we had a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON to meet. 

Arriving at Hillier Garden Centre in Weyhill just before 8am on a wet, and very cold, Sunday morning, were a surprisingly jolly crowd of people. 

Mostly families, many with grandparents with them, the group was cheerful as we headed into the cafe, the first visitors of the day. 

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Andover Advertiser: Hillier Garden Centre in Weyhill

We past staff stocking up the shelves ahead of one of the busiest days of the year, and the door was even locked behind us. Not only were we going to meet a VIP, we felt like VIPs too. 

For we had been invited to try out Hiller's Breakfast with Father Christmas events. 

They are part of a wide range of events being hosted by the garden centre, which opened in March 2023. 

There are wreath-making workshops, festive lunches, afternoon teas, a whole host of Christmas decorations to buy and a great range of real Christmas trees. I mean is Christmas really Christmas without at least one visit to a garden centre? 

Andover Advertiser: Breakfast with Santa at Hillier Garden Centre in Weyhill

Part of a larger chain, there are five Hillier Garden Centres hosting Breakfast with Father Christmas events - Weyhill, Aldermaston, Botley, Newbury and Eastbourne. 

The promise of a delicious breakfast was enough to lure us in, and with a four and six-year-old, who were already buzzing about Christmas, it seemed like a nice way to spend a Sunday morning. That was until the alarm clock went off and it was still dark! 

However, wiping our bleary eyes, we had made it on time, by the skin of our teeth, and settled down in the large cafe with the other families, while the hard-working and friendly staff set about dishing up everyone's breakfast. 

There were activities for the children on the table, Christmas crackers, and a Christmas cookie to take home. 

Andover Advertiser: Breakfast with Santa at Hillier Garden Centre in Weyhill

Kids cost £20 and were given a glass of juice, a free-range egg, farmhouse pork sausage, baked beans, slice of buttered toast.

Adults were £15, and got two farmhouse pork sausages, two smoked bacon rashers, two fried eggs, hash brown, mushrooms, tomato, beans, a slice of toast & butter., with tea or filter coffee. 

(There are vegetarian or lighter options available too). 

SEE ALSO: Hillier Garden Centre acquires Rosebourne garden centres

The breakfast was big and hearty, fresh and delicious. It was a great breakfast, without what happened next....

The kids didn't want their eggs, so I ended up with all three, but that was ok, as this was a place that could cook a fried egg, with no crunch or crisp in sight. 

@andoveradvertiser Hillier garden centre in Weyhill is hosting Breakfast with Father Christmas events in the run up to the big day. Kids tickets cost £20 and include breakfast, a visit from Father Christmas and a present. #christmas2023🎄🎁🦌🎅 ♬ Elf - Main Theme - Geek Music

We woofed down our breakfast, and as our plates were being cleared away, we heard a thump and a ringing of bells, before Father Christmas and his elf made a grand entrance. 

The expressions on the kids' faces were priceless. He made his way around the room, sitting at each table and talking to all the kids individually, handing out presents. 

My kids absolutely loved the attention, it was a magical moment. 

After Santa had done the rounds, he sat on his chair by the tree and it was time to snap a picture for the family album. 

Andover Advertiser: Breakfast with Father Christmas at Hillier Garden Centre in Weyhill

The breakfast was delicious, Father Christmas was top-notch, and even after a stroll around the garden centre looking at decorations, we had our whole day ahead of us. 

This is not your traditional grotto experience - it makes a nice change and is an experience that the whole family can get involved in. If you are looking for something that little bit different this year, then Breakfast with Father Christmas is certainly something memorable. 

Breakfast with Father Christmas is at Weyhill at 8am on Saturday, December 9 and Sunday, December 9, and then it runs every day from Saturday, December 16 all the way up to Sunday, December 24. 

To book go to hillier.co.uk/christmas.