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101 fantastic activities for the Christmas 2022 school holidays

Eden Project Christmas family image
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas with these upcoming events across the UK. From helping craft a gingerbread cityscape to meeting Santa’s special delivery owls – here are 101 of the very best!
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Scroll down to discover the best family events across:

 

  • England
  • Northern Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Wales 

Christmas holidays 2022 family activities in England

Main image from The Eden Project 

Wintery wizards
What: Get set for the holidays at Hogwarts as the WB Harry Potter Studios complete their festive makeover. Go for a wander through a frosty Forbidden Forest and meet its fearsome inhabitants, take a trip down Diagon Alley, peering into magical shop fronts filled with festive delights, then step inside Hogwarts, where Christmas cards adorn the cosy Gryffindor common room, and the Great Hall will be suitably bedecked for the shimmering spectacle of the Yule Ball. Afterwards, you’ll be able to find out how the series’ filmmaking wizards were able to create safe and realistic ice, snow, and fire.
Where: The Making of Harry Potter, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, London WD25 7LR
When: Until 15 January, times vary.
Need to know: Family ticket from £160. Under 4s free. Visits last three and a half hours approx.

A fairy-tale Christmas
What:
Meet dancing penguins, visit the Toymaker, see Santa's sleigh ready to take off into the sky, explore the Secret Forest, then meet Santa in his grotto and Jolly the Elf at the Sorting Station. All of this and more can be found at the Fairytale Farm in Oxfordshire. A truly magical experience for the whole family.
Where: Southcombe Farm, Oxfordshire, OX7 5QH
When: Saturdays and Sunday from 3-11 December and then daily from 12 December - Christmas Eve
Need to know: Adult £8.50, Child (full experience) £14.99, Under 2s £6.49. TheSchoolRun readers can get 10% discount when they book with our partners at Lovetovisit.com.

Taking the biscuit
What: The Museum of Architecture’s mouth-watering festive exhibition, The Gingerbread City, returns with over 100 leading architects, landscapers, engineers and ecologists using their design expertise (and baking skills) to construct an incredible edible gingerbread-based landscape. This year’s display presents five miniature cities across different climate zones: polar, continental, temperate, dry and tropical, and explores how to make urban spaces more green and friendly. You can also try out some biscuit-y building yourself at the gingerbread-house-making workshops running alongside the exhibition.
Where: 6-7 Motcomb Street, Belgravia, London SW1X 8JU
When: 3 December–2 January. Exhibition: Monday-Saturday, 9am-9pm, last entry, 8.10pm. Sunday, 9am-6pm, last entry, 5.10pm. Workshops run from 10.30am-6pm.
Need to know: Tickets, £10 under 12s, £15 adults, booking fee 0.38p per ticket. Workshops, £50, adult and child. One extra child, £10. 

Illuminating experience
What: Experience Chester Zoo in a whole new light as The Lanterns festival returns for 2022, transforming the night-time zoo into an illuminated wonderland. This year’s theme is Distant Lands – so take a globetrotting journey past a multicoloured castle inspired by Norwegian fairy tales, stroll through a forest of glowing lotus flowers, or meet some giant dragonflies in a Japanese garden. Expect plenty of festive surprises along the way, and you might even come face-to-face with Santa Claus himself!
Where: Chester Zoo, Upton-by-Chester, Chester, CH2 1EU
When: Until 23 December, 4pm-8.15pm
Need to know: Child tickets £12-17, adults £15-£20.50. 

Just be your-elf
What: Elf the musical is back!
If you haven't seen the movie (gasp!) it's a story of a lovable, simple elf called Buddy who is far too tall to fit in gracefully with the other elves at Santa's workshop. So, he ventures out into the world to find his birth father and discover a whole new family. This musical brings all of the laughter and all of the feels from the movie on to the stage.
Where: Dominion Theatre, 268-269 Tottenham Court Rd, London, W1T 7RQ
When: Until 7 January 
Need to know: Tickets vary greatly in price but start from £20 (depends on seating choice and selected date)

TheSchoolRun & Lovetovisit.com

TheSchoolRun has partnered up with Lovetovisit.com to help expand your options for school holiday activities and keep things affordable. So, as well as the 101 activities in the list, you can also find plenty of events and activities in your area at discounted prices or even for free.

We've also arranged a 10% discount on lights and illumination events exclusively for our readers. Use this code: TSR2022

A winter at Windsor
What: Experience a right royal Christmas at Windsor Castle and enjoy the sight of this grand palace festooned with festive decorations, lights and displays – complete with a magnificent 20-foot-high Christmas tree (which took over 13 hours to decorate!) standing in St George’s Hall. As you explore, you’ll be able to discover the stories of Royal Christmas traditions old and new, and step into the shoes of a Victorian child by creating a traditional decoration, wreath, or angel for the Christmas tree before dressing up in Victorian outfits and planning the perfect Christmas menu!
Where: Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ
When: Weekends from 3-18 December, then 19 December – 2 January, 10am-3pm.
Need to know: Event free with admission. Family ticket, £67.20.

Be a-maze-d
What: Enjoy plenty of festive frivolity as you take a trip to Yorkshire’s Stockeld Park. You’ll be able to journey down the Yellow Brick Road and watch panto ‘Christmas in Oz’, pop into Santa’s grotto or have a whirl on the ice rink. Then, you can explore the Enchanted Forest, where you’ll meet Russell the talking tree and discover a fairy village. As dusk falls, thousands of twinkling lights will illuminate the park and its 8ft-high snowflake shaped maze, where you can discover a castle viewing tower, musical instruments, and a silver globe hidden in the centre.
Where: Stockeld Park, Wetherby, Yorkshire LS22 4AW
When: 19 November– 3 January, 10am-9pm.
Need to know: Tickets to forest, maze and illuminations from £15. Santa’s grotto, £12 per child, ice skating, £12, panto tickets, £3.50 per person. 

Palace pageant 
What: For Christmas 2022, the Protector of the Beasts invites you to experience the historic Hampton Court Palace like never before. Meet an array of curious creatures, from mystical unicorns to playful panthers, fearless lions to loyal greyhounds, all inspired by the Royal Beasts, a collection of statues commissioned for Hampton Court by Henry VIII. Watch these glittering beasts of the palace awaken from their slumber and come to life and follow them on this enchanting festive light trail through the palace courtyards and gardens.
Where: Hampton Court Palace, Surrey KT8 9AU
When: 7 December- 2 January, excluding 12, 13, 24, 25, 26 December. 5.15-8.30pm.
Need to know: A family ticket to the trail from £43.20 online, palace admission not included.

Show boating
What: Want to see a festive show with a difference? Then take to the water and enjoy some seasonal puppetry in a 55-seat theatre aboard a converted canal barge. This winter, you’ll be able to catch Red Riding Hood; a much-loved classic featuring plenty of humour and quite a few twists to the tale. Granny is arty but forgetful, Little Red is fearful and feisty, and the Wolf is as deep, haunting, and mysterious as his forest, making for a spellbinding story all told with expertly crafted marionettes and shadow puppets.
Where: Puppet Theatre Barge, Little Venice, Blomfield Road, London W9 2PF
When: Selected dates between 26 November-29 January, 11am and 2pm.
Need to know: Adults £13, children £9. Suitable for 5+.

Parlour party
What: Enjoy a day of festive family entertainment at Beaulieu this Christmas. A dazzling display of traditional decorations, including a Christmas tree in every room and warming log fires, will let you step back in time to 1889 as you follow the Yuletide trail through the halls to discover its magical secrets. You can take part in a family panto rehearsal or let off steam in the adventure playground (which has also had a festive makeover). Plus, don’t miss the musical promenade performance of festive classic the Snow Queen, taking place around the atmospheric ruins of Beaulieu Abbey.
Where: Beaulieu, New Forest, Hampshire SO42 7ZN
When: 17 December-1 January, 10am-5pm.
Need to know: Most events free with admission. Family ticket, £59, booked in advance. Snow Queen performance £65 for a family ticket, sold separately.

Walking on air
What: Filled with colourful sets and extravagant costumes, Sadlers’ Wells will be bringing their joyful dance adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ heart-warming classic The Snowman back to the Peacock Theatre, dazzling audiences of all ages for its 25th year. Dedicated to the memory of the tale’s beloved author, this enchanting stage show will leave you with a sense of wonder as you follow a boy and his magical snowman on a musical journey through wintery wonderlands to the North Pole – you won’t be disappointed as you relive this festive classic!
Where: Peacock Theatre, Portugal St, London WC2A 2HT
When: 19 November-31 December, various times. Tickets must be purchased by 3pm on 22 December. 
Need to know: Tickets from £18 per person.

All the trimmings
What: ​Head over to Coventry’s The Herbert and join in with the seasonal celebrations as you design your own toy soldier and fairy decorations to hang on the Christmas tree. You’ll be able to use an array of resources including layers of fabric, yarn, ribbon, glitter and colourful pipe cleaners and felt tips as you construct your unique handmade figurines and get into the seasonal spirit.
Where: The Herbert, Jordan Well, Coventry CV1 5QP
When: 20-22 December, two sessions at 10.30am-3.30pm.
Need to know: Drop in. £2.50 per child.

Stunning sculptures
What: Take a winter walk around the 10-acre Sculpture Park as you discover the world’s largest all-year open-air art exhibition. Follow the two-mile trail winding through the water gardens and woodlands, admiring an eclectic and ever-changing mix of over 600 works of art made by more than 300 sculptors – from musical contraptions and steampunk bugs to cobweb benches and iron apples – while keeping an eye out for seasonal wildlife along the way.
Where: The Sculpture Park, corner of Jumps and Tilford Road, Churt, Farnham, Surrey GU10 2LH
When: Open every day, 10am-5pm
Need to know: Adult tickets £50, under 15s £10, under 4s free. Book in advance online.

Going underground
What: Enjoy some subterranean storytelling and explore a mysterious underground world at the 4,500-year-old Clearwell Caves in the Forest of Dean. Say hello to Father Christmas, and journey with him through the caverns as he tells the tale of Archie, who, when the snow begins to fall, decides to make something different. He ends up meeting a mysterious and beautiful beast and sets off on an adventure full of surprises and magical happenings.
Where: Clearwell Caves, The Rocks, Nr Coleford, Royal Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire GL16 8JR
When: 2- 31 December excluding 6, 7, 13 and 14th, 10am-3pm
Need to know: Tickets £16 per person, includes gift from Santa for all children. Book in advance.

Serious sorcery
What: Grab your magical marching mop and enjoy this enchanting new production from the Northern Stage. Young Hatty Rabbit thought she was just a Geordie lass and a nobody, but she couldn’t have been more wrong. Suddenly, she finds herself drawn into a magical world, on a quest to become The Sorcerer’s Apprentice! Follow Hatty on a charming adventure through the streets of Newcastle (but not as you know them), filled with original music, puppets, eye-popping colours, plenty of magic, and fiendish villains!
Where: Northern Stage, Barras Bridge, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 7RH and online.
When: 3 December–7 January, various times.
Need to know: Tickets from £10. Suitable for ages 5+.

Victorian values
What: Journey back to the Victorian era and get ready to experience a historical Christmas with these fab festive activities at Holst Victorian House. Admire the displays of decorations before you have a go at creating your own 19th-century Christmas card or jam jar lantern, then head over to the kitchens to meet the cook who will be offering up mince pies or plum pudding baked on an authentic coal-fired stove, who will help you through making your very own peppermint creams to take home.
Where: Holst Victorian House, 4 Clarence Road, Cheltenham, GL52 2AY
When: 10 December, 11am-3pm, drop-in.
Need to know: Events included with admission. Adults £10, children free.

Fantabulous fun
What: Characters from Roald Dahl's stories will be brought to life in this beautiful light display featuring hundreds of lanterns set in the landscaped grounds of Longleat! You’ll be able to marvel at the 5-metre-tall BFG, walk through Wonka's famous factory gates, come face-to-face with James' Giant Peach and meet the lovely Matilda and Miss Honey. You can also join in with the Enchanted Tree Show and sing along with the carols sung by a 20-metre tall, illuminated Christmas tree!
Where: Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 7NW
When: 5 November-8 January, 4.30pm-7pm.
Need to know: Events free with admission, adult from £39.95, child from £29.95.

A different kind of Christmas 
What: Sick of Santa and bored of baubles? Why not try out these Egypt-themed activities taking place at the British Museum, all inspired by their new exhibition, Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt. For hundreds of years, the lives of ancient Egyptians were a mystery, but the discovery of the Rosetta Stone cracked the code of hieroglyphs – deciphering everything from love poems and peace treaties to shopping lists. After discovering the stories behind this iconic artefact, try creating a mask inspired by the objects on display, or travel to another ancient era as you recreate a Roman monument in Minecraft.
Where: British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG
When: 13 October-19 February, 10am-5pm. Workshops, 10 and 17 December.
Need to know: Entry to museum is free. Workshops are free, drop-in. Exhibition tickets £18 adults, children free.

Getting car-ried away
What: Get ready to start your engines as you take a trip to the Brooklands Museum New Year’s Day Gathering, one of the largest classic car rallies in the UK,  which will be showcasing a spectacular display of over 1,000 specially selected classic cars, trucks and motorbikes from throughout the 20th century – Astons to Austins, Jaguars to Jeeps, Peugeots to Porsches, and many others. As you peruse this selection of magnificent motors, there’ll be live music, a winter barbeque, and plenty more to enjoy as well!
Where: Brooklands Museum, Brooklands Road, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 0SL
When: 1 January, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Event and activities free with admission - family ticket £52.50.

What the Dickens?
What: Don’t miss the chance to see a performance of A Christmas Carol like no other – taking place in the London home of Charles Dickens himself! As candlelight illuminates the house where Dickens once lived and wrote, you will be captivated as Ebeneezer Scrooge journeys out on a bleak Christmas night, accompanied by three spirits in a very special performance of this classic tale. Catch it in person – or, if you can’t make it, there’s a chance to watch online too. 
Where: Charles Dickens Museum, 48-49 Doughty Street, London, WC1N 2LX or online via Zoom.
When: 14-17, 21-23 December, 4-5pm or 6-7pm, in person. 19 December, online, 6.30pm
Need to know: £22, in-person ticket. Online, £15 per device.

Park life
What: Discover the strange secrets and hidden stories behind two of London’s most famous green spaces with these guided walking tours. Explore the history of Hyde Park, from the notorious criminals that met a grisly end at the Tyburn Tree, to the creation of the famed Speakers' Corner, before finishing with an exclusive peek into the Victorian Pet Cemetery, the first of its kind in Britain. You’ll also be able to discover more about St James’s Park, including how it helped court a king’s mistress, the exotic pets it has been home to, and some of its more sinister mysteries…
Where: St James’s Park and Hyde Park, London
When: St James’s Park, 2 December, 1.15-2:45pm. Hyde Park, 15 December, 12-1.30pm
Need to know: Costs £12 per person.

Perfect a puppet
What: Enjoy some festive family make and do with these craft workshops from the Norwich Puppet Theatre. You’ll be able to get creative together and receive step-by step guidance to create your own puppet – from mice and fairy-tale characters to Santa and his elves. Each family member will be free to create their own design, so you’ll end up with a whole troupe ready to take home. What show will you put on?
Where: Norwich Puppet Theatre, St James Whitefriars, Norwich, Norfolk NR3 1TN
When: 23 December, 1.30pm-3pm and 24 December, 10.30am-12pm.
Need to know: Tickets £9.50 per person. Workshops suitable for ages 4+.

Waddle you do?
What: Enjoy a frosty musical adventure at the Waterside Arts Centre this winter. Discover the story of an extraordinary explorer, a curious conjurer and pioneering problem-solver, who’s on a mission to learn how to speak Penguin! But when he arrives at the Antarctic, will the penguins’ reception be frosty, or will the colony welcome him with open wings? With a mix of puppetry, music and song, it’s a festive treat for all ages, and afterwards you can join in with online workshops by designing a penguin puppet or composing your own song.
Where: Waterside Arts Centre, 1 Waterside, Sale, M33 7ZF
When: 30 November-31 December, various times. Workshops available at any time.
Need to know: Tickets £13-15 per person, including booking fee. Tickets for workshops, £10.

The light fantastic
What: The award-winning Lightopia Festival will be returning to add some festive sparkle to London’s Crystal Palace Park this holiday. Pass through the magical amphitheatre gate to begin your journey and follow a vibrant illuminated trail which will bring the historic park to life. You’ll see the iconic Crystal Palace recreated as the fabulous Palace of Light, watch magnificent magical beasts rise from the lake in the dazzling water display, then make your way along the spooky Haunted Road, and create your own spectacular light show using the interactive installations.
Where: Crystal Palace Park, Thicket Road, London SE19 2GA
When: 17 November-2 January, 5-10pm, last entry 8.30pm.  
Need to know: Family ticket from £59, car parking £10.

Wild and free
What: Go wild with the Wildlife Trusts as they encourage you to do one wild thing a day from the 25th December to the 5th January as part of their mini-Christmas challenge – 12 Days Wild. Take advantage of those weird days between Christmas and New Year and get out and explore your winter wildlife. Your wild acts could involve little things to help out or connect with nature - such as recycling a Christmas tree or feeding the birds, or watching a sunset, going on a woodland walk, or switching off your electronic devices for a day.
Where: Self-led activity around your home and local area. Resources and inspiration are available on the Wildlife Trusts website.
When: 25 December-5 January
Need to know: Free activity.

Merry and bright
What: It’s lights, gingerbread – action – in Southport this Christmas with tons of festive fare. Join in with the elf Christmas party and enjoy party games, dancing to Christmas music and face painting, or go for a ride through the city in an illuminated Cinderella style carriage, and you’ll be able to pay a visit to Santa as well! You can also keep your eyes peeled for some gingerbread people in shop windows around the town centre – find them all and you could win a grand prize.
Where: Various locations in central Southport.
When: 19 November-2 January, times vary.
Need to know: Elf party and Santa £10 per person, carriage rides £20 for up to six people, trail free.

Wonderful Life
What: This Christmas, get your glow on and enjoy a festive day out at Newcastle’s Life Science Centre. Cosy up for a live show full of magical light, take a tour of the winter skies in the planetarium, create an UV silhouette print, and become a festive detective as you solve a secret Santa mystery with science in the Experiment Zone, before topping it all off with a whirl on the outdoor ice rink.
Where: Life Science Centre, Times Square, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4EP
When: Until 4 February, 10am-5pm. Ice rink, 9.45am-7.45pm.
Need to know: Many activities included with admission; tickets £5 per person.

Truly ‘art-warming
What: Experience a magical Christmas in the heart of London as the National Gallery stages their first ever festive performance. Step inside the world of one of their iconic paintings – Hendrick Avercamp's ‘Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle’ – and be transported into an enchanted winter forest. Join Frederick and Maaike as they race against time to defeat a frosty foe, meeting an industrious squirrel, bold badger, honourable deer and Father Christmas along the way. Expect songs, dance, and laughter in this larger-than-life show.
Where: The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
When: 26-17 November, 3-4, 10-11, 17-23 December, 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 4.30pm.
Need to know: Tickets, £15. Book online.

We can be heroes
What: Enjoy a super special festive season at Painshill, as you take a walk around the beautiful 18th century gardens and see if you can track down all your favourite superheroes guarding the grounds. Pick up your activity book before you make your way around the mile-long route, discovering a series of larger-than-life statues, including Superman, Spiderman, Captain Marvel (even the Hulk is hiding out in the peaceful landscape), hunting for presents as you go.
Where: Painshill, Portsmouth Road, Cobham, Surrey KT11 1JE
When: 19 November-8 January, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Trail is included admission. Tickets £10 adult, and £5 child, book in advance.

Words and pictures
What: Enjoy free books read by some of the UK's best-loved children’s authors and illustrators thanks to The National Literacy Trust and their Virtual School Library. On a mission to make sure children have access to the magical world of stories all year round, the Trust has been working with the likes of Liz Pichon, Eoin Colfer, Lauren Child and Michael Rosen to provide you with free books, exclusive videos and each author’s top three recommended reads.
Where: Online
When: Content is already available, new authors will be featured each week.
Need to know: Resources are free to access.

Brilliant ballet
What: Join Birmingham Royal Ballet at the spectacular Royal Albert Hall for a special performance of family favourite The Nutcracker. When Clara's toys come to life at the stroke of midnight, she embarks on a fantastical journey through a winter wonderland - from the heart-warming Christmas Eve party where Fritz and Clara meet her mysterious and magical godfather Drosselmeyer, to the rousing battle between King Rat and the toy soldiers, and through a flurry of snowflakes to the Kingdom of Sweets, where Clara meets the Sugar Plum Fairy and her prince.
Where: Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AP
When: 28-31 December, various times.
Need to know: Tickets from £34.24 per person.

Midwinter music
What: Go west this winter to the Eden Project, which will be full of lights and music to mark the Christmas season. You can enjoy a live immersive orchestra experience in the Mediterranean Biome featuring all your favourite festive tunes, before taking a whirl around the ice-rink and warming up with a hot chocolate. Then, as darkness falls, you can follow a route around the Rainforest Biome, where the tropical landscape has been transformed into an enchanted wonderland with breath-taking new light displays, sparkling fairy lights, twinkling orbs and tunnels of light.
Where: Eden Project, Bodelva, St Austell, Cornwall, PL24 2SG
When: Selected dates between 2-30 December, 9.30am-8pm.
Need to know: Most activities free with admission. Tickets, £11 child, £32.50 adult. Ice skating from £6 per person.

Out of this world
What: Get set to soar into space and meet some (quite literally) star-crossed lovers at the artsdepot thanks to this new adaptation of The Smeds and The Smoos by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. On a far-off planet, Smeds and Smoos can’t be friends. But when a young Smed and Smoo fall in love and zoom off into space together, the stage is set for a tale full of music, laughs and interplanetary adventures, all created by Tall Stories – the theatre company that previously brought The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom to the live stage.
Where: artsdepot, 5 Nether Street, Tally Ho Corner, North Finchley, London N12 0GA
When: 5 December- 2 January, times vary.
Need to know: Tickets from £12, book online.

Get Christmas crafty
What: If you’re looking for something creative to do this Christmas, why not check out this stupendous selection of classes for kids and grown-ups alike from ClassBento. These fun, hands-on activities will be sure to keep everyone entertained over the festive period – you can learn to graffiti, produce your own claymation-style movie, create some cosy crochet creations, or rustle up some tasty ice cream, chocolate treats or even sausages!
Where: Various locations in and around London, online.
When: Times and dates vary.      
Need to know: Prices start from £10 a class.

Get your skates on
What: Discover the most magical ice-skating setting in London this Christmas – as you take to your skates amidst the surroundings of the Royal Museums Greenwich, with unbeatable views of the River Thames and Greenwich Royal Park. You can also pop into the star-studded Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition on display in the nearby National Maritime Museum, which will be showcasing over 100 of the world’s most spectacular space photography images, from glittering stars to shimmering galaxies, and fiery suns to silver moons.
Where: National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
When: Ice rink until 8 January, 11am-8pm. National Maritime Museum and astronomy exhibition, 10am-5pm.
Need to know: Adult ice-skating tickets from £16, child tickets £10, with £2.95 booking fee. Astronomy exhibition £10 adults, £5 children.

A boy called Jack
What: Jack can’t wait to spend Christmas with his super-fun, LEGO-building, song-singing, chocolate-sharing, Superhero Mum. But then a fateful phone call reveals that his grumpy Nan is joining them too! As his holiday steadily becomes a saga of tidying bedrooms, clearing up toys and having no fun at all, Jack discovers a giant beanstalk has sprouted in his living room, stretching all the way up into the sky – and he’s ready to escape. Join Jack for a high-flying magical adventure, filled with laughs, hidden treasures and giant friendships along the way.
Where: On demand and in person.
When: 7-24 December, times vary.
Need to know: Tickets from £12.

Seriously Saturnalian
What: If you’re looking for some seasonal celebrations with a difference, take a trip to Roman Vindolanda to mark the ancient winter festival of Saturnalia. Marking the end of the planting season, you’ll be able to learn how the celebrations of today have been shaped by these gatherings - for example, it was a tradition to give small gifts called sigillaria on the last day of the festivities. Time it right and you can take a light tour through the gardens too, learning more about life on the Empire’s frontier, taking in the fireball replica sections of Hadrian's Wall and the bath house along the way.
Where: Roman Vindolanda Fort & Museum,, Chesterholm Museum, Bardon Mill,, Hexham,, NE47 7JN
When: Light tour, 25 November–23 December, 3.45-4.30pm. Saturnalia, 1-31 December, 10am-4pm
Need to know: Events free with admission. Family ticket costs £27.50.

Brilliant Beamish
What: Experience Christmas traditions from the Georgian era all the way to the 1950s as the Beamish Living Museum prepares to deck the halls this season. Hop aboard a traditional tram or bus and begin your adventure around the site then take a walk through the Elf Wood and see if you can spot the mischievous creatures hiding in the trees before sampling some delicious festive treats at the sweet shop and bakery in the 1900’s Town. You can also pop in to visit the pit ponies and discover how coal miners celebrated Christmas, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for Santa, who will be riding around in vintage vehicles!
Where: Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, Regional Resource Centre, Beamish DH9 0RG
When: 26 November–24 December, 10am-4pm. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays before 17 December.
Need to know: Most events free with admission; family ticket £54.

Trees are good
What: This year, Westonbirt Arboretum invites you to witness wonder, hilarity and general commotion as a team of playful elves illuminate the trees with hundreds of twinkling lights – you may even find yourself joining in to help. Experience magic around every corner as you make your way along this brand-new illuminated trail, greeting the mischievous elves as they rush to finish the display in time for Father Christmas’ arrival – he should be coming any minute now…
Where: Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Tetbury GL8 8QS
When: Friday-Sunday, 25 November-21 December, 4-9.30pm
Need to know: Adults, £19, 3-16s, £11, including booking fee.

Ship shape
What: Journey back to the 1860s and discover what Christmas was like aboard a Royal Navy warship at Plymouth Historic Dockyard. As you walk down the jetty, you’ll be able to admire the festive decorations and enjoy Victorian entertainment, including a Magic Lantern Show, before stepping aboard HMS Warrior. Watch the galley cook as he prepares the Christmas pudding, join in with the chaplain’s rehearsals for the carol service, and help decorate the gun deck as you hear stories of life at sea. But watch out for the King of Misrule, the youngest shipmate who will, by tradition, be in charge for the day.
Where: HMS M.33, National Museum of the Royal Navy, Visitor Centre, Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ
When: 3-4 Dec, 10am-4.30pm
Need to know: Included with admission to HMS Warrior, £24 per adult, £19 per child.

Just desserts!
What: It’s always been the Royal Cook’s duty to prepare the special Royal Christmas Pudding every year, but now he’s retired, and it’s up to his son – who can’t even cook – to do the job! Fortunately, his sister is on hand to make the perfect pudding and save Christmas, in an adventure featuring traditional stories woven together with original songs and music. If your festive appetite isn’t satisfied by this new show at the Story Museum, why not explore the Galleries and see if you can spot the hidden mini wardrobes – find them all and you can claim your festive prize.
Where: The Story Museum, 42 Pembroke Street, Oxford, OX1 1BP
When: The Royal Christmas Pudding, 30 November-1 January, various times.
Need to know: Show, £12 per person. Galleries entry £10 per person. Book in advance.

Feline festive
What: Take part in some seasonal fun at The Box Plymouth this December! Pop into their new exhibition British Art Show 9, featuring a huge selection of paintings, films, photography and sculpture celebrating the role migration – of people and ideas – has played in influencing Britain’s history and culture. Afterwards, you can join in with a creative family workshop inspired by the ceramic cats of ‘Cat-tharsis’ by Andy Holden and decide whether to sculpt your own festive cat or another figurine inspired by something that’s special to you.  
Where: The Box, Tavistock Place, Plymouth PL4 8AX
When: Exhibition until 8 January, 10am-5pm. Clay workshops, 26 November, 3 and 10 December, 10.30am-12.30pm and 1.30-3.30pm.
Need to know: All activities free.

Light up your life
What: There are plenty of Christmassy delights to enjoy this year at Derbyshire’s Calke Abbey. Admire the traditional Victorian decorations adding a splash of colour to the House and take a trip through time in the Stableyards to see how Christmas has changed throughout the 20th century, before exploring the festive trail and posting your letter to Santa in the special mailbox. As darkness falls, the grounds will become a riot of colour, with the historic property transformed with dozens of colourful illuminations including a starburst lantern and beautiful willow tunnel.
Where: Calke Abbey, Ticknall, Derby DE73 7JF
When: 3-4, 10-11, 17-18 and 19-24 December, 9am-4.30pm. Lights, 3.30pm-6pm.
Need to know: Events free with admission, family ticket £17.50. Advance booking essential.

Yule love it!
What: Celebrate Yuletide at Sutton Hoo and discover what this time of year meant for the Anglo-Saxons. Find out how some of the objects uncovered at the site are related to Yule traditions, see how historic techniques are used to create replica Anglo-Saxon clothing, and solve medieval riddles in the exciting new escape game. Later, go on a winter’s walk and follow the outdoor trails through the woodland, toward the river and around the burial ground – don’t forget to admire the spectacular scenery from the 17-metre viewing tower!
Where: Sutton Hoo, Tranmer House, Woodbridge IP12 3DJ
When: Events run 25 November–2 January, 10am-4pm. Dates and times vary per activity.
Need to know: Most activities included with admission; family ticket £37.50. Escape game £15 per adult, £6 per child.

Southbank sensation
What: Wrap yourself in the spirit of the season with plenty of festive frivolity taking place beside the River Thames at London’s famous Southbank Centre. You can watch as the entire building becomes a colourful illuminated clock, enjoy an orchestral rendition of the soundtrack to your favourite Christmas movies, or even catch the first-ever stage adaptation of CBeebies smash-hit Hey Duggee!  Plus, why not send 2022 out in style by popping into a family-friendly New Year’s Eve party (at midday), complete with fashion shows, sing-songs, dancing and the obligatory Auld Lang Syne.`
When: 3 November-8 January, various dates and times.
Need to know: Prices vary, some events free.

Go to town
What: Enjoy some historical holiday spirit at Blists Hill Victorian Town this winter. All the snowy streets will be decorated to mark the festive season, as the costumed Victorian residents (and maybe even some of Santa’s elves) busy themselves preparing for the big day. You’ll be able to listen to the carol singers and brass bands, pick up a tasty treat from one of the shops, and hear tales of Christmas past beside a cosy open fire. There’s also a Punch and Judy show and a pantomime in the Big Top on offer as well.
Where: Blists Hill Victorian Town, Legges Way, Madeley, Telford TF7 5UD
When: 3-4 and 10-11 December, 10am-4pm
Need to know: Events free with admission. Adult ticket, £23, child ticket £15. Under 5s free. Parking charge £5.

Sailing Santa
What: Saunter down to Snape Maltings to enjoy a very special Suffolk tradition this December. Join the crowds at the quayside to see Santa sailing his way down the River Alde then disembarking to spread some Christmas cheer. There’s more fun to be had with a festive sound walk (just follow the musical trail of Christmas tunes to win a prize), a special screening of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, accompanied by live orchestral music and a unique performance of The Nutcracker ballet, using state-of-the-art animation and visual effects to tell the story using only one dancer.
Where: Snape Maltings, Snape Bridge, Snape IP17 1SP
When: Father Christmas 23 December, 1pm. Nutcracker, 15-16 December, 10.30am and 4.30pm. Snowman 18 December, 1pm and 2.30pm.
Need to know: Santa and sound walk free. Snowman screening, £15 adults, £7.50 under 30s. Nutcracker from £10 adults, £5 under 30s. 

Riverside tails…
What: Journey along the riverbank in this brand-new adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s much loved The Wind in the Willows by award-winning children’s author Piers Torday (The Last Wild series) at Wilton’s Music Hall. Transporting the Edwardian story to present-day London, this witty adventure will move along the Thames and through the seasons, ending back at Mole’s home in time for Christmas and carols - but only if Toad Hall can be saved from the dastardly weasels. There will be songs, puppetry, and picnics aplenty in this fun and festive show for all the family to enjoy.
Where: Wilton's Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB
When: 24 November–31 December, 2.30 or 7.30pm.
Need to know: Tickets from £13 per adult, £10.50 per child.

Grand National
What: Discover the very best of British drama thanks to NT At Home, an online platform bringing you some of best theatrical entertainment from the National Theatre and its partner theatres. Featuring superstars such as Jodie Comer, Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Michaela Coel, there’s plenty of plays to pick from, such as Shakespeare’s renowned Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oliver Twist, Peter Pan and an adaptation of Robert Louis Stephenson’s classic adventure story Treasure Island. 
Where: NT At Home available online and as an app.
When: Available now. New plays added every month.
Need to know: Subscription costs £9.99 a month.
 
Mummers’ the word
What: Share the magic of the Christmas story at the Haslemere Museum as you meet Santa in his special Victorian parlour, bedecked with historic decorations, and receive your Christmas gift from the man in red. Afterwards, you can get creative as you enjoy some Christmas crafts, or catch a traditional mummers’ play.
Where: Haslemere Educational Museum, 78 High Street, Haslemere, Surrey GU27 2LA
When:  Santa 17, 19 and 21-24 December, various times. Mummers 17 December, 11am. Crafting 3 and 22 December, 10.30am-12 noon.
Need to know: Santa, £5 per child (includes gift). Crafting £7 per child. Entry free.

Animal magic
What: Discover Marwell Zoo in a whole new light as Glow Marwell returns to transform their majestic grounds into a twinkling wonderland full of fairy lights, magic and delight. As you make your way through this dazzling trail of illuminations, taking in the ancient trees and winding paths of Marwell’s 140-acre park, you’ll be able to enjoy tasty marshmallow toasting and seasonal treats, as well as spectacular fire-juggling and stilt-walking performances – you may even encounter the mysterious Snow Lion too…
Where: Marwell Wildlife, Thompsons Lane, Winchester, Hampshire SO21 1JH.
When: 18 Nov-30 December, 10am-4pm. Prebooking essential.
Need to know: Adult tickets £15-18, children £12-15. Under 3s free. Daytime entry to Zoo not included.

Reindeer games
What: Enjoy some family fun on this special day at Wheal Martyn Clay Works. Follow the sensory Reindeer Trail before voting for your best dressed Christmas Tree, conjure up a Christmas willow wand, learn some Cornish phrases to make your own Cornish Christmas cards, and tap your feet to the tunes of a local band before some festive storytelling with Father Christmas. You can join in from home too, with online activities allowing you to design your own museum or mini nature raft.
Where: Wheal Martyn, Carthew, St Austell, PL26 8XG
When: Festive fun day, 4 December, 10am-4pm. Trail runs 28 November-23 December, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Free with museum entry. Family ticket, £30.

All aboard
What: It’s full steam ahead at York’s National Railway Museum where you’ll be able to learn something new, admire triumphs of engineering, and have plenty of fun. Find out about forces as you help Santa overcome friction on his sleigh, design your own Christmas lantern at the making station, or try your hand at solving pixel puzzles to find a hidden Christmas picture. Plus, you can take a virtual ride on board the world’s fastest steam locomotive in the Mallard Simulator, enjoy a trip on the miniature railway, or discover the future of the railways with the new Innovation Platform.
Where: National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ
When: 17 December-2 January, 10am-5pm
Need to know: Admission free, small charges apply for some activities. Book in advance.

Santa cruise
What: This December set sail for the National Waterways Museum and say hello to a very special visitor. Forget the grotto, because Santa will be back on board his canal barge to celebrate the festive season on the water. He’ll be bringing along his elfish helpers, festive stories, and joyful songs to spread plenty of cheer on the 45-minute cruse – and let’s not forget the presents. Everyone will have an opportunity to take their photo with Santa, and you can also enjoy a seasonal breakfast before the cruise, too.
Where: Anderton Boat Lift Visitor Centre, Lift Lane, Northwich CW9 6FW
When: Weekends 3-18 December and 23-34 December. Cruises at 9am, 11am, 12.30pm, 1.30pm and 2.30pm.
Need to know: Tickets £21.50 adults, £18.50 children (breakfast cruises), £12.50 (all other cruises). Includes coffee and mince pie for adults and a gift from Santa for children.

Saving Santa
What: Father Christmas has lost his first-aid kit from the side of his sleigh, and now he needs your help to keep him safe and well on his journey around the world! Follow the festive trail around Thackray Museum of Medicine and collect ingredients for Santa as you go, stopping along the way for some winter crafting and a quick selfie on board the special sleigh. Then meet the man himself under the twinkly lights of the Apothecary Shop for some seasonal storytelling, and you’ll be rewarded with a special gift to take home.
Where: Thackray Museum, Beckett Street, Leeds, LS9 7LN
When: 3-23 December, 10am-4pm
Need to know: Tickets £14.95 child, adult £4.95. Book online.

Tree-mendous
What: Experience the magical spectacle of over 100 enormous glittering trees, amongst other festive illuminations, as part of Bournemouth’s annual Christmas extravaganza. Walking from the seafront, through the town centre and beyond, you can enjoy live music, entertainment and magical illuminations including a 60ft tall Wonderland tree with 30,000 individually programmed lights, a super-sized stocking full of glittering presents, a giant 7-metre golden reindeer and an icicle-filled walk watched over by Narnia-esque Polar Bears.
Where: In and around Bournemouth town centre
When: 18 November- 2 January,
Need to know: Free.

Food for thought
What: Discover the secrets of Georgian gastronomy during this tasty tour of Birmingham’s Soho House. From elaborate breakfasts to ceremonial tea making and sumptuous Christmas dinners, find out how the Boulton family’s life revolved around dining, and enjoy sampling several historic delicacies including hot chocolate, traditional gingerbread and delicious mince pies. Festive fancy dress is very much encouraged!
Where: Soho House, Soho Avenue, Birmingham B18 5LB
When: 10 and 17 December, 11.30am, 1pm and 2.30pm.
Need to know: Adults £15, children £8.  

Farmyard festivities
What: Take a trip to Temple Newsam Estate in Yorkshire for some festive farmyard fun. Admire the sight of the house and farm bedecked in gorgeous decorations, then go exploring and see if you can find all the themed Christmas trees inspired by the estate. There’s festive arts and crafts to enjoy as well, and you might even be able to meet Father Christmas, who’s got plenty of presents to go around. Over at Home Farm you’ll be able to warm yourself beside the roaring log fire and say hello to all the farmyard animals who have been bedding down for winter.
Where: Temple Newsam House and Estate, Newsam Road, Off Selby Rd, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS15 0AE
When: 3-23 December, 10am-4pm
Need to know: Most events free with admission, family ticket costs £19. Visits to Santa cost £8 per child, includes gift.

Be transported
What: Make London Transport Museum your first stop for festive fun this Christmas! Step into a winter wonderland where you can say hello to Santa and his Elf before hopping on board the interactive Routemaster-inspired sleigh, before following a wintery trail as you search for the icy roundels to complete a transport-themed quiz, admire a festive parade of 20 wintery underground posters, or get crafty as you make a pop-up Christmas card featuring a jolly Santa climbing down the chimney.
Where: London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB
When: 25 November-5 January, 11am-5pm.
Need to know: Adult £21, under 18s free, includes annual admission.

Animal attraction
What: Discover the many ways in which the Victorians loved animals with the Curious Creatures exhibition on display at Leeds’s Abbey House Museum. The exhibition examines Britain’s relationship with nature between 1810-1914 with a collection of taxidermy and other animal artifacts showcasing the lives of lion tamers, pigeon-fanciers, colonial hunters, offal-eaters, feather-hat-lovers and many more, and explores how attitudes from that era continue to influence the way we think of animals today.
Where: Abbey House Museum, Abbey Walk, Abbey Rd, Kirkstall, Leeds LS5 3EH
When: Until 31 December, 10am-5pm Tuesday-Friday and Sunday, 12-5pm Saturday, last entry 4.30pm.
Need to know: Free entry.

Curtain's Up!
What: Enter a fantastical mansion where all of your favourite pantomimes have been brought to life at Tatton Park this Christmas. From the grand staterooms to the servants’ quarters, the whole building has been transformed with special lighting and stunning decorations. Journey through enchanted woodlands and magical fairy tale forests, come face-to-face with Sleeping Beauty and fly away to Neverland before admiring Jack’s showstopper of a beanstalk that’s taken over the Cupola Hall. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for Dick Whittington’s cat, and there’ll be sweet treats for everyone to enjoy as well.
Where: Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 6QN
When: 22 November-1 January, 12-4pm or 11am-3pm.
Need to know: Tickets £12 adult, £9 child. £7 car park charge.

Simply Dahl-ing!
What: Enjoy a phizz-whizzing Christmas this holiday at the Roald Dahl Museum with activities inspired by everybody’s favourite bookworm, Matilda! Pull your best power pose besides the new statue of Matilda in the courtyard, where you can also have a go at Trunchbull skittles, hammer-throwing hoopla and Miss Honey’s hopscotch, before heading inside to hunt for the pigtails scattered throughout the galleries and trying out some optical illusions in the Magic Mind-Bending Room. Everyone’s also invited to make a visit to Great Missenden library, the very place Dahl imagined Matilda visiting as he wrote the book.
Where: Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, 81-83 High St, Great Missenden HP16 0AL
When: 4-31 December, 10am-4.30pm.
Need to know: Tickets £7.50 per person, under 5s free. Includes annual entry.

Holy happenings
What: Kick-start your Christmas celebrations with a festive day out at Westminster Abbey - one of Britain’s most iconic landmarks. Learn about the Christmas story as you decorate a shooting star, enjoy some cosy winter storytelling, and join in carol singing with the iconic Westminster Abbey Choir. Don’t miss the chance to take a guided tour of this spectacular building and discover all of its festive secrets!
Where: Westminster Abbey, 20 Deans Yd, London SW1P 3PA
When: 10 December, 10am-1pm.
Need to know: All activities free, no need to book.  

Forage for a fossil
What: Walk off all that turkey and get your hands on a piece of real prehistory by heading to the Isle of Wight for a fossil-finding trip. Run by real life palaeontologists and geologists from the Dinosaur Isle Museum (in a building shaped like a giant pterodactyl!), and you could find yourself your very own dinosaur footprint.
Where: Dinosaur Isle, Culver Parade, Sandown, Isle of Wight, PO36 8QA
When: 30 December, 10am
Need to know: Family ticket costs £16.50. Call 01983 404344 to book. Wear waterproof boots, wrap up warm and bring a bucket or strong plastic bag.

World of wonder
What: Hyde Park's giant celebration of festive fun is back for a 15th year and perfect for getting you in the Christmas mood. Expect Victorian fairground rides, Santa Land and joyful festive parades, as well as the world’s tallest transportable Big Wheel! You can also watch a spectacular circus performance from Zippos (complete with giant fluffy polar bears) and enjoy a frosty reception at the Magical Ice Kingdom – made from over 500 tonnes of carved ice including a life size unicorn – before you have a go at carving your own ice sculpture too.
Where: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London W2
When: 18 November-2 January, 10am-10pm
Need to know: Admission free (off-peak), £5 per person (standard), £7.50 per person (peak). Attraction costs vary.

Bay watch
What: Enjoy some Christmas lights with a difference down in Cornwall this year. First started in 1963 by Mousehole-based artist, Joan Gillchrest, the small seaside town uses more than 7,000 bulbs and 7.5 miles of cable to decorate the harbour and surrounding houses with hundreds of colourful displays. You'll be able to spot a blue whale, sea serpent and sailing boats as they gently drift around the old town harbour, as well as starey gazey pie – made famous in Antonia Barber's classic children's book ‘The Mousehole Cat’.
Where: Mousehole, Mounts Bay, Cornwall, Penzance TR19 6PG
When: 12 December-6 January, 5-10pm. Please note due to a ‘staggered start’ not all decorations will be illuminated until 17 December.
Need to know: Free.

Frosty frolics
What: Back by popular demand, prepare for the huggliest, snuggliest festive show this side of Lapland as A Place for Winter returns to Eureka. In this warm-hearted tale, you’ll follow the curious Dormouse as he explores the winter landscape –  and it’s up to his friend Hedgehog to try and find a place for the pair to hibernate before Old Man Winter arrives. You can also find Father Christmas and his elf helpers nearby in the grotto – pop in for a discussion about how naughty / nice you’ve been this year before snapping a festive (s)elfie and receiving a gift!
Where: Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, Discovery Road, Halifax HX1 2NE
When:  A Place for Winter, weekends and holidays throughout December. Santa weekends 26 November-11 December and 16-23 December. Eureka! open 10am-4pm, Tuesday to Sunday.
Need to know: Tickets £14.95 per person, includes A Place for Winter show. Santa £6 per child.

I should cocoa
What: This December, York’s Chocolate Story will be decking the halls with boughs of holly as Father Christmas himself takes up residence. On a mission to save Christmas, you’ll experience cracking games, incredible seasonal secrets and meet the big man himself! Along the way, you can learn festive facts about iconic brands and how chocolate was involved in Christmas past. You’ll also be able to make your own Christmas-themed lollies and watch special festive demonstrations with talented chocolatiers.
Where: York's Chocolate Story, King's Square, York, YO1 7LD
When: 26-27 November and 19-20 December, 10.30am-3.30pm.
Need to know: Child ticket £17.95, adult £19.95, under 4s £6.

Art of glass
What: Get creative with these artistic workshops at the National Glass Centre this winter. Take inspiration from your holiday wishes and create a colourful design on a clear glass shape using glass grains and tiles, which will be melded together to become a beautiful artwork! You can also express yourself as you snap a photographic self-portrait, which can be mounted onto card and embellished with all sorts of materials.
Where: National Glass Centre, Liberty Way, Sunderland, SR6 0GL
When: Photo frames weekends between 11-19 December. Glass Fusing 21 and 29 December, 10am–3.30pm.
Need to know: Glass fusing £12 per child, suitable for 6+. Photo frames, free, for all ages.

Roman holiday
What: Travel back to the days of the Roman Empire at the Corinium Museum in Gloucestershire. Join in with a seasonal mosaic-making workshop and take inspiration from the museum’s collections to create a mini-bird mosaic to hang on your tree using colourful glass tiles. The current Gladiators: A Cemetery of Secrets exhibition is worth a visit too, allowing you to find out more about a group of 80 men whose bodies were uncovered in York, with the latest research techniques used to uncover who they were, where they came from, and why they ended up fighting in the arena.
Where: Corinium Museum, Park Street, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 2BX
When: 19 December, 10.30-11.30am
Need to know: Tile making £8-9 per child, suitable for 8+. Booking essential. Exhibition free with admission, family ticket £19.55.

Blooming marvellous
What: Head to deepest Devon this winter and go art hunting at RHS Rosemoor, where the annual Winter Sculpture Exhibition will be on display, featuring individual creations set against the backdrop of the beautiful winter gardens. As night falls, the enchanting Rosemoor Glow trail will switch on, featuring a galaxy of giant stars and tunnel of lights, with live music and carols accompanying the spectacle on selected nights.
Where: RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington, Devon EX38 8PH
When: Sculptures until 31 January, 10am-5pm. Glow trail, Thursday-Saturday, 17 November-17 December, Tuesday-Friday, 20-30 December, 4.40pm-8.30pm.
Need to know: Sculpture event free with admission, family ticket from £32. Glow trail tickets from £12.95 per adult, £6.95 per child, includes admission.

Saxon stories
What: Discover your ancient past this holiday at Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire. Uncover historic winter traditions as you snuggle up beside the warming fires, reconnect with nature as you meet the Deer Queen and Holly King and join their magical quest to keep winter at bay, and gather in the Iron Age roundhouse for some enchanting seasonal storytelling and Christmas crafting – listening to tales of sleeping kings, green women, plucky Vikings and living trees from times long past.
Where: Butser Ancient Farm Chalton Lane Hampshire, PO8 0BG
When: 3-4, 17-18 December, 10am-3pm. Storytelling 10 December, 10.30am-3pm, 18 December, 11.30am-4pm.
Need to know: Family ticket £27.50/£30.50 depending on date of visit.

Dig for dinos!
What: Join the American Museum & Gardens for some totally roarsome fun with Hatching the Past – their current exhibition looking at the life of dinosaurs through their eggs, nests, and embryos. Complete with real dinosaur bones and reconstructed nests, you can dig for eggs in the interactive dig pits and view animated video presentations as well as coming face to face with a 9 metre long Tarbosaur skeleton (a cousin of the T-Rex) and Baby Louie, a complete skeleton of a dinosaur embryo.
Where: American Museum, Claverton Manor Bath BA2 7BD
When: Hatching the Past, until 31 December, 11am-3pm.
Need to know: Family ticket from £33.

Festive favourites
What: It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas at Seven Stories this holiday, with a whole host of bookish seasonal treats to enjoy. Catch breakfast with Mrs Claus, snuggle-up for a cosy evening story time or even meet the Grinch! There’s also a special seasonal show to watch, a chance to craft your own Christmas stocking or wooden toy and an end of year party too.
Where: Seven Stories, 30 Lime Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2PQ
When: 26 November-31 December, times vary.
Need to know: Free entry. Prices vary with event.

Quality Street
What: Take a festive stroll down York Castle Museum’s re-created Victorian street, where music fills the air, snow lies on the cobbles and lights shimmer in the trees. Enjoy the charming period trimmings that adorn the houses and shops and take a peek at the huge range of historical decorations and objects, before making your very own Christmas cracker or bumping into Mr Scrooge in a family-friendly re-telling of the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol.
Where: York Castle Museum, Castle Area, Eye of York, York YO1 9RY
When: Cracker workshop, 4, 11 and 18 December, 11am-12pm, 12.30-13.30pm, 2-3pm. Scrooge shows, 10-11, 17-18, 22-23 December, four times a day.
Need to know: Christmas Carol free with general admission. Adults £13, child £6.50 online. Cracker workshop £2.50 per person.

Hair today…
What: This festive season join The Watermill Theatre on a journey through the rolling hills and deep dark forests of Italy with an adventure packed with music, magic pigs and plenty of surprises!  Discovered as a baby, Rapunzel is found and brought up by Mother Gothel, a clever herbalist who locks her away in a tall tower to keep her safe. Rapunzel’s dreams of escape seem doomed forever until she meets the wandering Tuscan Prince Patrizio...
Where: The Watermill Theatre, Bagnor, Newbury RG20 8AE
When: 18 November-1 January, times vary.
Need to know: Tickets from £12. Family tickets from £40.

Christmas pasts
What: Discover how Christmas has changed homes over the last 400 years with the Museum of the Home’s new Winter Past festival. Looking at everything from decoration and food to keeping warm and entertained, you can go on a multi-sensory journey through their Rooms Through Time and experience new festive sounds, smells, sights, and stories – including one about a family warming up after a visit to a Frost Fair on the Thames – when it was so cold the river froze and Londoners were able to skate on it.
Where: Museum of the Home, 136 Kingsland Road, London E2 8EA
When: 22 November–8 January, 10am-5pm
Need to know: Free entry.

Light work
What: Brighten up your winter nights with a trip to Heligan and join in with a magical lantern procession around the gardens. Make and decorate your very own handheld lantern, then navigate the pathways by the warm glow of the flames as you discover a breath-taking display of fauna and flora – from badgers to fungi, bees to butterflies, and even a family of cheeky Tamworth pigs before warming up with toasted marshmallows and a hot chocolate.
Where: Lost Gardens of Heligan, B3273, Pentewan, Saint Austell, PL26 6EN
When: 18 November-2 December, 4am-6pm.
Need to know: Event free with admission, family ticket £58. Lantern making workshop £5 per child. Prebooking essential.

Shakespeare’s season
What: Santa will be making his way down a very special chimney at Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall this December. He and his elves will be taking over the whole of the 600-year-old building, filling it full of Christmas magic and joined by plenty of Christmas characters along the way. You can enjoy a festive quiz, storytelling, puzzles, music, crafts and games in a photo-friendly Tudor timbered building beautifully decorated with Christmas trees, garlands and Santa’s sleigh.
Where: Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall, 17 Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6HD
When: 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 20-24 December, 10.30am-4pm
Need to know: Tickets £8.50 for under 16s, under 2s go free, and £12.50 per adult.

Animal antics
What: Go on a night-time nature adventure at the WWT London Wetland Centre and glow crazy as you’re guided by larger-than-life illuminated sculptures. Meet giant light-up otters and explore the phases of the ever-watching moon in the owl woods or uncover the secrets of the lustrous lake by using night vision goggles to discover what the wetland's real-life inhabitants are getting up to. You’ll be able to hop between giant interactive lily pads and glowing fireflies as you race your friends across the peculiar pond before heading to the mystical marshland to start your illuminated bird spotting mission and into the fantastical forest full of mesmerizing neon birds.
Where: WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes, SW13 9WT
When: 18 November-8 January, 4.30-9.30pm
Need to know: Family ticket, £60.

Wheely good!
What: Join Santa and his helpers and let the train take the strain with a trip on the Stephenson Railway Elf Express. Meet the chief elf in an interactive show where you’ll be put through your paces to see if you can be part of Santa’s crew before embarking on a fantastic train journey. There’s entertainment and photo opportunities along the way, as well as a present from Santa. You can also catch a winter warmer train too if you fancy a trip after the presents are all opened!
Where: Stephenson Steam Railway, United Kingdom, NE29 8DX
When: Elf Express: 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18 & 24 December, 9.45am-5.30pm. Winter Warmer: 26-31 December, 9.45am-3.45pm
Need to know: Elf Express, tickets per person £24.00 + £1.66 booking fee. Winter warmer, family ticket, £16 plus £1.10 booking fee.

 

Christmas holidays 2022 family activities in Northern Ireland

Glorious gardens
What: Get set for some seasonal magic at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens as its spectacular light trail returns. The gardens will come to life with over a million twinkling lights and seasonal sounds, complete with glittering tunnels of light, dancing lakeside reflections and trees drenched in jewel-like colours. Follow the trail of larger-than-life illuminations to the fire garden and you may even glimpse Father Christmas himself!
Where: Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, The Square, Hillsborough BT26 6GT
When: 1 December-1 January (excluding 5-6 and 25 December), 4.30-8pm,
Need to know: Family ticket and parking from £71.

Classical Christmas
What: Celebrate the festive season with Ulster Orchestra's Magic of Christmas. This popular family-friendly concert will help you forget all your present-wrapping stresses and ease you into the festive spirit with an enchanting programme of Christmas and movie classics including White Christmas, O Holy Night, All I want for Christmas and more…
When: Millennium Forum, 3 Newmarket St, Londonderry BT48 6EB and Belfast Waterfront, 2 Lanyon Place, Belfast, BT1 3WH.
When: 20 December, Millennium Forum, 8pm. 21 December, Belfast Waterfront, 7.45pm
Need to know: Tickets from £7.50.

Holiday history
What: Enjoy some time-honoured traditions at the Ulster Folk Museum, as you stroll through the cobblestone streets enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Christmases long ago. Traditional decorations hang from houses, oil lamps light up the night, and the scent of peat fires, mixed with baking Christmas puddings fill the air. Visit the post office to mail your letter to Santa, listen out for seasonal tunes from carol singers, brass band, and other traditional musicians, then wrap the evening up with some delicious festive fare.
Where: Ulster Folk Museum, 153 Bangor Road, Cultra, Holywood, BT18 0EU
When: 3-23 December, 10am-3pm weekdays, 11am-3pm weekends.
Need to know: Events included in general admission, family ticket from £5.50 per person.

Perfect princess
What: Enjoy a fairy tale theatrical spectacular at the MAC with their new version of Cinderella. You shall go to the ball and have a ball too with this enchanting show for the whole family (with a special twist on the original tale, of course) packed full of magical moments, incredible illusions, and stunning songs.
Where: The MAC, 10 Exchange Street, West Belfast BT1 2NJ
When: 30 November-8 January, times vary.
Need to know: Tickets from £12.50.

Oh help, oh no – it's a Gruffalo!
What: For a truly terrifying Christmas with a difference, head to Colin Glen Forest Park. Enjoy a story-telling session of The Gruffalo before hunting through the forest to find all the characters. Then have a go at some Christmas arts and crafts before receiving your official 'I have met the Gruffalo' certificate and sticker and visiting Santa for a special present.
Where: Colin Glen Forest Park, 163 Stewartstown Road, Belfast BT17 0HW
When: 26-27 November, 3-23 December, times vary.
Need to know: Family ticket, £38.

Circus, circus
What: Expect all the thrill and spills of the big top at The Winter Circus Show this Christmas. With modern, high-skilled acts, including acrobats, aerialists and jugglers in a fully heated big top tent, the hour-long show comes with an inspiring modern soundtrack and features international circus artists and comedy characters that both young and old can enjoy.
Where: Writer's Square, Belfast BT1 1DL
When: 16 December-2 January, 2pm, 3pm, 5pm and 6pm
Need to know: Family ticket costs £40.

Titanic excitement
What: There’s fun for everyone at the Titanic Experience in Belfast, where you can join Santa and his elves as they count down to their favourite night of the year. Take a journey through the enchanted forest and make a wish at the magical wishing tree before stepping through the Old Curiosity Shop to enter the Elves’ Workshop. You’ll be able to visit Mrs Claus in her cosy kitchen, listen to festive tales and take part in traditional Christmas games and crafts before getting your name checked off the ‘naughty or nice’ list by the chief elf to Santa himself.
Where: Titanic Belfast, 1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast BT3 9EP
When: 23 November-23 December, 10am-7.30pm
Need to know: Tickets £25 child, adults £12.50. Child ticket includes present, candy cane and photo with Santa, along with a free child ticket to the Titanic Experience.

Christmas holidays 2022 family activities in Scotland

Time after time
What: Go on a journey through space and time and discover the science behind the long-running TV series with the Doctor Who Worlds of Wonder exhibition at the Museum of Scotland. Featuring eight zones filled with immersive, hands-on experiences, you’ll be able to travel through the time vortex corridor, discover sonic screwdrivers, teleportation technology and more in a TARDIS tech room and get up close with some of the series' weird and wonderful creatures in the monster vault. Is time travel possible? Could complex life exist on other planets? And what would you sound like as a Dalek?
Where: National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF
When: 9 December-1 May 2023, 10am-5pm
Need to know: Adult ticket from £12, child £8.

Watch out for rain, dear…
What: Take an hour-long hill walk in the Highlands and meet Britain's only free-range reindeer herd. You’ll be able to feed and take photos with the magnificent beasts, while your guide is on hand to answer any reindeer-related questions. If you’re in the mood for something less rugged, you can see reindeer down in the paddock, where there’s a Christmas quiz to complete and a Santa to spot!
Where: Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, Glenmore, Aviemore, Inverness-shire, PH22 1QU
When: 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 21-14 December, 10am-3.30pm.
Need to know: Hill trip: £20 adults, £15 children. Santa and paddock visit: £5 per person. Weather permitting. Wear warm clothes. Prebooking essential.

Seeing Red
What: This is the story of a wolf, a grandma, and a girl: a girl who likes to be known as Red. But in the town where she lives, Christmas has been banned. Tired of following the rules, she embarks on a mission to bring back Christmas, defeat the big bad Wolf and save Grandma from the deep dark forest. Along the way you’ll meet pigs in blankets, stumble upon an unexpected love story, join in with some silly songs as good triumphs over evil and enjoy all the magic of the original tale.
Where: Tramway, 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow G41 2PE
When: 9-23 December, times vary.
Need to know: Adults £18, children, £12.

Hooray for Holyrood!
What: Enjoy some decadent decorations at Palace of Holyroodhouse as they mark the season with 15-foot-high Christmas trees in the Throne Room and Great Gallery adorned with shimmering baubles and sparkling lights, while the Great Stair will be draped with rich velvet garlands, berries and seasonal foliage. You can also find out why making and sending Christmas cards was a cherished pastime for children during Queen Victoria's reign and design your own inspired by cards from the past as well as learning more about Victorian Christmas traditions and making your own Christmas cracker.
Where: Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX
When: 17, 22 and 23 December, 10am-3pm.
Need to know: Activities included with admission; family ticket £42.50

Elf yourself
What: Calling all trainee elves! Visit The Black Watch Museum and learn how to be your best elf this Christmas. Make your own elf name badge, find out how to wrap the perfect present, and sing along to the chief elf’s favourite Christmas song. You can also create your own Christmas-inspired crafts to take home, decorate a Christmas cookie or join Santa as he tours the galleries telling festive tales and singing songs along the way. Then gather around the fireplace to listen to the story of the Christmas Truce which took place on Christmas Day 1914.
Where: The Black Watch Museum, Balhousie Castle, Hay Street, Perth, PH1 5HR
When: 10 December, 11am-4pm.
Need to know: Tickets £5, £15 if lunch is included. Prebooking is essential.

Fabulous fortress
What: Get ready to discover the hidden history of Edinburgh Castle as the annual ‘Castle of Light’ illuminations return to brighten up the historic walls of Scotland’s most famous fortress into a kingdom of colours. Prepare to be dazzled as Rex the red lion and his friends take you on a guided tour of the castle’s lost treasures, with state-of-the-art lighting installations transforming the buildings of the iconic landmark into everything from dragons to jewellery boxes.
Where: Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG
When: 18-20 and 25-27 November; 2-4, 8-11, 16-23 and 27-30 December, 4.30-9pm.
Need to know: Family ticket, £58.

Sweet treats
What: Get stuck into some tasty STEM-themed fun with Dundee Science Centre this holiday. As part of their Winter Wonders activities, you can make your own holly and candy canes fly on their air table, film your own Christmas movie at the animation station and learn how Father Christmas manages to deliver all those presents to astronauts in space. You’ll also have a chance to visit The Grinch and receive a special gift.
Where: Dundee Science Centre, Greenmarket, Dundee DD1 4QB and online.
When: 3-4, 10-11 and 17-18 December, 9am-5.30pm.
Need to know: Tickets £10 adult, £4.50 child. Prebooking essential.

A winter’s tale
What: Edinburgh folklore has it that when Charles Dickens was visiting the city, a stroll through the kirkyard brought him to the tombstone of one Ebenezer Scroggie, inspiration struck, and A Christmas Carol was born. Catch this new version of the alternative festive story in the city of its birth – featuring a special guest appearance from another of Edinburgh’s best-loved characters – Greyfriars Bobby himself!
Where: Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay Street, Edinburgh EH3 9AX
When: 24 November-31 December, times vary.
Need to know: Tickets from £20 adult, £10 child.

Christmas holidays 2022 family activities in Wales

Magical Christmas castle
What: A brand new Christmas festival at Cardiff Castle includes incredible shows like The Nutcracker and Santa's Wish, plus plenty of seasonal food and drink in the Christmas-style market within its walls. Outdoor heaters and and picnic tables add to that cosy Christmas comfort and the festival will be combined with the annual ice-rink and illuminated ice trail. It will definitely be a family night to remember! 
Where: Cardiff Castle, Castle Street, Cardiff CF10 3RB
When: 25-27 November The Nutcracker, 2-24 December Santa's Wish, ice-rink open from 15th November
Need to know: The Nutcracker from £24 per ticket, Santa's Wish from £19.75, Cardiff ice-rink from £15 (family of four is £42.82)

Animal magic
What: Join Doctor Dolittle and friends on a quest to find the legendary Pushmi-Pullyu and save the heart of the forest – and Christmas! Packed full of comedy and original songs, this brand-new family show features some of your favourite characters, including the Ugly Duckling, Billy Goats Gruff, Three Little Pigs, Nellie the Elephant and Incy Wincy Spider.
Where: Wales Millennium Centre, Bute Place, Cardiff CF10 5AL
When: 1-3 December, various times.
Need to know: Tickets from £11 per person, book in advance.

What a hoot!
What: Get festive with some feathered friends in the Botanic Gardens this Christmas as you meet the birds of prey who deliver your letters to Santa. You can watch a special Christmas Flying Show and meet Fudge the giant owl and play Christmas games before catching up with the elves in the enchanted wood and Santa in his grotto.
Where: National Botanic Garden of Wales, Middleton Hall, Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire SA32 8HN
When: 26 November-23 December, 10.30am-3pm. Flying show, 11.30am and 1.30pm.
Need to know: Show free with normal entry fee. Family ticket, £55.75. Santa visit, £7.50 per child. Owl holding, £2.50.

Season of giving
What: Get in the festive spirit down at the 1,200-acre estate of Erddig in Wrexham. Join Mother and Father Christmas for a special seasonal breakfast while leaving a foodbank donation at the reverse grotto and get crafty making fantastic winter art and decorations from paper chains, handprint robins and Christmas tree fork paintings. You can then sing some festive songs and listen to some seasonal storytelling.
Where: Erddig, Wrexham, LL13 0YT
When: 3-24 December, 9.30am-10.30pm.
Need to know: Adults, £17.95, child £18.95. Price includes breakfast and a gift.

All mine!
What: Enjoy a Christmas day out with a difference at the Silver Mountain Experience, as you meet Santa and his elves deep in the heart of a restored Victorian mine. After exploring Santa’s grotto and workshop, you can follow the Rudolph treasure trail, decorate your own Christmas cookie, and enjoy the mine’s regular underground tours – discover the history of mining in Wales with A Miner’s Life, or go on a magical journey thanks to A Dragon’s Tale.
Where: The Silver Mountain Experience, Llywernog, Ponterwyd, Aberystwyth SY23 3AB
When: 10-11, 17-18, 22-23 December, 9.30am-6.30pm.
Need to know: Child ticket, £12.95, includes present. Adult tickets, £9.95. Prebooking essential. Tours an extra £5 adults, £4 children.

Fairy good
What: Cardiff, 1913. Christmas Eve. Stevie’s mum is a Suffragette, fighting for the right to vote but Stevie just wants to fit in. Meanwhile, in the Grimmdom, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel are waiting for their Happy Ever After. But when a storm transports Stevie to this magic land, things begin to change. Can Stevie save the Grimmdom and find her own Once Upon a Time? Inspired by famous fairy tales and full of songs and laughter, this new Christmas show reimagines the world of the Brothers Grimm.
Where: Sherman Theatre, Senghennydd Road, Cathays, Cardiff CF24 4YE
When: 26 November-31 December, times vary.
Need to know: Tickets from £16.

Light and magic
What: Come to Caerphilly for the River of Light parade – a fabulous procession through the town, followed by a firework display above the skies of Caerphilly Castle. You’ll be accompanied by samba dancers and jazz bands, creating a sea of colour snaking its way through the streets. Make a lantern at one of the workshops or bring your own and take part!
Where: Lantern Workshops are held at Twyn Community Centre and Caerphilly Library. Parade starts at the castle side of Crescent Road (CF83 1AB) and finishes at Twyn Car Park. When: Lantern making workshops, 19-20, 26-27 November, 10am-5pm. Parade, 3 December, 6.30-8pm.
Need to know: Free event.

Treat yos’elf
What: WWT Llanelli is looking for some helpful recruits to lend a hand in their first ever Elf Academy this Christmas. The chief elves will be on hand to escort all the new recruits down to the workshop for an afternoon full of nature crafts, storytelling, singing and wrapping gifts for local people who need them - stopping along the way to discover the birds and wildlife that live there, of course!
Where: WWT Llanelli, Llwynhendy, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, SA14 9SH
When: 3-18 December, 1pm-3pm
Need to know: Free with admission, family ticket from £26.27.