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101 fantastic activities for the Christmas 2023 school holidays

Skating on the ice rink ©️Warwick Castle
Appear on a game show with Charles Dickens, cook dinner in a Tudor kitchen or go carol singing with a choir of polar bears. You're sure to have a fantastically festive adventure this winter with these 101 amazing and educational activities for you and the kids to enjoy together!

Follow the links below to discover festive family activities in your area:

South East
South West
North West
North East

Northern Ireland

Main image: Skating on the ice rink ©️Warwick Castle

TheSchoolRun &

TheSchoolRun has partnered up with 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.


Dichroic Sphere, Jakob Kvist ©️ Christoffer Askman / Southbank Centre

Southbank sensation
What: Wrap yourself up warm with the spirit of the season as the Winter Festival returns, taking place alongside the River Thames at London’s famous Southbank Centre. Enjoy colourful illuminated artworks lighting up the building after dark, give curling a go at the Winter Market, enjoy an orchestral rendition of the soundtrack to your favourite Christmas classics, or even catch the first-ever stage adaptation of CBeebies smash-hit Bluey! When: 28 October-7 January, various dates and times. Need to know: Prices vary, some events free.
Image: Dichroic Sphere, Jakob Kvist ©️ Christoffer Askman / Southbank Centre


Something wicked this way comes
What: It’s hubble, bubble, boil and trouble at the National Theatre thanks to a new musical adaptation of Road Dahl’s The Witches. It’s up to Luke and his Gran to halt their evil plans of squalloping every child in England. 
Where: National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 9PX 
When: The Witches runs until 27 January, 1.30pm or 7pm. Trail, times vary.
Need to know: Theatre tickets from £20. Trail free but book online. 

The perfect Pan
What: Get off to a flying start this Christmas with a chillingly good performance of Peter Pan on Ice at London’s iconic Alexandra Palace. Set course for Neverland and prepare to be dazzled by impressive skating, theatrical aerial stunts and lots of pixie dust in this magical experience inspired by J.M. Barrie’s classic tale, filled with imagination, make-believe and seasonal cheer. 
Where: Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY
When: 8-11 December, times vary.
Need to know: Adult tickets from £13.50, child £10.50. 


Monarch mealtime
What: Find out what Christmas was like at the home of Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace. Discover how Tudor cooks created festive meals inside the vast kitchens and try your hand as the newest ‘turnbroche’ (someone who turns meat on a spit), before saying hello to the royal couriers and Yeomen of the Guard as they make their way around the Palace. Keep your ears open for some Tudor-style midwinter tunes, explore the Festive Fayre and get your skates on and go for a whirl on Hampton Court’s biggest ever ice rink.
Where: Hampton Court Palace, Hampton Court Way, Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU
When: Ice rink, 17 November-7 January, 10am-9pm. Festive Fayre, 1-3 and 8-10 December, 10am-6pm. Other activities, 1-3, 8-10 December and 16 December-1 January, 10am-4pm. 
Need to know: Ice skating, £53 for a family ticket. Festive Fayre and other events included with admission, adult £29, child £14.50. 

Loo and behold
What: Every year, Father Christmas visits our homes, enjoying all the delicious drinks and treats that have been left out for him – but once he reaches Number 10, he suddenly realises something very important: he really needs a wee! Pop into London’s Arts Theatre and enjoy witty humour, fantastic music and plenty of festive sparkle in this fabulously funny and brilliantly bouncy musical adaptation of Nicholas Allan’s picture book. 
Where: Arts Theatre, 6-7 Great Newport St, London WC2H 7JB
When: Pre-Christmas weekends and 18-23 December, 10am. 
Need to know: Tickets £24.90 per person. 

Creature feature 
What: Experience plenty of animal-themed antics as Santa and his cheeky elves take over London Zoo for the season. Follow the Christmas sleigh trail as you learn which animals would be best at replacing the reindeer, watch the opening of the Animal Advent Calendar and discover a different creature each day, pop into the Polar Post Room where the Chief Elf will help you prepare your letter to Santa, or meet the big man himself before finding out if you’ve got what it takes to become an elf too!
Where: London Zoo, The Regent’s Park, Outer Circle, London NW1 4RY
When: 25 November-7 January, 10am-4pm
Need to know: Most activities free with admission. Adult ticket from £27, child £18.90. Santa, £15.50 extra per child.

Garden party 
What: Get illuminated at Kew this Christmas as you follow their beautiful one-mile-long light trail as it weaves its way through the gardens. As you explore this iridescent botanical wonderland, you’ll be able to pass through glittering tunnels of light, watch flickering flames in the Fire Garden, view all sorts of larger-than-life illuminated sculptures and enjoy some delicious festive treats – but don’t forget to keep an eye out for Santa and his elves along the way.
Where: Kew Gardens, Richmond, TW9 3JR (Victoria Gate), TW9 3AB (Elizabeth Gate) or TW9 3AF (Brentford Gate). 
When: 15 November-7 January, 4.20pm-10am, last entry 8pm. 
Need to know: Family ticket from £69. 

Walking in the air
What: Filled with colourful sets and extravagant costumes, Sadlers’ Wells will be bringing their magical dance adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ classic The Snowman back to the Peacock Theatre, dazzling audiences of all ages for its 26th year. This enchanting stage show will leave you with a sense of wonder as you follow the timeless tale of a boy and his magical snowman going on a musical journey through wintery wonderlands to the North Pole.
Where: Peacock Theatre, Portugal St, London WC2A 2HT
When: 18 November-30 December, times vary.
Need to know: Tickets from £18.


World of wonder
What: Enjoy a six-week seasonal celebration as Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland opens its doors again for the winter. Expect Victorian fairground rides, Santa Land and parades, as well as the world’s tallest transportable Big Wheel! You can also watch a dazzling display of thrills and skills at the Cirque Berserk stunt show, join in with the Christmas Singalong hosted by CBeebies superstar Justin Fletcher, and enjoy a frosty reception at the Magical Ice Kingdom – made from over 500 tonnes of carved ice including a life-sized Viking village – before you have a go at carving your own ice sculpture too. 
Where: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London W2
When: 17 November-1 January, 10am-10pm
Need to know: Admission free (off-peak), £5 per person (standard), £7.50 per person (peak). Attraction costs vary.

Sounds amazing!
What: Get ready to make some noise with the new exhibition Turn It Up: The Power of Noise at London’s Science Museum. Discover the science and secrets of the impact that music has on us as you play with beat, melody and harmonies to create your own tunes, discover weird and wonderful instruments like the flame powered Pyrophone, and even meet Haile, the musical robot. Plus, you can also enjoy a selection of the very best video games from the past five decades, from Mario to Minecraft and Space Invaders to Street Fighter in the Power Up! display. 
Where: Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD
When: Turn It Up exhibition until 6 May 2024, 10am-5.30pm. 
Need to know: Turn It Up, £10 adult, £8 child. Power Up day passes, £10 per person.

Frosty reception
What: It's all the fun of the Frost Fair down at the Museum of London Docklands this winter. Remembering the time in the 17-19th centuries when the Thames regularly froze over and huge celebrations were held on top of the icy river, you’ll be able to whip up a gingerbread snack, put on a puppet performance, try your luck at old-fashioned carnival games and learn more about winter traditions from London and beyond as you explore the history of these special parties on the ice. 
Where: Museum of London Docklands, No 1, West India Quay, Hertsmere Rd, London E14 4AL
When: 16-20 December, 11am-3.30pm.
Need to know: Free, drop-in. 

South East

The Deer Queen and the Holly King prepare for Midwinter ©️ Butser Ancient Farm

Saxon shenanigans 
What: Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Yule or Solstice this winter, Butser Ancient Farm will be springing to life with a winter welcome for the whole family. Discover 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. 
Where: Butser Ancient Farm, Chalton Lane, Hampshire PO8 0BG When: 2-3, 8-10 and 16-18 December, times vary.
Need to know: Family ticket £40-48 for storytelling events, £34 otherwise.
Image: ©️ Butser Ancient Farm 


Full of bounce
What: Hop to it and join Peter Rabbit and his furry friends as they go for a frosty adventure around Hampshire’s spectacular country parks.  
Where: Royal Victoria Country Park, The Park Office, Netley Abbey, Southampton SO31 5GA Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Gravel Hill, Horndean PO8 0QE, or Lepe Country Park, Exbury, Southampton SO45 1AD. 
When: 25 November-1 January, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Trail packs, £7.50 – includes a free babyccino and Peter Rabbit gift.

We’ve all bean there
What: Go blooming crazy at the Oxford Playhouse for their enormous new pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack always seems to be getting in trouble, not least after selling the family cow for a handful of old beans, but soon enough he finds that those mysterious beans just keep growing and growing. Join Jack, sister Jill and friends on a grand old adventure full of singing, dancing, booing and lots of laughter in a fabulous festive treat for all ages. 
Where: Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2LW
When: 24 November-7 January, dates and times vary. 
Need to know: Tickets from £10. Suitable for 5+. 


Fit for a king
What: Experience a right royal Christmas at Windsor Castle and enjoy the amazing sight of this grand palace festooned with festive decorations 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 history of Victorian Christmas at the castle – design a festive menu for Queen Victoria and her family, dress up in elegant Victorian attire or make a traditional Christmas tree decoration, wreath or angel to take home. 
Where: Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ
When: 16 December-1 January, 10am-3pm.
Need to know: Events free with admission. Family ticket, £73.

Keeping shipshape
What: Ever wondered why Chatham Historic Dockyard closes every Christmas? It’s all because of an extra-special festive secret: a hidden team of Santa’s elves, ready and waiting should Father Christmas ever have trouble with his sleigh. But this year, their magical Clausometer has gone missing! Help Mrs. Claus solve the mystery by entering the elves’ secret hideout, learning magical skills and cracking a mysterious code in order to save Christmas! Once your mission is complete, Santa is sure to thank you with a special gift to take home. 
Where: Chatham Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TE, England
When: 25 November-24 December, 10am-2.45pm.
Need to know: Adult tickets £14, child £17, under 4s £4.25.

Let there be lights!
What: Expect a seasonal spectacular of lights, colour and action as this new winter wonderland light trail takes over the historic Walmer Castle. Take a walk through a shower of light created by the Tree of Reflections, spot the woodland creatures hidden amongst the foliage, and marvel at the delicious Treely Scumptious. Many more surprises await you including the stunning Illumaphonium musical installation.
Where: Walmer Castle and Gardens, Kingsdown Rd, Walmer, Deal CT14 7LJ 
When: 1 December-1 January, 4pm-8.30pm.
Need to know: Family ticket from £47.52.

All aboard!
What: Forget the grotto – this year it’s full steam ahead as Santa stops by at the Dean Forest Railway. You’re sure to be proper chuffed on this special train ride through the scenic Forest of Dean as Mr. Claus makes his way through the carriages, before stopping at Lydney Junction to join his elves for a hot drink and a mince pie – then it’s time to pick up your gift before heading home. 
Where: Norchard Station, Forest Road, Lydney, Gloucester GL15 4ET
When: Weekends, 25 November-24 December and Wednesdays, 6-20 December, plus 22 December, 10.15am, 12pm, 1.45pm and 3.30pm. 
Need to know: Tickets £19 per person.


The car’s the star
What: Get ready to start your engines as you take a trip to the Brooklands Museum’s New Year’s Day Gathering, one of the largest classic car rallies in the UK. Expect a spectacular display of over 1,000 specially selected cars, trucks and motorbikes from throughout the 20th century – Astons to Austins, Jaguars to Jeeps, Peugeots to Porsches, and much more. As you work your way through this selection of magnificent motors, there’ll be live music, a winter barbeque, and lots more for the whole family to enjoy too.
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.

In deep
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 a wintery world of decorated caverns as he tells the tale of Bernard, a boy who befriends a baby polar bear he finds floating on an iceberg. Just don’t forget to take a break at the Underground Café along the way for a special festive treat!
Where: Clearwell Caves, The Rocks, Nr Coleford, Royal Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire GL16 8JR
When: Thursday-Monday throughout December, excluding Christmas Day, 9.30am-4.30pm.
Need to know: Tickets £18 per person, includes gift from Santa.

Parlour party 
What: Experience a cosy old-fashioned Christmas as the spirit of the season arrives at Beaulieu’s manor house as you step back in time to 1889. Enjoy the warming log fires and Christmas trees adorning every room and follow the Yuletide trail through the halls, where you can take part in a family panto rehearsal and sing along to traditional carols before heading outside to let off steam in the adventure playground, which has also been spruced up for the season. Plus, don’t miss the promenade musical performance of festive classic A Christmas Carol, taking place around the atmospheric ruins of Beaulieu Abbey. 
Where: Beaulieu, New Forest, Hampshire SO42 7ZN
When: 14-24 December, 10am-5pm.
Need to know: Most events free with admission. Family ticket, £62.50, booked in advance. Christmas Carol performance £68 for a family ticket, sold separately. 

South West

umbrellas ©️ The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Light work
What: Brighten up your winter nights with a trip to the Lost Gardens of Heligan, where you’ll be able to join in with a special magical lantern procession. Make and decorate your very own handheld lantern, then navigate the mile-long night garden trail.
Where: Lost Gardens of Heligan, B3273, Pentewan, Saint Austell, PL26 6EN When: 17 November-2 January. Night Garden, 4.45pm-9pm, Lantern making, 4-6pm. Need to know: Adult £16.50, child £8.50. Lantern making, £6 extra per child. Prebooking essential.
Image: Umbrellas ©️ The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Narnia nights
What: Step into the pages of the story at Longleat, when characters from all of your favourite children’s stories will be brought to life in their magical Festival of Light
Where: Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 7NW When: 11 November-7 January, 5pm-7pm. 
Need to know: Ticket for Lanterns only, from £24.95 adult, £18.70 child.

Elf yourself 
What: Experience a festive family favourite like never before with this super-sized musical adaptation of the classic Hollywood comedy ELF! With West End star Steven Serlin stepping into the big floppy shoes of Will Ferrell to play Buddy the Elf, you can expect flying sleighs, an indoor snowstorm, giant candy canes and an audience-participation snowball fight – there’s even a moving stage so everyone can get a close-up view of the action!
Where: Bournemouth International Centre, Exeter Rd, Bournemouth BH2 5BH and Westpoint Arena, Clyst St Mary, Exeter EX5 1DJ.
When: Bournemouth, 15-16 December, 11am, 3pm and 7pm. Exeter, 18-20 December, times vary.
Need to know: Tickets from £26.75 (Bournemouth), £25.75 (Exeter). 

Absolutely fin-tastic
What: Get stuck into some extra-special undersea adventures at the National Marine Aquarium. For the first time ever, you’ll be able to take the plunge and go snorkelling in the Aquarium’s massive Atlantic Ocean Tank – the deepest in the UK! Climb in and immerse yourself amongst the stingrays, sharks and Green Turtles. You can also find out more about this fascinating reptile with a special workshop working alongside the Aquarium’s team, where you’ll learn what it takes to feed a Green Sea Turtle, before giving Friday the turtle a special snack. 
Where: National Marine Aquarium, Rope Walk, Coxside, Plymouth PL4 0LF
When: Snorkelling, Wednesday-Sunday, 11.45am-1.15pm and 1.45pm-3.15pm. Turtle feeding, various dates, 12.30pm-1.15pm. 
Need to know: Snorkelling, £200 for two people, one over 18, the other 10+, good swimmers only. Turtle feeding, £140 for 4 people. Includes admission. 

Midwinter music
What: Go west this winter to the Eden Project, which will be filled 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 with a 1920s-style twist, before having a go on 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: The Eden Project, Bodelva, St Austell, Cornwall, PL24 2SG
When: 11-3, 8-10, 14-23 and 27-30 December, 9.30am-8pm. 
Need to know: Most activities free with admission. Tickets from £11 child, £33 adult. Ice skating from £29 for a family ticket.

Catch a cliff-hanger
What: Catch a special family-friendly theatrical performance in the beautiful open-air setting of the Minack Theatre – carved out of granite cliffs with the blue sea of Porthcurno Bay far below. Enjoy the timeless tale of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and journey with four creepy ghosts through the darkened streets of Victorian London or shake off the Boxing Day blues with The Sea Show, a quirky and hilarious mix of puppet show, natural history and comedy cabaret, where you can meet crazy characters including Ruan the reformed seagull and salty seadog Captain Pemburthy. 
Where: Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Penzance, Cornwall TR19 6JU
When: A Christmas Carol, 21-22 December, The Sea Show, 27-29 December, all performances begin at 3pm. 
Need to know: Adult ticket from £10, child £5. Book online or call 01736 810181.


USA A-Okay 
What: Enjoy a hand-crafted Christmas experience as you pay a festive visit to Bath’s American Museum and Gardens. The Georgian Manor House will be decorated for the season with hundreds of beautiful, artisan decorations, topped off with a stunning 18-foot fir tree, decorated with over 9,000 twinkling lights, taking pride of place in Central Hall. Keep an eye out for winter wildlife as you explore the peaceful gardens or enjoy some Christmas crafting activities inside at the Stables. 
Where: American Museum and Gardens, Claverton Manor, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7BD
When: Throughout December, 10am-5pm. 
Need to know: All activities included with admission, family ticket from £39.50. 

Blooming marvellous
What: Head to deepest Devon and go art hunting at RHS Rosemoor, where the annual Winter Sculpture Exhibition will be on display, featuring over 120 different creations of all shapes and sizes, set against the backdrop of the beautiful winter gardens. As night falls, the enchanting Rosemoor Glow trail will switch on, featuring a flickering ‘field of fire’ and six different relaxing soundscapes, while magicians, musicians, fire artists, stilt-walkers and many more will be on hand to provide some extra festive entertainment. 
Where: RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington, Devon EX38 8PH
When: Sculptures, 11 November-31 January, 10am-5pm. Glow trail, 16 November-30 December, 4.40-8.30pm.
Need to know: Sculpture event free with admission, family ticket from £33.30. Glow trail tickets from £12.95 adult, £6.95 child. 

Animal crackers
What: Zooluminate returns to brighten up Dartmoor Zoo for 2023, with a whole host of brand new and exciting illuminations. Enjoy a magical wintery walk around the Zoo, taking in all sorts of amazing light installations as you go: and if you’re lucky, you might see some of the zoo animals all snuggled up in their enclosures. 
Where: Dartmoor Zoo, Plymouth PL7 5DG
When: 8 December-1 January, 5pm-7.30pm.
Need to know: Family day and night ticket, £47.20. 

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 giant bauble, majestic seven-metre golden reindeer, a 3D walkthrough 60ft tall Wonderland tree with 30,000 individually programmed lights, a super-sized stocking full of glittering presents and an icicle-filled walk watched over by cuddly polar bears.
Where: In and around Bournemouth town centre
When: 17 November-1 January. 
Need to know: Free.


The Little Match Girl ©️ Phil Conrad for DanceEast

Perfect match
What: Settle down and enjoy some magical storytelling with this enchanting dance-theatre adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl from DanceEast
Where: DanceEast, Jerwood DanceHouse, Foundry Lane, Ipswich IP4 1DW 
When: 15-17 December, 2.30pm and 7.30pm.
Need to know: Family ticket, £45
Image: The Little Match Girl ©️ Phil Conrad for DanceEast .

Hoo goes there?
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, explore the Yule feasting table, and share your own festive traditions on the Yule tree. 
Where: Sutton Hoo, Tranmer House, Woodbridge IP12 3DJ 
When: Activities, weekends, 25 November-26 December, 26 December-1 January and 6-7 January, 10am-4pm. Solstice event, 22 December, 6-7.30pm. 
Need to know: Most activities free with admission. Family ticket, £37.50. Solstice event, £15 per person. 

Play away
What: It’s showtime at Suffolk’s beautiful Ickworth Estate, where everyone is invited to step back in time and enjoy a glorious Georgian night at the theatre. Discover all sorts of Georgian traditions – including their love of a festive get-together – as you enjoy lavish dining and theatrical staging in the Rotunda, but don’t forget to pop into the West Wing Gallery and craft some masquerade ball masks or theatre glasses to help you fit in with high society. Afterwards, you can follow the outdoor trail and learn about the different animal inhabitants of Ickworth. 
Where: Ickworth Estate, Horringer, Bury Saint Edmunds IP29 5QE
When: 2 December-2 January, 10am-3pm. 
Need to know: Events free with admission, family ticket £30. Suggested donation, £3.

Animal magic
What: Come along to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo this December and help the zookeepers create the perfect Christmas gift for the animal residents. Every day, a different animal will be highlighted, and you can find out about its favourite things before designing them the perfect present – if you’re lucky, you’ll make a return visit to create it for real. You’ll also be able to pop into Santa’s cosy grotto in the Lookout Lodge, where you can enjoy some Christmas crafts before meeting the big man himself. 
Where: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Whipsnade, Dunstable LU6 2LF
When: 25 November-24 December, 10am-6pm. Meet Santa, 12.30pm-3.30pm. 
Need to know: Some activities included in admission, tickets £27 adult, £18.90 child. Meet Santa, £15.50 per child.  

Creature comforts
What: Enjoy some fun on the farm with an extra-Christmassy experience at Easton. Go on a wintery wander through the woods, and meet some friendly farmyard creatures at Santa’s Stables, before heading inside to get stuck into festive crafts and decorate the perfect Christmas cookie with Mrs Claus. Then, you’ll be able to say hello to Santa, and collect your present from his Toy Store before you go.
Where: Easton Farm Park, Easton, Woodbridge IP13 0EQ.
When: Weekends in December until 17 December plus 21-24 December, 9.45am-2.15pm. 
Need to know: Adult tickets £11.95, child £19.95, includes gift. 

Sandringham special
What: Enjoy making special festive memories and stroll under the stars beneath illuminated trees as you lose yourself in the Sandringham Christmas Tree Maze. Work your way through over 200 sparkling Norway Spruces, inhaling the fresh pine scent, and don’t forget to snap a picture once you get to the middle. Then check out the rest of the enchanting Luminate trail including the new spectacular Sky Frost laser display. Afterwards, you can also get into the seasonal spirit with some festive lantern-making workshops. 
Where: Sandringham Estate, Sandringham, Norfolk, PE35 6AB
When: Luminate, 11 November-24 December, 4.30pm-9pm. Lanterns, weekends, 11 November-17 December, 1pm-6pm.
Need to know: Family ticket to Luminate, £61 (Monday-Thursday before 11 December) or £76.50 (after 11 December). Lantern workshops, £12 per lantern. 

In a flap
What: Eggs-pect the uneggs-pected with Mother Goose, an eggs-traordinary family pantomime from the Cambridge Arts Theatre. Gertie Goose lives a simple life in a little cottage with her family and best friend Priscilla – who just happens to be a talking Goose! Gertie longs to open her own bakery, but when she finally gets a chance, will beauty, fame and fortune change her? Enjoy this classic rags-to-riches story complete with songs, magic – and plenty of cracking jokes!
Where: Cambridge Arts Theatre, 6 St Edward's Passage, Cambridge CB2 3PJ
When: 30 November-7 January, Tuesday-Sunday, various times. 
Need to know: Tickets, adult from £22, child £19.

Perfect a puppet
What: Experience a festive puppet panto with this laugh-out-loud performance of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Norwich Puppet Theatre. Featuring beautiful multi-media miniature sets, traditional glove puppets and premier puppeteering, the whole family is sure to enjoy the hilarious adventures of Jack and his faithful cow Pat – but just what is at the top of the beanstalk?
Where: Norwich Puppet Theatre, St James Whitefriars, Norwich, Norfolk NR3 1TN
When: 9-31 December, 11am-12pm and 2.30pm-3.30pm.
Need to know: Family tickets, £45.

Sailing Santa
What: Saunter down to Snape Maltings to enjoy a 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 Christmas carol sing-along (complete with mince pies and hot drinks), and a special screening of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, accompanied by a live choir and orchestra. 
Where: Snape Maltings, Snape Bridge, Snape IP17 1SP. Carols at The Red House, Golf Lane, Aldeburgh, IP15 5PZ.
When: Carols, 19 December, 2pm. Father Christmas, 23 December, 1pm. 
Need to know: Santa and carols free. Snowman screening, £15 adult, £7.50 under 30s. 


Santa at Shakespeare's Schoolroom ©️Ana Frantz Photography

Seasonal Shakespeare
What: Enjoy a festive family tour in the 600-year-old Stratford-Upon-Avon Guildhall – the place where a young William Shakespeare spent his schooldays. You can also spend some time with Santa beside the fireplace!
Where: Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall, 17 Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6HD When: 22-24 December, times vary.
Need to know: Adult tickets, £12.50, under 16s, £8.50.
Image: ©️Ana Frantz Photography

Express yourself 
What: Climb aboard the Polar Express and relive the magic of the animated Christmas classic with this extra-special steam train ride and performance. Renew your belief in the power of Christmas as you meet your conductor and set off on an enchanting journey to the North Pole, complete with dancing chefs, tasty treats and a visit from Father Christmas – you may even get a special silver sleigh bell to take home!
Where: Birmingham Moor Street station, Birmingham B4 7UL
When: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 25 November-23 December, 11.20am, 1.25pm, 3.40pm, 5.25pm and 7.40pm. 
Need to know: Set of four seats from £116. Includes cookie and hot chocolate.

Brilliant ballet
What: Join Birmingham Royal Ballet for a special performance of family favourite The Nutcracker this Christmas. When Clara's toys come to life at the stroke of midnight, thanks to her mysterious godfather Drosselmeyer, she embarks on a fantastical journey through a, winter wonderland, fighting the evil King of Rats and meeting her handsome prince, before arriving at the Kingdom of Sweets, where she meets the magical Sugar Plum Fairy. Expect daring swordfights, falling snow and 30-foot Christmas trees – all accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s classic score, performed live by a 60-piece orchestra.
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst St, Southside, Birmingham B5 4TB
When: 17 November-9 December, various times. 
Need to know: Tickets from £25 per person.

Wonderful Warwick
What: Expect twinkling trees, dazzling decorations, and festive flourishes at every turn as you pay a Christmastime visit to Warwick Castle. Go for a winter walk amidst the larger-than-life outdoor illuminations, explore the enchanting Christmas market, get your skates on and hop onto the ice rink underneath the towers and turrets, or get cosy and enjoy a festive story with Mr and Mrs Claus and their mischievous elves in the castle library. 
Where: Warwick Castle, Warwick CV34 4QU
When: 25 November-7 January, 10am-5pm. Dates and times vary. 
Need to know: Castle only from £21 per person, £38 including Santa visit. Light trail or ice rink only, £16.50 or £11 per person respectively. 

Chocks away!
What: Ever wondered how Santa manages to deliver so many gifts in just one night? Well, it’s all achieved with the help of the REF – that’s the Royal Elf Force – and you’re all invited to join the ranks! Become a REF cadet and learn how to load the sleigh, plot the route, and pick the right aircraft for the job, as you discover what it takes to help Santa prepare for the biggest mission of the year. 
Where: Royal Air Force Museum Midlands, Lysander Avenue, Cosford, Shifnal TF11 8UP
When: 2-3 December, 10am-3pm.  
Need to know: £5 per child. Accompanying adults free, no need to book.  

Boxing clever
What: Enjoy an enchanting new theatrical adaptation of John Masefield’s magical story The Box Of Delights this Christmas with the RSC in Stratford. After a mysterious meeting on a train, orphaned schoolboy Kay Harker is left with a small wooden box capable of amazing powers – but can he survive a battle between two powerful magicians in order to save his loved ones, and the future of Christmas itself?
Where: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6BB
When: 3 November-7 January, 1.15pm, 2pm, or 7.15pm. 
Need to know: Tickets from £10 per person. 

Victorian values
What: Get into the 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 zoom down the helter-skelter, enjoy a classic Punch and Judy show, pick up a tasty treat from one of the shops, or have a go at candle-dipping or making Victorian-style Christmas cards. There’s also the chance to meet Santa in his grotto, or enrol in Elf School, where you’ll learn how to speed-wrap presents and make the perfect snowball.
Where: Blists Hill Victorian Town, Legges Way, Telford TF7 5UD
When: 9-10 and 16-17 December, 10am-4pm. 
Need to know: Most activities included with admission, adult £25, child £15. Meeting Santa, £9 per child, elf school, £2.50 per child. 

Magical mayhem
What: Roll up, roll up! Morgan & West arrive at Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts Centre with their relentlessly funny and fantastical magic-filled extravaganza – the Massive Magic Show for Kids (And Childish Grown-Ups). Be prepared for all sorts of mind-boggling mischief and mayhem as the eccentric duo provide plenty of their trademark wit, whimsy, and wall-to-wall silliness.
Where: Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside Arts, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD
When: 2-3 December, 1pm and 3.30pm.
Need to know: Tickets from £9.50 per person.

Andean antics
What: Enjoy a unique festive experience in Shropshire and make some new furry friends at Frankly Alpacas. Pop on your winter clothes and say hello to a herd of fluffy alpacas – including some extra-cute recent baby additions – amidst the peaceful countryside. You’ll have plenty of time to feed and pat the alpacas, take photos, and ask questions, before heading inside for some fun Christmas crafts and activities. 
Where: Frankly Alpacas, Pound Lane, Broseley, Shropshire, TF12 5AU
When: Throughout December. Email [email protected] to book. 
Need to know: Costs from £15 adult, £10 child. 

Merry and bright
What: Experience a mile-long journey of wonder and light as Enlightened arrives to brighten the winter skies of Leicester’s Abbey Park. Step through a 50-metre tunnel of cascading lights and emerge in an illuminated world, where laser beams shine through the trees, curious creatures are brought to life, and colour changing fountains react to music. You can also try your hand with some duelling light sabres or solve some of the interactive illuminated games as you hop, skip and jump along light up stepping-stones.
Where: Abbey Park, Abbey Park Road, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE4 5AQ
When: 16 November-24 December, 5-8.30pm
Need to know: Tickets from £12.50 adult, £9 child.  


©️York's Chocolate Story

I should cocoa!
What: Get set to unwrap the history of York’s famous chocolate-making families and their finest creations – alongside plenty of tasty treats – with these festive workshops at York’s Chocolate Story
Where: York’s Chocolate Story, King’s Square, York YO1 7LD
When: Chocolate Making with Santa, £25 per person. Family workshop, £30 per person. Truffle rolling, £23.50 adult, £21 child.
Need to know: 1-26 December, various dates and times. 
Image: ©️York's Chocolate Story

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 watch the comedic Christmas show ‘Grinchilocks and the Three Elves’, pop into Santa’s grotto or have a turn 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: 18 November-8 January, 10am-9pm.
Need to know: Package-based pricing, per person. Ice skating only, £12. Ice skating and illuminations, £19. Forest, maze and illuminations, £15 – with Santa £20, with Santa and show, £25.


Do the dinosaur
What: Calling all budding palaeontologists! Get ready to delve into the jaws of one of prehistory’s most iconic dinosaurs with the Teach Rex Velociraptor Show, which will be heading to Halifax this winter. Pick up your Dino Booklet and go on a journey to a land long ago, as you bust famous Velociraptor myths and learn what this dangerous dinosaur might actually have looked like – helped out by some totally roar-some lifelike puppets! Afterwards, you’ll have the chance to dance with the dinosaurs and even meet their cute babies. 
Where: Square Chapel Arts Centre, 10 Square Rd, Halifax HX1 1QG
When: 10 December, 11am, 1.30pm and 4pm. 
Need to know: Adult £12, child £10. 

Out of this world!
What: It’s time to get switched on as the winter nights in Yorkshire Wildlife Park will be brightened up by dozens of beautiful, handcrafted lanterns lining 2.5km of illuminated trails. This year, alongside amazing animals and Christmas creations, a new Space Odyssey theme will ensure plenty of stunning sci-fi themed visuals. Wrap up warm, soak in the atmosphere, and enjoy some warming festive treats. 
Where: Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Hurst Lane, Auckley, Doncaster DN9 3HQ
When: Throughout December, plus 17-30 November, 1-14 January, 4.15-7.15pm.
Need to know: Adult ticket from £24, child £19.

Wooden you know it
What: Step into an enchanting winter world at the Christmas Experience in Lotherton. Explore a magical winter woodland where you can sneak a peek at a fairy village, join Santa’s elves in their yurts to decorate Christmas ceramics and make reindeer food before enjoying a festive magic show, or discover some larger-than-life Christmas decorations including a giant Christmas cracker, advent calendar and gingerbread house. Plus, you can discover a Victorian-style Christmas in Lotherton hall, meet penguins, flamingos, and capybaras in Wildlife World, or say hello to Santa in his grotto.
Where: Lotherton, Lotherton Lane, Aberford, Leeds LS25 3EB
When: 25 November-7 January, 9am-7pm. Times and dates vary. 
Need to know: Admission, £9.50 adult, £4.75 child. Extra charges for crafting, magic show, gingerbread making, book separately. Santa, from £14.95 per child extra. 

Going global
What: Discover how people from around the world celebrate Christmas with this special festive activity trail at the Thackray Museum of Medicine. Help Father Christmas as he travels the globe finding out about Christmas celebrations in different countries and sampling his favourite foods along the way, then enjoy some Christmas crafts and photographs on the Thackray sleigh, before joining Santa for some cosy festive storytelling.
Where: Thackray Museum of Medicine, 141 Beckett Street, Leeds, LS9 7LN
When: Weekends, 18 November-23 December plus 12 December, 10am-1.45pm until 9 December, then 10am-2.30pm. 
Need to know: Tickets from £17 child, £7 accompanying adult.

The nose knows
What: Come along to Hull Truck Theatre for an action-packed new musical adaptation of the classic tale of Pinocchio. When a magical spirit brings the lonely carpenter Geppetto’s wooden puppet to life, he makes sure to send his would-be son to school – but Pinocchio has other ideas. Setting out into the world, and meeting all kinds of shady characters as he goes, Pinocchio, with the help of the Cricket, must learn to be brave, truthful and selfless in this fantastical coming-of-age tale.
Where: Hull Truck Theatre, 50 Ferensway, Hull HU2 8LB
When: 24 November-31 December, various dates and times.
Need to know: Tickets from £14 per person. 

Making tracks
What: It’s your last chance to celebrate the 100th birthday of a great Scot at the National Railway Museum this December – the Flying Scotsman locomotive that is! Discover the stories of this spectacular steam train with the help of a cutting-edge VR experience that will take you back in time and around the world to discover the locomotive’s history and check out the Japanese Shinkansen bullet train in the Great Hall. Plus, don’t miss out on a visit to the new Wonderlab science gallery, where you can launch a rocket, play with super-sized blocks, and stand in a human wind tunnel. 
Where: National Railway Museum York, Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ
When: Daily throughout December, 10am-5pm. 
Need to know: Admission free. VR experience, £7 per person. Wonderlab admission, £9 adult, £7.20 child. 

Sail away
What: Enjoy a festive experience with a twist as you step aboard a canal boat to meet Father Christmas in Skipton! Enjoy a 75-minute journey down the river as you have a chat with Santa and collect some Christmas goodies. Or travel in style and have a three-course Christmas dinner aboard as you make your way downstream instead.
Where: Skipton Boat Trips, 3 Coach Street, Skipton BD23 1LH
When: Santa trips, weekends, 25 November–17 December, 11.30am. Christmas dinner cruises, Sundays, 19 November-17 December, plus 6 and 13 December, 11am.
Need to know: Santa trips, £24 child, £20 adult. Christmas dinner cruises, adult £32.50, child £29.50. 

A swinging time!
What: Prepare for a uniquely magical experience in York as you take on a special nine-hole golf course for wizards at The Hole in Wand! Set off on your mini-golf adventure, featuring bubbling cauldrons, magic portals, and illuminating light spells as you find out if you’ve got what it takes to become a powerful witch or wizard. At the end of your adventure, you’ll receive a special magic potion, and you might even be lucky enough to meet the famous gargoyle Grobblenook! 
Where: The Hole in Wand, 14-16 Coppergate Walk, York, YO1 9NT
When: Daily, 11am-6pm (weekdays), 10am-7pm (Saturday), 10am-5pm (Sunday).
Need to know: Tickets from £8.29 adult, £6.99 child.

North West

Yuletide Darren Cresswell for Wild Rumpus

Solstice celebrations
What: Step into an enchanting world of folklore, festive tradition, and ridiculous rituals at Tatton Park Gardens as winter myths and stories come to life.
Where: Tatton Park, Tatton Park Gardens Knutsford WA16 6SG When: Friday-Sunday, 24 November–23 December. Solstice celebrations, 22 December, 3pm-7.45pm.
Need to know: Adult ticket £21.40, child, £12.84, Solstice prices, £26.75 adult, £18.90 child.
Image: Yuletide ©️ Darren Cresswell

Baby, it’s cold inside
What: Grab your cosiest scarf and hat as you join forces with Snowy the Snowman on a mission to try and help the animals of the North Pole have a fantastic Christmas and a safer New Year. Meet all sorts of amazing creatures as you journey along the arctic trail, taking part in tons of fin-tastic games, challenges and quizzes as you go – there’s maybe even a chance to win a prize!
Where: SEA LIFE Manchester, The Trafford Centre, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester M17 8AS
When: 25 November-3 January, 10am-5pm.
Need to know: Activities free with admission, tickets from £18.50 adult, £15.50 child. 

Dream on
What: See Cheshire’s winter sky in a completely different way as the Land of Lights festival arrives to brighten things up! You’re invited to go with the glow as you explore 12 magical ‘dreamworlds’ containing differently themed collections of super-sized luminous lanterns, inspired by animal kingdoms, mega monuments and seasonal celebrations. See roar-some dinosaurs, mythical beasts and dazzling decorations up close as you embark on a journey that’s bursting with colour and energy, enjoying tasty treats and festive music along the way. 
Where: Gulliver's World Resort, Old Hall, Warrington, Cheshire, WA5 9YZ
When: 11 November-25 February, 4.30-8pm.
Need to know: Tickets from £15 per person.

We’re not scared!
What: Join an intrepid family of adventurers and their dog on their quest to find a bear in this marvellous musical adaptation of Michael Rosen’s beloved children’s tale We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Expect catchy songs, interactive scenes, plenty of adventure and a few surprises along the way as they wade through gigantic swishy swashy grass, a splishy splashy river and thick oozy, squelchy mud – but what happens if they really do find a bear? 
Where: The Lowry, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ
When: 7 December-7 January, 10.30am and 1pm
Need to know: Tickets from £19 per person.

Snowy symphonies
What: Your festive spirit – and the music – will soar as you visit Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra for a very special performance of Raymond Briggs’ classic animated film The Snowman accompanied by the Hallé performing Howard Blake’s magical score. Before that, you’ll also be able to enjoy the animated story of Gaspard’s Christmas, a heart-warming festive adventure featuring the eponymous handsomest fox in Britain, narrated by the story’s author Zeb Soanes. 
Where: The Bridgewater Hall, Lower Mosley Street, Manchester M1 5HA
When: 22 December, 4pm. 23 December 11am and 1pm.
Need to know: Family ticket, £69.50 

Illuminating experience
What: Experience Chester Zoo when the lights go down as The Lanterns Festival returns for 2023, transforming it into a sparkling wonderland. Make your way along the winding paths and you’ll be transported into enchanting lands filled with colour and festivity, where you can meet giant illuminated orangutans, lions, dolphins and a 3D life-size woolly mammoth – while birds and stars can be seen nestled in the trees. You’ll also be able to take a walk through the spectacular Winter Cathedral tunnel of lights, and maybe even catch a glimpse of Father Christmas in his sleigh!
Where: Chester Zoo, Upton-by-Chester, Chester, CH2 1EU
When: 17 November-31 December, 4pm-8.15pm
Need to know: Adult tickets from £18, child £12.  

Scene on screen
What: Discover the behind-the-scenes secrets of the meticulous art of animation with this new exhibition at the Waterside Arts Centre. Showcasing a collection of original artwork, props and set pieces from across the decades, you’ll be able to find out how animated worlds have been carefully designed and used as a source of escapism, from hand-drawn works like The Reluctant Dragon, Count Duckula and The BFG to stop-motion favourites including Postman Pat, Little Robots, and the Wind in the Willows. 
Where: Waterside Arts Centre, 1 Waterside, Sale, M33 7ZF
When: Until 6 January, 10am-5pm.
Need to know: Free admission.

Something to choo-choo on
What: Steam into Christmas with the East Lancashire Railway and take a trip through the Irwell Valley filled with colourful characters and surprises. Before boarding, you’ll be able to walk through a decorated winter wonderland, saying hello to Mrs Claus and stopping for a quick singalong with a carol singing choir of polar bears. Once onboard, you’ll meet all kinds of Christmas characters and belt out a couple of festive classics with the brass band, before Santa pays a visit to your carriage. There will be plenty of presents to go around, along with sweet treats and a Christmas activity pack for every child. 
Where: Bury Transport Museum / The East Lancashire Railway, Bolton Street Station, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 0EY
When: Weekends, 25 November-24 December, plus 20-22 December, various times. 
Need to know: Adult ticket from £23, child from £22.50.

Otter-ly amazing
What: Experience a magical Christmas adventure at the site of one of Liverpool’s most iconic landmarks, the Otterspool Promenade. Get your skates on and enjoy a spin on the ice rink, make a Christmas teddy bear with the elves and take it home, watch a magical Christmas show and decorate some delicious gingerbread before meeting Santa Claus. You can also take part in a 4D virtual-reality sleigh ride and enjoy slipping, sliding and soaring through Santa’s secret Lapland HQ where all the Christmas magic happens!
Where: Otterspool Adventure Centre, 37 Otterspool Drive, Liverpool L17 5AL
When: Weekends, 25 November-24 December, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Tickets from £25 per person. Access to the VR sleigh ride requires a VIP ticket, £4 extra. 

Back to the future
What: Journey into the past or look into the future with the help of these events in Liverpool this Christmas. Sudley House is hosting a traditional Victorian Christmas with all the trimmings where you’ll be able to enjoy carols, festive crafts and cosy storytelling in the beautiful setting of this Victorian merchant’s home. Or fast forward to the future as the Royal Institute’s Christmas Lectures will be live-streamed to the Liverpool World Museum. This year, Professor Mike Wooldridge will be explaining the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – how it works and affects us all, from autonomous robots to online gaming and more. 
Where: Sudley House, Mossley Hill Road, Liverpool, United Kingdom L18 8BX and Liverpool World Museum, William Brown St, Liverpool L3 8EN.
When: Sudley House, 2-3 December, 11am-3.30pm. Liverpool World Museum, 12, 14 and 16 December, 6pm
Need to know: Sudley House, admission and activities free. Lectures stream, £8 per adult, £5 per child. 

Bright sparks
What: Make some illuminating discoveries this winter with these activities at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum delving into the science of light. Make light perform tricks and create colours in the Light Lab, before settling down to watch the Light Fantastic science show, where you’ll learn how light gets to Earth from the Sun, why the sky is blue, and what’s behind the mesmerising Aurora Borealis. Plus, you’ll have the chance to discover the slightly disgusting secrets of the digestive system by exploring the interactive exhibition Operation Ouch!: Food, Poo and You.  
Where: Science and Industry Museum, Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4JP
When: 16 December-7 January, 10am-5pm. 
Need to know: Admission and activities free. Entry to Operation Ouch exhibition, £10 adults, £9 children. 

North East

©️ Life Science Centre

Wonderful Life
What: Enjoy festive-themed fun at Newcastle’s Life Science Centre and discover what Santa sees on his Christmas Eve journey in a new planetarium screening! 
Where: Life Science Centre, Times Square, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4EP When: 11 November-5 January, 10am-5pm. Ice rink, 9.45am-7.45pm.
Need to know: Admission, £12.27 adult, child £9.09. Ice rink, from £46 for a family ticket. Planetarium show, £18 child, £12 adult.
Image: ©️ Life Science Centre

Roman around 
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! Taking place from 17th to 23rd December to mark the end of the planting season, you’ll be able to learn how celebrations today have been shaped by these gatherings before making your own miniature clay gift, learning about Saturnalia feasts, or going for wander through the beautifully lit gardens while learning more about life on the Empire’s frontier.
Where: Roman Vindolanda Fort & Museum, Hexham NE47 7JN 
When: 1-31 December, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Event included with admission. Family ticket £32.

You shall go to the ball!
What: Lace up your boots, make a wish, and experience a feisty, fun and joyful new production of Cinderella from the Northern Stage. Ella has lost her mother and father, and she always turns to nature to escape her horrible bully of a stepmother, with the birds as her only friends. But, when she meets a birdwatching boy in the woods, she begins to believe in the power of love – and then comes an invitation to the Queen’s Christmas ball! Expect plenty of music, dance, comedy and some baddies that you’ll love to hate.  
When: 2 December-6 January, various times.
Need to know: Tickets from £10 per person. Suitable for 5+. 

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 to 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. Then, pay a visit to the 1900s Town, where you can sample some delicious festive treats at the sweet shop and bakery and meet Santa in his cosy grotto! 
Where: Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, Regional Resource Centre, Beamish DH9 0RG
When: 25 November-24 December, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Most events free with admission. Family ticket, £63.50. Santa tickets, £8 extra.

Proper page turner
What: Come along to Newcastle’s Seven Stories this pantomime season and enjoy the weird and wacky tale of jolly Jack on his exciting adventure up the beanstalk and beyond! Be prepared to shout out ‘He’s behind you’ as you laugh, cheer, boo and hiss while a cast of canny characters embark on their Fee-Fi-Fo-Fabulous journey to solve a truly giant mystery. 
Where: Seven Stories, 30 Lime Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2PQ
When: Weekends from 26 November, 10:30am, 12, 13:30 and 3pm. Mondays from 27 November-18 December, 11am. 27 December-7th January, 10:30am, 12pm, 13:30pm and 3pm.
Need to know: Tickets, £7.99 per person. Juice and Christmas cupcake, £4.50 extra.

Magical mysteries 
What: Journey into a mythical kingdom at the Alnwick Garden as Lilidorei, one of the world’s largest adventure playgrounds, comes alive with magic, light and sound for the winter. Explore the homes of nine different fairy clans and meet the Secret Keepers, who’ll be offering up enchanting seasonal storytelling and festive activities, before keeping an eye out for Father Christmas as he parades through Lilidorei – you might even be able come face to face with his real-life reindeer and feed them a tasty treat. 
Where: Lilidorei, The Alnwick Garden, The Gardeners Cottage, Greenwell Road, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 1HB (follow NE66 1FJ for sat-nav).
When: 13 November-7 January, 10am-4pm and 5pm-9pm. Father Christmas, 13 November–24 December, 10.30am-4.30pm. 
Need to know: Daytime admission from £16.50 per person. Nighttime admission from £18.70. Father Christmas, £30 per child (includes admission). 

All mine!
What: Get ready to spread your love for Christmas at the Woodhorn Museum as you decorate a special ceramic festive heart to gift or keep. You’ll also be able to discover the stories of Miners’ Banners and why they were so prized by their communities and meet Father Christmas in the Workshop Galleries and find out what he and the reindeer really want left out for them on Christmas Eve.
Where: Woodhorn Museum, QEII Country Park, Ashington NE63 9YF
When: Weekends, 25 November-24 December, 10am-4pm, 12pm-3pm (crafting).
Need to know: Craft activity free with admission, adult £7, children free. Santa, £8.50 per child.

Knight time
What: Expect plenty of medieval mayhem on this interactive after-hours tour of Newcastle Castle. Hear tales from the castle's past, go for a walk along the battlements, duel renowned knight Sir Aymer de Atholl, test your aim in the archery challenge, or see if you’re brave enough to peek into the castle dungeon. After your challenges, take a break in the Tavern for a drink and snack before heading up to the roof, where you can take in the impressive views of Newcastle, before being knighted as a reward for successfully completing your quest!
Where: Newcastle Castle, The Black Gate, Castle Garth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1RQ
When: 19 December, 5.30pm-7pm and 5.45pm-7.15pm. 
Need to know: Adults £10, child £6. Wear warm clothes and suitable footwear.

Trees are good
What: Expect some amazing arboreal art at the unique Christmas Tree Festival at Ushaw. The house’s historic halls will be filled with more than 30 special Christmas trees designed by artists, charities and local children using a mix of different materials. You’ll also be able to craft some marvellous mosaic ornaments for your tree at home or join Father Christmas for some Christmas treats and wintery stories, after which you can take away a specially personalised mug.
Where: Ushaw Historic House, Woodland Road, Ushaw, Durham DH7 7DW
When: Tree festival, 1-22 December, 11am-4pm. Christmas crafting, 2 December, 10.30am-12pm and 1-2.30pm. Santa, 2 December, 10:30am-12:30pm and 1-3:30pm.
Need to know: Tree festival, free with admission – adults £8, children £5. Christmas crafting workshops, £45 per family (includes admission). Santa, £10 per child.

A lad in trouble
What: Dame Bella, her son Aladdin and her hapless nephew Dennis work hard to make a living at the Cooksonville Laundry… But Aladdin gets tricked by his wicked uncle Abanazar into descending into the magical Cave of Wonders. The journey causes chaos and mayhem for the little family who quickly find themselves in a world of magic carpets and a spell-binding Genie of the Lamp. Can they stop Abanazar getting his hands on the magic lamp? Find out in this fun-filled spectacular family pantomime.
Where: The Customs House, Mill Dam, South Shields, NE33 1ES
When: 23 November-6 January, times vary
Need to know: Tickets from £12. Book online or call 0191 454 1234


©️ WWT LLanelli

Help yos’elf
What: Head to WWT Llanelli to become a helpful recruit and enrol in their Elf Academy. 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!
Where: WWT Llanelli, Llwynhendy, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, SA14 9SH When: Weekends from 2-23 December, 2pm-4pm.
Need to know: Free with admission, family ticket from £26.59.
Image: ©️ WWT LLanelli

Going underground
What: Enjoy a Christmas day out with a difference as you join the hunt for Santa and his elves deep down in a former coal mine. Take a magical Christmas-themed trip through the special toy mine, tasty sweet mine and freezing ice caverns before reaching Santa’s front door, and don’t forget to collect your enchanted star from the man in red, which you can exchange for a gift once you get back to the surface. 
Where: A Welsh Coal Mining Experience, Lewis Merthyr Colliery, Coed Cae Road, Trehafod, CF37 2NP
When: 24 November-24 December, 3pm-8pm (weekdays), 10am-8pm (weekends). 
Need to know: Tickets £11.50 per person. 


Circus spectacular 
What: Enjoy a fabulously festive family musical as Santa’s Wish returns to Cardiff this December! Step inside a special circus-style tent and join Snowflake the magical elf as she travels around the world on a mission to find the magical wish jars and rescue Santa, making friends along the way in an adventure filled with catchy songs, bright colours, lots of dancing and more than a sprinkle of circus magic.
Where: The Spiegeltent, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff CF11 9FH
When: 1-24 December, various times.
Need to know: Tickets from £18 adult, £15 child.

Zip zip hooray!
What: Speed along to Zip World and get set for some serious seasonal surprises. Take the cable railway underground and discover a network of illuminated tunnels, leading you through a maze of twinkling lights to a magical workshop and then through to Santa in his cosy grotto. After collecting your gift, you can get stuck into Christmas crafts and decorate a slate bauble, write your official letter to Santa, and enjoy a complimentary hot chocolate and mince pie.
Where: Zip World, Llechwedd, Blaenau Ffestiniog LL41 3NB
When: 24 November-24 December, 2pm-7.20pm (weekdays), 8.40am-7.20pm (weekends).
Need to know: Adult tickets £34, child £32, includes gift from Santa. 

Garden glow
What: Enjoy a mesmerising mile-long walk through the National Botanic Garden of Wales as it’s transformed for 2023 with amazing illuminations courtesy of Luminate. Redesigned this year with new routes, new installations and new interactive elements spread across the 500-acre gardens, the whole family is sure to enjoy following the meandering trail, taking in ambient music and light games along the way. 
Where: National Botanic Garden of Wales, Middleton Hall, Llanarthne SA32 8HN
When: 29 November-24 December, 4.30pm-8pm. 
Need to know: Family ticket, £56.50. 

Time twisters
What: Is an hour enough to learn the whole of human history? Probably not. Is it enough time to be dazzled, intrigued, and delighted? Definitely. So why not pay a visit to the Wales Millennium Centre for Zoetrope, an amazing family extravaganza from the National Dance Company Wales featuring all kinds of acrobatic, dance and circus stunts. You’ll discover the history of the world, film and magic as chimps, lizards and skeletons leap and cartwheel across a stage exploding with clever effects, lights and music.
Where: Wales Millennium Centre, Bute Place, Cardiff CF10 5AL
When: 13-16 December, various times. 
Need to know: Tickets from adults £12, children £6. 

Once upon a time
What: Enjoy a fabulous fairy-tale experience as you come face-to-face with a pair of magical princesses at Plantasia. You’ll be able to experience lush tropical habitats, meet over 40 weird and wonderful animals and explore the laboratory of Alfred Russel Wallace, the intrepid Welsh explorer and naturalist, before joining the princesses to receive your Christmas gift.
Where: Plantasia Tropical Zoo, Parc Tawe Retail Park, Swansea SA1 2AL
When: 16-17 December, 10am-4pm. 
Need to know: Family ticket £39.50. 

Light and magic
What: Head to Caerphilly as its annual River of Light parade returns for 2023. 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. You can make a lantern at one of the workshops or bring your own with you and take part!
Where: Lantern Workshops held at Twyn Community Centre and Caerphilly Library. Parade starts castle side of Crescent Road (CF83 1AB) and finishes at Twyn Cark Park. 
When: Lantern making workshops, 18-19, 25-26 November, 10am-5pm. Light parade, 2 December, 5.30pm-7pm.
Need to know: Free.


Castle of Light image ©️ Nick Mailer for Historic Environment Scotland

Fabulous fortress
What: The annual ‘Castle of Light’ illuminations returns this winter, transforming the historic walls of Scotland’s most famous castle into a kingdom of colours. Look out for fantastic beasts like dragons and lions!
Where: Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG When: 24-25 November, 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 21-23 and 27-30 December, 2-3 January, 4.30pm-9pm.
Need to know: Family ticket, £58.
Image: ©️ Nick Mailer

Sea side special
What: Get ready to make a splash with some fishy fun at SEA LIFE Loch Lomond. As you make your way through the aquarium, meeting all sorts of cool creatures from sharks to sea anemones to otters, you’ll be able to find the answers to a festive quiz, before meeting with Santa in his undersea grotto to share your Christmas wishes and receive a gift. 
Where: SEA LIFE Loch Lomond Aquarium, Drumkinnon Tower, Ben Lomond Way, Balloch, Alexandria G83 8QL
When: Weekends, 2-24 December, 11am-5.50pm. 
Need to know: Tickets £21 child, £17 adult, includes admission and child’s gift. 

Oh deer
What: Take an hour-long hill walk in the Highlands this winter and come face-to-face with 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 more gentle, you’ll be able to meet reindeer in the paddocks, where there’s a Christmas quiz to complete and Santa to spot!
Where: Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, Glenmore, Aviemore, Inverness-shire, PH22 1QU
When: Daily in November and December. Hill trips, 11am. Paddocks, 10am-4.30pm. 
Need to know: Hill trip, £22 adults, £15 children. Paddocks, £4 adults, £3 children. Weather permitting. Wear warm clothes and wellies/hiking boots with a good grip for the hill trip are essential. 

Santa science
What: Join Father Christmas and his cheeky elves for some sensational seasonal experiments in these festive workshops at the Aberdeen Science Centre. Pop into their special Christmas labs and with help from some cheeky elf advisors you can use scientific techniques to make your own fake snow and Christmas decorations and then get a gift from Santa himself.
Where: Aberdeen Science Centre, 179 Constitution St, Aberdeen AB24 5TU
When: 16-17 December, 10am-4.30pm 
Need to know: £18 per child, accompanying adults free. Suitable for 4+.

Have an ice time
What: Experience a magical adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen classic at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre. Once upon a time, in a long-forgotten world, the fearsome Snow Queen stole the young Kei away to her frozen kingdom, leaving it up to best friend Gerda to come to the rescue. Join her as she journeys through a magical, wintery world, encountering blizzards, ice palaces and sparkly pink unicorns, meeting new friends along the way – but will she be too late to prevent Kei from becoming cold and heartless, dooming the world to eternal winter?
Where: Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay Street, Edinburgh EH3 9AX
When: 23 November-31 January, dates and times vary.
Need to know: Adult tickets from £22, children £12. 

Hooray for Holyrood!
What: Enjoy some decadent decorations at the Palace of Holyroodhouse as they mark the season with a 15-foot-high Christmas tree in the Throne Room, a Great Gallery adorned with shimmering baubles and sparkling lights and the Great Stair draped with velvet garlands, berries and seasonal foliage. You can also learn more about the Victorian history of a Christmas cracker before making your own, enjoy live Christmas carols, or scupt a clay decoration inspired by the 17th-century plaster ceilings.  
Where: Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX
When: 16 December, 10am-3pm. Decorations, 24 November-1 January.
Need to know: Activities included with admission. Family ticket £46.

Taking the biscuit
What: Tuck into a sweet festive treat at Glasgow’s Tramway and enjoy the story of Ginger: a wonky gingerbread person, discarded and marked for the bin. Join this crumbly character as they inspire a picture-perfect kitchen to come alive in a cacophony of chaos in a show full of playful puppetry – and you’ll even be able to decorate your own delicious gingerbread creations afterwards!
Where: Tramway, 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow G41 2PE
When: 6-10 and 12-16 December, 1.30pm and 4.30pm. 
Need to know: Adult tickets £6, under 16s, £4. Recommended for ages 3-7.

Northern Ireland

North Pole Post Office ©️W5

Mechanical marvels
What:  Watch the Great Christmas Upgrade, a new live show featuring animation, adventure, robots and plenty of Christmas magic. 
Where: W5, The Odyssey, 2 Queens Quay, Belfast BT3 9QQ When: 25 November-31 December, Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-4pm; Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10am-6pm otherwise. 
Need to know: Most activities free with admission. Family ticket £31. Live show, £10 extra per child (includes gift), £5 per adult. 
Image: North Pole Post Office ©️W5

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 the houses, oil lamps light up the night, and the scent of peat fires, mixed with baking Christmas puddings fill the air. Enjoy Christmas-themed crafting, listen out for seasonal tunes from the carol singers, traditional musicians and a brass band before wrapping the evening up with some delicious festive fare. 
Where: Ulster Folk Museum, 153 Bangor Road, Cultra, Holywood, BT18 0EU 
When: 2-23 December, 10am-4pm between 19-22 December, otherwise 11am-4pm. 
Need to know: Events included with admission. Family ticket £32.

Classical Christmas
What: Celebrate the season with Ulster Orchestra's Magic of Christmas. This popular family-friendly concert will help you forget your present-wrapping stresses and strains and ease you into the festive spirit with a programme of Christmas and movie classics including White Christmas, O Holy Night, All I want for Christmas and more.
Where: Millennium Forum, 3 Newmarket St, Derry/Londonderry BT48 6EB and Waterfront Hall, 2 Lanyon Place, Belfast BT1 3WH.
When: 20 December, Millennium Forum, 8pm. 21 December, Belfast Waterfront Hall, 7.45pm
Need to know: Tickets from £16 (Millennium Forum) or £7.50 (Waterfront Hall).

Snow business 
What: Get set for some midwinter magic at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens with a brand-new trail inspired by Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. As you make your way along the meandering paths and through the walled garden, you’ll find 12 giant sculptures inspired by the heart-warming tale before making your way inside for a warming hot chocolate and a special screening of the film. 
Where: Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, The Square, Hillsborough BT26 6GT
When: Trail, 18 November-7 January, 10am-4pm. Screenings, 2-31 December, 12pm and 3pm.
Need to know: Included with Gardens entry ticket, adults £10, children £5. 

Titanic tales
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 trip 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 games and crafts before getting your name checked off the ‘naughty or nice’ list by the chief elf to meet Santa himself.
Where: Titanic Belfast, 1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast BT3 9EP
When: 24 November-23 December, 10am-7.30pm.
Need to know: Tickets £25 child, adults £12.50. Includes present from Santa, photos, drinks and snacks. 

Glorious Georgians
What: Experience a gorgeous Georgian Christmas at County Down’s Castle Ward as the 18th-century manor house receives a cosy makeover complete with colourful garlands and wreaths and the bustling kitchens are filled with the sights and smells of festive food. Outside in the stables you’ll be able to hear stories of Castle Ward’s historic inhabitants while admiring the twinkling Christmas lights, or you can take a trip to the Christmas village and visit the elves’ workshop to make magical reindeer food, decorate gingerbread men with Mrs Claus and catch street performers including stilt walkers, magicians and fire breathers.
Where: Castle Ward, Strangford, Downpatrick, County Down BT30 7BA
When: 1-17 December, 12pm-4pm. Christmas village, 9-10 and 16-17 December, 12-3pm and 3-6pm.
Need to know: Georgian events free with admission, family ticket £30. Christmas village event, family ticket, £50. 


Looking for free activities you can do at home with the family over the festive break? Our friends at Twinkl have some excellent free Christmas crafts to download. 

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