101 fantastic activities for the Christmas 2019 school holidays
Christmas holidays 2019 family activities in England
What: Catch interactive light show Submergence at Bristol’s Millennium Square this December. A large, immersive, walkthrough experience of individually controllable LEDs helps to create a feeling of presence and movement within physical space using thousands of individual points of light. Interact with the lights and immerse yourself within the art piece where virtual and physical worlds coincide.
Where: Millennium Square, Explore Ln, Bristol BS1 5SZ
When: On display until 30 December.
Need to know: Free
Main image: Submergence Bristol
What: Head to Kew this Christmas and follow the beautiful one-mile-long illuminated trail weaving its way through the gardens. Expect glittering spiral trees, a treetop walk complete with a Will-o'the Wisp and a dazzling show of laser beams, alongside a vintage fairground and a North Pole village. Alternatively visit in daytime for songs, stories and seasonal strolls!
Where: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London TW9 3AB
When: 20 December - 5 January, 5-10pm
Need to know: Prices from £18 adult, £11 child, online.
Life's a peach
What: Delve into your nearest deep, dark wood this December and you might find all sorts of colourful creepy crawlies hidden amongst the branches as Roald Dahl's classic tale James and the Giant Peach is brought to life by the Forestry Commission. Grab your activity pack and get bug hunting with binoculars, magnifier, collecting tray, stickers, pencils and more,
Where: At 20+ forestry commission woodland sites across the UK.
When: Trails start from 23 December
Need to know: Walks are free. Activity pack costs £5.50 from participating visitor centres.
What: Make the festive season go swimmingly thanks to the National Marine Aquarium when Santa Claus himself will join the array of colourful marine life in the Eddystone Reef tank, alongside the smoothound sharks. There's also a special bioluminescent Christmas trail to follow, as well as festive craft activities and interactive shows.
Where: National Marine Aquarium, Rope Walk, Coxside, Plymouth PL4 0LF
When: 21 December - 6 January, 10am-5pm
Need to know: Costs £15.25 adults, £11.65 for children and free for under 3s
Take the biscuit
What: Marvel at an elaborately created Gingerbread City featuring more than 100 architecturally designed biscuit buildings at Somerset House in London, designed and baked by leading architects to a grand masterplan. You can also create your own mini masterwork out of ready-made gingerbread, icing and sweets to take home with you.
Where: Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA
When: 7 December - 5 January, 10am-6pm
Need to know: £9 per person, under 12 £7, under 3 free. Gingerbread making workshop from £35.
What: Visit BALTIC this festive season to create your own Christmas clay animal or spot a snowflake. Join ceramic artists for this creature creating workshop inspired by the current Animalesque exhibition or explore the gallery to hunt for snowflakes.
Where: BALTIC, Gateshead NE8 3BA
When: 14 & 21 December (Clay creature), 10am & 11.30am. 30-31 December (Snowflake), 10am-6pm
Need to know: Workshop, £6.80 per child. Book in advance online.
What: It's holiday time in Hogwarts as The Harry Potter studio tour gets its annual festive makeover, complete with Christmas trees, Great Hall festive feast, decorations in Gryffindor common room and snow settling in Diagon Alley. The beautiful scale model of the school will also be looking wintry, with snow and ice effects carefully applied by hand, and you'll be able to learn more about all the different types of snow used during production.
Where: The Making of Harry Potter, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, London WD25 7LR
When: 16 November - 26 January
Need to know: Family ticket from £150 online
What: Get ready for plenty of festive fun at the London Transport Museum. After passing a huge Christmas wreath in the shape of the iconic roundel, track down Santa in his hideaway or one of the Museum’s historic vehicles to receive a Christmas badge and a Super Santa Selfie. Enjoy a storytelling or singalong session and create some festive decorations to take home before exploring the Poster Parade, showcasing iconic images from Christmases past, or jump aboard a vintage bus on the Lights and Sights tour.
Where: London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB
When: 1 December - 5 January, 11am-5pm. Bus tours 21 & 22 December, 2.30, 4 & 7pm (21 December) 4, 5.30 & 7pm (22 December)
Need to know: Adult £16 online, under 18a free. Bus tour from £10 adult, £5 child.
Once upon a time…
What: Enter a magical mansion where well-loved fairy tales have been brought to life at Tatton Park. Explore the grand staterooms transformed into a magnificent Winter Wonderland and find Cinderella's pumpkin coach to see if the slipper fits. Afterwards, follow the sweetie trail through woodland towards the servants' quarters and enter the witch's gingerbread house – but don’t forget to pick up a tasty treat from the Fairy Godmother before you leave.
Where: Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 6QN
When: Weekends (Fri, Sat and Sun) until 29 Dec, and 31 Dec-4 Jan, 12pm-4pm.
Need to know: Costs £10 adult, £7 child. £7 car park charge.
What: Catch illustrator and Roald Dahl collaborator Quentin Blake as he works in his London studio, in this unique exhibition at London’s new House of Illustration. This evolving display will give a glimpse into his working world, offering an up-to-date showcase of Blake’s projects as they happen. You’ll be able to see his recent publications, forthcoming books and large-scale personal works including Blake’s illustrations for John Ruskin’s only children’s book The King of the Golden River, first published 150 years ago, as well as drawings for a forthcoming series,The QB Papers, to be released next August.
Where: House of Illustration, 2 Granary Square, King's Cross, London, N1C 4BH
When: Until 31 October 2021, 10am-5:30pm
Need to know: Costs £18 per family.
What: Have some seaside fun down in Cornwall as you experience Tate St Ives In Colour, a new interactive and immersive light installation. Control the colour and intensity of the light casting the gallery in an ethereal glow, as you play with the sphere creating cycles and pulses of light both inside and outside the building. Plus, there’s a creative workshop to enjoy, where you can make a crystal sculpture inspired by the art of Otobong Nkanga and add it to the crystal forest with a secret New Year wish hidden inside.
Where: Tate St Ives, Porthmeor Beach, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1TG
When: Light installation until 5 Jan, 10am-4.20pm, Tues to Sun. Crystal sculpture workshops run 28 Dec-4 Jan, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Activities free with admission. From £9.50 for adults, free for under 18s.
What: Get seasonal at Slimbridge and get brace yourself for some serious festive birding fun. Expect plenty of marshmallow toasting, elf den building and making festive decorations for tree toppers and hall hangings. You can take advantage of the swan mail delivery service at Slimbridge’s Santa’s Post Office If you've left it late to get your request in with Santa and even ice your own gingerbread figure.
Where: WWT Slimbridge, Bowditch, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, GL2 7BT
When: 20-22 December, 9.30am-4pm
Need to know: Costs £19.95 child, £12.50 adult. Includes meal, gift, Santa visit and admission.
What: Spark your imagination this festive season at the V&A with crafting activities and imaginative pop-up performances including ‘The Buildy-Uppy Dance Show’. Be sure to catch one of the popular choir recitals and the spectacular Christmas tree display as well.
Where: V&A Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
When: Until 31 December, times and dates for activities vary.
Need to know: Activities and admission are free.
What: Scrooge – but as you’ve never seen her before. In this new take on the classic story, Ebenezer died young, but his sister Fan married Marley and, as his widow, has now inherited his moneylending business. She rapidly becomes notorious as the most monstrous miser ever known. Seven years later, on Christmas Eve, Fan Scrooge will be haunted by three spirits. Enjoy this classic Dickens tale with a modern twist, brought to the stage at Wilton's Music Hall.
Where: Wiltons Music Hall, Graces Alley, London E1 8JB
When: 29 November - 4 January 2.30pm, 7.30pm
Need to know: Tickets from £12.50
What: This holiday, Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry is wishing the Periodic Table a very happy 150th birthday, where you can find out more about the elements that make up life, the universe and everything. Create gloop in the Slime Factory, design your own imaginary element and find out how chemical reactions inside the Sun power life on Earth.
Where: Museum of Science and Industry, Liverpool Road, Manchester M3 4FP
When: 21 December - 5 January, 11am-4pm. Book Slime Factory at front desk. Science Showdown 12pm, 1pm & 3pm.
Need to know: Free entry, small charge for some activities.
What: Experience Christmas traditions old and new at the Museum of London, where you can visit Santa in his Victorian-inspired grotto before taking part in a variety of festive workshops and activities. Polish up your best worst cracker jokes with comedian Dan de la Motte, listen to some spine-tingling ghost stories (a Victorian Christmas Eve tradition) with the mysterious Governess or even help to create a towering celebratory cake collage!
Where: Museum of London, 150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN
When: Until 4 January, dates and times for activities vary.
Need to know: Grotto ticket £10. Collect ticket for cracker workshop from front desk.
Light and magic
What: Make the most of the winter evenings with an amazing experience of light, colour and sound as the popular Enchanted event returns to Audley End. Step through tunnels and pathways of twinkling light and discover magical secrets hidden around the gardens, including trolls hiding under a bridge, a mysterious talking tree and friendly fairies. This year the house will also be lit up for first time in a colourful display of interactive ‘Morse code’ trees, which you can light up at the touch of a button.
Where: Audley End, Off London Road, Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 4JF
When: Until 30 December, 4.30-9pm
Need to know: Family ticket, £37.60
The magic faraway forest
What: If you're fed up of hibernating at home, celebrate at the Eden Project's winter festival. Listen to festive favourites from the Eden Christmas Orchestra, wander through the spectacular Avenue of Lights and spot giant willow lantern creatures along the way, exchange your unwanted yuletide woollens in the Christmas Jumper Swap Shop or even have a go on the ice rink. Plus, there’s live storytelling and a chance to visit Father Christmas' camp too.
Where: Eden Project, Bodelva, St Austell, Cornwall, PL24 2SG
When: To 30 December, 9.30am-4pm & 9am-8pm on selected nights.
Need to know: Family ticket to the Eden Project costs from £67 online.
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!), you could find yourself your very own dinosaur footprint.
Where: Dinosaur Isle, Culver Parade, Sandown, Isle of Wight, PO36 8QA
When: 2 & 3 January, 10am,
Need to know: Family ticket costs £19.50. Call 01983 404344 to book. Wear waterproof boots, wrap up warm and bring a bucket or strong plastic bag.
What: Explore the magic of starlight this Christmas with a family workshop and puppet show at the Norwich Puppet Theatre. Add your wish to the wishing wall, play with lights and stardust and create your own starry-night scenes before watching their new show, Beastly Belle.
Where: Norwich Puppet Theatre, St James Whitefriars, Norwich, Norfolk NR3 1TN
When: 19-23 December, 11am-2.30pm
Need to know: Each ticket costs £3, book online or call 01603 629 921.
World of wonder
What: Hyde Park's giant celebration of festive fun is back for a 13th year and perfect for getting you in the Christmas mood. Expect Victorian fairground rides, Santa Land and a mega circus, as well as the world’s tallest transportable observation wheel. You can also get up close to Paddington on Ice and enjoy a Christmas Carol theme at the Magical Ice Kingdom – a special ice show complete with Scrooge, ghosts and even a 6ft tall Big Ben.
Where: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London W2
When: Until 5 January, 10am-10pm
Need to know: Admission free. Attraction costs vary.
Mummers the word
What: Come along and catch a special performance of this traditional English seasonal folk play full of colourful characters and comic drama performed by troupes of actors (known as mummers or guisers) and catch Santa in his Victorian parlour.
Where: Haslemere Educational Museum, 78 High Street, Haslemere, Surrey GU27 2LA
When: 21 December, 11am
Need to know: Performance free, Santa visit £5.
What: This festive season you are invited to create your very own Christmas cracker at The Beaney. You can make a party hat, craft a cheesy Christmas joke to go inside and find out more about this fun festive tradition. You can also craft your own origami tree decoration to hang in their current True Meaning of Christmas art exhibition.
Where: The Beaney, 18 High Street, Canterbury, CT1 2RA
When: Until 31 December, 10am-4pm
Need to know: Exhibition free. £2.50 per activity pack.
What: Head to Windsor Castle and explore their grand Christmas displays, including the magnificent centrepiece of a 20-foot-high Christmas tree in St George's Hall, covered in hundreds of iridescent glass and mirrored ornaments. You can also settle down for storytelling in the State Apartments and discover how Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made Windsor Castle the home of Victorian Christmas traditions, before taking part in some festive craft activities.
Where: Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ
When: Each Saturday in December before Christmas, 11am-3.30pm
Need to know: Event free with admission. Family ticket, £57.
What: Feel all warm or fuzzy inside with these family-friendly activities at the Roald Dahl Museum. Build your own fairytale world out of cardboard boxes and craft materials and follow the Fairytale Trail as you go on the hunt for fantastical figures hiding around the galleries. You can even have a go at exploring the museum by torchlight.
Where: The Roald Dahl Museum, 81-83 High Street, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, HP16 0AL
When: Fairyland building, 21 & 22 December, 11am-4.30pm, Torchlit trails 27-31 December, 4pm-5pm, Fairy-tale trail until 7 January, 11am-4.30pm.
Need to know: Events free with admission. Family ticket £22.60. Book online or call 01494 892192.
What: Enjoy some Christmas lights with a difference down in Cornwall this year. First started in 1963 by Mousehole-based artist, Joan Gillchrest, the town uses more than 10,000 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 stargazey pie – made famous in Antonia Barber's classic children's book ‘The Mousehole Cat’.
Where: Mousehole Christmas Lights, Mounts Bay, Cornwall, Penzance TR19 6PG
When: 14 December - 4 January, 5-11pm
Need to know: Event is free.
What: Get your creative juices flowing with creative workshops at the Hepworth Wakefield. Taking inspiration from the gallery’s artworks, including the exhibition Alan Davie & David Hockney: Early Works, you can make a block printed Christmas decoration to take home, create an abstract artwork using layering, collage and other painting techniques, and use your whole body to make giant shapes to transform into sculptures and drawings.
Where: The Hepworth Wakefield, Gallery Walk, Wakefield, West Yorkshire WF1 5AW
When: 22, 24, 29, 31 December, 1, 2, 5 January, 11am-4pm (11am-2pm on Christmas Eve).
Need to know: Free
What: Meet Father Christmas and follow the magical tale of Archie and the Unicorn, which unfolds in beautiful displays as you walk through these 4,500-year-old caves in the Forest of Dean. Mined for iron ore, there's a maze of underground tunnels and caverns of twinkling lights, which hide (apart from Santa and his elves) waterfalls, lakes, Christmas gift stalls and even an underground café.
Where: Clearwell Caves, The Rocks, Nr Coleford, Royal Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire GL16 8JR
When: 29 November - 23 December, 10am-5pm
Need to know: Tickets £14 per person and present from Santa for each child. Booking online in advance, and wear flat-soled footwear with a reasonable grip.
What: Get into the festive spirit at Stockeld Park. Explore the Enchanted Forest and meet Russell the talking tree, have a go on the giant teapot slide, visit Santa in his grotto and take part in an elf-themed workshop. As dusk falls, thousands of twinkling lights accompanied by a captivating soundscape and animated images will illuminate the park and an 8ft high snowflake shaped yew tree maze, the largest in Yorkshire. Tucked away in the two miles of paths you can discover a castle viewing tower, musical instruments, mysterious sounds and a silver globe.
Where: Stockeld Park, Wetherby, Yorkshire LS22 4AW
When: Until 6 January, 10.30am-8.30pm
Need to know: Tickets to maze and forest cost £9-£16 per person, depending on the date. Grotto tickets, £8.50 per person, Elf workshop, £12 per person.
What: Experience the new exhibition Shapeshift at Eureka! – it's a new digital exhibition that reacts to every move you make. Draw on a tablet and see your creation brought to life, make digital butterflies flutter from floor to ceiling, use giant touchscreens to interact with multi-coloured shapes and sounds, and watch thousands of tiny particles respond as you jump, dance and move. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more Christmassy, watch the new live show ‘Snow Day’ where Jack Frost helps a child to discover the magic of winter.
Where: Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, Discovery Road, Halifax HX1 2NE
When: Until 3 September 2020, 10am-5pm. ‘Snow Day’, 19-23 December and 27 December - 5 January.
Need to know: Tickets £13.95 per person.
What: Get out your fancy dress, dig out your trombone and help scare away evil spirits in Cornwall. Come along to this mini-pagan festival and frighten away the spooks in the orchard to ensure a successful crop in 2020. You can also check out the amazing 60-foot garland made from 32,000 flowers grown on the estate.
Where: Cotehele, St Dominick, near Saltash, Cornwall, PL12 6TA
When: 21 December, 11.30am-12pm. Garland on display until 5 Jan.
Need to know: Event free with admission. Wear fancy dress and bring a musical instrument (although an old pot and wooden spoon works too). Family ticket, £22. Car parking £3
Festive fairy folk
What: Follow the path deeper into the Winter Wood – a land of myth, legend and festive magic – as Old Man Winter’s world of stories, faeries and winter wonders comes to life in this half theatrical festive adventure, half woodland walk which also includes live music, hot chocolate, face painting and decoration making!
Where: Winter Woods, Tehidy Woods, North Cliffs Entrance, Near Portreath, Cornwall TR14 0HA
When: 19-30 December (excluding Christmas Day), 1pm, 4pm and 6.30pm. Running time approx. 2 hours.
Need to know: Tickets £6.50 per person on 18 December, all other dates £9.50 per person, includes a hot chocolate or spiced apple drink. Bring a torch, a warm coat and wellies.
What: Want to see a Christmas show with a difference? Then take to the water with a double bill featuring the classic tale The Three Little Pigs and Captain Grimey, where Golden Dolphin helps the dirtiest one-legged sea captain in the world to become Captain Shiney. Both shows are performed by hand-carved marionettes in this 55-seat theatre set on a canal barge.
Where: Puppet Theatre Barge, Little Venice, Blomfield Road, London W9 2PF
When: 14 December - 6 January, 11am or 3pm
Need to know: Adults £13, children £9.
What: Enjoy a traditional Christmas story with a radical remix down in Bristol, and prepare for the wonkiest Noisy Nativity ever! Kid Carpet is putting on the local Christmas Nativity show, but no one has turned up to audition. Never fear, for the Noisy Animals are next door at band practice and say they can help. What could possibly go wrong? Complete with big beat songs, live special effects, puppetry and animation, this is a ridiculous Christmas journey of silliness and mischief for the whole family.
Where: Tobacco Family Theatres, Raleigh Road, Southville, Bristol BS3 1TF
When: Until 5 January, times vary.
Need to know: Tickets from £9.
What: Celebrate the festive season at the Corinium Museum in Gloucestershire. You can listen to a story with Santa, follow the Christmas jumper trail or take part in one of their cool crafty workshops to make a snowflake mosaic or a set of Roman armour and weapons.
Where: Corinium Museum, Park Street, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 2BX
When: Until 3 January, dates and times vary.
Need to know: Workshops £8.25 per child. Storytelling costs £5 per child (includes gift) and £3 per adult. Booking online is essential
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 Christmas games, discover 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 Christmases 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: Until 24 December, 10am–4pm
Need to know: A child ticket costs £17.95, adult £9.50.
Art of glass
What: Get creative with these unique glass workshops in Sunderland and get in the festive spirit with four exciting art activities taking place in one day. Paint a glass decoration, decorate a felt Christmas tree, paint a plate for Santa and create a fantastic Christmas card for your loved ones!
Where: National Glass Centre, Liberty Way, Sunderland, SR6 0GL
When: 21-22 December, 10am-4pm
Need to know: £10 for all four activities. Drop-in.
What: Visit Henry VIII's magnificent Tudor palace at Hampton Court and celebrate Christmas traditions past and present. Discover the Tudor and baroque palace of Henry VIII, William III and Mary I decorated in Yuletide cheer, see the lost dress of Elizabeth I and experience the magnificent building through the eyes of its Elizabethan residents. You can also try and make your own Elizabethan Christmas decoration, or join in with a team of history cooks as they re-create delicious festive treats for Elizabeth I’s royal court.
Where: Hampton Court Palace, Surrey KT8 9AU
When: 1 December - 5 January 2018, 10am-4pm
Need to know: Free with admission. A family ticket costs from £53.10 online.
Dashing through the snow…
What: Father Christmas’ reindeer have escaped and are hiding all around RSPB Dungeness... follow the nature trail and see if you can find them all before Santa gets in trouble with the elves! Pick up an activity sheet, wrap up warm and head round the reserve spotting amazing winter wildlife as you go. Plus – if you manage to spot all nine – there’s a prize for you waiting at the visitor centre.
Where: RSPB Dungeness, Boulderwall Farm, Dungeness Road, Lydd, Kent, TN29 9PN
When: 14 December - 5 January, 10am-3pm
Need to know: Trail sheet £1 per child. Entry fee, £5 for adults and £2.50 for children.
Let’s do the Twist
What: Take a trip back in time at York Castle Museum and experience a Dickensian Christmas as the museum’s Victorian street comes to life with Oliver Twist characters who will be tricking visitors and gossiping throughout the day. You can also visit authentic Victorian shops and watch a festive performance of Punch and Judy, or maybe even bump into Santa…
Where: York Castle Museum, Castle Area, Eye of York, York YO1 9RY
When: 21, 22, 23 & 24 December, 9.30am-5pm
Need to know: Free with admission. Adults from £10.90, children £4.
What: Put your lab coat on and come to The Civic, Barnsley for a magical performance guaranteed to leave you full of festive cheer. Follow the festive adventures of three Santa super-fans who have formed the Secret Society of Santa Hunters (SSSH!) as they attempt to track Father Christmas’ movements using a range of daft and entertaining scientific experiments in this fun-filled adventure which captures the excitement of every child on Christmas Eve.
Where: The Civic, Hanson Street, Barnsley, S70 2HZ
When: 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 December, various times.
Need to know: Family ticket £36.
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 new interactive light features and a giant mirror ball bringing new light to the artworks.
Where: RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington, Devon EX38 8PH
When: 15 December - 5 January, 10am-8.30pm
Need to know: Event free with admission. Family ticket from £28.
What: Go time-travelling this festive season and enjoy a real Victorian Christmas at Beaulieu. You can take part in a panto rehearsal in the parlour, join in with a carol around the grand piano, find out how festive food was prepared in the Victorian Kitchen, dress up in period costume for a selfie opportunity and see if you can find all of the Christmas mice hiding around the house.
Where: Beaulieu, New Forest, Hampshire SO42 7ZN
When: 21 December - 1 January, 10am-5pm.
Need to know: Event free with admission. Family ticket from £49 online.
What: Psst! Do you believe? This winter pop on your pyjamas and head to Seven Stories for a magical journey bringing the classic Christmas story The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg to life. Grab your golden ticket at arrivals, climb on board the imagination train and enjoy an interactive telling of this beautiful tale. Snuggle with a warm drink and tasty treat, then create a clever festive cardboard craft to take home to decorate your tree.
Where: Seven Stories, National Centre for Children’s Books, 30 Lime Street, Ouseburn, Newcastle, NE6 5AD
When: 22-23 December, 10am, 12pm, 1:30pm and 3pm. Workshop lasts approx. 60 mins.
Need to know: £9.50 per person, includes a hot chocolate/warm milk and sweet treat.
Do you want to hear The Snowman?
What: Experience the timeless classic, The Snowman, accompanied by an enchanting live orchestra this Christmas. Immerse yourself in this heart-warming tale and enjoy the film’s wonderful score performed by musicians from the UK’s top orchestras. Each performance opens with a Christmas Medley and fun introduction to the orchestra, followed by one of three films, with orchestral accompaniment; A Donkey’s Tale, The Bear and the Piano, or The Nutcracker Suite.
Where: Derby, Chesterfield, Salisbury, Coventry, Buxton, Beverley, Winchester, Bradford, Chester, Manchester, Gateshead, Croydon, Lichfield, Liverpool, Ely
When: 2-30 December
Need to know: Tickets from £9.12.
No place like gnome
What: Make a festive forest fellow, frosty fairy or tiny Tompten (a festive Nordic gnome) at this Christmas ‘Think and Make’ family workshop, led by artist Lucy Grant.
Where: Cornubian Arts & Science Trust, 3 Penrose Road, Helston, Cornwall TR13 8TP
When: 21 December, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Free, drop-in
What: Get ready to ‘Rock Around the Clock’ as a dazzling cast of actor-musicians take to the stage performing a classic farytale, alongside iconic rock, pop and soul classics. Immerse yourself in the story of Cinderella and Buttons, as the Mayor (Cinderella’s father) has his lonely-hearts ad answered by Rubella De Zees, with her two dangerous daughters – Hernia and Verruca – in tow. With a Fairy Godmother on-side, ‘I Gotta Feeling’ Cinderella may live happily ever after.
Where: artsdepot, 5 Nether St, Tally Ho Corner, London, N12 0GA
When: Until 5 January, times vary.
Need to know: Tickets from £18 per person.
What: Visit Shakespeare's Birthplace this December and discover how the Tudors would have celebrated Christmas when Shakespeare was a boy. Did you know that Tudor houses were decorated with flower garlands to symbolise the downing of tools? Or that the decorations only went up on Christmas Eve after 40 days of fasting and prayer? Afterwards, you can find out about the tradition of ‘wassailing’ (a precursor to carolling) and have a free taste of the House Steward’s delicious wassail, a spiced (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) drink.
Where: The Shakespeare Birthplace, The Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6QW
When: Until 5 January, 10am-4pm
Need to know: Events free with admission. Family ticket from £46.50 online.
What: Coventry Transport Museum invites you to stay and play amid the museum collections and see if you can create the biggest marble run ever using different materials. Will you be able to build a giant one running through the middle of the museum’s collection?
Where: Coventry Transport Museum, Millennium Place, Hales St, Coventry CV1 1JD
When: 18 December, 8 January, 10.30am-11.30am and 1pm-2pm
Need to know: Drop in, £2 per child (Cash only). Museum admission, £35 for a family ticket.
What: Get set to make and do at the V&A Museum of Childhood with a range of free, festive creative activities, pop-up performances and a massive Christmas tree hanging from the ceiling. You can make your own decorations, discover how the Victorians invented Christmas and enjoy an interactive storytelling session too.
Where: V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road London E2 9PA
When: 20 December - 5 January, 11am-4pm
Need to know: Free, drop in.
The Empire strikes brick
What: Escape the Sith by inventing a brand-new starfighter at this one-day workshop of visual arts, crafts, story making and 3D building with Lego. Working together you will build a droid, a new resistance planet and a speeder to outpace the Death Star’s lasers. You will use imagery to design your own Star Wars character and then create an illustrated profile with the character’s home planet and individual spaceship.
Where: MAC Birmingham, Cannon Hill Road, Birmingham B12 9QH
When: 3 January, 10am-3pm
Need to know: £27.50 per child, includes mini figure and micro fighter to take home.
What: Get creative with cartoons in this fun family workshop in Greenwich. Re-create your own adventures onboard the famous Cutty Sark or invent a new one using simple storyboard techniques.
Where: Cutty Sark, King William Walk, Greenwich, London, SE10 9HT
When: 28-29 December, 11.30am-1.30pm & 2-4pm
Need to know: Free with admission. Adult ticket, £13.50, child £6.75.
Touch of frost
What: Let your imagination transport you back in time to London's famous Frost Fairs with this wintry weekend festival at the Museum of London Docklands. Enjoy interactive games, performances and seasonal storytelling and be inspired by the history of winter celebration with your own arts and crafts.
Where: Museum of London Docklands, No1 Warehouse, West India Quay, London E14 4AL
When: 21-22 December, 12pm
Need to know: Admission and workshop free.
What: Celebrate the New Year at Coventry’s The Herbert by creating stunning winter wonder window scenes using contact paper and tissue paper and adding finishing touches using black card to create beautiful silhouette imagery. The finished scenes can be hung on your windows at home to allow the natural light to shine through.
Where: The Herbert, Jordan Well, Coventry CV1 5QP
When: 2-4 January, 10.30am-3.30pm
Need to know: Workshop £2.50. Drop in.
Lost and found
What: Let your imagination fly at Hull Truck Theatre this Christmas! Join Wendy and Peter Pan for a magical family adventure in Neverland. One night, bedtime stories come alive for the Darling children when Peter Pan and fairy Tinker Bell guide them through the stars to a land of Lost Boys, Pirates and Mermaids. Can they save Tiger Lily from the pirates? Will the fearsome Captain Hook finally have his revenge on Peter Pan, or will the ticking crocodile catch him first?
Where: Hull Truck Theatre, 50 Ferensway, Hull HU2 8LB
When: Until 4 January, times vary.
Need to know: Tickets from £10. Call 01482 323638 to book.
Walking in a winter wonderland
What: Warm your cockles this Christmas at London Southbank's magical Winter when it transforms its 17-acre site into a fully festive landscape. Two family shows are at the heart of this year’s programme – the award-winning puppeteers from War Horse returning with Circus 1903, complete with new acts including the Brazilian Wheel of Death, and a five-star retelling of Black Beauty, blending storytelling, music and puppetry in Anna Sewell’s classic tale. Sensory play installation and family favourite Soundpit is back too.
Where: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX
When: 8 November - 26 January, times vary.
Need to know: Free admission. Prices of shows vary, many events are free.
What: Get making and doing with these fun workshops in Gloucester and craft your own snowflake candle holder or fireworks salt painting. You can also try making pictures from recycled materials or creating nature mosaics using a range of crafting materials.
Where: Nature in Art, Wallsworth Hall, A38, Twigworth, Gloucester, GL2 9PA
When: 31 December, 1-3 January, 10.30am-4.30pm
Need to know: £6 per child, accompanying adult free. Call 01452 731422 to book.
Rebels with a cause
What: Break free with this family-friendly exhibition at the British Library, bringing together young rebels from across children’s literature. See how characters from Pippi Longstocking to Princess Pearl break rules and defy conventions to make the world a better place for others. Roald Dahl’s handwritten drafts of Matilda sit alongside Quentin Blake’s iconic illustrations, as well as other enduring classics from The Secret Garden to Where the Wild Things Are. Start your own adventure too – dress up as a determined rebel, create your own comic, or take time out in the special rebel reading area.
Where: British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
When: Until 1 March, 9.30am-6pm (not Tues or Weds in school term times)
Need to know: Free event.
What: See if you can track down Santa's socks at Chobham’s The Lightbox. You can also create a party countdown clock from recycled Christmas cards for New Year's Eve or your own adorable baby snowy owl – it’s a hoot!
Where: The Lightbox, Chobham Road, Woking, Surrey, GU21 4AA
When: 21, 27 28 December & 3 January, 1.30-4pm
Need to know: Free entry, suggested donation £3
What: Take a trip to Temple Newsam Estate in Yorkshire for some tradition festive fun. Help Arthur the elf track down his presents, make a funky elf stick in the Great Hall and cuddle up to some snuggly elves in the Christmas book corner of the Library. There’s bauble embroidery in the Chinese Room, linen napkin folding and dressing-up in the Picture Gallery too! Over at Home Farm you can get to see your favourite farmyard friends bedding down for winter, discover the living nativity and have a go at some clay tile crafting.
What: Temple Newsam House and Estate, Newsam Road, Off Selby Rd, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS15 0AE
When: 21-22 December, 10am-4pm
Need to know: Free with admission. Family ticket costs £9.90.
Rock around the dock
What: Take a guided tour of Liverpool’s historic Old Dock and discover how a brave idea and an innovative feat of engineering shaped Liverpool’s destiny forever. Built in 1715 by the canal engineer Thomas Steers, this revolutionary facility allowed ships to load and unload regardless of the tide, paving the way for dock expansion which caused London, Bristol and Chester to lose large amounts of trade throughout the 18th century. After lying buried for years, the dock was discovered during excavations in 2001 and is now open for visitors.
Where: Merseyside Maritime Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool L3 4AQ
When: Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday at 10.30am, 12pm & 2.30pm. Each tour lasts an hour.
Need to know: Tickets, £6.50 for adults, £2 children 6-17, ages 5 and under free.
What: Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Judith Kerr’s iconic picture book, The Tiger Who came to Tea, with this exhibition touring National Trust sites until 2020. This winter, it comes to Knole’s Orangery where you can delve into the dressing-up chest, enjoy interactive play with a life-size tiger, have fun making 'tea' in the play kitchen or have a go at some tiger puzzles and colouring-in games. You can also follow the parkland trail where you read the story as you follow the wooden deer around the park (there’s a stripy feline prize if you complete it!).
Where: Knole, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN15 0RP
When: Open every day (except Christmas Day) 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Family ticket from £16.25. Parkland trail, £5 per child.
All hands on deck!
What: Attention all crew members! It’s 1944 and as the most important day of the war so far is looming, you are needed as the latest naval recruits. As a team, use your Kit Bag to find hidden messages, predict the weather for sailing, find out about ship life and crack Morse code while you learn about the biggest invasion in history in an interactive storytelling experience based on personal stories from those who served on D-Day.
When: 27 December, 31 December - 3 January, 10am-2pm. Drop-in.
Where: HMS Belfast, The Queen's Walk, London, SE1 2JH
Need to know: Included with admission, family ticket, £41.40
What: Opened in November this year, Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries at the Science Museum in London showcase over 3,000 extraordinary medical artefacts including the world’s first MRI scanner, a pianist’s prosthetic arm, Alexander Fleming’s penicillin mould and state-of-the-art robotic surgery equipment alongside interactive displays, films and audio recordings that explore our relationship with medicine and health through more than 500 years of history.
Where: Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD
When: Open daily, 10am-6pm
Need to know: Free entry.
For every body
What: It’s Christmas with a difference at BODY WORLDS London, as the UK’s top anatomy museum delivers a top-notch programme of unusual festive activities. Using real bodies and interactive displays, the museum is divided up into different sections such as the cardiovascular, respiratory and reproductive systems, to show how your body really works and exactly what those festive treats can do to it! Take a Junior Doctor tour and don your white lab coat and stethoscope and explore the museum with a real-life medical professional who can answer all your anatomical questions, however weird and wacky.
Where: Body Worlds, 1 Piccadilly Circus, London W1J 0DA
When: Open 365 days a year, 10am-7pm.
Need to know: Adult £22.50, children (6-15) £16, under 5s are free. Junior Doctor tour, £25 per child (6+), who must enter the exhibition with a paying adult.
Down the rabbit hole
What: Step into a curious world of topsy-turvy delights at Marwell Zoo. Enter Wonderland, where you can join Mother Christmas for some curious storytelling at the Tea Party, make a magical elf door and follow the Cheshire cat trail. Or be welcomed by the Mad Hatter before enjoying a Wonderland train ride up to Marwell Hall and having fun in the garden game area.
Where: Marwell Zoo, Thompson' Lane, Colden Common, Winchester SO21 1JH
When: Until 24 December, 10am-2.45pm and 4-6.15pm.
Need to know: Adults £25.50, children £29. Morning/afternoon session tickets include admission to Marwell Zoo, evening sessions do not.
What: RAF Museum London is set to be the first UK venue to host the touring MathsAlive! exhibition, an interactive experience featuring over 18 immersive exhibits specifically designed for ages 7+, who can ride in a live-action snowboard race, control a Mars Rover or fend off cyber invaders from inside a computer game while learning about the influence that maths has on music, sports, movies, games and more.
Where: RAF Museum London, Grahame Park Way, London, NW9 5LL
When: Until 15 March 2020, 10am-4.30pm during weekends and school holidays.
Need to know: Adults £7, children £5. Advance booking recommended.
What: A new adaption of the David Walliams story, The Slightly Annoying Elephant by Angel Theatre is a hilarious and light-hearted tale brought to life through puppetry. One day Sam gets a very big surprise as a tired, hungry, antique-loving, cycling enthusiast pachyderm turns up on his doorstep- Adopting an elephant at the zoo turned out to be a lot more than he bargained for.
Where: 15-23 & 27-29 December, times vary.
When: HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester, M15 4FN
Need to know: Adults £11, children £7.50.
What: Get ready to scramble at IWM Duxford’s Flight Academy and earn your wings this Christmas. Dressed up in a flight jacket and goggles like a real pilot, you’ll receive a unique ‘call sign', logbook and pedometer to track your progress across the site as you experience new pilot reflex challenges and games. You can also design a perfect paper plane and parachute and learn the principles of flight while putting their creations to the test.
Where: IWM Duxford, Duxford, Cambridge CB22 4QR
When: 23, 30 December & 1 January, 11am–3pm
Need to know: Free (included in price of admission), drop-in. Family ticket, £31.50 online.
Getting bricky with it
What: The Art of the Brick, a globally renowned touring exhibition, is coming to Manchester this winter. Featuring just under 100 pieces of art, the exhibition by award-winning artist Nathan Sawaya showcases stunning sculptures made up of more than a million iconic LEGO bricks including My Boy, Dinosaur and captivating recreations of iconic art, including the Mona Lisa.
Where: The Art of the Brick, Unit 5 Great Northern Warehouse, 235 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 4EN
When: Until April 2020, 10am-6pm
Need to know: Family ticket from £42.
What: Experience the magical spectacle of over 100 glittering trees and illuminations as part of Bournemouth’s annual festive 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 walk through bauble, a giant seven-metre golden reindeer and an icicle-filled walk watched over by Narnia-esque Polar Bears.
Where: In and around Bournemouth town centre
When: Until 2 January
Need to know: Free.
Let there be lights!
What: Take a festive light tour through the gardens and fort of Vindolanda, a former Roman fort to the south of Hadrian’s Wall. Stopping at some of Vindolanda's most iconic spots for photos and learning about life on the frontier, you’ll take in highlights including the fireball and temple in the gardens, the replica sections of Hadrian's Wall and the aqueduct.
Where: Vindolanda, Chesterholm Museum, Bardon Mill, Hexham, NE47 7JN
When: 22 December, 3.30-4.15pm
Need to know: Free with admission. Family ticket £21.60. Wear warm clothing!
What: Do you remember when you played with a bucket and spade at the seaside? Well it’s the same but… with snow at the Alnwick Garden this holiday. Their Winter Playground is covered with fresh snow and you can play, build snowmen and make snowballs. Or have a go at driving an inflatable boat on land with their Winter Bumpers, fun, bumpy, inflatable land boats that collide and bounce on the ice – fun for everyone!
Where: The Alnwick Garden, The Gardeners Cottage, Greenwell Road, Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 1HB
When: Until 6 January, times vary
Need to know: Admission to gardens costs from £22.72 for a family ticket. Winter playground and bumpers cost £3 per person. Wear warm clothes.
Fun and games
What: Work off all those Christmas chocs as you jump, run and skip into the New Year with fun filled field games at the London’s Greenwich Park. Expect rocket relays, space hopper races, secret agent sleuthing, orienteering and more.
Where: Greenwich Park, Greenwich, London SE10 8QY
When: 4 January, 10am-12pm
Need to know: Free, drop in.
What: Crikey! Famous for TV programmes such as Count Duckula, Wind in the Willows and of course the ever-perennial Danger Mouse, Cosgrove Hall Films Archive takes you right back to the basics of animation detailing the processes behind some of the best loved children’s animation with this exhibition at Manchester’s Waterside. The exhibition will break down the most complex Cosgrove Hall series, such as The Wind in the Willows, looking at the finer details of production, with original puppets, costumes, production material and inside stories.
Where: Waterside, 1 Waterside Plaza, Sale, Trafford, M33 7ZF, UK
When: Until 4 January
Need to know: Free entry
What: Avast ye! It’s your last chance to catch the Horrible Histories Pirates: The Exhibition at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Follow a bossy pirate parrot and his ratty shipmate on a hilarious journey as you discover wicked weapons, terrible tactics and prisoner punishment used by Blackbeard himself. Discover the patter of pirate talk and learn the lingo, decide your fate on the wheel of misfortune and get to grips with the rules of the pirate code – otherwise you might be taking a trip to Davey Jones’ Locker. Grab your grog and sing along in the Pirate Tavern, design your own pirate flag and battle it out with different weapons including cutlasses and cannons.
Where: HMS M.33, National Museum of the Royal Navy, Visitor Centre, Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ
When: Until 31 December, 10.30am-5pm
Need to know: Family ticket costs from £48.
What: Put the ‘wonder’ into winter wonderland this Christmas with science-themed festive fun at Newcastle’s Life Science Centre. Investigate fake snow and write a letter to Santa using homemade ink, explore the winter night sky in the planetarium or read Christmas messages from astronauts in the new Space zone. You can also get stuck into making 3D Christmas decorations to take home, or code your own Christmas tree light patterns.
Where: Life Science Centre, Times Square, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4EP
When: Until 5 January, 10am-6pm
Need to know: Free with admission. Family ticket costs £31.
What: It's getting cold outside, so warm up with a hot drink while you explore the Natural History Museum. View this year’s line-up of award-winning nature photography for Wildlife Photographer of the Year, or embark on a journey around Earth as seen by astronauts on board the International Space Station in a real-time orbit based on photography sourced from the NASA archives, before taking to the ice rink and skating the night away under glowing frosty trees.
Where: Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD
When: Until 7 January, 10am-5.50pm. Closed 24-26 December.
Need to know: Entry to museum free. Family tickets for Wildlife Photographer of the Year from £33.50 and ice-skating from £39.50.
What: This December set sail and see if you can find some special visitors at the National Waterways Museum. After exploring the museum, follow the Christmas tree trail and take part in Victorian crafts, before Santa and his friends invite you aboard the Sabrina 5 barge where you can hear a festive story told by the man in red before receiving a gift!
Where: National Waterways Museum Gloucester, Llanthony Warehouse, Gloucester Docks, Gloucester GL1 2EH
When: 22 & 23 December, 11am, 1.30pm & 2.30pm, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Tickets cost £10 for one adult and one child, includes present from Santa.
Christmas holidays 2019 family activities in Wales
What: Frolic in a festive forest filled with trees of all shapes and sizes at Erddig, in a celebration of the estate’s past and present. Admire the miniature forests consisting of intricate paper crafts inspired by the artwork of Betty Ratcliffe, a former servant, and gingerbread trees made using a historic recipe, before heading outside to explore the Christmas tree trail. There’s also a crafty workshop where you can design your own Christmas centrepiece using plants from the gardens and visit Father Christmas in the reverse grotto (where you bring along a donation for the local food bank) as well.
Where: Erddig, Wrexham, LL13 0YT
When: 30 November - 5 January, 11am-4pm.
Need to know: Family ticket from £16.85. Events free with admission except workshop (£3 per item).
What: Come to Caerphilly for the River of Light Parade, a fabulous festive 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 through the town. Bring your lantern along and take part!
Where: Parade starts at Caerphilly Train & Bus Station Park & Ride (86 Bartlett St, Caerphilly CF83 1JU) then flows through the town to the rear of Caerphilly Castle (Crescent Road)
When: Thu 19 December, starting at 6.30pm.
Need to know: Free event.
It’s all mine!
What: Get onboard for Santa’s Toy Mine as it returns to the Welsh Mining Experience in Rhondda Heritage Park. Take a magical journey through the toy mine, sweet mine and ice cave before ending up at Santa’s front door and receiving a gift from the man himself! There’s also Christmas craft, chocolate and teddy bear making workshops to enjoy too.
Where: The Welsh Mining Experience, Rhondda Heritage Park, Lewis Merthyr Colliery, Coed Cae Rd, Trehafod, CF37 2NP
When: Until 24 December, times vary. Arrive 20 minutes before your allocated time.
Need to know: Tickets £10 per person, including gift, hot drink and mince pie for the adults. All workshops extra (£5 for craft, £7.50 for chocolate making).
What: Get set for Santa’s Magic Steaming at Wales’ historic Gwili Railway. Climb aboard the steam train and ride the rails from Bronwydd Arms Station to Santa’s Grotto at Llwyfan Cerrig Station where you can enjoy refreshments and entertainment in the snowman-themed (as well as heated) marquee before visiting Santa and getting a goody bag to take home.
Where: Gwili Railway, Bronwydd Arms Station, Bronwydd Arms, Carmarthenshire, SA33 6HT.
When: 14, 15, 21, 22 & 23 December, 10am-3.15pm
Need to know: Tickets £14.50 adult, £11.50 child. Babies under 12 months are £8.
What: Find out more about Britain’s garden birds, learn how to help them during the harsh winter months and make a nest box to give a Christmas robin a home for its chicks come spring, or wrap it up for the perfect present.
Where: Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire,
When: 15 & 22 December, 11am-12pm & 1pm-4pm
Need to know: Admission £8.81 adult, £5.54 child. £10 per birdbox.
What: Take a journey to the North Pole to explore the geography, weather and wildlife of this icy land in a brand-new immersive dome experience at Techniquest. You can also take part in the great sleigh adventure and help find pieces of Santa’s sleigh scattered across the museum. Defeat the towering snowmen, decipher secret blueprints and solve cryptic clues to fix the sleigh before Christmas comes around.
Where: Techniquest, Stuart Street, Cardiff, CF10 5BW
When: 21-23 December, 10am-4pm
Need to know: Family admission, £28. Arctic wonder, £1.50, sleigh adventure, £3.50.
What: Catch a classic ballet at Christmas in Cardiff with not one but three classic choices from Coppelia, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. Performed over 11 nights by the Russian State Ballet of Siberia, the shows feature breath-taking performances and dazzling costumes.
Where: St David's Hall, 9-11 The Hayes, Cardiff CF10 1AH
When: 19-20 December, Coppelia, 21-24 December, Nutcracker, 27-31 December, Swan Lake.
Need to know: Tickets from £9.25 child, £18.50 adult.
What: Make a cool pop-up book calendar for the New Year, follow the cheeky elf trail and check out the free cartoon exhibition and amazing artworks produced by Welsh Company, Cartŵn Cymru.
Where: National Waterfront Museum, Oystermouth Road, Maritime Quarter, Swansea SA1 3RD
When: 27-31 December, 2-5 January, 10am-5pm. Workshops 12.30-3.30pm.
Need to know: Free. Drop-in.
Christmas holidays 2019 family activities in Northern Ireland
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's Child before hunting through the forest to find all the characters. Then have a go at making Christmassy art and receive your official 'I have met the Gruffalo' certificate and sticker before meeting Santa, who’ll give you a gift.
Where: Colin Glen Forest Park, 163 Stewartstown Road, Belfast BT17 0HW
When: Weekends until 22 December, 12pm & 2pm on Saturday, 10am, 12pm and 2pm on Sunday.
Need to know: £10 per child (includes present).
What: Leave the hustle and bustle of the high street and step back in time to Ballycultra to experience Christmas as it was celebrated 100 years ago. Stroll down cobbled streets, past candle-lit houses covered in traditional decorations and take in the smells of peat fires, baking and spices. Sample some festive treats or have a go at making an orange pomander or Christmas cornucopia and weaving a willow star.
Where: Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, 153 Bangor Road, Cultra, Holywood, BT18 0EU
When: Until 20 December, 10am-4pm weekdays, 11am-4pm and 6pm-9pm Fridays, 11am-4pm weekends. Museum closed Mon.
Need to know: Included in general admission, family ticket £29.
What: There’s fun for everyone at the Titanic Experience, as Santa and his elves count down to their favourite night of the year. After a journey through the Enchanted Forest, you can make a wish at the Magical Wishing Tree before stepping through the Old Curiosity Shop and entering the Elves’ Workshop, where you can visit Mrs Claus in her cosy kitchen and listen to festive tales, post your letter to Santa and take part in traditional Christmas activities before getting your name checked off the ‘naughty or nice’ list by the Chief Elf and visiting Santa.
Where: Titanic Belfast, 1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast BT3 9EP
When: Until 23 December, 10am-7.30pm
Need to know: Tickets £16 child, adults £5. Child ticket includes present, candy cane and photo with Santa, along with a free child ticket to the Titanic Experience.
What: Enjoy a magical adventure at Castle Espie Wetland Centre, where there are Christmas crafts and treats galore on offer. Make a decoration to hang on your tree, enjoy storytelling and toasted marshmallows in the Crannog, find the reindeer hiding around the reserve or post a letter directly to Santa using the magic post box before helping the elves get ready for the big day in their workshop.
Where: Castle Espie Wetland Centre, 78 Ballydrain Road, Comber, Co Down, NI, BT23 6EA
When: Santa activities weekends until 23 December, 10am-4.30am. Reindeer trail all December.
Need to know: Booking essential: Children £14.50 (includes gift), adults £8. Santa event tickets include admission
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: 13 Dec-2 January, 2pm, 5pm and 6pm
Need to know: Family ticket costs £35.
What: Feel the magic of Christmas come to life at W5 in Belfast. Walk down the narrow laneway of ‘Santa Street’ and discover a series of seasonal window displays accompanied by twinkling lights, Christmas characters and festive scents, before peeking into Santa’s workshop and watching the elves getting ready for the big day! You can also try out some Christmas chromatography or make a Santa Circuit, and take a journey to the nether world of low temperature in a live science show.
Where: W5, 2 Queens Quay, Belfast BT3 9QQ
When: 10am-6pm, Santa Street open until 23 December, other winter activities until 5 January.
Need to know: Included with admission, Family ticket £39 online.
Christmas holidays 2019 family activities in Scotland
Prehistoric festival of light
What: Get ready to explore a lost world this Christmas as The Giant Lanterns of China returns to Edinburgh Zoo. You’ll be transported back to a time where roar-some, weird and wonderful creatures roamed the Earth with over 600 new and beautifully crafted lanterns inspired by prehistoric creatures, from life’s very origin as an array of tiny microbes to the dinosaurs and other giants of the animal kingdom. Highlights include a mighty T-Rex, a gigantic 62-foot long snake and a 23-foot high ‘active volcano!”
Where: Edinburgh Zoo, 134 Corstorphine Rd, Edinburgh EH12 6
When: Weekends (Fri-Sun) until 26 Jan, 4.45-9pm
Need to know: Adult ticket from £18, child ticket £9.50 online for peak times, off-peak prices (£1 less) apply on 4, 5, 9, 11, 12, 18 and 19 December.
What: Take a hill walk in the Highlands and meet Britain's only free-range reindeer herd. Hand-feed and pet the magnificent animals then head back down the mountain to the paddocks, where you can explore Santa’s Bothy and the Elves’ House to complete a Christmas quiz or have a go at some festive crafting activities.
Where: Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, Glenmore, Aviemore, Inverness-shire, PH22 1QU
When: Until 7 January, 10am-5pm, hill visits depart at 11am
Need to know: Hill visit costs £16 adults, £10 children. Paddock visits cost £3.50 adults, £2.50 children, except on weekends leading up to Xmas (£4 per person). Weather permitting.
What: Edinburgh folklore tells us that when Charles Dickens was visiting the city on a reading tour, a stroll through a kirkyard brought him to the tombstone of one Ebeneezer Scroggie and A Christmas Carol was born. This Christmas, the Royal Lyceum Theatre brings the famous festive story back to the city of its birth with a Scottish twist, and plenty of festive cheer, including a guest appearance from Edinburgh’s best-loved Victorian – Greyfriars Bobby!
Where: Royal Lyecum Theatre Edinburgh, 30b Grindlay St, Edinburgh, EH3 9AX.
When: 29 November - 4 January, times vary.
Need to know: Adult tickets from £18 and child tickets from £10.
What: Follow the mischievous Pinocchio on his journey from wooden puppet to real boy this Christmas, with a new show from Citizens Theatre Glasgow full of magic and adventure! As he travels from the cobbled streets of his home town to the tempting lights of Playland, via the dangers of the dark woods and the belly of a giant whale, Pinocchio learns the importance of telling the truth and discovers what it means to be truly human.
Where: Citizens' Theatre, 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow G41 2PE
When: Until 4 January, times vary.
Need to know: Adults £15, children, £9.
Water way to travel
What: Santa will be making waves this December at The Falkirk Wheel – so get on board for a magical boat trip, where you’ll be able to sing and dance with the elves while taking part in face painting and other festive fun, all before the man in red steps aboard to hand out gifts.
Where: The Falkirk Wheel, Lime Rd, Tamfourhill, Falkirk FK1 4RS
When: 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 December, 12.30-6.30pm, except Xmas Eve
Need to know: Tickets £13.95 per person, £2 for babies under 1. Child tickets include a gift from Santa. Weather permitting.
Come rain or shine…
What: There’s lots for budding meteorologists to discover about the Wonderful World of Weather at the Aberdeen Science Centre. Discover if all snowflakes really are unique, before learning about the water cycle in the Make it Rain workshop or making your own pinwheel to work out wind speed and direction.
Where: Aberdeen Science Centre, 107 George Street, Aberdeen, AB25 1HU
When: Wonderful World of Weather, 10am-5pm, 14, 15, 28 & 29 December, 4 & 5 January
Need to know: Family ticket from £19.50. Activities included in admission.
What: Enjoy some surreal fairy tales from the Asian sub-continent and Scottish stories of midwinter at the Scotland Street Museum. This festive season fly and frolic with fairies of a different kind, fairy cats and dogs, adventures of princesses and a new version of sleeping beauty. Create your own masks and drawings and learn a few new songs to sing.
Where: Scotland Street School Museum, 225 Scotland Street, Glasgow, G5 8QB
When: 22 December, 1-3pm
Need to know: Free. Drop-in.
What: Experience the magic of Christmas at Brodick Castle, complete with festive music and decorations. Enjoy an elf scavenger hunt, where you can try and find all the cheeky elves hiding around the castle, take advantage of the North Pole postbox, try out the special Christmas mystery boxes for the senses, take a selfie by the Christmas photo backdrop, go on a Christmas-themed historical castle tours and more!
Where: Brodick Castle, Isle of Arran, KA27 8HY
When: 13-22 December, 10am-4pm
Need to know: Free with admission. Family ticket £35.