Skate at Somerset House
A visit to the ice rink in Somerset House’s grand courtyard is a classic winter day out in the capital. There is also a skate late event, with musical takeovers from the likes of Peckham’s Balamii radio and Field Day festival founder and promoter Eat Your Own Ears.
• To 14 Jan 2018, from £7.50 for standard skate session, £19 for skate lates,somersethouse.org.uk
Christmas comes to Battersea Power Station
The iconic power station will be decked out for the festive season with thousands of lights and illuminations on the unmistakable brick chimneys. Highlights of the Christmas programme include workshops – from bauble calligraphy to wreath-making classes – kids’ entertainment and games, a pop-up cinema and plenty of pop-up gift shops.
• To 17 Dec, batterseapowerstation.co.uk
Winterville, Clapham Common
With its hipster flavour, Winterville – the “alternative festive experience” – pulls together street food, pop-up cinema, roller disco, crazy golf, craft beer and an ironic appreciation of vintage activities. Those sick of twee Christmas happenings could also catch some Mexican wrestling, drag shows and club nights from Bugged Out, the Two Bears and Erol Alkan.
• To 1 Jan, free entry except Friday and Saturday nights (£3), winterville.co.uk
Sounds like Christmas at the V&A, South Kensington
The museum’s wide-ranging musical programme includes traditional events such as choirs by candlelight, soundscapes created in response to the museum’s galleries and a festive family rave. Most events, concerts and art installations are free; some special events are ticketed.
• To 6 Jan, vam.ac.uk
Christmas cabaret, Bloomsbury
Brought to you by the London Cabaret Club, this is a “full-scale spectacular” featuring all your favourite festive jingles, with The Ballroom venue transformed into a winter wonderland in the heart of Bloomsbury.
• To 23 Dec, from £45, thelondoncabaretclub.com
Skylight ice skating, Docklands
The capital’s first rooftop ice rink opens for winter at the pop-up Skylight bar at Tobacco Dock. Entry to the bar is free, for those who want to enjoy the view with a cocktail, while ice skating is £10 for 45 minutes, including skate hire. For those wanting a toasty snack, cheese fondue is also on offer.
Christmas installation, Dennis Severs’ House, Spitalfields
This 18th-century house is a time capsule preserved by former owner Dennis Severs to recreate the life of a family of Huguenot silk weavers. At Christmas, of course, the house gets a festive makeover, the rooms filled with a wealth of antique decorations.
• To 4 Jan, £17.50, open 5-9pm on Mon, Weds and Fri including bank holidays,dennissevershouse.co.uk
Frosted Fairground, Dreamland, Margate, Kent
The vintage jewel on Kent’s coast, Dreamland, will be getting a seasonal makeover, with the addition of an ice rink and grotto on top of the classic amusement park’s existing rides. There’s also a range of events, from a club with 2manyDJs and Erol Alkan to a special appearance from The Snowman and the Snowdog, giving the little ones a chance to meet the much-loved Christmas characters.
• To 3 Jan, free to enter, events and rides ticketed, dreamland.co.uk
Brothers Grimm fairytales at Hinton Ampner, Hampshire
From Rapunzel’s hair spiralling down a staircase to glass slippers lost and the Elves and the Shoemaker hard at work, the classic Grimm brothers fairytales will be brought to life at Hinton Ampner, with each of the country house’s ground-floor rooms decorated in keeping with a different story. Get an extra treat at the pop-up old-fashioned sweetshop in the courtyard.
• To 23 Dec, adult £12, child £6, family £30, nationaltrust.org.uk/hinton-ampner
Kipling’s fairytales at Bateman’s, East Sussex
At the Jacobean home of Rudyard Kipling, Christmas will revolve around the writer’s enchanting Sussex fairytales, so expect a fully decorated house, pixie-making craft sessions and a winter garden trail.
• To 1 Jan, nationaltrust.org.uk/batemans
Festive weekends at Sandy Balls, Hampshire
The holiday village has a range of family festive fun, with a Christmas market full of local New Forest food and crafts, a grotto where youngsters can visit Santa, a panto (Dick Whittington), and carols by candlelight.
• From Friday 8 Dec, panto on 9, 16, 22 Dec, £7.50, santa’s grotto £8,awayresorts.co.uk
Magical medieval Christmas at the Canterbury Tales, Kent
Travel back in time to the medieval streets of the Canterbury Tales visitor attraction, with songs, games and dressing up, among other festive activities. The guided experience lasts 45 minutes and ends with a visit to Santa’s grotto, and a gift for every child.
• 16-17 Dec, adults £6, children £12, family £33, 10am-4pm,canterburytales.org.uk
Alpine Market, Bournemouth
Brand new for 2017, Bournemouth will be getting an alpine market in the town centre, full of stalls from local suppliers and winter food outlets serving mulled wine and cheeseboards. It’s just a small part of the town’s festive entertainment, which also includes illuminations across its Victorian gardens and an ice rink.
• To 4 Jan, bournemouth.co.uk
Christmas market at St Albans Cathedral, Hertfordshire
Now in its fifth year, the successful Christmas market returns in the magical walled Vintry Garden beside the 11th-century cathedral. As well as more than 40 stalls selling gifts, arts and crafts, there will be music, activities and workshops, and a food court. On 16 December there will also be carols every hour on the hour from 11am-4pm.
• To 23 Dec, Mon-Wed and Fri 11am-6pm, Thurs 11am-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm,enjoystalbans.com
Winter wonderland at Birdworld, Farnham, Surrey
Meet Santa’s reindeer, the odd elf, and Santa himself, along with the rest of the friendly farm animals that reside at Birdworld.
• To 24 Dec, adults from £5.95, children from £7.95, birdworld.co.uk
Christmas at the Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead, Herts
Enjoy the fun kind of snow (not the kind that stops the trains running) with a trip to the Snow Centre. As well as the usual skiing and snowboarding sessions, there’s a range of festive packages, including sledging on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
• Sledging £9.50 per person, 10am-5pm, thesnowcentre.com
The Train to Christmas Town, Dartmoor railway, Devon
Embark on a magical train ride on this family adventure that fills the classic train carriages with characters, entertainers and a festive atmosphere, complete with singing, dancing and storytelling from the elves and conductor.
• Dartmoor railway to 28 Dec, adult from £25, child ages 2-12 from £19; also runs on Weardale railway, County Durham to 23 Dec traintochristmastown.com
Heligan By Night, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
The Lost Gardens of Heligan are curious enough as it is, but expect its surreal landscapes to take on a completely new quality with immersive illlumination displays – a first for the gardens – inviting visitors to dive into a “sensational play of light and colour”. Spaces are limited on the nine evenings, with booking essential.
• 14-16, 21-23 & 28-30 Dec, 5.30-7.30pm, £5, heligan.com
Christmas at the Spiegeltent, Bristol
Originally used as a travelling venue in the 19th century, the Spiegeltent is a round tent with decadent fittings inside, from stained glass windows and wood panels to a ceiling draped with fabric. Here it will host louche Christmas entertainment, from a masked ball to club nights.
• To 23 Dec, ticket prices vary, christmasspiegeltent.co.uk
Native Makers’ Christmas Market, Plymouth
The Christmas market at Royal William Yard showcases unique gift ideas from local artisans and craftspeople.
• 16-17 Dec, visitplymouth.co.uk
Christmas Fair at the Shops at Dartington, Devon
This foodie fair, with the south-west’s finest local wares on show, includes cooking demonstrations and craft demos, as well as plenty of street food stalls, food tastings and gin distilling – try delights such as Elmhirst gin truffles, made especially for the fair.
• 16-17 Dec, dartington.org
Wells Cathedral carol services, Somerset
For two nights only, get in the Christmas spirit to the sound of the renowned Wells Cathedral Choir, which is more than 1,100 years old. It’s a hugely popular event and free, so an early arrival is essential.
• 22-23 Dec 5pm, free, wellscathedral.org.uk
Montol festival, Penzance
Celebrating the midwinter solstice, Montol is a six-day arts and community festival of Cornish traditions. Expect lantern- and mask-making workshops, strolling bands, storytelling, mummers’ plays, firelit processions and late-night shopping.
• 16-21 Dec, visitcornwall.com
A Magical Wedgwood Christmas, Stoke-on-Trent
World of Wedgwood has a Christmas story set in 1911, following a real-life pottery designer, Daisy Makeig-Jones, on an adventure through fairyland on the Wonderlust Express. There are also floral demonstrations, a Christmas market, a children’s trail and studios to make Christmas decorations.
• To 7 Jan, worldofwedgwood.com
Birmingham Botanical Gardens Christmas Trail
A new illuminated trail leads visitors through the 12 days of Christmas, a tunnel of light and a scented fire garden to a singing tree. Pucker up under the mistletoe and climb inside a giant bauble.
• To 1 Jan, from £14 adults/£8 children/£40 families,birminghamchristmasgarden.co.uk
Blists Hill Victorian Christmas, Shropshire
Blists Hill, one of the 10 Ironbridge Gorge attractions, is celebrating Christmas 1800s-style. The iron rolling mill is holding a workers’ Christmas party, with carol singers, brass bands and festive food, and a visit from Father Christmas and his reindeer.
• 9, 10, 16, 17 Dec, from £16.25 adults/£10.75 children/£50 families,ironbridge.org.uk
Illuminated Boat Festival at Foxton Locks, Leicestershire
The canal boats at Foxton Locks are lit up for Christmas, providing a twinkly backdrop to a festival with music (from medieval carols to a rock choir and a South African township orchestra), theatre performances, a fairground and food stalls.
• 16-17 December, £5, under-12s free, canalrivertrust.org.uk
Upton House, Warwickshire
Learn about Christmas fashion from the past with a visit to Upton House, decorated in the art deco glamour of the 1920s. The house is showcasing the shift in style from Victorian times to the jazz era, with events ranging from craft workshops to themed evening tours.
• To 18 Dec, Fri-Mon 12pm-4pm, adult £10.90, child £5.45, nationaltrust.org.uk
Hibern8 at Pensthorpe natural park, Norfolk
Pensthorpe, a 700-acre natural park near Fakenham in north Norfolk, has a winter trail focusing on animals that hibernate, with craft activities along the way. Afterwards, visitors can watch hundreds of birds having a floodlit feed at the Mill Pond at sunset.
• 20 Dec-3 Jan, from £11.95 adults/£10.95 children/under-threes free,pensthorpe.com
Christmas is Coming, Blickling, Norfolk
Celebrating the work of the 11th Marquess of Lothian, a politician and diplomat who helped negotiate India’s independence from the British Empire, Blickling House will be decorated with an Indian theme – gold, green and white – as it explores this story 70 years on. Outside, Christmas trees and sparkling lights will adorn the grounds.
• 1-3, 8-10 Dec, 12pm-5pm, adult £13.55, child £7.45,nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling-estate
Christmas at Oxburgh, Norfolk
Discover how the family of the sixth Oxburgh baronet would have celebrated Christmas during the Victorian era. Character actors in Victorian dress will lead visitors around a stately home draped in traditional decorations, with festive music tinkling from the saloon piano and carol singers in the chapel.
• 9-10 and 16-17 December, 11am–4pm, adult £5.80, child £2.90,nationaltrust.org.uk
Christmas at Snape Maltings, Suffolk
Over the weekend of 15-17 December this music venue will be hosting a series of festive events, from a concert of The Snowman and a narrated orchestral tale about Paddington Bear, to the arrival of Father Christmas, who will float in to Snape Maltings on a Thames barge. Other events include a farmers’ market on 23 December.
• Prices vary, snapemaltings.co.uk
NORTH AND NORTH-EAST
Twelfth Night celebrations at Beamish museum, County Durham
Step into the magic of Christmas past at Beamish, the open-air history museum telling the story of life in the north-east. Experience festive celebrations in the 1820s Pockerly Old Hall, the 1900s town, the 1900s pit village and a 1940s farm. There is also a fairground, ice rink and Santa’s grotto. Twelfth Night celebrations include music, dancing, food and first footing, to blow away the post-25th cobwebs.
• 27 Dec-6 Jan, adult £19, child 5-16 £11, family from £35.50, beamish.org.uk
East of the Sun, West of the Moon – NYE bonfire, Newcastle
Taking inspiration from Norse mythology and local folklore, this end-of-year bonfire event on Newcastle’s Town Moor will create an incredible fire and fireworks show, created with the help of outdoor arts company Walk the Plank.
• New Year’s Eve, tickets free but allocated via a ballot,newcastlegateshead.com/winter-festival
Christmas at York Museum Gardens, York
As a new attraction for 2017, the historic York Museum Gardens are to be transformed into an immersive night-time playground, thanks to artistic lighting commissions, musical trees and a spectacular projection on to the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey. The winter walk-through concludes with a magical light tunnel and a fire bar, with the chance to warm up with some toasted marshmallows.
• To 1 Jan, adult £14.95, children 4-16 £8.95,christmasatyorkmuseumgardens.co.uk
Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland
Featuring the north’s largest outdoor ice rink (at a whopping 975 square metres), the award-winning festive event returns to the York Designer Outlet with something to suit the whole family, from a Polar Express-themed Santa’s grotto, vintage funfair rides and live weekend events as well as discount shopping.
• To 7 Jan, adult ice skating £10.95, child/concessions £9.95,yorkshireswinterwonderland.com
Hidden Christmas market, Leeds
Kirkstall Abbey will be taken over by a Christmas market with a theatrical twist, with performances based on Grimm brothers fairytales guiding visitors through the venue. As well as live acts, cabaret, DJs and bands there will be plenty of festive food and drink from independent stalls.
• 14-21 Dec, from £8.50, wegottickets.com/hidden-christmas-market
Santa Services, North Yorkshire Moors Railways
All aboard the Santa express – a magical train adventure giving children the chance to meet Father Christmas in his onboard grotto, and enjoy a range of activities and treats along the way.
• Departs Pickering, 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 19, 20 Dec, £21, nymr.co.uk
Santa’s Sweet Adventure, York’s Chocolate Story
At York’s Chocolate Story – which charts the town’s 300-year history at the heart of England’s chocolate production – magical elves lead guided tours to save the spirit of Christmas. There’s also a festive chocolate-making activity, the chance to learn about the role of chocolate in Christmas past, and a visit to Santa.
• To 24 Dec, adult £5.95, child £9.95, yorkschocolatestory.com
Christmas at Harlow Carr, Harrogate, North Yorkshire
The beautiful RHS garden will have an extra sparkle this Christmas thanks to “Glow” winter illuminations, which will show the lake, trees and winter walk bathed in special lighting effects.
• To 30 December, Thurs-Sat 3-8pm, adult £8, child £4, family £22, rhs.org.uk
Christmas cruises at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port
Hit the water, as Santa replaces his sleigh and reindeer with a canal boat, taking families on an adventure to his grotto, where there will be storytelling and a gift for every child.
• 16, 17, 22-24 Dec, 11am, 12.45pm and 2.30pm, £10, canalrivertrust.org.uk
Lightwaves, Salford Quays, Greater Manchester
The UK’s biggest digital light festival, Lightwaves, will see a range of large-scale commissions, fusing technology, light and art, set around the quays. There will also be events ranging from a light graffiti workshop to dance and choir performances.
• To 17 Dec, 12pm-10.30pm, free, quaysculture.com
The Lanterns at Chester Zoo
Adopting the theme of a “magical Christmas sorting office”, this festive event at Chester zoo will create a lantern trail, taking visitors on a magical route past sacks of toys and gifts, animal-inspired fairytale scenes, and the chance to post a letter to Santa.
• To 30 Dec, adult from £15, child from £12.50, chesterzoo.org
The Secret Seven at Storyhouse, Chester
The Storyhouse arts centre will be celebrating its first Christmas (it opened this summer) with the first ever stage show of one of Enid Blyton’s children’s classic series, a mystery set in a haunted cottage.
• To 14 Jan, from £26; under-26s and over-60s £19.50, storyhouse.com
Santa’s Grotto at the Chill Factore, Manchester
Visit Santa’s Gingerbread grotto, surrounded by real snow, shimmering lights and plenty of elves, then head out to play in real snow in Mini Moose Land (under-4s) or the Snow Park.
• To 24 Dec, adult santa and snow park from £22.50, child from £25,chillfactore.com/christmas
Distillers’ Fair, Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh
Indulge in some festive spirit at the Distillers’ Fair, where visitors can sample the best Scotch whisky around, while hearing production secrets from the people who make it.
• 29-30 Dec, 10am-6pm, adult £15.50, concession £13,scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk
Ice Adventure, Edinburgh
Offering a “journey through frozen Scotland” (not something you necessarily need to pay for), Ice Adventure is an immersive walk-through lined with glistening ice sculptures – from mythical creatures to historical Scottish figures. Finish up with a wee dram at Edinburgh’s only ice bar.
• To 24 Dec, from £7, edinburghschristmas.com
Family Hogmanay, Musselburgh
A packed day of activities to see in the new year starts with a lantern parade led by the Edinburgh Samba Band, and ends with a spectacular firework display. A host of workshops includes lantern making, face painting and balloon modelling.
• 31 Dec, starts 11am, free (workshops from £5/£4), thebrunton.co.uk
Fire and Light walks, Falkirk
Start 2018 in epic style with a 4km illuminated walk from Falkirk Stadium through the Helix Park. The way will be lit by lanterns and fire breathers, with surprises en route too.
• 1-2 Jan 5-8pm, walks depart every 15 mins, £5, thehelix.co.uk
Après-ski bar, Abergavenny
The pop-up après-ski bar at the Angel hotel in Abergavenny is back for 2017, this year with a selfie ski-lift, wurst on Wednesdays and fondue on Thursdays. New Year’s Eve sees a house party, with shots at midnight and dancing until late.
• To 31 Dec, free, angelabergavenny.com
Sea swimming, various locations
Bracing festive swims are big in Wales. Burn off Christmas dinner with a Boxing Day dip at Pembrey Country Park or Tenby’s North Beach, or get 2018 off to a healthy start with a swim off Saundersfoot or Barry Island on New Year’s Day.
Santa steam trains, various locations
The Great Little Trains of Wales – the country’s 11 narrow-gauge steam railways – all have Santa Specials in the run-up to Christmas. Santa and his elves are handing out presents on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, while the Brecon Mountain Railway is bound for Santa’s Grotto.
Santa’s Grotto, Swansea
Deep inside a mountain at the National Showcaves of Wales in Abercrave is the most spectacular Santa’s grotto. The journey to meet Father Christmas goes through twisting passageways and past underground lakes, waterfalls and rock formations.
• 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24 Dec, £14 adults/£11 children/£6 under-threes,christmas.showcaves.co.uk
Christmas through the ages, Wrexham
Chirk Castle is decked out to show the changing festive fashions over its 700-year history, from medieval Christmas in the Adam tower to a Tudor kissing bough in the portcullis. At weekends, the courtyard is transformed into a medieval festival, with archery, falconry and storytelling, plus food such as meaty mince pies and traditional gingerbread.
• To 23 Dec; medieval weekends on 9-10 and 16-17 Dec, nationaltrust.org.uk, from £12.20 adults/£6.10 children
Christmas at Powis Castle, Powys
The state rooms at Powis Castle are full of different kinds of Christmas trees, while the gardens are illuminated for winter walks. Craft workshops include floral garlands and centrepieces, and Christmas cards and calendars.
• House to 24 Dec, gardens 9,10 and 15-17 Dec, adults from £12.50/children from £6.25/families from £31.25, nationaltrust.org.uk
Belfast Christmas market
Outside City Hall a set of alpine chalets will be selling everything from handmade jewellery to decorations, while a food court offers the likes of bratwurst and Dutch pancakes. Look out for Santa’s gingerbread-themed grotto.
• To 23 Dec, Mon-Weds 10am-8pm, Thurs-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 12pm-6pm, free,discovernorthernireland.com
Magical Christmas Experience at Titanic Belfast
Children can step through the Old Curiosity Shop to the elves’ workshop to join in festive arts and craft sessions, such as making a wish to hang on the tree, then journey through the enchanted forest to meet Father Christmas. Child tickets include same-day entry to the Titanic Experience.
• To 23 Dec, £4 adults/£15 children, titanicbelfast.com
Ramblers’ Festival of Winter Walks
This walking festival, now in its 30th year, features hundreds of group walks all over the country during the Christmas holidays. Highlights include a climb up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, a ramble around Rhossili on the Gower peninsula, and a hike along Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.