Twinkling festive lights, real-life Santas, lots of ‘he’s behind yous’ and pints of mulled wine – Christmas really is the season to be jolly. From regal ice rinks to England’s best Christmas lights, laugh-out-loud pantos to cosy grottoes, celebrate the magic of Christmas at some of the wonderful events happening across the country.
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Making its return to Olympic Way this November is Wembley’s family-friendly, free open-air light trail, and its theme this year is ‘Reunited in Light’. This dazzling Instagrammable experience is packed with interactive, newly-commissioned light installations and features the tallest LED Christmas tree in London. The 25-metre-high walk-through tree is made up of 100,000 kinetic lights which pulse to festive sounds.
When? Open daily between 24 November 2021 and 9 January 2022.
Magic awaits you around every corner at the North East’s biggest and brightest light trail full of twinkling forest lights, projections and perfect photo opportunities. You’ll also get a warm welcome from Father Christmas in his festive garden grotto. Share your wish list with him and collect an early Christmas treat – but only if you’ve made his good list.
As the night draws in, the gardens at Wakehurst are brought to life with an enchanting lantern trail full of projections, immersive soundscapes and glistening torches of fire. Marvel at the UK’s tallest living Christmas tree, decorated with 1,800 fairy lights for the festive season, and celebrate the hidden heroes of the plant and fungal world.
When? Selected evenings between 25 November 2021 and 2 January 2022.
Kew’s after-dark trail is lighting up once again for 2021, with the route passing through sparkling tunnels of light, beside dancing waterside reflections and past flickering flames in the Fire Garden. See ancient trees sparkle, gaze at the Temperate House alive in Christmas colour, say hello to Father Christmas and watch the stunning light show finale on the Palm House Pond.
Discover 11 fantastical lands at Chester Zoo this winter, each filled with sparkle and light, colourful lanterns, costumed characters and Christmas scenes. See the show-stopping Octopus, meander through a Cactus Desert and discover other exotic illuminated wildlife throughout the park, all the while keeping an eye out for Father Christmas. Measures are in place to keep visitors safe and all tickets go towards looking after animals in the zoo and around the world.
When? From 13 November to 23 December. Tickets must be booked in advance.
As the sun goes down, head to the illuminated festive trail that winds through the gardens and deer park of Dunham Massey. Wrapped up warm, walk underneath tree canopies drenched in colour, past giant baubles, snowflakes and glittering deer and through a crystal and fire garden aglow with flickering flames.
Embark on an enchanting twilight adventure this Christmas onboard the Elf Express Christmas Train and journey through a fantasy land of twinkling lights, Candy Cane Woods and Gingerbread land. Lightwater Valley will also have a festive fairground full of traditional rides, a sing-along Santa show and an elf hunt around the park.
Immerse yourself in the world-famous illuminations that shine each year in Blackpool, along the six miles of beachfront promenade. The greatest free light show on earth – which has been around for more than a century – has been extended this year to make sure everyone gets the chance to see the spectacle. You can choose to walk or drive the route or take an illuminated tram tour that departs each evening.
Visit Crystal Palace this winter to see the iconic park lit up like never before. London’s largest illuminated trail will mesmerise with multi-sensory lights and installations bursting with colour, and will even have an illuminated twist on the park’s famous dinosaurs. Walk through Guardian Gate, down Rainbow Road and past Magical Animals on this fantastic Christmas light walk, all before warming up with a well-deserved cup of hot chocolate.
If you’re not based in London, Lightopia also has festive light trails in Manchester and Alton Towers Resort.
When? Every evening between 19 November 2021 to 2 January 2022.
Lightopia Seasonal Wonderland at Alton Towers Resort
If you’re not based in London, why not experience Lightopia Seasonal Wonderland at Alton Towers Resort? Said to be Europe's longest light and lantern trail, this immersive journey through the four seasons combines spectacular lanterns, immersive light installations and interactive colour transformations to light up a spectacular after-dark wonderland where a whole year will go by in just a day!
When? Selected dates between 27 November 2021 and 2 January 2022.
Prepare for an evening filled with magic as Windsor Great Park comes alive with dazzling lights, dancing stars, atmospheric soundscapes and breathtaking projections. Walk through a cathedral of light and past woodland creature holograms, sip steaming mulled wine and toast marshmallows over fire pits at this festive event for all the family.
A highlight of London’s festive calendar is back this year with its huge open-air ice rink and staggered skate sessions to make sure there’s plenty of social distancing. Glide (or shuffle) across the ice while enjoying views of an iconic Tudor Palace, then warm up with a festive snack at the Ice Rink Café and Bar.
When? From 13 November 2021 to 9 January 2022 – tickets must be pre-booked
Show off your tricks on England’s largest outdoor ice rink, complete with a 30-foot Christmas tree at its centre. There’s an Alpine-themed café overlooking the rink, where you can warm up after your session with a hot chocolate before exploring the snowy enchanted wood to find Santa’s log cabin, enjoy fairground rides at the Vintage Funfair or finish up your present shopping at York Designer Outlet.
Delve into rainforests and tropical biomes before heading outside and grabbing some skates. Eden Project’s ice rink is back once again, tempting nature lovers onto its glittering rink to get into the seasonal spirit. There are dedicated Family Fun skate sessions, too, which take place every Sunday throughout the season, with extra sessions during the school holidays.
When? From 23 October 2021 to February 2022 – book ahead to make sure you get the session you want.
This winter, The Museum of the Home’s ‘Rooms Through Time’ exhibition will allow you to step back through the ages to see how people celebrated Christmas (and other winter events) over the past 400 years. From the Midwinter festival to the Millennium Party, you’ll find out where Boxing Day got its name from and why the Christmas tree first appeared I our homes. As well as festive décor throughout the muse, there are also a number of workshops going on to get into the festive mood.
Nab yourself a white Christmas at Tamworth’s SnowDome. With real snow, real animals and a brand-new show, Santa’s Winter Wonderland is back for its 17th year. Play and slide around in the snow, start a snowball fight, hitch a ride on a sledge and walk through an enchanted forest all in one day. And don’t forget to post your Christmas list into Santa’s talking post box!
Your little ones will be over the moon with a trip to Peppa Pig World this winter. Complete with seasonal music and magical illuminations, you’ll get to meet Peppa in her festive dress, catch Frosty’s Snowtime Show and listen to Christmas stories read by Santa himself. Warm up with a hearty meal at one of the park’s many eateries and round off your day with a visit to the toy shop, stocked with plenty of festive goodies.
Celebrate the magic of Christmas at the Ironbridge Gorge Museums. Experience 19th-century festivities at Blists Hill Victorian Town, with an array of old-fashioned entertainment and music, stunning grottos and traditional decorations, from metal paper chains and ivy to colourful decoupage baubles. Throughout the festive season, you can also enjoy skating on a real-ice rink and meet Father Christmas in his woodland glade. When you’re peckish, you can tuck into a good ol’ mince pie and take a look around the Christmas Emporium, filled with a selection of unusual gifts that are sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face.
When? Selected dates between 27 November 2021 and 2 January 2022.
Don your festive garments at the UK’s largest indoor fairground this Christmas. You’ll be able to enjoy unlimited funfair rides, like the Helter Skelter and dodgems, skate on a gigantic ice rink and watch tumbling tricks and acrobatics at the amazing festive circus. Watch out for mischievous elves who’ll be popping up around the event and pencil in some time to meet the main man himself, Father Christmas.
Take the magic of Christmas to a new level at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter. After its annual festive makeover, The Great Hall will be adorned with Christmas trees topped with witches on broomsticks and tables laden with a festive feast. Elsewhere, a blanket of snow will cover the shop fronts of Diagon Alley, the Forbidden Forest and the turrets of Hogwarts Castle.
While Longleat’s Festival of Light might be postponed, it doesn’t mean Christmas here is cancelled. Instead, Christmas at Longleat will feature Britain’s biggest singing Christmas tree, enchanting storytimes with feathery friends in the Long House, Christmas cabaret shows and a 50-metre tunnel of light that’ll lead you to a festive-filled display with over 100 Christmas trees. Don’t forget to take a trip on the train to meet Santa in his Christmas grotto, and leave time to meet all the resident animals on the Winter Safari Drive-through.
Enjoy a feast of festive music, old and new, at the beautiful Grade II-listed Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool. Hosted by Classic FM’s John Suchet and conducted by Ian Tracey, you’ll be able to sing along to traditional carols and music that embodies the feeling of Christmas.
Other Christmas events at the Philharmonic Hall include Carols by Candlelight and Swingin’ Christmas, with the latter celebrating classic seasonal songs by Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole and lots more.
When? Events take place on 17, 19, 21 and 23 December 2021.
As well as over 100 stalls selling Christmas gifts and unique treats, Ludlow’s famous festive fair will have tons of performances from jesters, fighting knights, storytellers and medieval musicians. The whole family will be able to get hands-on with history at one of the many demonstrations and workshops – from Big Beynon’s blacksmithing to Trinity Court’s pottery – and you’ll even be able to test your aim at archery and axe throwing.
Visit Warwick Castle this Christmas to glide around a spectacular ice rink to the sound of your favourite festive hits, discover a dazzling light trail with dancing projections and climb the castle’s towers for impressive wintery views across the grounds and gardens. Inside the castle, you’ll stumble across twinkling trees and festive flourishes, and have the chance the join Santa as he tells charming tales accompanied by his merry elves.
For an extra special treat, book one of Santa’s Sleepovers. Staying in one of the Knight’s Village Lodges, you’ll wake up to the sound of sleigh bells as cheerful elves deliver gifts to all the well-behaved children.
With a cast of 130 (many hailing from London’s West End), the biggest Christmas show of its kind in Europe is an extravaganza of non-stop singing, dancing, music, humour and variety. Set in the magical surroundings of mechanical organs and fairground carousels, this spectacular show is guaranteed to impress – all rounded off with a special surprise before the curtains close.
Make a day of it and check out Thursford’s Enchanted Journey of Light. You’ll travel past penguins and giant teddy bears to the outdoor lantern light display, filled with breathtaking luminous sculptures, from a fantasy underwater world to the snowy scenes of the North Pole.
When? Between the 9 November and 23 December 2021.
Full of fun, thrills and excitement for the whole family, Great Yarmouth’s hit festive show returns to the seaside town’s historic Hippodrome this December. From circus tricks to synchronised swimmers and hilarious comedy, this fast-moving show is guaranteed to get you into the Christmas spirit.
When? Selected dates between 11 December 2021 and 9 January 2022.
London’s best-known panto is returning to the West End for this Christmas to help give the theatre industry a much-needed boost. Enjoy roaring comedy, show-stopping numbers and a star-studded cast – with appearances from Donny Osmond, Julian Clary and many more.
Whether you’re based in Derby or Durham, Chester or Coventry, the award-winning concert based on the nation’s favourite animated Christmas film, The Snowman, will be visiting a city near you this Christmas. Snuggled down in some of England’s prettiest cathedrals and venues, you’ll get to enjoy a special screening of the film accompanied by a magnificent live orchestra. On top of that, there’ll be a toe-tapping Christmas medley as well as lots of other stories for the whole family to enjoy.
When? Various dates in various locations between the 1 and 23 December 2021.
Christmas is cancelled…oh no, it isn’t! Following a sold-out tour in 2020, Horrible Histories have once again teamed up with Car Park Party to bring you the world’s first drive-in Christmas show, filled with Victorian villains, Medieval monks and tons of Tudor treats. All you have to do is pull up in your sleigh and enjoy the show!
When? The tour runs throughout December and into January, setting down at different locations across the country.
The UK’s leading experiential cinema is doing wonders again this year with its two-part Christmas experience. As well as film screenings of festive favourites like Home Alone, Elf and Love Actually, you’ll be treated to a specially created screening of the story of Christmas through the eyes of George the Poet, featuring a live band and the angelic voices of The Some Voices Choir.
Taking over London’s original Art Deco cinema, the Troxy, this snowy spectacular will have giant Christmas trees and mince pies alongside non-stop singing, dancing, heartfelt storytelling and plenty of other surprises.
When? Between 1 and 31 December 2021 (excluding 25 and 26 December).