30+ wonderful Christmas family days out 2018
Stuck for what to get your kids this Christmas? I always struggle until I remember its actually not that whizzy new toy that they babble on about in those moments before they fall asleep at night. It’s that magical trip we took together or that special new place we visited. With this in mind why not treat your family to an experience this Christmas rather than mountains of stuff? If I’ve piqued your interest and you are wondering what are the best UK Christmas days out with kids in 2018, here’s some inspiration for you:
2018 Christmas days out for families
Here’s where you’ll find snowy white winter wonderlands, amazing Christmas shows and sparkling Santa’s grottos around the UK in 2018 (sorted alphabetically by area):
Christmas days out in Berkshire
The UK’s REAL Santa
One of the nation’s most authentic Christmas experiences has to be LaplandUK. Here’s a review by the PODcast family who visited in 2016 and another by Kaz from Ickle Pickle’s Life and Travels who visited in the same year. The final round of general sale tickets for LaplandUK in 2018 go on sale on Monday 17 September . You can sign up to be notified by email on their website.
LaplandUK, Ascot, November to December 2018, www.laplanduk.co.uk.
Christmas days out in Birmingham
Christmas with Thomas the Tank Engine
Not only can you meet Thomas the Tank Engine at Drayton Manor theme park at Christmas time, he’s also invited along his friend Father Christmas. Go for a train ride and get a present from the big man as well as enjoying the festive decorations at the park. Even if snow isn’t forecast it’s guaranteed in Thomas Land three times a day! Here’s a review of Drayton Manor’s yule-tide experience by Natalie at Plutonium Sox.
Drayton Manor’s Magical Christmas, selected dates between 17 November to 31 December 2018, www.draytonmanor.co.uk/magicalchristmas.
An artic adventure at the Sea Life Centre
What better way to get in the Christmas spirit than to visit the penguins at the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham? There’s also a festive film on in the 4D cinema and you can meet Santa. Here’s a review of Christmas at the National Sea Life Centre by Natalie at Plutonium Sox.
National Sea Life Centre, Birmingham, dates TBC, www.visitsealife.com/birmingham.
Christmas days out in Cheshire
Food Glorious Food at Tatton Park
Tatton Park is getting in the spirit of Christmas with a Food Glorious Food display in the mansion house. Expect fresh seasonal foliage and vintage decorations as you weave through the grand state rooms and servants’ quarters. There will also be a chance to meet Santa and his reindeer in the farm.
Christmas at Tatton Park, Knutsford, selected dates between 27 November to 23 December 2018, www.tattonpark.org.uk.
Glittering Dunham Massey
Seasonal illuminations return to Dunham Massey this year. Visitors will be greeted by larger-than-life glittering deer, along with the quintessential sights and sounds of Christmas. Walk through a Tunnel of Light, be charmed by the Singing Trees and see the incredible Water Fountain Finale, which takes place on the Lake. The historic courtyard will once again house festive food outlets as well as a vintage carousel.
Dunham Massey, Altrincham, 30 November to 30 December 2018, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunham-massey.
Christmas days out in Cornwall
Ice skating and Santa at The Eden Project
The Winter season starts early at The Eden Project in Cornwall with the annual ice rink opening in time for the October half term. Christmas gets underway with opportunities to see Santa at Europe’s largest indoor rainforest from 24 November until 24 December 2018.
Iceskating at the Eden Project, St Austell, 13 October 2018 to 24 February 2019, www.edenproject.com.
Christmas days out in Devon
Christmas at National Trust properties
We love visiting our local National Trust properties over the Christmas as the houses are always wonderfully decorated and the gardens are often illuminated. Some also have Father Christmas pop in to see young visitors. Visiting Saltram to see the Georgian house decked out for the festive season and Coleton Fishacre for extraordinary illuminated gardens. We also enjoyed Killerton’s Wind the Willows themed decorations last year. Here’s a video from our day:
Various locations, November to December 2018, www.nationaltrust.org.uk.
If you’re looking for more inspiration for days out in Devon at Christmas I’ve written about more than 30 festive events in our home county.
Christmas days out in Dorset
Sail with Santa
Soak up the festive spirit with a Santa Claus cruise around Poole Harbour. City Cruises Poole offer sailings with Santa from Poole Quay with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie while listening to Christmas carols. There’s a 30-minute magic show and balloon modelling performance for the kids as well as biscuits, soft drinks and a special present from Santa
Sail with Santa Poole Cruises, Poole Quay, selected dates and times from 8 December to 24 December 2018 www.citycruisespoole.com
Christmas days out in Essex
Miniature Santa Express
Ride the Santa Express at Audley End Miniature Railway for a magical festive experience. The woods have been transformed into a winter wonderland compete with a craft area where you can write a letter to the Big Man under the guidance of cheeky elves. Kids will also get to meet Santa and receive a gift before being having a boogie in the Christmas dance tent.
A Magical Christmas Experience, Audley End Miniature Railway, selected dates in November and December, www.visitessex.com.
Christmas days out in Hampshire
Christmas in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Travel back in time to Dickensian Portsmouth where Victorian characters wander the historic alley ways of the dockyard providing entertainment and festive cheer. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is a fantastic backdrop for this thoroughly festive event with snow in the streets, roaming entertainers, market stalls and music. Read my review of the Victorian Festival of Christmas when we attended four years ago.
Victorian Festival of Christmas, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, 30 November to 2 December 2018, Dickensian Festival of Christmas.
A magical Christmas market in Winchester
Visit one of Europe’s best Christmas markets in a stunning setting at Winchester Cathedral. Here you’ll find high quality stalls filled with delicious festive treats and plenty of gift ideas. Alongside the market there’s an ice rink. You can also climb the Cathedral tower for an unrivalled view of the fun below.
Winchester Christmas market and ice rink, Winchester, 17 November to 20 December 2018, www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk.
Light trail at Beaulieu
A fantastic new Christmas light trail will be happening at Beaulieu this Christmas. The tree-tops will glisten as the gardens and buildings shimmer with seasonal sparkle. Explore the dramatically lit ruins of Beaulieu’s medieval Abbey, discover the flickering flames of the scented Fire Garden Cloister and make a Christmas wish at the Wishing Tree. Father Christmas and his elves will also be greeting visitors from the roof of Beaulieu’s veteran bus.
Beaulieu, New Forest, Hampshire, 23 November – 30 December 2018, www.beaulieu.co.uk.
Christmas days out in Hertfordshire
A spectacular Christmas on the farm
Willows Activity Farm is running its ever popular Santa Spectacular with a chance to meet Santa, make a cuddly reindeer, experience a sing-a-long nativity play with real farmyard animals and learn how to be one of Father Christmas’s helpers. Mummytravels visited in 2016. Here’s her review of the Willows Activity Farm Santa Spectacular.
Santa Spectacular at Willows Activity Farm, 21 November to 24 December 2018, www.willowsactivityfarm.co.uk.
Christmas days out in Kent
Fairground fun at Dreamland
Great Britain’s oldest surviving amusement park, Dreamland Margate, is freezing over for the festive season. Skate around the 450 meter square ice rink, visit Santa’s grotto, and enjoy the rides.
The Frosted Fairground at Dreamland, Margate, open weekends from 2 December until 3 January 2019 (excluding Christmas Day and bank holidays), www.dreamland.co.uk.
Light trail at Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest
A brand new Christmas light trail in take place in the heart of Kent this year. Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest will come alive with dancing fountains, a towering Tunnel of Light, and a scented Fire Garden. There are hidden surprises too – watch out for frosty snowflakes, shimmering stars and gigantic baubles where you least expect them. Visitors can complete their stroll under the stars with mulled wine or hot chocolate whilst the aroma of roasting chestnuts fills the air.
Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest, Kent, from 30 November to 30 December 2018, www.bedgeburypinetum.org.uk.
Christmas days out in London
Santa charity run
Fancy a fun, sporty day out in aid of charity? The annual London Santa Dash in aid of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital is taking place on Clapham Common. Participants can choose to ‘dash’ 5k or 10k in a complimentary Santa costume with mulled drinks and mince pies at the finish line.
London Santa Dash, Clapham Common, 9 December 2018, www.gosh.org.
Festivities in Leicester Square
There’s an elaborate programme of Christmas cheer happening in Leicester Square right into the New Year. Families will be able to enjoy shows for the kids, a Santa’s Grotto and European-style Christmas market, while there will be cabaret, comedy and music for the grown ups.
Christmas in Leicester Square, 9 November 2018 to 5 January 2019, www.christmasinleicestersquare.com.
A theatrical Winter Wonderland
The Royal Albert Hall will be hosting a immersive and theatrical Father Christmas experience. Young visitors will be able to make their way through a winter wonderland of characters and enchanted spaces telling a lively pre-Christmas story. They’ll also meet fairies, elves and toy soldiers before ending their quest by receiving a present from Santa himself.
Father Christmas at the Hall, Royal Albert Hall, 22 November to 22 December 2018, www.royalalberthall.com.
Light up ZSL London Zoo
After dark, when the animals have all gone to bed the wider zoo estate will be lit up for the first time in 2018. The Christmas trail will be a mile long immersive experience will include tunnels festooned by a canopy of more than 100,000 glistening pea-lights. Wonder at the historic Mappin Terraces as the Magic Mountain springs to life with a blast of colour and playful projections, plus keep a watchful eye out for Father Christmas and his elves along the way.
ZSL London Zoo, London, 22 November 2018 to 1 January 2019, www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo.
Seussical The Musical
Set to an electric score and co-conceived by Monty Python’s Eric Idle, this is a raucous and touching story by Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Seussical The Musical is a feel-good musical bonanza set in the The fantastical world of Dr. Seuss.
Seussical The Musical, The Southwark Playhouse, London’s West End, 22 November to 29 December, www.nhm.ac.uk
A really wild puppet production at the Natural History Museum
This brand new 357-seat theatre in the Jerwood Gallery at the Natural History Museum will host the European premiere of The Wider Earth. Featuring 30 extraordinary hand-made puppets, this ingenious coming-of-age production explores the little-known story of the rebellious young Charles Darwin when, aged only 22, he set out on his daring five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle.
The Wider Earth, Jerwood Gallery at the Natural History Museum, 2 October to 30 December 2018, www.nhm.ac.uk.
Santa Cruise on the Thames
Sail with Santa is the unique chance for children to meet Santa on the River Thames, as he swaps his sleigh for a boat. Children will enjoy festive fun and a present, along with a soft drink and a cookie; while adults can enjoy a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie.
Sail with Santa, Tower Pier, selected dates between 1 and 23 December 2018, www.citycruises.com.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Visit Hyde Park and step into a magical winter wonderland featuring the UK’s largest open-air ice rink, a 45m long ice slide and a secret forest themed Magical Ice Kingdom.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, 22 November 2018 to 6 January 2019, www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.
More festive ideas
If you’re looking for more ideas why not try ice skating at the Tower of London like the Pigeon Pair and Me family. And here’s how the Globalmouse Travels family spent a whole weekend in London in the run up to Christmas.
Christmas days out in Newcastle
Fenwick’s magical window
For events in Newcastle and the North East there’s no better place to search for festive days out than North East Family Fun. Here’s the family’s visit to see Fenwick’s window revealed.
Fenwick, Newcastle, early November 2018 onwards, www.fenwick.co.uk.
A FREE audience with Father Christmas
Selected intu shopping centres usually organise a free Father Christmas. For the past two years in Newcastle this has been sponsored by Playmobil and children have been gifted a free Playmobil mini set. Here’s a review by Sam at North East Family Fun.
Christmas days out in Norfolk
West End-style winter spectacular
The Thursford Christmas Spectacular is Europe’s biggest Christmas event with 65 musical numbers and dance troop of more than 100 performers. The show lasts several hours so maybe isn’t suitable for young kids but tweens and teens will be wowed by this spectacular variety show.
Thursford Christmas Spectacular, 6 November to 23 December 2018, www.thursford.com.
Christmas days out in Oxfordshire
Blenheim Palace will be transformed, both inside and out, as part of the biggest Christmas celebrations ever at the Oxfordshire World Heritage Site. With a new indoor Cinderella experience taking over the Palace State Rooms during the day and a bigger and even more ambitious Christmas light trail illuminating the ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped Parkland in the evening; visitors can expect an incredible festive experience from November 2018.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, 23 November 2018 to 6 January 2019, www.blenheimpalace.com.
Christmas days out in Pembrokeshire
A traditional Christmas at Dinefwr Park
Visit Dinefwr Park in Pembrokeshire to see the house decked for a traditional Christmas. You can also see plenty of fallow deer in the grounds. See pictures from a visit to Dinefwr Park in 2016 shared by Kaz at Ickle Pickle’s Life and Travels.
Christmas days out in Shropshire
A Victorian Christmas at Blists Hill
Travel back more than 100 years to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a traditional Victorian Christmas at Blists Hill near Ironbridge in Shropshire. Festivities will be taking place over the two weekends in December including decorated streets, carol singing and traditionally made gifts.
Blists Hill, Shropshire, 8 to 9 December and 15 to 16 December 2018, www.ironbridge.org.uk/explore/blists-hill-victorian-town
Christmas days out in Staffordshire
A date with Santa’s real reindeer
Meet Santa’s reindeer and go for a sleigh ride like the Otis & Us family last year. They loved meeting Santa, listening to stories read by the elves and seeing the reindeer roaming at Blithbury Reindeer Lodge.
Christmas events at Blithbury Reindeer Lodge, Rugeley, 10 November to 24 December 2017, www.blithburyreindeerlodge.co.uk.
A North Pole Adventure
Step into a wintery wonderland full of magic and interactive fun at the National Forest Adventure Farm. Here’s a review of a visit to The North Pole Adventure by Otis & Us last year.
The North Pole Adventure, National Forest Adventure Farm, 17 November to 24 December 2018, www.adventurefarm.co.uk.
Christmas days out in Warwickshire
Christmas in a castle
Warwick Castle will be celebrating Christmas with a 20ft tree in the Great Hall, storytelling with Santa and a winter wedding mystery for young visitors to solve. What better day out for young knights and princesses? You can read review of last year’s Christmas celebrations at Warwick Castle on the Plutonium Sox and Mummy Travels blogs.
Christmas at Warwick Castle, 25 November to 31 December 2018, www.warwick-castle.com.
Christmas days out in Wiltshire
A safari park with a festive glow
Longleat Safari Park will be coming alive with Chinese lanterns for it’s annual Festival of Light. These enormous installations add to the winter magic happening at the park including a seasonal drive-through safari, and Santa train ride. Read about our review of Longleat’s Festival of Light last year or check out our video:
Festival of Light, Longleat, from 9 November 2018, www.longleat.co.uk.
Christmas days out in Yorkshire
Christmas past at Harewood House
Historic Harewood House – a set for the gripping ITV series Victoria – will be playing its part this winter by hosting a Victorian Christmas. It is opening for its second festive season with the house and gardens transformed into a Christmas dreamscape.
Victorian Christmas at Harewood House, 24 November 2018 to 6 January 2019, www.harewood.org.
The City Cruises York Santa Experience is a truly magical event on the River Ouse. Guests enter a grotto, cleverly hidden away underneath the beautiful Lendal Bridge. Once the Santa Experience Captain has checked all the children off the nice list, there’s refreshments an presents for all the good children.
City Cruises York Santa Experience, York, on selected dates from 1 to 21 December 2018, www.citycruisesyork.com
Illuminated gardens in York
York Museum Gardens will be illuminated for a second year with lanterns, installations and fair lights. Take a look at this review on Mini Travellers to find out all about Christmas at York Museum Gardens.
York Museum Gardens, York, dates TBC, www.yorkmuseumgardens.org.uk.
A Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park
With an ice rink, ski trail, enchanted forest and the chance to meet Santa, Stockeld Park offers a full on festive day out. Plus after dark the park is illuminated with thousands of family lights. Check out this review of Christmas at Stockeld Park by Colette from We’re Going on an Adventure on Mini Travellers.
Christmas Adventure, Stockeld Park, 1 November 2018 to 7 January 2019, www.stockeldpark.co.uk.
Where else for Christmas days out with kids?
Carrie at Flying with a Baby has all the info on Santa’s Grottos in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland. Sam at Mrs Mulled Wine has Pantomime options for all budgets in the North East of England.
If you know of a wonderful Christmas day out with kids that should be included in my post get in touch.
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