The Best Christmas Events with Kids Handy for Luxury Family Hotels
Christmas is family time, wherever you spend it. And though Christmas at home can be very special, this is also a great time of year to get away, not least because you can leave most of the hard work to other people!
We’ve picked out some of the best festive days out within easy reach of our family-friendly retreats. But don't forget that the hotels themselves will be bathed in Christmas spirit, with house parties and traditional entertainment and food galore. And remember that while the English seaside might not be an obvious choice at this time of year, Christmas by the coast has its own charm – after all, what could be better than a stroll along a crisply cold, deserted beach to help walk off your excesses?
Handy for: The Ickworth Hotel, Suffolk
Weekends of 7/8th, 14/15th and 21st/22nd December 2013
There's no need to stray very far from your room at the Ickworth Hotel itself for some very special Christmas events and activities courtesy of the National Trust in the main part of this stunning Italianate palace. The Trust's Christmas Family Sparkle events include traditional sweet, decoration, puppet and cracker making, concerts by local choirs, and storytelling and a sing-song with none other than Santa. There's also a Christmas trail through the woods and traditional carnival games in the West Wing. No booking is required. If you do fancy venturing out of the grounds, there's family pantomime just a few minutes' drive away – the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds is hosting 'Aladdin' this year.
A Falmouth Christmas
Handy for: Polurrian Bay Hotel, Cornwall
Throughout December 2013
Christmas is a great time to bring the family to Falmouth, with a host of events in the run-up to the big day. If you're around on Christmas Eve, don't miss the Harmony Choir event, with choirs from across Cornwall gathering to sing carols along the main street in a tradition stretching back more than a century. Other highlights are the RNLI Carols on the Quay (5th), late-night shopping nights featuring a charity Santa's grotto, festive family crafts at Falmouth Art Gallery and a Christmas market with hot cherry beer, roast chestnuts and a hog roast (5th, 12th and 19th), a Santa Fun Run (14th), a Live Nativity with sheep, goats and a small pet area (15th) and a Christmas tree festival (16th–31st). There are also plenty of special family events at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.
Cornish Christmas Evenings, Lost Gardens of Heligan
Handy for: Fowey Hall, Cornwall
2nd/9th/16th December 2013
These enchanting botanical gardens are offering free entrance to their magically lantern-lit Northern Gardens on several evenings in the prelude to Christmas. Visitors can roam pathways taking them past beautifully lit pools and glasshouses before hitting the award-winning tea-room for seasonal treats from the bakery and mulled wine accompanied by carols sung by local choirs. Or on Boxing Day and on New Year’s Day 2014, there's free admission to the Gardens as a whole, with visitors encouraged to make a minimum £2pp donation to this year’s nominated charities. Alternatively, if you're staying at Fowey in late November, the tea-room is hosting Stir Up Sunday, a display of all the ingredients that go into the Heligan Christmas puddings, on the 24th.
Craneberry Fest, WWT Slimbridge Centre
Handy for: Thornbury Castle, Gloucestershire
Weekends from 30th November 2013 to 26 January 2014
Making cranberry Christmas decorations and bird-feeders, following the 'craneberry' trail and enjoying cranberry-based treats are the activities on offer at this Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust reserve over the festive period. In case you're wondering what the connection is, the word 'cranberry' derives from 'crane berry', so-named because the drooping flower resembles the neck and head of a sand-crane. The centre also has a Santa's grotto every Saturday and Sunday between 30th November and 22nd December.
Christmas at Longleat, Longleat Safari & Adventure Park
Handy for: Woolley Grange, Wiltshire
Throughout December with the exception of 2nd–5th, 9–12th and 25th
Skating on real ice against the backdrop of floodlit Longleat House, riding the Santa Special train into the snow-covered woods to meet Father Christmas in his log cabin, encountering pantomime characters and ogling the giant tree are in store for those who buy a Christmas ticket to Longleat this year. There'll also be a fair selling local produce, stocking fillers and decorations, winter drive-throughs of the safari park and access to all the other park attractions including Postman Pat’s Village.
Santa's Christmas Wonderland, Paulton's Park & Peppa Pig World
Handy for: New Park Manor, Hampshire
1st, 7/8th, 13–16th and 20th–23rd December 2013
This family theme park goes all out for Christmas, offering visitors the chance to mingle with animated characters, meet Rudolph and Donner the singing reindeer, see the elves at work in Santa's toy factory and get a present from Father Christmas – as well as enjoying most of the park's usual attractions. New for 2013 is a 4D adventure film in which reindeer Blitzen and elf Bobo help Santa save Christmas, while Peppa Pig World with its seven rides and indoor play zone will be magically illuminated.
Santa's Grotto, Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre
Handy for: Moonfleet Manor, Dorset
19th–23rd December 2013
Head to this animal sanctuary on certain evenings in December and elves will escort you onto a fairy-lit buggy for a ride deep into the park to meet Santa and warm up with mince pies and mulled wine. Advance booking is essential.