Festive days out for the whole family

From magical winter wonderlands and candlelit evenings to visits from Father Christmas, VisitEngland rounds up 12 of the top places to get into the Christmas s…

Thickly frosted branches, rousing carols, and red-breasted robins, England is certainly the place to indulge in Christmas cheer. 

Let there be light – magical evenings

Chester Zoo

Discover the Lanterns at Chester Zoo, Chester

2 – 3 December, 9 – 11 December, 16 – 23 December

This magical night time event invites visitors to explore the zoo after dark and relish in the night time sounds, beautiful lantern-lit gardens and magnificent, larger than life animal lanterns. Designed and performed by The Lantern Company, the creators of spectacular illuminated events across the world, this year’s lantern sculptures and puppets include many new characters. Take a stroll through the enchanted forest and celebrate local woodland and garden creatures – maybe even catching a glimpse of Santa on his sleigh! Tickets are £9-12.50 for children and £10-15 for adults, booking early is advised.


The UK’s first immersive ‘Tunnel of Light’, Norwich

17 November – 5 January

Visitors to Norwich’s lead seasonal attraction, ‘Tunnel of Light’, will experience a wonderland display made from 50,000 pulsating LEDs, running from Gentleman’s Walk to The Forum. The sequenced lights will reflect the patterns and colours of the Northern Lights for visitors to experience a display of mesmeric dancing beams, the likes of which the city has never seen before. Inspiration for the tunnel has been taken from Nagashia Resort’s theme park Nabana no Sato in Japan. In addition, three commissioned original film projections of distinct Christmas stories will be broadcast nightly on the iconic Art Deco City Hall and Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. The 280-foot long projection at City Hall will tell a traditional Christmas narrative, whilst at Norwich Castle, there will be two 70 foot high films of contemporary Christmas adventure; powerful, graceful and absorbing.


Shrek and friends light up St George’s Hall, Liverpool

26 November – 15 January

The animated stars of DreamWorks movies will be lighting up Liverpool this Christmas with a spectacular walkthrough experience of large scale lanterns. It’s a UK first for the city as Liverpool’s iconic Grade I listed St George’s Hall welcomes Shrek, Kung-Fu Panda and the Penguins of Madagascar as part of DreamWorks Lights. Visitors will also have the opportunity to get up close with their favourite characters through a special green-screen photo experience and shop. Prices: adults £10; children £8.


Blenheim Palace

Lighting up Blenheim Palace with the new Christmas Trail, Oxfordshire

25 November – 2 January

Blenheim Palace’s Formal Gardens will be transformed into an enchanted illuminated wonderland. The hour long trail will include scented fire gardens, singing Christmas trees and a lake aglow with brightly lit boats filled with snowflakes and presents. Other highlights include the fairy-lit arbour; the lakeside boathouse, which will become a temporary home for Santa Claus, and the Cascades, which will also be bathed in light. Cultural inspiration has been taken from Blenheim Palace’s baroque architecture and six Formal Gardens sat within 2,000 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscape. Adults £16.00/Children £10 when booked in advance.


Immerse yourself in a Shakespeare-inspired Enchanted Park, Saltwell Park, Gateshead

6 – 11 December

Discover a Mid-Winter Night’s Tale through a trail of art installations with lights, performances, sculptures and projections. Part of Light up the North, a network of seven light festivals taking place in seven cities across the North of England, this after-dark arts adventure sees specially commissioned artists transform Gateshead’s Victorian Saltwell park into a magical and mythical wonderland. Inspired by the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, this year’s Enchanted Parks will take visitors on an intriguing journey, where a hidden manuscript found inside the Towers has unleashed a strange kind of magic, as A Midwinter Night’s Tale slowly comes to life. Ticket prices are £8 for adults and £2 for children under 16.


Candlelight Tours, Holkham Hall, North Norfolk

30 November – 2 December; 7 – 9 December; 14 – 16 December

A wonderful opportunity to see the flicker of hundreds of candles illuminating the state rooms of Holkham Hall. A guide will take guests for an early evening tour to see the decorations, learn about how they were created and listen to the intriguing stories of Holkham’s history and of its residents past and present. Included is a glass of prosecco, or a soft drink, and a mince pie in the Courtyard Café. Adult £16, Children £10.



Join the winter spectacular at Longleat’s celebratory Festival of Light, Wiltshire

11 November – 2 January

Bringing the curtain down on the Safari Park’s 50th birthday celebrations in remarkable style, this eye-catching event will take the age-old tradition of the Chinese lantern and transform it for today’s modern audience, using around 40 types of animals and 2,500 individual lanterns. Longleat’s Festival of Light will this year also mark 150 years of Beatrix Potter by combining a collection of its own safari animals with some of the author’s key characters in a series of delightful scenes built by Longleat’s creative partners in China. At 20 metres high, the cake will be this year’s biggest illumination and the icing will be 1,100 metres of silk in 17 different colours, all topped-off by 2,000 metres of LED lights. Prices are £30.95 for adults and £29.95 for children, with discounted tickets from November. Admission includes entry to see The Festival of Light, the famous singing Christmas tree, plus entry to the Safari Park.


Enchanted escapes

Explore the town that influenced A Christmas Carol at Malton’s Dickensian Festival, Yorkshire

Throughout December

Set in the picturesque market town that inspired Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this Christmas highlight combines theatre, street entertainment, music, talks, tours, horse and carriage rides, and even Victorian food and drink! Helmsley’s unusual Christmas Tree Festival in December heralds the start of a packed programme of special events in the town. Local visitor attractions also add to the festive sparkle: Castle Howard near Malton is transformed into an enchanting wonderland throughout December, with beautiful decorations, roaring log fires and live music inside the house, and Christmas markets in the stable yard.  Nunnington Hall welcomes Father Christmas during its 1920s Christmas Experience, and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway launches its popular Santa Specials.


The stage is set for a magical Nutcracker Christmas at Chatsworth, Derbyshire

5 November – 3 January

The fairy-tale magic of the famous ballet will sweep everyone along into an enchanting winter wonderland this festive season as Chatsworth House will be transformed to present the festive tale. The magnificent stately home will be complete with beautiful decorations, lavish costumes and wonderful stage sets that tell the story of The Nutcracker, transporting visitors to a fairy-tale world populated by Nutcracker soldiers; elegant ballerinas and dancing snowflakes. All the cast will be on view – from the Mouse King and the Sugar Plum Fairy to the Nutcracker and Clara – to depict the story in a series of stunning tableau scenes throughout the house. Various ticket options available.


Chatsworth House

Santa specials

All aboard for this year’s Santa Specials at the Kent & East Sussex Railway

3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 22, 23 and 24 December

Take a delightful steam train journey on Tenterden’s Steam Railway this Christmas to meet Santa on board and enjoy a relaxing journey on the festively decorated Santa Special, as it makes its way to the North Pole!  Guests will be greeted by a beautiful Victorian carousel with prancing horses just waiting to take everyone on a glorious ride. Back at Tenterden station, the fun continues with a Giant Snow Globe, where everyone can pose for a free colour family photograph as a memento of their special day. Tickets start at £17.00.


Visit the largest working reindeer herd in England at Blithbury Reindeer Lodge, Staffordshire

From 11 November (Friday evenings and weekends), Open Days 20-23 December

Nestled in the heart of Staffordshire, New House Farm is home to over 150 reindeer which roam freely across a 30-acre site. The magic truly arrives this Christmas as the Lodge is transformed into a Winter Wonderland, filled with twinkling lights, Christmas trees, Santa and his little helpers and – of course – reindeer, and sleigh rides. Feed and fuss over 100 reindeer, have story-time with the Head Elf, and embark on a personal visit to meet Santa, access to his toy workshop, and attend Elf School. Prices are £9.95 for adults, £14.95 for children over two.


Last modified: June 10, 2021

Written by 3:16 pm Around The UK