The scent of mulled wine and mince pies, carol singers crooning, the iconic ‘It’s Christmas’ yell of Slade’s lead vocalist Noddy Holder, people stumbling round the ice rinks, wishing they could get away with a penguin to lean on (guilty) – the run up to Christmas is just as important as the day itself for getting in the festive spirit.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a selection of festive events happening across the UK this year, from light festivals to ice skating, shows, carol concerts, pantomimes and ballets, so you can fill your boots (and your calendars) with Christmas activities aplenty and kickstart the most wonderful time of the year in style!
Pss If you don’t manage to book on this year, make sure you note them down for next year’s festive activities.
Now, let the mistletoe see the wine… it’s CHRISTMASSS.
Glow Wild at Wakehurst
📍 Haywards Heath, West Sussex
Any trip to Wakehurst is spellbinding stuff but in the winter, the magic really comes alive as the garden is transformed into the Glow Wild light festival. Their enchanting lantern trail is back for its ninth year running and packed full of surprises including a brand new route.
This year, Glow Wild celebrates the spectrum of colour, inviting you to explore how we see colour and the role it plays in our daily lives. Featuring captivating light installations created by leading artists, glistening fire torches and immersive soundscapes, it’s the perfect activity for all the family.
Don’t miss the UK’s tallest living Christmas tree, dressed to impress in 1,800 fairy lights.
Looking for a cute date night idea in the run up to Christmas? Their brand-new adults only sessions are just the thing.
Selected evenings 24 November 2022 – 1 January 2023
4:30pm – 10pm (last entry at 8.20pm)
Quiet sessions available at 4.15pm on selected evenings
Price: Adult: £17, Wakehurst / Kew Members: £14, Child aged 4-16: £11, Family 2 adults, 2 children: £53, Family Wakehurst / Kew Member: £46, Child (under 4): free, Carer: free.
Hogwarts in the Snow
📍 Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
If your favourite Potter scene is the Yule Ball, then Hogwarts in the Snow is a must-see. Step into the scenes of Hogwarts at Christmas as the iconic Warner Bros. Studio Tour, undergoes its yearly festive makeover, complete with blankets of filmmaking snow. Slytherin hearts are defrosting as we speak. From the Christmas tree-lined Great Hall to a snow-dusted Diagon Alley and the tinsel-wrapped boys’ dormitory, Potterheads are set to be in their wizarding element. Merry Christmas, ya filthy witches.
PS due to its popularity with muggle types, it’s already booked up for crimbo but snap up some tickets for January to get your 2023 off to a spellbinding start!
Selected dates 12 November 2022 – 15 January 2023.
Price: Studio Tour from £49.95
Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol
📍 Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London
You can’t get more festive than Dickens and his classic Christmas Carol but this year, Dolly Parton has sprinkled her very own Tennessee magic on the timeless tale in an all-new musical.
Set during the 1930s in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee and featuring an original score written by Dolly Parton, this heart-warming and truly unforgettable production imagines Ebenezer Scrooge as the owner of a mining company town, where his callous greed blinds him to the joys and gifts of the season.
As a Christmas Eve snowstorm approaches, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts who compel him to see life anew and discover that love is the greatest and most precious gift we have. Dickens’ classic characters and Dolly Parton’s one-of-a-kind song writing and storytelling expertise are certain to make this the most joyful Christmas event.
(Dolly fans please note, she will not feature live in this production).
8 Dec 2022 – 8 Jan 2023
Price: Tickets on sale now from £18.50, Premium tickets available.
📍 Crystal Palace Park, London.
Escape into an incredible world of light at the Lightopia Festival in London’s Crystal. The ultimate neon winter wonderland experience will not only showcase immersive, multi-sensory interactive light and lantern installations but will also feature a spectacular festive water show, ready to transport you to a fantastical Christmas experience like no other.
The 40-metre-wide and 15-metre-tall water show over the lower lake is a visual feast, featuring the beloved Christmas imagery of a giant Santa, Rudolf, Christmas tree and snowflakes.
Other highlights include: ‘The Wonders of the Dragon’, a breath-taking light dragon who dramatically breathes ‘fire’, lighting up the surrounding trees and crystals; ‘The Magical Forest’, a fantasy world of mythical winged creatures; the enchanting and organic ‘Land of Fairy Literature’, ‘Earth Flower’ and ‘Forest Mushroom’; the spooky and wonky world of the ‘Haunted Road’ and of course the ultimate ‘Christmas’ installation of giant snowmen, baubles and sugar canes.
Perfect for family Christmas outings, office parties or a joy-filled evening with your bestie, this magical and heart-warming immersive experience is guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit.
17 November 2022 – 2 January 2023
Price: Standard advance tickets are priced at £19.50 off peak and £24.50 peak for adults, £13 off peak and £16.50 peak for children, and £56 off peak and £72 peak for families of two adults and two children. Children under three can go free. Essential carers of disabled visitors can attend for free; the disabled visitor pays the normal admission fee.
The Snowman Tour
📍 Various locations, including Derby, Chester, Oldham, York, Hull, Buxton, Sheffield, Coventry, Salisbury, Durham & Liverpool.
Go walking in the air this Christmas with a special screening of family-favourite The Snowman, accompanied by a live orchestra. No, you’ve got goosebumps. Sure to create precious memories and get your toes tapping this Christmas, consider this your serotonin soundtrack. Festive cheer unlocked.
Various dates between 1 Dec – 22 Dec 2022.
Price: Tickets from £12
Thursford Christmas Spectacular
📍 Fakenham, Norfolk.
Non-stop singing, dancing, music and humour? That should get you in the spirit of things quicker than you can say pull my cracker.
As the largest Christmas show in the country (if not Europe), you really are in for an evening of top-notch festivities. Set in the magical surroundings of mechanical organs and fairground carousels, with a cast of 120 professional singers, dancers and musicians – most of whom are straight out of the West End – the three hour performance delivers an extravaganza of festive entertainment. Featuring an eclectic mix of both seasonal and year-round favourites, with famous and much-loved chart toppers being performed alongside traditional carols, plus an incredible fly over of white doves across the auditorium for the grand finale, this is what Christmas dreams are made of.
8 November – 23 Dec 2022, 2pm and 7pm.
Prices start from £41 (weekday evenings).
Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market
📍 Victoria Square, Birmingham.
A favourite amongst city residents and visitors alike, the Birmingham Christmas Market is the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria. You can enjoy all the traditional food including bratwursts, schnitzels, pretzels and roasted almonds, all of which can be washed down with a Gluhwein, weissbier (wheat beer) or a soothing cup of hot chocolate. Tick off a few of your Christmas gifts from one of the many open air stalls lining Victoria Square and New Street, featuring everything from handcrafted toys to jewellery and delicate glass baubles or head over to Centenary Square for your fix of fairground fun and ice skating. Don’t miss the legendary singing moose – the face and voice of the Christmas Market, affectionately known to his friends as Chris Moose!
3 November – 23 December.
Open daily from 10am – 9pm (except Remembrance Sunday 13th November, when the market will be open from 1pm – 9pm).
📍 The Spiegeltent, Cardiff Castle Grounds, Castle Street, Cardiff.
This isn’t just any old version of The Nutcracker, this is The Nutcracker with a Welsh twist, performed in the intimacy of Cardiff’s magical Spiegeltent.
Cardiff Castle Christmas Festival presents the highly acclaimed full-length contemporary ballet, Wales’ first reimagining of its kind, featuring a rich cast of recognisably Welsh characters, including Uncle Idris, Bop Sheila & Bopa Linda and The Mari Lwyd. The production also features the showpiece Snowflakes as seen at Cardiff’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and featuring choreographer Jamiel Laurence’s unique take on dancing, tumbling, avalanching and flying snowballs.
Audiences are invited along for a magical ride through the Williams’ Family Christmas. As you are taken into the dream world of the lead protagonist, Carys, her Uncle Idris will conjure up a battle, a snowstorm and his very own variety show, The Uncle Idris Show.
25 November – 27 November for five performances only.
📍 Whitmoor Forest, Ascot, Berkshire.
Get ready to be transported to the magical land of huskies, reindeer, elves and storytelling! Brought to life in a 4-hour immersive experience, Lapland UK takes guests through a magical secret doorway in the Enchanted Forest to an ancient Elven civilisation. Here, small folk can watch with wide eyed wonder as the magic of the forest unfolds, complete with a visit to the toy factory to help Whittle, Conker and Wish with their toy making, a delicious gingerbread decorating class with Mother Christmas, ice skating and finally, a special personalised trip to see Santa and his reindeers in his cosy wood-cabin home.
Guaranteed to create the kind of core memories that last a lifetime for small and big folk alike, allowing grown ups to revel in the joy of their children’s fleeting belief in Father Christmas, and childhood wonder itself. Father Christmas in the UK doesn’t get more authentic than this!
12 November – 24 December, various time slots.
Ice Skating at Somerset House
📍 Somerset House, Strand, London.
Is it even Christmas if you don’t pretend you’re in a Hallmark movie with a cliche but indisputably magical day of festivities in the big smoke? Whether you live in London or make an annual trip to fully absorb its infectious Christmas spirit, an afternoon at Somerset House is a festive rite of passage. Their magnificent ice rink (now with an even bigger skate space!) transforms the iconic courtyard into the winter dreamland, complete with a glorious 40ft Christmas tree, specially curated decorations from Moët & Chandon and gourmet dining at Chalet Suisse- a mesmerising pop-up alpine restaurant courtesy of Jimmy Garcia. Top tip: save the bubbles for once you’re safely off the ice!
16 Nov 2022 – 15 Jan 2023, various time slots.
The Wind in the Willows Wilton’s
📍 Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, London.
Playful, witty and charming, this brand-new adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s much loved The Wind in the Willows by award-winning children’s author Piers Torday (The Last Wild series) is a beautiful tale perfect for the whole family that’s sure to create memories you will treasure for years to come.
Set in modern-day London and tackling familiar issues of the present day, the tale is fundamentally one of hope and joy, featuring a healthy dose of classic songs, puppetry and the book’s favourite characters. With rave reviews from The Sunday Times, The Guardian and The Evening Standard, consider this a must for the festive season if pleasing the whole family is top of your agenda.
24th November to 31st December. 7.30pm, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, Matinees 2.30pm.
Anglesey Abbey Winter Lights
📍 Quy Road, Lode, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire.
This beautiful after-dark experience is one to bookmark for those in and around Cambridge seeking an evening of festive cheer for the whole family. The beautiful National Trust location and home is continuing its partnership with local author Robert MacFarlane and illustrator Jackie Morris, with the Winter Lights experience including Lost Words and Lost Spells poems, music and illustrations throughout.
Enjoy projections of Jackie’s nature illustrations around the grounds, created by award-winning projectionist team Ross Ashton and Karen Monid, as well as new versions of songs and poems throughout the route. Finish your evening by refuelling with food and drinks from independent street food vendors in the Orchard area, and cheers over a warming cup of mulled wine- ‘tis the season!
Friday 9th to Wednesday 21st December.
Bath Christmas Markets
📍Abbey Chambers, Abbey Churchyard, 2 York St, Bath.
Is there a more beautifully traditional, picture-perfect spot to get into the Christmas spirit than the city of Bath? We think not. After being paused for two years, the iconic Bath Christmas markets are up and running once more, welcoming traditional artisan makers to their streets and ensuring festive cheer seeps from every corner of the city.
With over 150 twinkling chalets including some of the best crafters that the South West and beyond has to offer, find homeware, handmade jewellery, and personalised gifts that make Christmas shopping for even the fussiest members of your family feel like a breeze.
Meander round the beautiful stalls with an extravagant hot chocolate and Belgian waffle in hand and consider multiple boxes on your festive bucket list ticked off.
Thursday 24th November to Sunday 11th December.
Monday to Wednesday: 10am to 7pm. Thursday to Saturday: 10am to 8pm. Sundays: 10am to 6pm.
No booking necessary.
Tulleys Farm at Christmas
📍 Tulleys Farm, Turners Hill Rd, Worth, Crawley Down, Crawley.
Set within the beautiful courtyards and woodland of Tulleys Farm, their Christmas experience is created by the same award winning team behind Tulleys Halloween, Escape Rooms and PYO Sunflowers, meaning you’re guaranteed to be in for a festive treat.
From Christmas markets to storytime with Santa himself, ice skating to gingerbread decorating, a trip to Tulleys is a full family affair with activities those of all ages will be excited about. Finish your visit with a warming treat at one of the farm’s many food and refreshment spots, and prepare to have Mariah stuck in your head for the rest of the weekend…
26th November-24th December, various time slots.
No booking necessary.
Castle of Light: A Kingdom on Colours at Edinburgh’s Castle
📍 Castlehill, Edinburgh.
Back for a third magical year, one of Edinburgh’s most beautiful landmarks is set to be transformed into a kingdom of colours once more with a bigger and better than ever colourful projection show that gives the castle a mesmerising new lease of life.
“Drawing inspiration from kaleidoscope patterns, this year’s projections include a mix of geometric designs depicting stories from Scotland’s past, transforming the castle with light, sound and wonder like never before” says Creative Director Andy McGregor, who is working alongside Historic Environment Scotland, on this year’s trail.
For those planning a magical staycation to the city that comes alive at Christmas (or anyone lucky enough to have an EH postcode), a trip to Edinburgh castle is guaranteed to become one of your top memories of Xmas ‘22.
18th-20th and 25th-27th November. 2nd-4th, 8th-11th, 16th-23rd and 27th-30th December 2022. 4.30pm to 9pm (last entry between 7.30pm and 7.45pm)
Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall
📍 Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London.
The home of Christmas in London for 150 years, The Royal Albert Hall is opening their doors this December to share the joy of the most magical season of all. Live music was few and far between during the Christmases of ‘20 and ‘21, and what better way to celebrate the comeback of such events than in one of the country’s most iconic venues. From Christmas carols to traditional concerts, jazz, drag, soul, classic ballet and so much more, there’s a plethora of events set to get you in the mood for the most wonderful time of the year. Check out the full programme line-up here and book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Concerts running from Saturday 3rd-31st December.
Ice Skating at Brighton Pavilion
📍 4/5 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton
Ice skating may be one of the more marmite festive activities out there, but even the wobbliest of skaters will be keen to hit the ice upon seeing the beauty that is Brighton Pavillion’s rink in all its glory this Christmas. Powered entirely by green energy, it’s one of the country’s more eco festive experiences, the atmosphere is one that feels on par with the magic of Love Actually’s most heartwarming moments (let’s try and block out the Joni Mitchell scene…).
Both family friendly and the perfect romantic date spot, cosy up in the rinkside bar after your skate and enjoy a mulled wine or hot chocolate before taking a twinkling walk through the iconic Brighton Lanes. It’s the stuff of Christmas bucket lists!
Oct 29th, 2022– Jan 8th, 2023. Weekdays and weekends, check website for peak and off peak session times.
The Kingdom of The Snow Queen at Blenheim Palace
📍 Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
New for 2022, Blenheim Palace is set to be transformed thanks to their new Kingdom of The Snow Queen theme, with visitors able to take a self-guided tour around the Palace’s rooms, each one filled with hidden surprises. From the glistening Land of Snowflakes filled with a silvery frost-covered forest, to the wintery Kingdom of Ice adorned with larger-than-life shimmering crystals, the transformation is captivating whether accompanied by little ones or a new wintertime lover.
If that wasn’t enough to pique your interest, wander the Palace’s picture-perfect gardens through tunnels of light and lakeside reflections, and end your evening warming up by the flickering flames of the palace’s fire garden that brings to life the cosy ambience that is so special during the Christmas period.
Blenheim Palace’s Christmas Market will also be returning for 2022, with plentiful designer/maker craft traders housed in wooden chalets in the Great Court with a selection of treats and gifts for yourself and loved ones this Christmas. Finally, if a foodie agenda is what makes your heart sing, enjoy their Ice Kingdom Themed Afternoon Tea between 18th November 2022 – 2nd January 2023 at the Orangery- meet you there!
Access to The Kingdom of The Snow Queen 18th November 2022-2nd January 2023.
Christmas at Kew
Entrances at Victoria Gate, Brentford Gate and Elizabeth Gate. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond.
If Kew Gardens wasn’t magical enough, consider its magical-ness amped up X 1000 during the festive season as its grounds bring to life the beauty of Christmas, made better by the fact it’s their 10 year anniversary of celebrating the festive season in style!
Their winter lights trail is truly as romantic as it sounds, featuring “sparkling tunnels of light, dancing lakeside reflections, and trees drenched in jewel-like colour”- truly divine. Marvel at the spectacular light, music and water display in front of the iconic Palm House or nail the perfect photo dump cover in front of the Christmas Cathedral with its thousands of sparkling fairy lights.
You’ll find independent street food vendors dotted along your route, offering a delightfully festive treat or spiced winter warmer drink to keep you feeling merry and bright no matter the temperatures.
Selected dates, 16 November 2022 to 8 January 2023. Time slots start between 4.20pm and 8pm. The Gardens close at 10pm with last entry at 8:20pm and 7:20 pm on Christmas eve.
Once Upon a Christmas Evening Carols at Christ Church Cathedral
📍 Christ Church Cathedral, Christchurch Place, Dublin 8, Ireland.
If a night of traditional festivities is what you’re seeking this December, Dublin’s Once Upon A Christmas Evening is the epitome of classic Christmas cheer. The Park Singers, along with their director Órla Gillan, are set to perform a mix of carols from old favourites to modern classics (and a few surprises in between!) at the impressive Christ Church Cathedral in the heart of Dublin.
Winners of the City of Derry International Choir Competition in 2018, and the ladies choir competition at the Cork International Choral Festival in 2019, consider this evening one sure to transport anyone not feeling the full effect of the festive season to a scene worthy of Love Actually.
Sunday 11th December 2022, 8pm.