The best Christmas activities near you

In between all that shopping and Crimbo work drinks, it’s hard to find room for a little innocent Christmas glee time, but with our activity round-up we’ve made it easy for you to fit in the fun. From snow tubing and virtual reality sleigh rides, to underwater Christmas trees and Victorian santa trains, we’ve got your area covered with the BEST of what’s on over Christmas.

London

Re-charge in style

There’s only one way to get through a day of Oxford Street Christmas shopping and that’s with a slap-up dinner and dreamy cocktails at the Forest on the Roof Restaurant & Bar in Selfridges London. Sample the new winter menu under a canopy of stars at the city’s latest foodie hotspot. Book a table now!

Soar through the air on Santa’s sleigh...well, nearly

John Lewis on Oxford Street are partnering up with Portable North Pole (the people behind those personalised videos from Santa that are HUGE right now) to offer a free virtual reality experience for kids and adults who can’t get enough of this hot new tech. Take the reindeer on a training flight with Santa’s sleigh, which you’ll find on the 3rd floor Christmas Shop from now until Christmas Eve and have the video of your experience emailed to you afterwards. It’s probably even better than the real thing. Store opening times are: Mon-Sat: 9.30am-9pm, Sun: 12pm-6pm.

Make it through Elf passport control

Send your kids on a Christmas adventure this year at intu Uxbridge where for £4, every child (under 2’s go free) receives their own passport to visit different Christmassy zones around the centre culminating in a visit to see the big man himself in his festive Gingerbread House. Kids earn stickers for their passport as they go, get stuck into Christmas activities and receive a gift when they meet Santa. Timeslots are limited and need to be booked online or by calling 01895 817543 in advance.

Do festive full-throttle

Now in its 10th year, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland’s rides, markets, shows, attractions and skating offer THE one-stop-shop Christmas epic experience for those who love everything Crimbo. Attractions like the Magical Ice Kingdom and Cirque Berserk cost extra to visit and will need to be booked in advance. But if you’re on an impromptu visit, beat the queues to over 100 rides and games with your contactless card using the Tap&Ride scheme. Easy! Winter Wonderland is open every day until 2nd January 2017.   

South East

Catch a glimpse of a Christmas icon

No we don’t mean Buddy from Elf (now that would be AWESOME), we’re talking about the big red Coca-Cola Christmas truck that everybody knows is the sign it’s time to get festive. The truck will be parked on Terminus Road outside Debenhams at Eastbourne on 17th December between 12pm-8pm.

Watch a living advent calendar (yes, really)

In Windsor and Eton they take advent calendars to the next level with local businesses bringing a new advent scene to life every evening until 24th December. Like a normal advent calendar, a different window or door is opened at 6:15pm outside one of the businesses taking part to reveal a 15-minute performance, which can be anything from carols to dancing, sketches to book readings and more! Find out where tomorrow’s advent window will be.   

South West

Meet the reindeer at Trelissick

On 17 December from 1-4pm there'll be some special guests descending on Trelissick Gardens before they have to head off back to Lapland and get training for the big night. A great chance to see whether reindeer really DO like carrots. You can see the reindeer for free (in the Stableyard), but normal admission charges apply for the rest of the venue.

Make like a penguin

At-Bristol's Christmas Ice Rink is ready and waiting for wobbly beginners and seasoned skating pros alike under a giant bauble every day until Christmas Eve. And for the adults, a little après-ski is available at Skyview on Anchor Square. Skating lasts for 45mins and tickets are £8.50 for adults and £6.50 for children if booked online. All prices include skate hire.

East of England

Watch Santa get his sea legs

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. It’s Santa arriving at Snape Maltings on an historic Thames sailing barge. Some things just have to be seen to be believed. Catch Santa’s spectacular entrance on 17th December at 3:15pm.

Enjoy festive fun at the fair

Whirling on the waltzers, nose-diving on the bungee ropes, frolicking in the fun house – we can’t think of a better way to cut loose after a day of shopping at intu Lakeside. Opening times vary, see the Christmas Village page for details.

Midlands

Experience your own Narnia

Remember the kids who found Narnia in the back of a wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Well, replace that wardrobe with a virtual reality headset and you’re inside your very own Christmas Wonderland at intu Victoria Centre. Immerse yourself in a magical world for free, every day until 20th December (over 13s only). Skip the queues and book your fast pass now.

Throw snowballs indoors

At intu Derby an enchanting snow garden awaits on Level 2 where kids can experience all the fun of making snow angels and throwing snowballs with none of the icy-cold fingers. The garden is open from 11am-4pm until 19th December every day.

Take a trip to the North Pole

Birmingham’s SEA LIFE Centre is going Antarctic with its grotto this year offering the chance to see their family of cheeky Gentoo Penguins, an underwater Christmas tree and Saint Nick himself. Plus, pop badge fans can also get a whiff of chocolate in the 4D cinema screening of The Polar Express. SEA LIFE Centre admission prices start from £12.75 and under 3s go free. Find booking info here.

The North

Bagsy a free gel manicure for your night out

On 17th and 18th December, Topshop at intu Trafford Centre are offering free express gel manicures or party lip applications when when you spend over £40 between 12pm-6pm in-store on either day. That’s a FREE manicure for buying that pair of jeans you’ve been after for ages anyway. Nice! First come, first served so be there promptly...

Enjoy a cheeky grooming sesh

And for the men, on 17th December between 12pm-6pm if you spend over £40 in Topman at intu Trafford centre you’re entitled to a free beard or hair trim courtesy of Mr Beardmore. Have your fuzz cut to the beats of a local DJ who’ll be doing a set in-store.

Feast on local goodies at Gateshead

On 17th December from 10am-3pm, the very best of locally sourced produce and handmade crafts are on offer at Gibside Market to those looking for something extra special for their crimbo dinners and stockings. Enjoy free entry to the Market Place, café and shop too!

Smell fabulous while you shop

When you head to intu Metrocentre for a Christmas shopping spree, don’t miss the Marc Jacobs pop-up kiosk outside House of Fraser where the sensory delights of the new designer perfume are yours to sample away. Also, don’t forget to visit the Snow Globe in The Village for a very unique photo op.

Scotland

Ho, ho, ho….see Santa in his grotto!  

From now until Christmas Eve, see Santa and his elves at his magical grotto at intu Braehead. For just £5.50, kids get a Playmobil gift and can tell Santa all about how good they’ve been this year. You can order your tickets in advance using the online booking form (booking in advance is recommended to avoid disappointment).

See yourself on the Big Screen

If you fancy yourself as an X Factor wannabe then let intu Braehead be your stage. To be in with a chance of seeing yourself pop up on the Big Screen, just send a 10-second video of you and/or your family sending intu your seasons greetings – don’t be afraid to get creative! The best videos will be turned into a digital Christmas card and premiered on the Big Screen at a VIP event on 19th December at 7pm, including hot chocolate and the best seats in the house! Find out how to enter.

Bring your festive A-game

Aberdeen’s Christmas Village is even bigger this year with a huge ice rink, maze, fairground, live music, festive stalls and more! Take a moment to admire the city’s Nordic Christmas tree, donated by twin city Stavanger. The Village is open every day until 8th January 2017.

Wales

Ride the Santa train

On 17th, 18th and 22nd December, Ffestiniog Railway are putting on their Victorian Santa train offering families a truly vintage Christmas experience complete with sherry, mince pies and carol singing. Tickets start from £12.50 and advance booking on the Santa Hotline 01766 516070 is highly recommended.  

Do Christmas the trendy way

Alternative Cardiff venue Depot shows us how to do Christmas shabby-chic on 17th December with artisan festive fare, cocktail masterclasses, Bingo Lingo, so-bad-they’re-cool Christmas jumpers and lashings of mulled cider set in a fairy-lit warehouse that will take your breath away. Expect live music and beards a’plenty. Free entry.

Northern Ireland

Meet the Gruffalo in the forest

Join this year’s Gruffalo Christmas party at Colin Glen Forest Park for a chance to meet the beloved ogre and the rest of the characters from the best selling children’s book. You’ll even receive a certificate to prove you’ve been brave enough to meet the Gruffalo. The experience is available Monday to Friday and Sunday at 10am, 12pm and 2pm or on Saturdays at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Tickets are £8 per person and include a present from Santa and guided forest walk.  

Go snow tubing with Father Christmas

Snow WHAT? Take one inflatable doughnut and a steep incline and you’ve got snow tubing – the safer and no-snow-needed alternative to tobogganing. It’s so easy, even Santa can do it. Call Craigavon Golf and Ski Centre to book your place now on 028 3832 6606. Ticket prices start from £6.  

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