The best Christmas events for children
Plan a Christmas family day out in East Anglia. Christmas activities for children in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.
They’ve been waiting for this all year so make the most of the season with our pick for festive fun for children from Santa grottos, Christmas lights, ice rinks and Christmas shows, perfect for toddlers, tweens and teenagers.
Christmas events for children in Norfolk
Thursford Christmas Spectacular, 9 November – 23 December
One of the biggest Christmas shows in the UK, The Thursford Christmas Spectacular blends Christmas entertainment, with dazzling dancers, beautiful costumes, and music including seasonal classics and year-round favourites. It’s a spectacle of colour and talent not to be missed. There are two performances per day, and this year promises to be bigger and better than ever before! Tickets start at £38.
Christmas Spectacular Circus & Water Show, 11 December – 9 January
Hippodrome Circus, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
The Christmas Spectacular returns with a fantastic display of music, dance and circus acts. There’ll be sensational acrobats, aerialists, water displays and the magic of Christmas with hilarious comedy from Jack Jay and Ben Langley. This is a great alternative to a traditional pantomime. Price: Adults £22-£27, children up to 14 years £13-£17.
Christmas at Pensthorpe
Pensthorpe Natural Park, Fakenham
Pensthorpe is getting ready to bring the festive cheer this year with a bumper Christmas offering featuring a new Santa Explorer experience, Christmas market, late night shopping and a wreath making workshop.
In the build up to Christmas, little ones who have been working hard to be on Santa’s nice list this year will be able to meet the main man himself in a magical grotto in the courtyard. Taking place on selected dates throughout December, families will be able to tell Santa about any last-minute Christmas present ideas and all children will be treated to a very special gift too.
The Santa Explorer will also be arriving at the nature reserve for the very first time, ready to transport families on an after-dark Christmas journey across the park. Guests can hop aboard and journey through the forest on an important quest for Santa. Visitors will then make their way to the viewing gallery to enjoy a delicious hot chocolate and tuck into some festive treats while some cheerful little elves share an extraordinary Christmas Story to get everyone in the festive spirit.
Tickets to Santa’s Grotto are £5.95 per child with no charge for adults. For the Santa Explorer, adult tickets are £9.95 and child tickets are £14.95.
Christmas at ROARR! Dinosaur Adventure, 26 November – 24 December
Christmas at ROARR! Dinosaur Adventure is pulling out all the stops this year for its Christmas Celebration programme.
The attraction will feature hundreds of decorations including a 7-metre-high Christmas tree to a magical grotto experience.
The Christmas Present House (entry £4.99) will be returning. Built for children only, little ones can head in through a specially designed door to pick a gift for a parent or loved one, and some happy little elves will be waiting to help with the wrapping, ready for the big day.
Children can write and post a letter to Father Christmas, and follow the candy cane trail to win a prize. A new Christmas film, ‘The Sleigh Ride’, will be shown at Dippy’s theatre as an additional Christmas activity to get everyone in the festive spirit.
Visitors can also embark on a journey through the optional festive experience during the park’s normal daytime opening hours by purchasing a standard park ticket and a Jingle All The Day ticket, priced £15 per child.
Designed to be a queue-free experience, each family group will enter the experience on their own to meet Father Christmas himself. The children will receive a magical passport from the cheeky elves (and a candy cane too) before meeting Mrs Christmas – who will be on hand to offer a delicious gingerbread.
The magical journey, full of sparkly decorations, will then see guests receive a golden ticket from Father Christmas to exchange for a present of their choice and a digital photograph with the man himself. Families will also receive a delicious hot chocolate, as the perfect way to end their festive experience. Click here for full details.
Fun things to do this Christmas in Cambridge
The North Pole Ice Rink, 19 November – 3 January
Parker’s Piece, Cambridge
Frozen fun is coming to Cambridge this winter with the return of The North Pole Ice Rink. A great festive day out for adults, teenagers and children (penguin skating aids are available for little ones), the rink is available for skating during the day and evening. The fun continues with the addition of the Big Wheel and a three lane, real ice slide. After a whizz around the rink, visitors can warm up at the bar serving traditional bratwursts, hot chocolate and mulled wine. Prices from £13 per adult, £11 per child. Family discounts available.
Christmas at Wimpole, 26 November-2 January
The after-dark illuminated trail through festive gardens is a must-visit event this winter. Be surrounded by more than a million twinkling lights, colourful trees and amazing illuminated installations, all choreographed to a soundtrack of much-loved seasonal music. There will be burnished lantern trees filled with flickering flames, neon strings stretched between towering trees, singing trees, larger-than-life mistletoe and perhaps a glimpse at Father Christmas too. This year sees some dazzling additions including the Christmas Cathedral adorned with over 100,000 pea-lights, a neon tree and tree stars for that extra festive touch. After exploring the lights, warm up with toasted marshmallows and a hot chocolate. Find out more.
Family Activities at IWM Duxford, 18 – 30 December
This Christmas, make the most of the daily family activities at IWM Duxford. Put paper plane making skills to the test and try to beat the world record with ‘Flight Academy’, or travel back in time to D-Day 1944 with the ‘Family Mission’ to learn about the biggest invasion in history as you explore IWM Duxford. Head to the American Air Museum and build your very own bespoke cockpit in ‘Cockpit Control’ or help restore the hacked system in ‘Airforce Action Stations’. All activities are drop in and vary daily, check details at the Visit Planning Point upon arrival. Free (included in price of admission).
Family Christmas events in Hertfordshire
Santa at Paradise Wildlife Park, selected dates between, 27 November – 24 December
Santa’s sleigh is landing at the zoo! Hertfordshire’s leading outdoor attraction will be dressed for the festive season featuring a sparkling 20ft Christmas tree and holiday music to keep you entertained on your walk to see the animals and dinosaurs. Children can visit the reindeers in the woodlands before meeting Santa. Book here.
Lunch with Santa, 5-23 December
A wonderful festive experience for families. Enjoy a three course lunch with a visit from Santa. Each child receives a gift too. Book here.
Covent Garden Street Performers at St Albans, 12 & 19 December
Bringing the magic and theatre of Covent Garden to St Albans! You might just bump into these outrageously funny and brilliant street acts as you wander around town, who knows where they’ll pop up- watch out for the toy soldiers and trees on stilts!
Nutcracker Trail, 21 November – 25 December
Go nuts for this fun family Christmas trail! Try to find all the nutcrackers hidden around St Albans town and the wider district. Free trail maps available from the town centre. Look out for the Christmas lights and animation installations dotted across St Albans town centre.
Christmas events for children in Essex
Glow at Hyde Hall, 10 November – 1 January
Hyde Hall, Essex
It is the season of sparkle and RHS Garden Hyde Hall is glowing. The gardens, shrubs and trees will be lit with bright colours and pretty patterns. Wander through the winter trail, which this year includes the Australia and New Zealand garden. From here you’ll see dazzling views back across the grounds. The willow trees will be draped in twinkling lights and leaf sculptures lit with festive colours. Finish your evening by warming up with a festive beverage from the German style stalls.
Car Park Panto
17 December – Chelmsford City Racecourse – 4.30pm and 7pm
18 December – IWM Duxford – 2pm and 5pm 19 December – London Stansted Airport – 2pm and 5pm
Enjoy the festive cheer of panto from the comfort of your car. Car Park Panto in partnership with Birmingham Stage Company are bringing ‘Horrible Christmas’ to the region. A festive spin on children’s favourite, ‘Horrible Histories’, children (and adults) can cheer from their car, beeping their horn, for an interactive performance. Great value for money, the event is set to sell out fast!
Magic of Christmas at Colchester Zoo, weekends in December & 18-24 December
Colchester Zoo, Essex
Experience the magic of Christmas at the zoo with festive treats and activities. Children can visit Santa’s reindeers in their stables, take part in arts and crafts at the elves workshop and listen to Christmas tales.
Christmas Upside Down House, 6 December – 3 January
Turn your world upside down and capture gravity defying photos with Santa. The Upside Down House will have a festive makeover this season. In addition to festive photo opportunities, visitors will have the chance to enter a competition to win tickets to other nearby attractions.
Colchester Ice Rink, 9-31 December
Firstsite in Colchester will once again host a pop-up ice rink this Christmas. Grab your skates and hit the ice. Pop-up stalls selling seasonal treats will add to the festive atmosphere. This year sees a bigger rink of 200sq m and skate time of 45 minutes. Get your skates on; book here.
Santa Sunday’s at Stoke by Nayland, Sundays in December
Near Colchester, Essex
Escape to the countryside this Christmas and immerse yourself in the festive spirit at Stoke by Nayland Resort. The Resort is located in an ANOB and will be transformed into a magical winter wonderland. Santa comes to town every Sunday in December to treat families to some festive fun and a special lunch with the man himself. As well as tucking into a delicious three-course lunch, each child gets a surprise gift from Santa and the whole family can join in with the on-site festive entertainment. Tickets from £12 per child, aged 2-6 years.
Storytelling with Father Christmas at Markshall Estate, weekends 27 November – 19 December, and 21-24 December
This festive season stop by Markshall Estate for ‘Storytelling with Father Christmas’. Visitors can join Father Christmas in his woodland hideaway as he reads them a yuletide tale of the magic of Christmas. A special gift awaits for all younger attendees.
Festive events for children in Suffolk
IlluminAbbey, 2-4 December
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
The Abbey Gardens will be decorated in a dazzling display of lights accompanied by music and live entertainment, suitable for all ages. The 1km route begins at the Eastgate Nursery entrance, leading through the illuminated gardens and ruins. Along the way, there will be street theatre, circus acts and high impact drumming troupe with kaleidoscopic lighting. The trail takes place 4.30pm-8.30pm. Tickets; adult £6, child (4-16 years) £4, under 4s go free.
Kentwell’s Dickensian Christmas, 4-5 and 11-12 December
A wonderful festive family day out. Explore the Christmas Trail through the gardens before meeting Mother Christmas at the cosy cottage. Here, children can write a letter to Father Christmas before meeting him at his sleigh. Booking is essential.
Family Christmas events in Bedfordshire
Christmas at The Old Watermill, from October
The Old Watermill Shopping Village, Barton-Le-Clay
The Christmas Barn has opened its doors to a magical winter wonderland of decorations, twinkling lights and gifts. Browse the Christmas village and soak up the festive atmosphere. Santa will be waiting for children at The Olde Watermill Grotto, complete with friends from the North Pole. The 40-minute fun-festive experience includes a ‘elfie selfie’, singing, dancing, the chance to make reindeer food and a story and present from Santa. Price: Child £14.99, Adult £4.99.
Christmas at Whipsnade Zoo, 20 November – 24 December
Perfect for animal-loving children, combine a day at the zoo with Christmas festivities. Learn about Santa’s reindeers, warm up with treats at the Lookout Lodge and visit the animals throughout the zoo with some Christmas surprises along the way. On weekends in the lead up to Christmas, children can visit Santa at his grotto. If you’re stuck for a gift idea, then upgrade with an animal gift-giving session which offers the opportunity to prepare food for one of the species followed by a visit to Santa, then a short tour before feeding the animals.
Jack Frost, 3 December
The Place, Bedford
A wonderful wintery performance for the whole family to enjoy. The story of Jack Frost is bought to life through puppetry, live music and storytelling. Produced by Moon On A Stick, this a heart-warming tale of bravery and friendship suitable for children aged 3+.
Stockwood Illuminated, 3-23 December
Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton
The guided trail takes visitors on a journey of light and sound through illuminated pathways and greenery. The trail takes approximately one hour to complete, and slots are available every 30 minutes. Priced £4-6. Book here.
Percy the Park Keeper’s Winter Wander Trail, 4-24 December
Wrap up warm and head outside for an educational winter adventure. Help Percy the park keeper with his winter tasks, and wander the trail with activities, games and clues along the way. A great affordable event at £2 per child, there’s no need to book in advance simply head to the Chilterns Gateway Centre and pick up your trail pack.
The Mo-Joe Children’s Book Event, 4 December
The Higgins, Bedford
A free event, perfect for a wintery Saturday afternoon. Get cosy at The Higgins and listen to the adventures of Mo and Joe. The Mo-Joe picture book series will be on special offer and visitors will have the opportunity to get their copies signed by the author and illustrator, Mo Kerr and Nora Haikala. Readings takes place at 11.30am and 2pm.
Santa’s Fly-In and Snowball Hunt, 5, 12 & 19 December
Swapping his sleigh for a vintage aircraft, Santa flies into Shuttleworth for an afternoon of festive fun. There’s plenty to do with a snowball hunt in the Swiss garden, a present from Santa and the elves and a chance to ride around the site in a vintage bus. All for the bargain price of £2 per child.
Bedford Christmas Tree Festival, 5-11 December
St Paul’s Square, Bedford
A great way to get into the festive spirit, wander around the display of creatively decorated Christmas trees from local businesses and community groups. This year’s theme is panto! Find out more.
The Elves and the Shoemaker, 18-24 December
Hat Factory Arts Centre, Luton
A wonderfully festive story suitable for the whole family to enjoy. This classic tale is bought to life with magic, songs, puppetry and lovable characters. Suitable for children aged 4+. Tickets priced £12. Book tickets here.
The Christmas Magic Show, 28 December
The Forest Centre, Millennium Country Park
Christmas is a time for magic, and this one-hour performance has everything you need to keep children entertained. Set in the surroundings of the country park, the Christmas themed magic and puppet show is a treat for the whole family. Tickets cost £5 per person. Find out more.