Don’t worry Christmas hasn’t been cancelled, the seasonal magic is spreading across the region, far and wide. Head to Essex for Christmas shopping, pantomime, safe outdoor activities and festive mini breaks.
Christmas Special at Audley End Miniature Railway, until 24 December
Audley End Road, Audley End, Saffron Walden
Hop aboard the Santa express and journey through the woodlands where children will be greeted by cheery elves and Father Christmas in his winter wonderland. The train ride is followed by storytelling in the gingerbread house, play time in the recently revamped adventure area and there’s the chance to make reindeer food.
Price from £18. Click here to book.
Enlightened at Hylands House, 3-30 December
Hylands Estate, Chelmsford
A brand-new enchanting light trail has arrived in Chelmsford. The perfect socially distanced event, wander around the Hylands Estate which has been transformed into a magical illuminated trail. Follow the outdoor route featuring mesmerising light installations and special effects. Check availability here.
Colchester Ice Rink, 4-23 December
For the first time ever, Colchester is hosting 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. Each ice-skating session lasts for 45 fun-filled minutes and is priced from £12 for adults and just £6 for children under 14-years old. All the latest Government safety guidelines relating to Covid-19 will be in place to maintain everyone’s safety and security, both on and around the ice. Get your skates on; book here.
Christmas Shopping Weekend, 4-6 December, 10am-5pm
Marks Hall Estate, Coggeshall
Help support small and local businesses at Marks Hall Christmas shopping weekend. Wrap up warm and browse handmade gifts and stock up on festive goodies. Get into the Christmas spirit with locally sourced artisan food and drink. You can even pick up bunches of mistletoe grown on the Estate to decorate your home. Stop by the the Orchard Kitchen café for refreshments while listening to some magical music.
Price: Free – Normal admission prices apply to access the Arboretum and Woodland Walks.
Festive High Tea, 8 December, 11am-3.30pm
Orchard Kitchen, Marks Hall Estate, Coggeshall
Enjoy the magic of the winter season with a Festive High Tea in the cosy surroundings of the 18th century Essex Barn, decorated for Christmas. Delight in homemade treats, locally sourced dishes, and the finest hot teas, in the toasty glow of our lovely log burner. A special treat for the festive season.
Price: £22.95 per person. Make a reservation.
Drive-In Christmas Show
Chelmsford City Racecourse, 11 December, 4.30pm & 7pm
IWM Duxford, 12 December, 2pm & 5pm
A car park panto, yes you read that right, is coming to Chelmsford City Racecourse and IWM Duxford. In partnership with the Birmingham Stage Company and Horrible Histories, there will be two performances a day of ‘Horrible Christmas’; a hair-raising adventure through the history of Christmas with colourful characters. Families will be able to get into the festive spirit from the comfort and safety of their car. There are limited tickets for each show priced at £45 per car. Book your ticket.
Father Christmas at Marks Hall Estate, 12 & 13 and 18-20 December, 10am-4pm
Marks Hall Estate, Coggeshall
A great chance for children to discover the magic of Christmas. Join the elfin guide as they take you on a journey to find Father Christmas. You’ll meet his festive friends as you walk around the Arboretum. Enter the evergreen glade, decorated with twinkly lights and colourful trees, and listen as Father Christmas reads a yuletide tale. Children will receive a gift, then step into the festive garden for reindeers and a gingerbread workshop.
Price: £15 per child. Click here to make your date with Santa.
Christmas Escape at Down Hall, 24-27 December
Down Hall Hotel & Spa, Matching Road, Hatfield Heath
When the weather (and the world!) outside is frightful, escape to the country for some post-lockdown luxury at country house hotel, Down Hall. Situated on the Hertfordshire/Essex border and set within 110 acres of thriving garden and woodland, Down Hall’s Christmas package has everything covered for the perfect festive break, complete with stylish suites, indulgent dining and festive fun for all the family.
The three-night package includes a Christmas Eve afternoon tea on arrival. Early evening enjoy socially distanced mulled wine and warm mince pies in the lounge with live carol singers, before sitting down to a three-course meal. On Christmas Day, after breakfast, Santa Claus arrives at 11am to help little elves unpack their stockings. Lunch starts with a glass of champagne followed by a five-course Christmas feast, accompanied by the resident pianist. In the afternoon, guests can work off lunch by exploring the woodland grounds before the Queen’s speech is shown at 3pm, followed by a festive family movie. Wind down with a light buffet dinner and Christmas quiz. On Boxing Day guests can don their wellies and enjoy a morning of country pursuits in the hotel’s expansive grounds – think falconry or laser clay pigeon shooting. A three-course carvery buffet lunch and three-course dinner and live entertainment rounds off the festivities.
Price: The three-night stay is £615 per adult (based on double occupancy). Children under 12 can be accommodated for £330 (when sharing with two adults). Make a reservation.
Christmas Adventure Quest, 26 December – 3 January, 10am-4pm
Audley End House & Gardens, Saffron Walden, Essex
A great chance to get outdoors and embrace winter’s nature. Families can explore and discover fun facts and untold stories of history, hunt for clues and QR codes which reveal quirky tales. Hot chocolate and mulled wine will be on offer too. Find out more.