As the evenings get shorter, thoughts turn excitedly to Christmas cheer. Discover the most magical winter wonderlands around the UK, bursting with Christmas spirit.
At the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, nighttime is illuminated by thousands of lights and attractions on their festive trail. At one mile long it is the perfect length for families to visit together, with a captivating Fire Garden of dancing flames, a choir of singing conifer trees and the enchanted Crystal Lawn lit up with a thousand spheres of light. Of course Santa and his elves will pay a visit to wave to guests, and families can warm up with roasted chestnuts, spiced cider and hot chocolate with marshmallows in the festive fare cafe.
Voted the ‘UK’s best family day out’ by the Little London Awards for two years running, Lapland UK is the closest you will get to the real thing this side of the Arctic. Meet Father Christmas's elves, sledge through snowy woods with huskies and get alongside Father Christmas’s little helpers to make the all-important toys. Lapland UK is a four-hour immersive experience; forget spending hours in a queue for a brief hello with Father Christmas and relax as your children get deep into the world of festive magic. Kids will meet Mrs. Claus and help her decorate gingerbread men; put on some skates to whizz around the ice-skating rink and post their letter to Santa in one of the magical postboxes near the Enchanted Forest. Elton John called Lapland UK “the Rolls Royce of Christmas experiences”, and we’d have to agree.
London’s largest Christmas festival, Winter Wonderland at Hyde park is a family friendly, free-to-enter celebration with attractions for all ages. Enjoy a laugh a minute in the circus Big Top, show off your moves on the ice rink or fuel up on adrenaline on one of the many rides. This year a magical “A Christmas Carol” themed ice-sculpture display will amaze guests as they walk through the frosty statues. Little ones can enjoy a breathtaking display of “Paddington on Ice”, say hello to the Mr. Men and Little Miss characters as they get ready for Christmas, and of course meet Father Christmas and his little helpers. There is also an Ice Bar for grown-ups and a fairy-lit Christmas market for all your festive shopping needs.
Hop on the ultimate festive train with a ride on Santa’s Polar Express at the Slieve Donard Resort in County Down, Northern Ireland. Begin in the Grand Ballroom at Santa’s holiday lodge where you will collect your tickets and get on board the magical train. Look out of the window at the sparkling grounds, specially decorated for the Christmas season. After soaking in the atmosphere arrive at Santa’s workshop, where treats await young guests. Settle down for story time with jolly Mrs. Claus, write and post your letter to the North Pole and be enthralled by live actors and entertainers. Finally, meet Father Christmas himself, receiving a special gift from him and posing for a photo for a keepsake memory.
Over a million sparkling lights illuminate the extensive grounds of Kew Garden during the Christmas season. A waterfall of lights descending from the 18m high treetop walkway and a dazzling array of light installations are strewn around Kew, creating a magical world full of mystery and fairytales. Children can meet Santa as he prepares for the big day, explore the North Pole village and hop on vintage fairground rides from the Christmas of yesteryear. Kids and adults alike will be amazed by Kew’s cathedral-like Temperate House, brought to life by laser lights and kaleidoscope patterns glimmering over its 15,000 panes of glass. Grown ups can warm up with hot mulled wine and mince pies, while children can sip delicious hot chocolate and toast marshmallows over a roaring fire.
If you’re looking to get away before the hectic Christmas period and are looking for a winter wonderland that will entertain little ones for days on end, try Bluestone’s Elftopia event in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Guests will take part in Elf workshops where they will learn the essential skills needed to become Santa’s little helpers. Create your own robin birdfeeder and reindeer stardust and meet Santa himself after joining Rudolph and his friends for an interactive breakfast show. Later join in a sing-a-long performance of The Little Mermaid pantomime or take in the carols ringing out around the village. You can even have dinner with the cheeky Christmas elves- a fun and chaotic time filled with games and laughter.
Set around the popular Longleat Safari Park, the Festival of Lights is a seasonal celebration featuring thousands of Chinese lanterns, fairy-lights and illuminated sculptures that are sure to enthral children and adults alike. Start your journey by hopping on the Santa Train to meet the main man and his elves, looking out at the park as you go. This winter the theme will be based around myth and legend, so guests will come face to face with lights in the shape of heroes, creatures, and epic scenery. When the cold starts to nip, head into Longleat House and soak up the cosy atmosphere. The house is decorated in traditional Edwardian style and actors will help you get fully into the Christmas spirit as you are transported into Christmas past.
Whisk your kids away for a fabulous winter adventure at the Celtic Manor Resort! Feel the magic as you glide around the gorgeous all weather rink and, for an extra special experience, take to the ice with Frozen's Elsa and Anna for a memorable Christmas encounter. As part of 'The Sizzler Package', warm up after the ice with a delicious beverage and a toasty treat.
With the UK eagerly awaiting their Christmas advert each year, John Lewis is the perfect place to kick off the festive season. The store’s rooftop gardens on Oxford Street are the perfect place to look out at the famous Christmas lights after a spot of gift shopping. They have been made-over like a festive fairground and are full of treats like light-shows, food and drink grottos, and fun carnival games. There are curling stations and claw machines courtesy of Google to provide the kids with endless fun, and delicious stalls serving American carnival- inspired food and drink made by expert chefs, including John Lewis' famous burger!