for those who love the outdoors

16 November, 2023


Festive Fun Outdoors this Winter

With the weather turning chilly and rainy it can be hard to get motivated to go outside. Here are some ideas of good ways to get those steps in and enjoy some festive fun for all the family at the same time. From magical light trails and steam train rides to markets and immersive experiences, here’s how to get outside this Christmas and spend the darker nights with family and friends.

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Walk an Illuminated Trail

Make the most of the dark winter nights by stepping into a magical world of light, colour and sound, whilst enjoying some hot chocolate or mulled wine.

In Suffolk you can explore the grounds of Helmingham Hall adorned with thousands of lights transforming the gardens into an enchanted winter wonderland. Gather around the fire pits to toast marshmallows for s’mores. The trail runs from Thursday 16th November 2023 to Sunday 17th December 2023.

Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire has an all-new illuminated light trail. The after-dark trail features displays such as heart-shaped arches, star-filled tunnels, and an impressive eight-metre sphere adorned with over 20,000 moving lights. Returning favourites include the enchanting Cascades and a contemporary retelling of Sleeping Beauty featuring themed rooms with festive decorations and a grand Christmas tree. 17 November 2023–1 January 2024.

The Festival of Light at Longleat, Wiltshire is the UK's original and largest lantern festival. The new trail delves into beloved childhood tales such as Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, Winnie the Pooh and more. The event features the 15-metre Enchanted Christmas Tree show, a Santa Train and a fountain display on Half Mile Pond. Longleat House itself will be lit up with festive cheer in a colourful light show which will bring its historic façade to life. Various dates from 11 November 2023–7 January 2024.

Luminate offers you for an unforgettable experience at their Winter Light Trails. This enchanting event promises to illuminate the upcoming season with an awe-inspiring display of lights, captivating installations, and immersive experiences across eight stunning venues throughout England and Wales. With 70% more new and creative light displays, Luminate 2023 is set to be bigger and brighter than ever before! Plus for every ticket sold, Luminate plants a tree with Ecologi - to date, over 68,800 trees have been planted.

This Christmas, Royal Albert Dock Liverpool will be illuminated once again with the return of its popular light trail from Friday 17 November. Taking place across the estate with over 1 million twinkling lights, embark on an enchanting waterfront wander. Enjoy a selection of characters from Liverpool's coat of arms alongside nautical installations representing the dock's rich maritime history, offering a fun and free activity for families during the festive period. From 17 November-31 December.

Promising flickering fire gardens, light tunnels, larger than life illuminated animals and festive fun – from marshmallow toasting to fairground rides – Chester Zoo's Lantern and Lights offers a captivating way to experience the zoo after dark. 17 November–31 December 2023.

Back again with new displays, Thursford's Enchanted Journey of Light in Norfolk will take guests on a journey through the Fantasyland Building to greet the inhabiting penguins, polar bears and giant teddy bears. Visitors will witness Santa's elves diligently load his sleigh and craft toys in the bustling toy factory, complete with the enchanting wrapping machine. There will be many encounters with fantastical characters along the way and a Lantern Light Extravaganza outside filled with luminous sculptures, ranging from an underwater realm to the wilderness of the North Pole. And for those wanting more, Thursford Christmas Spectacular is the largest Christmas Show in Europe, with a cast of 130. 19 November–24 December 2023

Wander around a Christmas Market

Williamson Park in Lancaster will be transformed into a winter wonderland festival complete with fairground rides, Christmas crafts, festive cinema screenings, and Christmassy Storytime sessions. Also on offer will be a Crafty Vintage Christmas Market, Café-oke for a festive sing along, Santa's Grotto, a brass band, carol singers and DJs across the park. The Big Christmas Day Out, Lancashire is on from 17 November–22 December 2023.

The BIG Christmas Market in Cornwall features bespoke wooden cabins hosting Cornwall's top artisans and producers. From 29 November to Christmas Eve, Lemon Quay will become a lively hub, showcasing Cornwall's finest talents in food, drink, art, and crafts. There will be live music, street food and festive entertainment to bring in the Christmas spirit. From 29 November–24 December 2023.

The Victorian Christmas Fayre in Worcestershire is open on various dates from 30 November to 3 December 2023. Since its beginnings in 1992, the event preserves its Victorian essence with themed characters, treats and diverse street food. Worcester's historic streets host close to 200 stalls and festive chalets, showcasing an array of Christmas delights, artisanal crafts, local products, and international cuisine. Alongside the stalls, there will be a lineup of entertainment, including Victorian performers, stilt walkers, skilled musicians and lively buskers.

Visit a Castle or Stately Home

Castle Howard in North Yorkshire invites visitors to delve into Neverland this Christmas, from 11 November–7 January 2023. This immersive experience brings JM Barrie's Peter Pan tale to life through theatrical installations, projections, and soundscapes. Visitors can explore the Bauble Emporium, savour Mrs Darling's Afternoon Tea and enjoy seasonal treats at the Farm Shop.

In Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland this winter visitors can uncover Northumberland's folklore-inspired stories within the Castle's staterooms, adorned with fairy magic and whimsical creatures. Expect frosted forests bustling with fantastical beings and the melodic echoes of mermaids and selkies, adding to the allure for visitors of all ages. From 11 November 2023–7 January 2024.

Leeds Castle will get a festive makeover with the return of its Christmas lights event. New features will include chandeliers suspended from trees, a laser garden filled with small beams of lights, a pathway of mirrored hearts and the Feast of Light, involving immersive glowing multicoloured strings. From 24 November–31 December 2023.

Try Out a Quirky Festive Experience

Wishmas in London is a new central London-based experience which blends the best of theatrical performance and immersive technology. Visitors will enjoy a 60-minute walkthrough activity, encountering Wishkeepers, Robins and the legendary Father Christmas in a journey through magical rooms. From 14 November 2023–7 January 2024.

In North Shropshire, at Alderford Lake, families can enjoy an unconventional Santa visit involving a power boat ride to 'Santa Island' in the lake's centre. Led by eco-minded elves, children can engage in various activities like storytelling, gift making and campfire treats. Parents can enjoy mulled wine while children craft surprise presents, aided by the elves' magic dust that erases any witnessing memories. Every weekend from 24 November–23 December 2023.

Look up in the North's largest planetarium in Newcastle to see Santa's global journey across the world on Christmas Eve. Created by the Life Science Centre team and includes specially tailored relaxed sessions scheduled for 26 November at 3.15pm and 3 December at 1pm for those with sensory needs. Following this starry adventure, visit Santa's home for an unforgettable encounter and enjoy an array of festive demonstrations. Various dates from 25 November–3 December 2023.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is set to host Father Christmas and his elves this festive season aboard the Santa Express, which will run on weekends starting from 25 November to 24 December. Visitors can climb on board at either Pickering or Grosmont station and be whisked away on a journey filled with visits from familiar yuletide characters. There are games to be had and present to be given. From 25 November–24 December 2023.

Father Christmas is ready to set up shop in Norfolk for nine days this December to kick-start the Christmas celebrations with some festive cheer. Join Santa and his playful elves as they spread the holiday spirit, singing merry tunes and sharing yuletide tales in the Grotto's storytelling sessions. There will be festive crafts, creating Christmas-themed decorations and the opportunity to indulge in some hot chocolate and cookies before heading over to the present room. Various dates from 2–23 December 2023.

Kingdom of Winter in London is an all-encompassing winter experience boasting an ice rink, traditional fairground rides and an 'Ice Expedition' designed for picture-perfect moments. With a circus adding to the festive entertainment, visitors can also explore alpine craft stalls and indulge in a variety of winter warmers at the chalet-inspired bars, all within London's ExCeL Centre. The two food and drink villages provide a cosy haven to enjoy a diverse selection of culinary delights. From 8 December 2023–7 January 2024.

BeWILDerwood's Sparkly Light & Panto Trail, Norfolk presents an immersive experience in its whimsical woods this winter, with trees adorned with handmade decorations and sparkling lights, alongside some appearances from familiar characters. There will be a mini pantomime to entertain visitors along the way, complete with a woodland twist. Various dates from 2–23 December 2023.

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Natasha Sones

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I have an outdoor adventures blog. Having three children, I am particularly interested in getting outside with my family. I aim to make every day an adventure, especially with my children, husband, dogs and friends. From exploring new cities to being in our campervan with the dogs, we like an adventure. We live near the sea and forest and explore every day.

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