CHRISTMAS is kicking off across the UK as the latest lockdown eases this week.
There are dazzling days out, joyful jaunts and some wonderful winter wonderlands.
Organisers of the many festive attractions have introduced Covid safety and ticket measures to make sure they can stay open and give children and adults and a memorable time.
Trisha Harbord brings you a selection of terrific treats guaranteed to bring some much-needed fun.
Theme and animal parks have put in “elf and safety” measures. Santa will be snow-cial distancing and wearing gloves in his grotto at Chessington World of Adventures on selected dates from Decehmber 5.
The Surrey park’s Winter’s Tale event also includes a pantomime, Christmas kitchen and storytelling.
Tickets £20, see chessington.com
Peppa Pig has turned her home at Paultons Park, Hants, into a winter wonderland. A giant musical tree is the backdrop to a thrilling light show and you can see Santa in his sleigh from the hit TV series. Tickets for the event from December 5 to 23 cost £35.75, children under a metre tall go free. Family of four, £139. See paultonspark.co.uk.
See the animals at Longleat Safari Park and enjoy Land of Light from December 3 to January 10. There is a 70-metre tunnel with mirrored walls and laser beams, dancing fountains and Santa train. Adult £36.50, child £27.35. See longleat.co.uk.
Christmas means reindeer. Meet Santa and his friendly beasts at a wildlife and conservation centre on the 5 star Landal Gwel an Mor resort in Cornwall.
Child £20 (including gift), adult £5, from December 5; gwelanmor. com. You can help Chester Zoo save more animals from extinction by going to see its Christmas wonderland, which runs from November 13 to December 23.
Dazzling animal lanterns adorn 13 magical worlds, including Under The Sea, which features a breathtaking octopus.
Adult from £16, child from £13.50. For more information, see chesterzoo.org.
Lapland UK in Whitmoor Forest near Ascot, Berks, is extending its run to January 10.
From December 26, the new four-hour Elflet Christmas Celebration will see Santa re-opening his toy factory so families, in their own bubbles, can help make gifts for the baby elves.
There is ice-skating, gingerbread-making and an elf emporium too. Tickets from £75 go on sale tomorrow at 12pm. See laplanduk.co.uk.
At Legoland Windsor, Santa and his elves will parade through the park, transformed into a winter wonderland with a light show, puppet pantomime and carols, from December 4 to January 4. Tickets £35, child under 90cm goes free. See legoland.co.uk.
Honour our heroes
NHS and other Covid-19 frontline workers are being honoured at Manchester’s Heaton Park Christmas display.
A Local Heroes walkway will be lit to reveal a rainbow with the words “Thank you”. Also new to the annual Lightopia, Astchronomy illuminates the night sky with a moon and a showcase using the Grade 1-listed Heaton Hall as its backdrop.
From December 3 to January 10. Adult £20, child £13. For info, see lightopiafestival.com.
If you are near London’s St Pancras station, take a selfie beside the 34ft pink Tree of Hope, decorated with 1,200 metres of ribbon adorned with messages of love and hope from NHS and key workers. See it on the station’s main concourse until January 3.
Full steam ahead
Hampshire is getting a world-first train, Steam Illuminations, which is decked out with more than 13,000 LEDs.
Every passenger gets LED wristbands to help create a colourful light show, inside and outside the train. A family of four on a round-trip from Alresford or Alton, on selected dates from December 4 to January 3, costs £75. For info, see watercressline.co.uk.
The Northern Belle, one of the world’s most luxurious trains, gets back on track in December after the Covid lockdown with a series of seven-course Christmas Lunch trips from various stations around Britain, including London Paddington on December 17.
It will be pulled by the historic steam locomotive Lancashire Fusilier. The fare is £289pp. All trips from stations in tier-two areas are going ahead, with families and bubbles able to book.
Call 01270 899681 for details or see northernbelle.co.uk.
Light up your life
Millions of lights will bring the sparkle we all need in our lives right now.
My Christmas Trails features the most spectacular displays, including shimmering waterside reflections, tunnels of light, glittering trees, giant illuminous sculptures and baubles, firle gardens and walks under the stars.
They are at seven famous UK locatlions, including Oxfordshire’s Blenheim Palace, Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, Dunham Massey in Cheshire and Lincolnshire’s Belton House.
For details, see mychristmas trails.co. Tickets from £19.
The Three Counties Showground, Worcs, launches Malvern Winter Glow, a new illuminations trail with ten sessions a night between December 9 and January 3. Adult £16, child £11. For information, see threecounties.co.uk.
Forestry England has one of the best light displays in the country at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucs, showcasing amazing structures, textures and silhouettes through the trees. Selected dates from December 4 to 22.
Adult £16, child £8. See forestryengland.uk.
The Shipwreck Treasure Museum’s underground Tunnel of Lights is bigger, bolder and brighter this year.
More than three miles of cable and 50,000 lights are transforming the subterranean passageways, in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Charlestown, into a festive wonderland.
You will travel through Narnia to the North Pole, through a frozen forest and a neon wood in this socially distanced spectacular from December 3 to January 10.
Adult £8.50, child £5. For more information, see ship wreckcharlestown.co.uk.
Crack the ice rinks
Get your skates on for some festive fun on the ice.
One of the most spectacular rinks is in front of the world- famous rainforest at the Eden Project, open until February 21.
Social distancing is in place and the Cornwall attraction’s boss David Harland says: “On the one hand, the great news is you will have space like never before, so time to try that double axel jump. On the other hand, the ice will be as hard as ever.”
Adult £8, child £7. If visitors need a bit of support on the ice, hire one of the penguin or snowmen aids for £4. For details, see edenproject.com.
Glide across the ice at Hampton Court Palace, South West London, while enjoying spectacular views of the historic Tudor former home of Henry VIII.
This year’s rink will be the largest ever to ensure social distancing. From December 5 to January 17. Adult from £17.20, child £12.70. See hamptoncourtpalaceicerink.co.uk.
The rink in front of The Queen’s House, within a UNESCO world heritage site in Greenwich, South London, is open from December 5 to January 24.
Adult from £14.50, child £7.25. See rmg.co.uk/skate.
Forget cooking the turkey and instead spoil yourself by booking a luxurious getaway.
The Castle Hotel in Windsor and Francis Hotel in Bath have great packages for a two-night stay.
You will be treated to a sumptuous meal when you arrive on Christmas Eve, plus a festive lunch and hearty breakfasts.
The 108-room Castle Hotel, dating back to 1528, is opposite Windsor Castle and a short walk from the Great Park. It costs £299 per person. For more details, head to castlehotelwindsor.com.
The 98-room Francis Hotel, created by adjoining seven Georgian houses, is in the heart of Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Priced at £275 per person. See francishotel.com.
There is plenty of room to social distance at Hawkstone Hall in Shropshire.
The magnificent hotel, which stands in 88 acres of gardens, is decorated like a magical winter wonderland to welcome guests for a sumptuous break.
Make yourself at home by cosying up next to the open fire, tucking into their famous afternoon tea and sipping a seasonal cocktail or two. A great place for nature walks or cycling — and you can take your dog too.
A two-night break, including champagne and a six-course Christmas lunch, from December 24, costs from £510 per person. Three nights are from £720. See hawkstonehall.co.uk.
Palace in wonderland
The country’s finest castles, houses and gardens are pulling out all the stops to put on Covid-safe festive events.
Hever Castle & Gardens in Kent has a Peter Pan one-way trail to Neverland on selected dates until December 24.
Discover where The Lost Boys livae and visit the mermaid lagoon, native American camp and Captain Hook’s pirate ship.
Meet the captain, along with Peter, ride the carousel and enjoy vintage fairground stalls.
Adult tickets from £16, children’s £10. See hevercastle.co.uk.
Dine in magical glass globes in the grounds of the magnificent Ashridge House in Herts — once a royal residence to Henry VIII — throughout December and January.
The bespoke-built globes can accommodate up to six and will be heated and dressed for the occasion.
Families and household bubbles can enjoy a feast served in their own dome from £90pp for lunch and £155pp for a seven-course tasting dinner.
There is another treat for guests dining — and for 60 non-diners: An illuminated woodland walk with light installations, tunnels of falling stars, glittering grottos and a few surprise encounters along the way. To book, see ashridgehouse.org.uk/christmas or call 01442 841027.
The Bishop’s Palace in Wells, Somerset, is bringing us plenty of festive joy with a German market, nativity scene and medieval to Victorian-era decorations.
Running from December 5 to 22. Adult £15, child £7.50. For info, see bishopspalace.org.uk. English Heritage’s historic properties, including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s Isle of Wight retreat Osborne, is holding family festivities throughout next month. For information, see english-heritage.org.uk.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall is displaying hundreds of lanterns, including many in the shape of wildlife such as frogs, foxes, squirrels and badgers. From December 4 to January 3. Adult £10, child £6. For details see heligan.com.
RHS gardens are also dazzling with enchanting light trails, illuminated sculptures and beautiful lake reflections on selected dates until January. See rhs.org.uk.
The greatest showtime
Of course, the show must go on. And Great Yarmouth’s Hippodrome Circus is putting on its 19th Christmas Spectacular from December 12 to January 10.
The Norfolk theatre welcomes trapeze aerialists, acrobats, daring stunt artists from the “wheel of death” and synchronised swimmers as the stage transforms into a giant swimming pool. Adult £21, child £13. See hippodromecircus.co.uk.
Brighton Open Air Theatre is presenting The Snow Queen plus Hansel And Gretel? A Postmodern Pantomime, from December 8 to 24. Adult £12, child £8. See brightonopenairtheatre.co.uk.
If you are missing the cinema, Christmas movies are being shown at the Backyard Cinema in Wandsworth, South London, from £19.99, December 3 until January 10. For details, see backyardcinema.co.uk.
At Daisy Dukes Drive In cinemas you can enjoy mulled wine and hog roasts delivered to your car while watching festive films such as Home Alone and Elf. Various locations and dates in December, £30 per car.
For details, see daisy-dukes-box-office.myshopify.com.
The London Cabaret Club is promising Bond-style celebrations at its Christmas Royale experience at the Bloomsbury Ballroom.
The special version of its London Never Dies show will see guests drinking and dining in an atmosphere worthy of the finest ski resorts in the world while the daredevil hero hits the slopes in a high-speed chase.
Tickets start from £85pp and include pre-show entertainment from 4pm, a glass of bubbles on arrival and a two-course menu.
The ultimate ticket at £195pp includes VIP seating, four-course gourmet menu, half a bottle of wine and a cocktail. For details, see thelondoncabaretclub.com/christmas-royale.
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