20 of the Best Family-Friendly Events for Christmas 2021

From a Santa steam train adventure to a Disney extravaganza on ice, there’s quite literally a sack-load of happenings over the yuletide period, sure to get you and your little elves in the Christmas spirit! Here’s Junior’s round up of the very merriest festive events for families for 2021

8. Santa Manchester

The Santa Steam Express, Departing from LONDON

1. Steam Dreams Santa ExpressCredit to Chinnor Railway (1)
Steam Dreams Santa Express (Pict: Chinnor Railway)
  • When: The train runs on Monday 13th December, Monday 20th December and Wednesday 22nd December, with three daily departures (09.20, 12.00 and 14.15).
  • Where: Departing from and returning to London Victoria train station.
  • Cost: First Class tickets are £40 per child, £55 per adult or £149 for a family ticket. Standard Class tickets are £20 per child, £35 per adult or £99 for a family ticket. Note that children under 2 don’t need a seat but you should book one if you’d like them to receive a gift.
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All aboard, for an extra special steam train adventure – with a guest appearance from none other than Kris Kringle himself! New for 2021, the Santa Steam Express will help families to add a sprinkle of Christmas cheer, with a magical steam journey through the winter wonderland countryside.

Passengers will be welcomed into festively decorated 1950’s atmospheric carriages, where Santa and his helpers will be on hand to meet the kids and hand out Christmas gifts. This unique trip takes around one hour and 45 minutes and promises a serious dose of vintage glamour, alongside the traditional Santa meet-and-greet. >>Visit here for more information: SteamDreams

The Magic of Christmas at ZSL London Zoo, LONDON

2. Penguins enjoy Christmas at ZSL London Zoo (c) ZSL
Penguins enjoy Christmas at ZSL London Zoo (pict: ZSL)
  • When: 27 Nov 2021 – 3 Jan 2022
  • Where: ZSL London Zoo, London
  • Cost: Zoo entry from £26.00 per adult, child £16.90, under 3s free. Meet Santa from £13.50, VIP breakfast from £19.50 adult, £40 child, and animal gifting session from £40 per child.

Calling all early risers, as ZSL London Zoo are allowing your little elves to sneak you into the grounds super early, for a VIP breakfast with Mrs Claus and a face-to face with Santa. This hot-ticket morning event also includes a craft session and zoo tour.

Elsewhere on the festive schedule there’s the much-loved visit to Santa’s grotto, with includes a takeaway gift and crafting session. This year, the zoo will also host some quiet meet Santa sessions, designed especially for children with neurodiverse conditions. Also new for 2021, pre-book an animal gifting session, where mini helpers can make their own hand-crafted treats, which they’ll then present to the expectant zoo residents. >> Visit here for more information: London Zoo

Christmas at Blenheim Palace, OXFORDSHIRE

3. The story of the Nutcracker by Culture Creative, Blenheim Palace 2021. Photo by Richard Haug 1472 A4 LS
The story of the Nutcracker by Culture Creative, Blenheim Palace 2021. (Photo by Richard Haug)
  • When: 19 November 2021 – 2 January 2022
  • Where: Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1PP
  • Cost: Illuminated trail £22.50. Combined trail and palace tickets from: Adult £50, Concession: £48.50, Child (age 3-16) £30. Under 2s free. Free entry to Christmas market.

Visitors to Blenheim Palace over the festive period are in for a treat, as the grand house and gardens have been magically transformed into a twinkling, fairy tale wonderland, sure to delight both kids and parents alike.

Blenheim Palace has gone all-out this year with an illuminated trail using over one million lights, shining particularly brightly due to the lack of noise and light pollution. Venture inside the palace to see the Nutcracker re-imagined, including a toymaker’s workshop, while the courtyard will be hosting a traditional Christmas market with plenty of festive products from around the world. >> Visit here for more information: Blenheim Palace

Lightopia Christmas Fantasy Light Festival, MANCHESTER, LONDON, ALTON TOWERS

4. Lightopia_Moon
Lightopia Moon
  • When: November 18th 2021 – January 3rd 2022
  • Where: London, Manchester, Alton Towers
  • Cost: Adults tickets from £20.00 for adults, £13.00 for children, £60.00 for families of two adults and two children. Under 3s free.

The loveliest of light shows can this year be found in London, Manchester and at Alton Towers, as Lightopia brightens up the winter skies with their award-winning lantern and light shows.

For Londoners, Crystal Palace Park will be aglow with a wonderland of illuminations, including a jazzy water show and some breath-taking laser displays. In Manchester, Heaton Park will be getting the star treatment with a stunning display that includes multi-sensory installations, while Lightopia will be making its Altons Towers Resort debut this year, with an immersive trail themed around the seasons. >> Visit here for more information: LightopiaFestival

Christmas at the Botanics, EDINBURGH

Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens. Edinburgh, Scotland. UK. Free use images. Christmas at the Botanics. 2020 Images of people enjoying the 2020 light trail around the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Photo Phil Wilkinson tel 07740444373 info@philwilkinson.net www.philwilkinson.net
Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens (Photo Phil Wilkinson)
  • When: 26 November 2021 – 2 January 2022
  • Where: Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh,
  • Cost – Adult £20 – Child £14, under 3s are free

As night falls, The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh will once again be transformed, with impressive sparkling tunnels of lights and trees dripping in jewel-like colour. Wrap up your winter warmers to explore this outdoor Christmas lights trail, which wonderfully showcases the garden’s lakes and horticulture.

There’s also a selection of food and drink vendors, so you can add some extra festive cheer by grabbing a steaming mug of hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows over the crackling fire pit. >> Visit here for more information: RBGE

Disney on Ice, Various UK Locations

6. Disney On Ice presents Find Your Hero 15
Disney On Ice presents ‘Find Your Hero 15’
  • When: 28th October 2021 to the 2nd January 2022
  • Where: Birmingham: Resorts World Arena from the 28th – 31st October 2021, Manchester: AO Arena from 3rd November – 7th November 2021, Exeter: Westpoint Arena from 11th November – 14th November 2021, Newcastle: Utilita Arena from 8th – 12th December 2021, Sheffield: FlyDSA Arena from 15th December – 19th December 2021, London: O2 Arena from 22nd December 2021 – 2nd January 2022
  • Cost: Tickets from £20

The family-pleasing Disney on Ice show is back with a serious bang this year! All the Disney favourites, from Moana and Minnie to Tangled and Frozen, are brought to life in this icy, epic adventure of a show.

The touring spectacular features plenty of cutting edge figure skating, high-flying jumps, eye-catching costumes and stunning set designs. The overarching theme for the production is ‘Find Your Hero’, so expect to see how far Moana will go when she embarks on an action-packed voyage with mighty demigod Maui. The royal sisters Anna and Elsa will be unleashing their magic, and there’s a star turn from everyone’s favourite snowman; Olaf, stealing the show with renditions of “Let it Go” and “In Summer”, guaranteed to have the audience joining in. The production will premiere in Birmingham on the 28th October, before travelling throughout the UK. >> Visit here for more information: DisneyonIce

Christmas at Robin Hill Country Park, ISLE OF WIGHT

7. Robin Hill Isle of Wight - PolarHighRes_HighRes_(47 of 92)
Robin Hill, Isle of Wight
  • When: 4 – 23rd December
  • Where: Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight
  • Cost: Tickets from £20

Head to Robin Hill Country Park this Christmas for a fantastic line up of festive activities for all the family. From the beautifully illuminated Walk of Wonder ancient woodland, to the Polar Hollow, where kids can meet the lovable life-like polar bears, Pippa and Pop, there’s plenty to see and do in the Isle of Wight’s most magical Christmas destination.

Be sure to make time to hop onto the Big Red Express for a twinkling tractor journey and try your hand at some festive crafts in the decoration workshops. There are also live carols, rides and delicious festive food and drink, for some added ho-ho-ho!  Travel to the island can take as little as 22 minutes with Wightlink, with kids travelling for free during the school holidays. >> Visit here for more information: Robin Hill

Magical Father Christmas Experience at Wythenshawe Hall, MANCHESTER

8. Santa Manchester
Santa Visit, Manchester
  • When: 4, 5, 11, 12, 18-23rd December.
  • Where: Wythenshawe Hall, Manchester
  • Cost: Adult £10, Child £15

This Christmas, Wythenshawe Hall and Park will be transformed into the winter wonderland of the North Pole.  After collecting their Lapland passports, families will be invited into Father Christmas’ magical workshop to uncover the secrets of what special ingredients go into making presents. But what are the odds – the elves are woefully behind schedule – so families will be called upon to help the little helpers get back on track to ensure presents are ready for the big day!

During the 45-minute experience, expect to meet a range of quirky Christmas characters, sing a yuletide song or two and maybe even learn the steps to a festive dance. Children will be able to meet with the main man himself, Father Christmas, and take home a memorable keepsake of their adventure. >> Visit here for more information: SneakyExperience

The Snowman at Durham Cathedral, DURHAM

9. Durham Castle - the-snowman-and-boy-in-flight
The Snowman at Durham Castle
  • When: Monday 20th December at 1.45.
  • Where: Durham Cathedral, Durham
  • Cost: £14.30-£24.20. Concession prices are for children aged 3-18, OAPs and students. 2 and under go free.

It really doesn’t get more Christmasy than settling down to watch The Snowman (a tub of Quality Street is of course optional). Do this in style with a special one-off screening at Durham Cathedral, accompanied by a live orchestra of world-class musicians, many dressed in festival attire.

This gorgeous event is made extra special with the addition of the hand-drawn animation We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen’s enchanting story of perseverance and the great outdoors. Tickets to this award-winning concert sell out fast, so book early to avoid disappointment.  >> Visit here for more information: DurhamCathedral

Christmas at Warwick Castle, WARWICK

10. Warwick Castle - Elves (1)
Elves at Warwick Castle
  • When: 27th November – 3rd January
  • Where: Warwick Castle, Warwick.
  • Cost: Castle entry and light trail tickets start at £24.50, skating from £14.50. Santa sleepovers from £339 per night based on a family of four sharing a woodland lodge

There’s a Christmas bonanza happening at Warwick Castle this year, with a jam-packed schedule of festive treats. Strap on your skates for a whizz around their open-air ice rink, offering dramatic views of the castle in all its glory. Warwick Castle’s light trail is also back by popular demand, with thousands of sparkling lights and breath-taking light projections.

For an extra special treat, make a night of it with a Santa sleepover in the cosy knight’s village wooden lodges, with Christmas-themed entertainment and a walk up call from a jaunty elf! >> Visit here for more information: WarwickCastle

Christmas Enchanted Adventures at Fonmon Castle, WALES

11. Fronman Christmas8
Fonman Castle, Wales
  • When: Daily from the 127th November 2021
  • Where: Fonmon Castle, Wales
  • Cost: 27th Nov – 19th Dec: Adults £14.50 / Children £12.50 (+50p booking fee), 20th Dec – 24th Dec – Adults £15.50 / Children £13.50 (plus 50p booking fee)

For a Christmas experience with a side helping of roarsome dinosaurs, head to Fonmon Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan. Included in the entry ticket price is a dino-hunt, where you’ll come face to face with life size beasts in the prehistoric woodland grounds. There’s also a farm, where you can see how animals lived in the middle ages and a whimsical a Fairy Kingdom’ garden.

For the festive period, the castle has illuminated the grounds with atmospheric lights, plus there’s a festive market, themed walks and a fun Santa show to keep the kids entertained. >> Visit here for more information: FonmonCastle

 Afternoon Tea with Santa at the Castle Hotel, WINDSOR

12. santa tea
Santa Afternoon Tea at Castle Hotel
  • When: 2-4pm, Sunday 5th December
  • Where: Castle Hotel, Windsor
  • Cost: £35.00 per adult, £20.00 per child aged 4-12 years, £10.00 per child aged 0-3 years

Make sure you’ve made it onto the nice list, with this noel themed afternoon tea, starring a very special meet up with Mr Claus himself!

The Castle Hotel is situated right in the heart of Windsor, offering the perfect royal daytrip. Push the sleigh out with this one-off festive tea, including piles of savoury finger sandwiches, traditional scones with cream and Christmas teacakes, washed down with frothy hot chocolate. Alongside a visit from Santa, there’s also live entertainment, to really crank up the Christmas spirit. >> Visit here for more information: CastleHouse

Enchanted at English Heritage, LONDON and ESSEX

Enchanted
Enchanted at English Heritage
  • When: 9-30th December
  • Where: Audley End House and Gardens, Essex; and Eltham Palace and Gardens, London
  • Cost: From £14 adult, £9.50 child, £37.50 family

As dusk falls, gather up your little helpers and head to either of these two stately homes and gardens, for a beautiful display of festive illuminations, from giant lilies in the river to a fairy garden, and from a tunnel of light to impressive projections on the buildings themselves.

Once you’ve explored the radiant gardens, toast a marshmallow under the night sky or hop on a traditional fairground ride. The onsite shops will also be open to stock up on a range of Christmas gifts, from traditional toys to award-winning food and drink. >> Visit here for more information: EnglishHeritage

A Winter Lantern Experience at the Heligan Night Garden, CORNWALL

14. Heligan image003
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
  • When: Lanterns from 20th November, meet Santa from 11th December
  • Where: The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
  • Cost: December daytime tickets from £4 per adult, £12 per child. Combined Heligan Garden and meet Santa tickets from £17 per adult, £17 per child (aged 5-16), £10 per child (aged 1-4)

This Christmas, head to the enchanting Lost Gardens of Heligan for some joyful, outdoorsy adventures. Teaming up with the Liverpool Lantern Company, the gardens will be lit by traditional paraffin lanterns, shaped as owls, hares, foxgloves and butterflies to reflect the beauty of the surroundings.

The 1.5km journey can be explored at your own pace, with regular stops for children to take in the smells, toast marshmallows and chestnuts over roaring fire bowls, meet the Christmas donkeys, be wowed by the glittering oak tree or enjoy a festive themed refreshment. Throughout December, The Lost Gardens will also invite you into the workshop to meet Father Christmas. The yuletide event includes crafts and crackers, a meeting with Saint Nick, plus a traditional gift to treasure and take home. >> Visit here for more information: TheLostGardensofHeligan

Saints & Angels at Bamburgh Castle, NORTHUMBERLAND

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle
  • When: 13 November – 3 January
  • Where: Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
  • Cost: Entrance included with general admission tickets: Adults £14.10, children £6.95, children under 4 free. Meet Santa £14.95 per child in addition to general admission ticket.

For Bamburgh Castle’s first-ever major Christmas event, they’ve opted for a real showstopper by drafting in Cirque de Soleil’s set designer to transform the beguiling staterooms. Expect theatrical festive sets, dramatic décor, towering floral arrangements, mighty Christmas trees and a whole host of angels.

Bamburgh Castle is a great destination for history-loving families, with a rich 3000-year-old legacy. Outside in the castle’s grounds will be a herd of reindeer grazing the very turf their ancestors would have nibbled on centuries ago when the Vikings first brought them over the North Sea. Children will be able to buy special sustainable moss to feed to the reindeer and there’s also a chance to meet with Santa in his enchanting grotto. >> Visit here for more information: BamburgCastle

A Christmas Carol by Chapterhouse Theatre Company, Various UK Locations

16. A Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Carol, by Chapterhouse Theatre Company
  • When: 17th November – 23rd December
  • Where: Yorkshire, Stirlingshire, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Devon, Cheshire and Cambridgeshire.
  • Cost: Adult £20.50, child £13, family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) £59.

Keep things traditional this Christmas, with a trip to see Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Celebrating its 21st anniversary, this touring production will set up home in theatres, castles, and cathedrals across Britain.

The feel-good festive tale will be brought to life with beautiful period costumes, song, dance, and a generous helping of Christmas spirit, making it a good choice for children of all ages. >> Visit here for more information: ChapterHouseTheatreCompany

Secret Christmas at Kidzania, London

17. Christmas at KidZania 3
Christmas at KidZania
  • When: 1 December 2021 to 9 January 2022
  • Where: Kidzania,  Westfield London
  • Cost: Children £45, Adults £31.

Kidzania have a non-stop schedule of festive fun this year, with their Secret Christmas wonderland. The play city will be decked out for Christmas, plus there will be six festive activities to join in with, including designing a toy at Elf school, crafting with Mrs Claus, a Nutcracker parade and a pre-recorded pantomime performance of Cinderella.

With so much on offer, it’s recommended that you allow five hours for the experience. Kids ages 8+ can be dropped off to explore the activities independently, while parents catch up on some last minute present buying in Westfield shopping centre. >> Visit here for more information: Kidzania

Sleeping Trees’ Sleeping Beauty and the Beast at BAC, LONDON

18. Sleeping Trees-26 Credit Piers Allardyce
Sleeping Trees, BAC London (pict Piers Allardyce)
  • When: 26 November 2021 – 30 Dec 2021.
  • Where: Battersea Arts Centre, London.
  • Cost: Pay what you can.

This brand new panto mash-up is packed with original songs, live music and plenty of audience participation, making it an ideal choice for kids aged 3+. Be ready to shout “he’s behind you!” as the play explores what happens to panto villains at the end of the story and features well known characters such as Sleeping Beauty and the Beast.

All performances are relaxed and there is also a special sensory adaptive show and a BSL interpreted performance. The production uses a ‘pay what you want’ pricing model, ensuring that all families get to enjoy a festive outing this winter. >> Visit here for more information: BACLONDON

Christmas at Buckingham Palace, LONDON

19. Palace families 001-lpr
Christmas at Buckingham Palace
  • When: Available on Saturdays and Sundays at 11am between 6 November and 30 January.
  • Where: Buckingham Palace, London.
  • Cost: £65.00 for adults and £37.50 for children (under-fives go free).

For the first time ever, this Christmas families can book an exclusive tour of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, for a truly regal outing. The tours are specially designed for children and highlight stories about the Palace’s history and its role today, in a way that engages little ones.

Between the 18th December and 2nd January, the tours take on a festive theme, exploring royal Christmas traditions past and present, from Queen Victoria’s Christmas trees and festive feasting to Her Majesty The Queen’s Christmas broadcast. There are also interactive games and activities along the way, such as learning how to dance at a royal ball and practising standing like a Guardsman, making it an unforgettable day out for budding kings and queens. >> Visit here for more information: Buckingham Palace

Christmas Storytelling with Michael Rosen at The Old Vic, LONDON

20. Christmas Storytelling with Michael Rosen at the Old Vic. Photo Manuel Harlan
Christmas Storytelling with Michael Rosen at the Old Vic (Photo Manuel Harlan)
  • When: 14th December 2021.
  • Where: The Old Vic Theatre, London.
  • Cost: Adults £12, Children £6.

 Michael Rosen’s beloved books (We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, Sad Book, Little Rabbit Foo Foo) have been bringing joy to children for years. This year, fans of the stories are in for a special treat with a special Christmas reading by the author and poet himself.

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Ideal for kids aged 8+, the one-off reading will be held at The Old Vic theatre, which will be decked out in its festive finery. After the performance, Michael’s books will be on sale and audiences will be able to get a copy signed. It promises to be a magical morning of festive storytelling, perfect for parents and children alike. >> Visit here for more information: TheOldVic