The clocks may have gone back and the frost made an unwelcome appearance, but that’s no excuse to park yourself and your kids in front of the TV and hibernate this Christmas, says Lianne Kolirin.
With the festive season fast approaching there’s a huge range of fun family activities on offer up and down the country. Here Yano offers inspiration for some cracking days out. As it’s impossible to feature all events nationwide, we’ve highlighted just a couple of our favourites in each category. And you never know – you may wear out your kids to the point where they forget to nag you about Christmas presents altogether!
Christmas lights and carol singing
Bring a sparkle to your little ones’ eyes with a trip to your town centre to see the Christmas lights. Check your local paper to find out about switching-on ceremonies, which are often presided over by a local celeb or two. Nearer to Christmas you can attend carol services organised by a local church or in the town centre. For us, the Christmas tree and carol singing in Trafalgar Square signal the countdown to Christmas.
You don’t have to head for mainland Europe to experience the thrill of shopping in a Christmas market. Wrap up warm and bring plenty of cash as there are lots of unique and hand-crafted gifts and decorations on offer in the UK too. Many city centres, including Edinburgh, Durham and Chester, are hosting Christmas markets this year, with some also laying on entertainment by way of skating, fireworks, brass bands and mulled wine (for you, not the kids).
If you haven’t got the time or the money for a trip to Lapland, fear not: the great man in red will be making countless appearances up and down the country (we have no idea how he does it). Children love the magical wonder of meeting Santa in his native setting, the Christmas grotto. Many department stores and shopping centres have their own, as do children’s farms and winter wonderland attractions. Swansea even has real reindeer to go with its real Father Christmas.
Inner-city skating has become something of a Christmas craze. Outdoor rinks, such as the ones at York Designer Outlet and Hampton Court Palace, tend to be open for several weeks up until early January. Many run family sessions bookable in advance and some offer lessons too. Check out the minimum boot size available for hire for young children.
Britain’s glorious summer of sport may seem like a very distant memory now, but remember the all-important legacy. Activity bars and restaurants are now all the rage, offering visitors the chance to have a drink or a bite to eat, then try their luck as an indoor sportsman or woman. Besides bowling, consider taking the kids out for a spot of table tennis, indoor golf or even skiing.
A day out to a museum is always a great option. Britain has an array of world-class institutes to choose from in the fields of science, history and art. Attractions with plenty of hands-on activities are always great with little ones, although these can obviously be busy during school holiday times. We love Birmingham’s Thinktank Science Museum and Eureka! The National Children’s Museum in Halifax. But whatever your children love – dolls, cars, comics or football – there’s a museum for them. Even better, many museums run special Christmas activities for children during the holidays and some offer the chance to meet Santa.
Pantos and shows
Christmas just wouldn’t Christmas without a theatre visit, and there’s loads on offer. That might be a traditional fairytale panto such as Aladdin at London’s O2, starring Lily Savage (‘by kind permission of Paul O’Grady’), or Cinderella at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre. Alternatively, it might be an adaptation of a storybook such as The Gruffalo. Popular performances sell out fast, particularly for the Christmas week, so book well in advance. For something completely different, go along to former Britpop star Nick Cope’s story sessions at the Story Museum in Oxford. He’ll be singing about ‘monkeys, bears, socks and mud, and everything children are really interested in’ on the second Saturday of every month from 8 December.
Get out the wellies and wrap up warm for a winter walk. Temperatures may struggle to get much above freezing but that’s unlikely to bother little ones, who rarely feel the cold like we do. Consider visiting an English Heritage or National Trust property – many of these have beautiful grounds in which to wander, while also having an indoor area where you can warm up afterwards. Some properties run family walks and/or trails for the festive season.