It seems a long way off but we love a bit of planning here at Hampshire mums. If your little angels have got their heart’s set on visiting somewhere in particular this year, book early to avoid tantrums!! We’ve put together a list of festive activities that are guaranteed to charm the whole family.
Who could resist a visit to Marwell at Christmas time, Marwell Hall where you see Santa has a real festive feel, my 2 older kids call it Santa’s house all year round! Having visited for a couple of years I can say that it’s a really well organised Christmas event, you are greeted with a mulled wine and mince pie and your coats are taken to the exit ready for when you finish. The children then have a story from Mrs Claus, this year is an animal themed story set at Marwell, you’re then called into another room to make a candy cane whilst you wait to be taken through to Santa’s grotto. We’ve never felt rushed and the children get to meet lots of different Christmas characters along the way so they’re kept busy whilst waiting for Santa. Its not the cheapest way to see Santa but you do get to visit the zoo at the same time so its a full day out.
Southampton Christmas Market
A traditional German market with daily entertainment on from 12 Nov – 23 Dec. A highlight is the flying Santa who takes to the skies twice a day at 5 and 7pm Mon- Sat and 4 and 5pm Sundays. The show lasts 15 minutes, Santa will fly over the festival and then invite children to the Advent Calendar to receive a small gift. This sounds brilliant and i’ll definitely take my kids here, might even get a sneaky mulled wine!!
Funland Hayling Island
I’ve heard good things about Funland for the last couple of years, your visit starts in the Winter Wonderland where you are met by Santa’s elves and taken through an amazing Wonderland to meet Santa. You then board the Funland express, an indoor train that will take you through an enchanted forest to meet Rudolph. After all this fun you are free to visit the play area and go on the rides whilst mummy and daddy have a mince pie and a festive tipple!
I love the display at Keydell, especially the fact that it’s free so a great place to bring the kids in the week if the weather is bad, its very clever really as essentially its a huge Christmas shop but set up in a really spectacular way. Weekends get very busy so arrive early if you can. They usually have a brilliant Christmas walk through with moving characters and animals to meet at the end, you can also see Santa in his grotto separately (charges apply). Our kids were fascinated with the Donkey’s last year, you could easily spend a few hours here. For the really keen ones among us the shop opens at the beginning of October and closes mid January.
Watercress Line – Santa Train
We did this on Christmas Eve last year and I have a feeling it has started a tradition of doing something particularly festive every Christmas Eve. It really got the kids excited and it was lovely to be able to say that Santa was actually coming tomorrow. You get an hour long round trip from either Alton or Alresford in a festive train carriage, adults get a wine and mince pie, the kids get a soft drink. Santa visits you in your seats and hands out the kids presents. Its definitely a different idea for seeing Santa and does feel less manic than some of the events as everything is brought to you. Make sure you arrive early to find parking though, we nearly missed our train as the car park was so busy!
Image credits https://goo.gl/qt4cii
Winchester Cathedral Ice Rink
Every year we’ve visited here I’ve either been pregnant or had a child in a buggy, neither is great as it gets very busy. There’s one thing for certain, I won’t be pregnant this year but can’t guarantee not needing a buggy. The market is inspired by German Christmas Markets but the organisers also try to attract many British craftspeople, it is running from 18 Nov to 20 Dec. The ice rink has had a revamp this year and is covered, so that even if the British weather lets us down it will stay dry. Its open from the 18 Nov to 2nd Jan and each skating session lasts an hour including time to fit your skates so time on the ice will be around 50 minutes.
Paultons Park is another place to visit Santa for a full festive day out, it would be a good location to meet family for a pre Christmas get together. Santa’s grotto is a magical world of ice this year and the park looks really pretty with all the illuminations as it starts to get dark. Peppa pig world is decorated and there are a number of large Christmas trees around the park, there is even a musical tree. The 4D sleigh ride film is sure to amuse the little ones and give you chance to warm up too.
Magical Christmas at Finkley Down Farm
Finkley Down is on our tick list to visit soon, maybe we’ll tie in a Christmas visit here. Your Christmas visit will involve the kids getting a passport and starting in Mrs Claus’s kitchen, the elves will then guide them around various activities where they will get a stamp for their passport. The activities sound fun and include decorating gingerbread, making reindeer food, meeting reindeer and Christmas bunnies. The kids will get a golden star from Santa at the end of their activities to exchange for a Christmas gift. Santa passports must be booked online, you will be taken round the activities in groups of approx. 10. Christmas event from 25th Nov-24th Dec.
Christmas at Staunton
We’ve always enjoyed days out to Staunton and have heard good reviews of their past Christmas events. Whilst you’re here you’ll enjoy festive fun around the park. Take part in seasonal crafts in the Elves’ Workshop, see the animals in the Nativity Scene, have a go at the Christmas Trail and pop into Santa’s Grotto to find out if you’ve been naughty or nice! Open every weekend in Dec from 7th and also on 23rd Dec.
Royal Victoria Country Park, Santa Specials
For train mad kids this might just be the best Santa visit ever! Enjoy a magical ride on the steam train to the North Pole to visit Santa in his grotto. There will be drinks and a mince pie for the adults and a drink and sweets for the kids. £12.50 per person, book in advance.
Grand Bauble Hunt at Sir Harold Hilier Gardens
This sounds like a lovely thing to do on a crisp winter’s day. Bring your merry men and women to hunt the Gardens festive trees. Following the story of Robin Hood, learn how he avoids capture and defeats the Sheriff.
Held in conjunction with Mayflower Theatre s Christmas Pantomime and suitable for all the family, no need to book.
Victorian Christmas at Osbourne House
Experience the spirit of a Victorian Christmas at beautiful Osborne. Have a go at traditional games, take a ride on the carousel and delight in jovial entertainers. Hear the festive sounds of the season and smell the roasting chestnuts in the snowy courtyard. Marvel at the skilful Victorian falconer and children can make their own traditional toys. Meet Father Christmas and even Queen Victoria as you tour some of the festively dressed rooms.
Santa Specials on IOW steam Railway
Another must for train mad kids (and dads), find Santa in his Winter Wonderland and take a 10 mile ride on the steam train from Havenstreet Station. The station will be set up as a Christmas Market so lots to see and do. Santa has left Rudolph at home but will have his alpacas for the children to meet!
Victorian Festival of Christmas, Historic Dockyard
The Dockyard in Portsmouth is transformed into an amazing Victorian Christmas Market, there is so much to see, it really is a day out. There are food stalls, craft stalls, rides for the kids, shows and street performers. One for the dads has to be Fagin’s tavern set up in a huge tent. The kids will love meeting Father Christmas in his traditional green fur trimmed outfit, some of the streets are even transformed into a snowy scene. Be warned though, it gets busy so if you can use a sling or backpack for the little ones do.
Featured image credits http://lovethispic.com