With the annual Winter Wonderland and New Years fireworks display already cancelled, and many city winter markets cancelled too, this year things are certainly looking a little... unfestive. But with a little bit of digging, we're rather thrilled to share that there are still some Covid-safe and super festive events that will be going ahead in 2020 – from winter markets, wreath making and live carol concerts to stunning light trails up and down the country, and some Santa grottos for little'uns too. You're welcome.
1. Kew Gardens Winter Trail
The Christmas at Kew winter trail will re-open from the 18th November, where visitors can explore the illuminated gardens after dark, and enjoy art, light and music at every turn – from lit up trees and tunnels made from fairy lights to ponds, fountains and waterfalls.
This year Kew Gardens will also unveil a stunning stop-you-in-your-tracks light installation inspired by Montezuma’s, bringing a touch of chocolate magic to London’s favourite festive event.
There will be food trucks, hot chocolate and mulled wine stands dotted around so you can warm up with warming treats while taking in the festive lights.
2. Chelsea Physic Garden's Christmas Market
The Chelsea Physic Garden's Christmas Fair will re-open next month and run from 26th to 29th November.
The annual fair includes stands from the finest British suppliers within the beautiful surroundings of the Garden. From chocolates, to handmade decorations, there's something for everyone.
Due to ongoing government restrictions, the Garden has worked hard to ensure that the fair is a safe outdoor experience for visitors.
Tickets (£7 per person) must be booked in advance online here.
3. Pick a tree
The ever popular Pines and Needles – whose customers include Prince Harry, Meghan and Madonna – will be opening all over London from 17 November. And what could be more festive than heading out to pick out your fir tree? See which pop-up will be nearest to you, if you plan to choose a tree in person, or get online – online slots for nationwide delivery are now open and accepting orders!
4. Haddon Hall's Winter Market
Haddon Hall will be hosting its Mercatum Winter Artisan Market over three weekends, with a number of rigorous health and safety measures in place to ensure a safe and enjoyable festive experience for everyone.
Taking place November 19th – 22nd, 26th – 29th and December 3rd – 6th, the hall will be decorated to create a wonderfully festive atmosphere, with live music playing each day. The stallholders will change from event to event, to provide a different experience each weekend.
There will be a maximum of 70 artisans each weekend, placed in stalls which weave their way round the estate, starting along the driveway, moving to in front of the Stables, the Lower Courtyard and into the Banqueting Hall.
All entrance tickets and car parking must be pre-booked online here.
In terms of being Covid-safe, visitors will need to follow a one-way system out into the gardens, where there will be more stalls on two of the terraces, before heading into the Long Gallery and back out into the Lower Courtyard.
Additional safety measures include limiting the number of visitors to enable the correct social distancing protocols, as well the provision of a cashless market, pre-booking tickets, hand sanitiser at each stall and temperatures taken upon arrival.
5. Wreath making
Get into the Christmas mood with a wreath making workshop – and take yours home with you to give your front door some festive cheer!
Join the JamJar Wreath Making workshop at Peacock Yard in London on Saturday 5th December to welcome in the festive season. Enjoy a glass of mulled wine, and embrace your creativity with our floral designer Talena Rolfe.
During this one and a half hour workshop, you will learn how to create a spectacular wreath from scratch using wired wreath base. Working with beautiful seasonal foliage, sculptural branches, dried flowers, seed heads, fruits and winter berries you will craft your very own wreath to take home.
There will be a workshop on Sunday 6th December too.
All workshops are limited to 5 participants and will adhere to social distancing measures.
6. Live carol concerts
St Martin-In-The-Fields on Trafalgar Square will be hosting five carol concerts this year – which can be watched either at home or live at the venue.
The venue will be presenting five concerts for socially distanced audiences at the church, including A Christmas Celebration with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields on Friday 18th December.
The programmes feature much-loved carols, including Silent night, In the bleak midwinter and Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
In terms of being Covid-safe, they are only currently able to welcome 100 people a week to hear live music at St Martin-in-the-Fields – so be sure to book ahead!
Online Carol Concerts will be available to buy ahead from Monday 19th October here.
7. More Light Trails
The spectacular outdoor Raymond Gubbay Christmas light trails are still going ahead at various locations around the UK:
CHRISTMAS AT BEDGEBURY, 20 November – 31 December 2020
This family-friendly one-mile magical festive trail in the heart of the High Weald AONB countryside will once again be awash with colour. Christmas at Bedgebury is full of seasonal surprises and shimmering reflections that cast light on beautiful silhouettes of majestic trees. Tickets sell out fast each year, therefore early booking is advised.
Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest, Kent
CHRISTMAS AT BLENHEIM PALACE, 20 November 2020 – 3 January 2021
The Illuminated Trail makes a welcome return to Blenheim Palace transforming England’s finest view with a bright and magical winter walk like no other. Inspired by the landscape itself, visitors embark on a winterland adventure, dramatically illuminated with stunning lights. Featuring lasers and light projections, visitors wander under magical tree canopies drenched in seasonal colour and dripping with silvery shards of light, frosty snowflakes, stars and baubles.
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1PP
CHRISTMAS AT DUNHAM MASSEY, 20 November – 30 December 2020
The sell-out trail returns for a fourth year to this historic National Trust property. Look out for the giant glittering deer as you step into a world festooned with seasonal cheer where huge snowflakes create an aerial kaleidoscope over the Gardens and pause for a moment of quiet reflection at the crystal and fire garden, aglow with hundreds of flickering flames.
Tickets sell out fast each year, therefore early booking is advised.
Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire. WA14 4SJ
CHRISTMAS AT BELTON, 27 November 2020 – 3 January 2021
Following last year’s success, Christmas at Belton will once again light up the historic tree canopies of this magnificent country-house estate. Discover giant luminescent candles
rising high into the night sky, glowing flowers and snowflakes where you least expect them. Don’t forget to watch out for Father Christmas along the way.
Belton House, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG32 2LS
CHRISTMAS AT STOURHEAD, 27 November 2020 – 3 January 2021
Find new moments to share as the after-dark trail lights up the beautiful National Trust gardens at Stourhead, Wiltshire for a second year. Walk past giant luminescent sculptures rising high into the night sky and trees wrapped in light on your way to a field of crocuses, where a carpet of larger than life flora glows gently in the moonlight.
Stourhead, Mere, Wiltshire, BA12 6QD
8. Hop on the Polar express
Meanwhile up in Ireland, the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa will re-open their annual Santa’s Polar Express from 12th - 22nd December, including a winter wonderland, story-telling with Mrs Claus and the Polar Express train adventure which takes guests to visit Santa and his elves in their busy workshop.
The set-up of the much-loved family event will remain the same, but Hastings Hotels has introduced a number of new health and safety measures including reduced numbers of guests per time slot in line with social distancing and allocated seating on the train – so book ahead!
Tickets are priced £22 per adult (including a £5 voucher per adult to spend on food and beverages on the day), £26 per child (under 14) and £10 for children under one.
To book tickets for this magical family experience at the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa visit www.santapolarexpress.com
9. Lapland in the UK
Who said you had to go abroad to visit Lapland? LaplandUK in Ascot is a multi-award winning, multi-sensory experience.
Based on the original stories of Mike & Alison Battle, LaplandUK reimagines the legend of Father Christmas and his Elves, and takes families to a secret ‘Elven civilisation’ hidden deep in the forest.
The adventure begins as soon as a ticket is purchased and finishes on Christmas morning; children receive a personalised, wax-sealed invitation from Father Christmas, who along with the Elves, need their help to finish making toys for boys and girls around the world.
Upon arrival, all children are issued with an Elven passport allowing them to travel the secret pathways to magical Lapland – a land you have to see to believe!
From working alongside the Elves in the Toy Factory to visiting Mother Christmas’ kitchen and to decorating Father Christmas’ favourite treat, it's a four-hour-long, immersive event that guarantees to put you in a festive mood.
LaplandUK opens its doors on Saturday 14th November running until Christmas Eve. Show tickets start from £69.00 plus booking fees. In terms of being Covid-safe, LaplandUK will distance groups from one another and manage families in their individual bubbles.
10. Santa's Grotto
Peter Rabbit™ and friends will join Santa for a new grotto experience at centre:mk – one of the UK’s largest Christmas grottos this year.
Santa has asked Peter Rabbit™ and his woodland friends to help him prepare for the big day with visitors to Santa’s Grotto stepping into the wonderful World of Peter Rabbit™ along the way. This new and exciting, immersive theatrical Christmas adventure is brought to life by actors playing the part of Peter Rabbit™ and his friends. As well as Peter Rabbit™, visitors will meet all of their favourite Beatrix Potter characters such as Squirrel Nutkin, Mr. Tod and even decorate elf biscuits with Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, before meeting Santa himself.
Each family will spend 25 to 30 minutes at the grotto, which includes a decorated Christmas Elf biscuit in a gift bag and a lovely quality gift from Santa for each child.
The grotto is just 30 minutes from London and will be open from 13th November to 24th December. For more information visit centremk.com.
In terms of being Covid-safe, Centre Director, Kevin Duffy, said, “Christmas really is for the children and we wanted to bring something extra special this year to try and make up for what has been a very difficult year for everybody. The team have been planning this for months, scrutinising every aspect to ensure it can be delivered in line with all the Government guidance”. Temperature checks, track and trace, and hand sanitisers are available throughout and after each visit the grotto is rigorously cleaned.
11. Land of Light at Longleat
Running from 7th November to 10th January 2021, Land of Light features thousands of spectacular light sources, illuminating seven themed areas across the Wiltshire estate.
Specially created for Longleat the event’s mix of technology, art and interactive installations will provide a stunning and unique alternative to the much-loved winter lantern spectacular; the Festival of Light, which was postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19.
See sensational projections light up the iconic Longleat House, dancing fountains and animated light displays across the ornate grounds and gardens, Half Mile Lake and The Longhouse.
Wander through motion-detected splashes of playful colour and sound and step inside the giant four-metre tall geometric portal with its immersive and vibrant pattern of choreographed lights.
Longleat’s famous Sun Maze and Love Labyrinth will be embellished with LED lighting, mirror balls and atmospheric haze, with trees and topiary hedges decked out in their own stunning illuminated displays, bringing a wintery shimmer to the historic gardens.
Longleat’s 20-metre tall Enchanted Christmas Tree returns to the Stable Yard and the Santa Train will be back to whisk guests away to Father Christmas’ magical woodland grotto.
This year, there’s also a brand new storytelling experience on offer. Enter Santa’s cosy den to hear a whimsical story told by the man himself; of course, he will also have special gifts for all the children on the nice list.
During the day, guests can enjoy all of Longleat’s animal and adventure attractions, including the Safari Park, Koala Creek, Jungle Kingdom, Jungle Cruise and the iconic Longleat Hedge Maze.
Entry to the Land of Lights will be via pre-bookable time slots here.
12. Merry Marylebone
Wednesday 11 November sees the launch of Marylebone Village’s annual Christmas celebrations, with the Christmas Lights illuminating the streets and a day of exclusive Christmas shopping, discounts, offers and special menus at a selection of shops, bars and restaurants in this famous West End destination.
Exclusive promotions will take place on 11th November including 20% off in participating retailers such as fashion brands Paul Smith, Rachel Riley, Theory, Tracey Neuls, Dinny Hall, LK Bennett, Kastur Jewels, agnes b, Kabiriand Martel + Ram, as well as chocolatiers Rococo Chocolates and premium homeware store David Mellor. A variety of other promotions and activations will take place at MATCHESFASHION, The Conran Shop, Little Greene Paint Company, Space NK, Luca Faloni, Designers Guild and more.
Food and Drink offers include 20% off at Orrery, special menu with prosecco at 28°-50° and modern pub specialising in cocktails The Marylebone.
13. Victoria Baths' Festive Winter Fair
Victoria Baths reopens its doors to welcome visitors to its Festive Winter Fair on Saturday 14 & Sunday 15 November, and Saturday 21 & Sunday 22 November.
Opening each day from 10.30am to 4.30pm the Festive Winter Fair will feature up to 30 stalls selling a fantastic variety of art, jewellery, ceramics, homewares and festive decorations.
The Festive Winter Fair is just in time for those finalising their Christmas lists. It gives everyone the chance to “shop local” and support independent creative traders at the end of what’s been a very tough year for small businesses. For added festive cheer, mulled wine and mince pies will be amongst the treats on offer in the Tea Room, where visitors will enjoy a warm welcome from the Baths’ team of
Timed entry tickets, capped visitor numbers, signposted one-way routes, hand sanitiser stations, friendly volunteer ushers and more will all ensure a relaxed and safe visitor experience. To book visit www.vbfestivefair.eventbrite.co.u
14. Waddesdon's Winter Light Trail & Christmas Fair
Escape reality and step into a world of festive splendour, as Waddesdon – the Rothschild house and gardens in Buckinghamshire – is transformed from Sturday 14th November until Sunday 3rd January.
The gardens will be illuminated with twinkling lights and colour until 7.30pm, as Waddesdon’s Winter Light trail fills the Pleasure Grounds. Beneath colourful tree canopies and bushes draped in sparkle, visitors can stroll under the stars and be dazzled by immersive light features such as a valley of flickering flames and a cascading river of light.
As the sun goes down, watch the spectacle of the Manor’s façade illuminated with dancing lights set to sequenced music.
There will also be Christmas afternoon teas, mulled wine and handmade mince pies.
Also opening from Saturday 14th November will be the Waddesdon Christmas fair, returning with 80 wooden chalets. Artisan producers, makers and craftsmen will offer the very finest and, in many cases unique, gifts, at this shopping experience that is not to be missed.
All visits must be pre-booked online in order to stagger arrivals and minimise crowding.
15. Christmas at Castle Howard
Bolder and brighter than ever, ‘Christmas at Castle Howard’ is set to inspire visitors with a brand-new outdoor concept for this year’s event ‘Wish Upon A Frozen Star’, in partnership with world-class, award-winning illuminated projection specialists, ‘The Projection Studio’.
Castle Howard, located in North Yorkshire, is one of Britain’s much-loved stately homes after it was catapulted onto our screens as the backdrop to Brideshead Revisited in 1981 (and again in the 2008) feature film. ‘Wish Upon a Frozen Star’ is an epic light and sound extravaganza, transforming the grounds of the Estate into a Winter Wonderland.
Jack Frost has cast his icy spell over The Walled Gardens, turning them into an enchanted, frozen Winter Kingdom. You'll also find cheerful fireside scenes, sparkling Christmas trees, lots of shopping stalls, alongside mulled wine, minced pies and season fayre, and of course, the anticipation of Father Christmas’ arrival on Christmas Day. Stock up on locally sourced seasonal produce and Christmas pantry treats in the Estate’s Farm Shop, seek out more unusual gift ideas in the Gift Shops, or even buy your real Christmas or artificial Christmas tree to take home with you.
Ticket sales and capacity are limited, and entry times will be staged along the illumination route, to allow the safe social distancing guidelines to be followed. Book ahead.
Lotte is the Digital Editor for Livingetc, and has been with the website since its launch. She has a background in online journalism and writing for SEO, with previous editor roles at Good Living, Good Housekeeping, Country & Townhouse, and BBC Good Food among others, as well as her own successful interiors blog. When she's not busy writing or tracking analytics, she's doing up houses, two of which have features in interior design magazines. She's just finished doing up her house in Wimbledon, and is eyeing up Bath for her next project.
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