5 free things to do this month

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Things to do: the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park in London

Plan your month ahead with our ideas for fantastic free days out and things to do around the UK

Mark your diary with these special events worth visiting: winter festivals and Christmas fairs, and immersive visual arts.

1. Southbank Winter Festival

Until 5 January, Southbank Centre, London

The centre of the best and most varied free things to do in London compiles a host of fun activities and events into the Southbank Winter Festival. Whether you fancy some comedy and cabaret, or want to take the youngsters along for some games, storytelling and hands-on science, the full programme offers something to keep you entertained.

There's the festive market on the river's edge where you can warm yourself with some hot food and drink, with the festival's musical offerings ranging from traditional choirs to the more exotic Caribbean bands and Indonesian flavours.

You can even relax in the free cinema showing festive and Disney favourites from Frozen to Up!.

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2. Edinburgh's Christmas

Edinburgh, until 4 January 2020

There's so much going on for Christmas in Edinburgh over the next month, with free events for everyone alongside the Christmas market. From 11-20 December you can follow the Community Christmas around the city, as 12 different choirs perform over 12 nights, and on 17 December is Light Night, the Christmas lights switch-on celebrations. Watch the Santa Fun Run on 1 December, and admire the Winter Windows: a series of colourful stained-glass designs created by school pupils and displayed at five locations.

Also free is Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s Night Walk for Edinburgh, which leads you through the streets of the Old Town for an hour, using headphones and a hand-held screen. Book your session to ensure your place.

3. Shoppers’ Carol Service

17 December, Bristol Cathedral

Take a little time out of your day with some beautiful music at recitals and enjoy the Bristol Cathedral Shoppers’ Carol Service. Not far from the bustling Bristol shops, finish off your day of shopping or work by relaxing with a 45-minute performance that kicks off at 5.15pm

Pop along and get into the festive spirit in a more relaxing way, while those of you with little ones can enjoy Bristol Cathedral’s Toddlers’ Carols at 10am and 2pm on the 19th.

4. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

21 November-5 January, Hyde Park, London

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is back for the 13th year of turning London's largest park into a massive hub of Christmas fun and games. It’s free to enter and explore the gifts and hot food of the market, but you’ll pay to join in the thrill of the fairground, take the kids to Santa Land and see the man himself in his grotto, skate on the UK's biggest ice rink.

If you have some money to spend there are also ice sculptures, entertainment and shows in the big top, and a new 70m observation wheel where you'll get a great view of Hyde Park, the 100,000 lights of the ice rink and across the capital.

5. Red Hot Highland Fling

31 December, Northern Meeting Park Arena, Inverness

Referring to itself as the biggest free Hogmanay party in Scotland, the Inverness Red Hot Highland Fling will end the year on a bang. There are thousands of spectators every year enjoying the traditional Scottish music and dancing from 8pm til gone midnight, making it an ideal family event for New Year's Eve.

This year's show includes acts such as The Trad Project, Blazin' Fiddles and Tidelines, as well as fireworks at the stroke of 12, so get your tickets quickly for this great party.

Images © Getty

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