Floodlit gardens, Santa on a steam railway and Norwich's Northern Lights: 10 events to put you in the Christmas mood...
1. The UK’s first immersive ‘Tunnel of Light’, Norwich
November 17 – January 5
Visitors to Norwich’s lead seasonal attraction, ‘Tunnel of Light’, will experience a display made from 50,000 pulsating LEDs, running from Gentleman’s Walk to The Forum.
The sequenced lights will reflect the patterns and colours of the Northern Lights for visitors to experience a display of dancing beams.
Inspiration for the tunnel was taken from Nagashia Resort’s theme park Nabana no Sato in Japan. In addition, three commissioned original film projections of distinct Christmas stories will be broadcast nightly on the Art Deco City Hall and Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.
The 280 foot long projection at City Hall will tell a traditional Christmas narrative, whilst at Norwich Castle there will be two 70 foot high films of contemporary Christmas adventure.
2. Discover The Lanterns at Chester Zoo, Chester
November 25 – 27, December 2 – 3, 9 – 11, 16 – 2
This night time event invites visitors to explore the zoo after dark and experience the night time sounds, lantern-lit gardens and larger than life animal lanterns.
Designed and performed by The Lantern Company, this year’s lantern sculptures and puppets include many new characters.
Take a stroll through the enchanted forest and celebrate local woodland and garden creatures – maybe even catching a glimpse of Santa on his sleigh. Tickets are £9-12.50 for children and £10-15 for adults, booking early is advised.
3. Shrek and friends light up St George’s Hall, Liverpool
November 26 – January 15
The animated stars of DreamWorks movies will be lighting up Liverpool this Christmas with a spectacular walkthrough experience of large scale lanterns. It’s a UK first for the city as Liverpool’s Grade I listed St George’s Hall welcomes Shrek, Kung-Fu Panda and the Penguins of Madagascar as part of DreamWorks Lights. Visitors will also have the opportunity to get up close and personal with their favourite characters through a special green-screen photo experience and shop. Prices: adults £10; children £8.
4. Lighting up Blenheim Palace with the new Christmas Trail, Oxfordshire
November 25 – January 2
Blenheim Palace’s Formal Gardens will be transformed into an illuminated wonderland. The hour long trail will include scented fire gardens, singing Christmas trees and a lake aglow with brightly lit boats filled with snowflakes and presents.
Other highlights include the fairy-lit arbour; the lakeside boathouse, which will become a temporary home for Santa Claus, and the Cascades, which will also be bathed in light.
Cultural inspiration has been taken from Blenheim Palace’s baroque architecture and six Formal Gardens sat within 2,000 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscape. Adults £16.00/Children £10 when booked in advance.
5. Immerse yourself in a Shakespeare inspired Enchanted Park, Saltwell Park, Gateshead
December 6 – 11
Discover a Mid-Winter Night’s Tale through a trail of art installations with lights, performances, sculptures and projections.
Part of Light up the North, a network of seven light festivals taking place in seven cities across the North of England, this after-dark arts adventure sees specially commissioned artists transform Gateshead’s Victorian Saltwell park into a mythical wonderland.
Inspired by the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, this year’s Enchanted Parks will take visitors on an intriguing journey, where a hidden manuscript found inside the Towers has unleashed a strange kind of magic, as A Midwinter Night’s Tale comes to life.
Ticket prices are £8 for adults and £2 for children under 16.www.enchantedparks.com
6. Join the winter spectacular at Longleat’s celebratory Festival of Light, Wiltshire
To 2 January
Bringing the curtain down on the Safari Park’s 50th birthday celebrations in remarkable style, this eye-catching event will take the age-old tradition of the Chinese lantern and transform it for today’s modern audience, using around 40 types of animals and 2,500 individual lanterns.
Longleat’s Festival of Light will this year also mark 150 years of Beatrix Potter by combining a collection of its own safari animals with some of the author’s key characters in a series of delightful scenes built by Longleat’s creative partners in China. A
t 20 metres high, the cake will be this year’s biggest illumination and the icing will be 1,100 metres of silk in 17 different colors, all topped-off by 2,000 metres of LED lights.
Prices are £30.95 for adults and £29.95 for children, with discounted tickets from November. Admission includes entry to see The Festival of Light, the famous singing Christmas tree, plus entry to the Safari Park.
7. Candlelight Tours, Holkham Hall, North Norfolk
November 30 – 2 December; December; 7 – 9, 14 – 16
An opportunity to see the flickering light of hundreds of candles illuminating the state rooms of Norfolk's iconic Holkham Hall.
A guide will take guests for an early evening tour to see the decorations, learn about how they were created and listen to intriguing stories of Holkham’s history and of its residents past and present.
Included is a glass of prosecco or a soft drink, and a mince pie in the Courtyard Café. Adult £16, Children £10.
8. A Nutcracker Christmas at Chatsworth, Derbyshire
November 5 - January 3
The famous ballet is the theme for Chatsworth House this year, as this magnificent stately home is transformed during the festive season.
The Hall will be full of decorations, lavish costumes and stage sets that tell the story of The Nutcracker, transporting visitors to a world populated by Nutcracker soldiers, elegant ballerinas and dancing snowflakes.
All the cast will be on view - from the Mouse King and the Sugar Plum Fairy to the Nutcracker and Clara - to depict the story in a series of tableau scenes throughout the house. Various ticket options available.
9. Santa Specials at the Kent & East Sussex Railway
December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17,18, 22, 23 and 24
Take a traditional train journey on Tenterden’s Steam Railway this Christmas to meet Santa on board the festively decorated Santa Special, as it makes its way to the North Pole.
Guests will be greeted by a beautiful Victorian carousel with prancing horses waiting to take everyone on a ride. Back at Tenterden station, there's a Giant Snow Globe for people to pose for a free colour family photograph as a memento of their day. Tickets start at £17.00.
10. Visit the largest working reindeer herd in England at Blithbury Reindeer Lodge, Staffordshire
Friday evenings and weekends up to Christmas, plus Open Days 20-23 December.
Nestled in the heart of Staffordshire, New House Farm is home to over 150 reindeer which roam freely across a 30-acre site. For Christmas the Lodge is transformed into a Winter Wonderland filled with twinkling lights, Christmas trees, Santa and his little helpers and - of course - reindeer, and sleigh rides. Children can feed and fuss over 100 reindeer, have story-time with the Head Elf, and embark on a personal visit to meet Santa, access to his toy workshop, and attend Elf School.
Prices: £9.95 for adults, £14.95 for children over two.