42 things to do in Herts & Beds this December
Jingle all the way to Christmas Day and beyond, with festive afternoon teas, plenty of pantos, live comedy nights and more more more!
COMEDY: Bring Your Own Baby Comedy Christmas Special, Hertford Theatre, Hertford, 3 Dec
Parents, rejoice! This socially-distanced comedy show at Hertford Theatre is designed for grown-ups (swearing and adult content abounds), but you can bring your baby along for the show as long as they’re under a year old. Perfect if you’re in desperate need of a night out. Tickets cost £12.50.
VIRTUAL: Willow Carol Concert, St Albans Cathedral, 4 Dec
If you’d usually attend this charity fundraising event at St Albans Cathedral, then proceedings might look a little different this year – but they’re no less festive. The show will be live-streaming via YouTube and Facebook at 7.30pm for around 45 minutes, so cosy up with a mulled wine and enjoy from the sofa. Tickets are free, donations encourages.
VIRTUAL: Pint Sized Poetry #8: Corona Christmas!, Watford Palace Theatre, Watford 4 Dec
Enjoy a night of spoken word, magic and live music from emerging UK artists over Zoom, thanks to Watford Palace Theatre‘s Palace @ Home program. Tickets are free, but donations are encouraged to help out the artists. Be aware, the recommended age limit is 14+, so one for when the kids are in bed if you have littlies!
FOOD: Christmas afternoon tea, Knebworth House, Stevenage 4 & 5 Dec, 11 & 12 Dec, 18 & 19 Dec
What better excuse to visit the gorgeous Knebworth House in Letchworth than for a seasonally-themed afternoon tea? Sit in the beautifully-decorated barns and enjoy a glass of Kir Royale and delicious treats including homemade sausage rolls, Christmas spiced scones served and mini mince pies. Yum!
SHOP: Gifts and Crafts Winter Market, Berkhamsted, 5 Dec
Visit this outdoor market at Berkhamsted Cricket Club to pick up a variety of gifts from your lovely local businesses as well as hot food and drinks, raffle tickets and more. Open from 10am to 4pm, tickets cost £2 with all proceeds going to The Hospice of St Francis.
EXHIBITION: Cleo Pettitt: The Art of Panto, The Elgiva Theatre, Chesham, 5 Dec – 10 Jan
Get in the panto mood with this new exhibition at The Elgiva Theatre on the Herts/Bucks border. Designer Cleo Pettitt shares her original paintings based on the sets she’s created for theatres throughout the UK.
KIDS: Merry Bear-y Christmas, Willows Activity Farm, St Albans, 5 & 6, 11 – 14, 17 – 24 Dec
Willows Activity Farm has a plethora of festive events for families this month, including their Merry Bear-y days. Wander through the winter wonderland to the make-a-bear shop, where little ones can choose their own personalised stuffed bears, before hopping on the new reindeer funfair ride, watching the shows and meeting real reindeer in The Farmyard.
OUTDOORS: Weekend Winter Walks, Hatfield Park, Hatfield 5 & 6 Dec, 12 & 13 Dec, 19 & 20 Dec
Grab your hat and scarf, bundle up warm and head to the beautiful Hatfield Park for a brisk winter walk. The Stable Yard will be decorated for the season, and – more importantly – the Coach House Kitchen are on hand with hot drinks and mince pies. Both the Park and Woodland Walks are dog-friendly, too.
MUSIC: Advent Carol Service, St Albans Cathedral, 6 Dec
Nothing says ‘Christmas’ like a live carol service, and this candle-lit service at St Albans Cathedral performed by the boys and men of the Cathedral Choir is sure to give you goosebumps. Tickets are free, but capped at 4 per household – get in quick as spaces are limited.
VIRTUAL: Light Up a Life, 6 Dec
Join Keech Hospice Care for a virtual version of their Light Up a Life service, which includes music, readings, reflections and a tree-lighting service all streamed via their YouTube. Attendance is free but donations are encouraged.
FOOD: Lunch with Santa, Knebworth House, Stevenage, 6, 13, 20, 22, 23, 24 Dec
A delicious two-course lunch and a visit from the man with the bag? Sign us up! Scoff a trad Christmas lunch of turkey with all the trimmings and a Bakewell tart (no fear, veggies – there is a nut roast option) before meeting Santa, who’ll be giving a gift to every child. Bookings are limited to 6 people.
TRANSPORT: Shuttleworth Santa’s Fly In and Christmas Vintage Bus Rides, Biggleswade, 6, 13 & 20 Dec
Well it saves the reindeer a flight! Santa makes an appearance in one of Shuttleworth’s vintage aeroplanes, while guests enjoy vintage bus tours of the Shuttleworth grounds. Kids will love the Elf Trail – keep your eyes peeled and spot the 30 engineering elves in the Collection hangars.
KIDS: Festive Fun programme, Willows Activity Farm, St Albans, 7 – 10 Dec and 15 & 16 Dec
Willows Activity Farm are offering more holiday activities than you can shake a candy cane at this December. Littlies will love the real reindeer farm, live shows, funfair rides and no ice ice-rink.
Fancy a socially-distanced visit from St Nick? Santa will be driving the Bedford BobSleigh (complete with plenty of lights and music) around the town for children to spot.
DRINK: Fortified Wine Tasting, The Wee Vinoteca, Hitchin, 10 Dec
Any excuse to visit The Wee Vinoteca is fine by us, especially when it comes with a chance to sip a selection of ports, vermouths and sherry. Tickets cost £35 each and include six tasting wines and platters of meats and cheeses – we’ll be there with bells on.
COMEDY: Out of Bounds Comedy Club, Watersmeet, Rickmansworth, 10 Dec
Watersmeet reopens its doors once more with its first live comedy night post-lockdown (just when we could all use a laugh). Reginald D Hunter headlines, supported by Ross McGrane and The Raymond & Mr Timpkins Revue.
PANTO: Peter Pan, The Alban Arena, St Albans, 11 Dec to 3 Jan
It’s not Christmas without a good panto (oh, yes it is! etc.), and Peter Pan is an absolute classic. This socially-distanced musical version is the perfect way to kick off the Christmas season, and £1 from every ticket purchased will be donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
KIDS: Comedy Club 4 Kids Christmas Cracker, Watford Palace Theatre, Watford 12 Dec
Struggling to keep the kids entertained over the weekend? Pick up tickets to this live comedy show for children aged six and up, featuring stand-ups and sketch acts that littlies will love.
COMEDY: Christmas Comedy Club, Watford Palace Theatre, Watford 12 Dec
Release the tension with a good laugh! Watford Palace Theatre‘s live comedy night includes Keith Farnan (who you’ll recognise from Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow), Patrick Monahan and Tiernan Douieb as compere.
KIDS: Santa’s Christmas Cracker, South Mill Arts, Bishop’s Stortford, 12 & 13 Dec
The ideal ways for littlies to see the man himself this season, Santa’s Christmas Cracker at South Mill Arts is a fun and festive sing-along show with a gift for every child who attends.
FOOD: Christmas Dinner with Festive Music Performance, Shuttleworth, Biggleswade, 12 & 19 Dec
Treat yourself to a festive three-course feast and Christmas cocktail provided by Carte Blanche Catering (my mouth is watering just reading the menu) and live performance by lounge singer Becky Bennet, all in the gorgeous surrounds of Shuttleworth ballroom. Tickets cost £70pp.
KIDS: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Christmas, Hertford Theatre, Hertford, 12 Dec – 3 Jan
Mini Muddies aged 1 to 6 will love this 50-minute theatrical recreation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar at Hertford Theatre, which features a menagerie of magical puppets. Tickets cost £16.50 each or £60 for a family of four, with children under 18 months going free.
XMAS: Christingle Service, St Albans Cathedral, 13 Dec
This classic Christmas service is ticketed this year, so book now to attend a festive favourite while supporting the Children’s Society. If you can’t make it in person, the service will also be live-streamed on YouTube.
OUTDOORS: The Wild Christmas Charity Run, Aldbury, 13 Dec
Lace up your trainers and support The Hospice of St Francis with The Wild Christmas Run, a trail run that starts and finishes with at the Musette Cafe in Aldbury. Choose from 8km and 3km distances, and treat yourself to a mince pie (or two) at the cafe afterward.
FOOD: Dinner with Santa, Knebworth House, Stevenage, 13 & 17 Dec
Visit Knebworth House’s beautifully-decorated barn for a two-course Christmas dinner (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options all available), with a chance to meet Santa afterwards. Plus, there’ll be a free gift for little ones.
FOOD: Christmas Afternoon Tea with Festive Pianist, Shuttleworth, Biggleswade, 13 & 20 Dec
Where better to enjoy Christmas nibbles, champagne and carols on the piano than a decked-out English country house? There are three sittings a day, so book your table of up to 6 ASAP.
CINEMA: The Nutcracker by The Royal Ballet, The Elgiva Theatre, Chesham, 14 Dec
The Nutcracker at The Royal Opera House may be sold out, but here’s the next best thing – The Elgiva Theatre on the Bucks/Herts border are holding a live-streamed showing of the performance on 14 Dec. Matinee and evening screenings are available, with the later including a free mulled wine or soft drink.
THEATRE: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, Watford Palace Theatre, Watford, 15-19 Dec
One of the hottest tickets of the season, The Showstoppers are coming to Watford Palace Theatre for their Olivier Award-winning performance of a night of improvised music – with a seasonal twist, naturally. The perfect alternative if panto’s not your bag.
COMEDY: Alistair Barrie presents A Charity Comedy Gala Night, Hertford Theatre, Hertford, 16 Dec
This socially-distanced night of comedy at Hertford Theatre boasts an all-star lineup: The Chase’s Paul Sinha, Taskmaster‘s Richard Herring, Edinburgh award nominee Spencer Jones and Eton and Oxford alum, Ivo Graham.
THEATRE: The Revellers Society, South Mill Arts, Bishop’s Stortford, 16-19 & 21-23 Dec
A socially-distanced cabaret sounds right up our street, so we’ll be donning the sequins and cracking the Champagne for this quirky show at South Mill Arts. Expect raucous comedy, musical numbers and naughtiness in spades.
THEATRE: Every Time A Bell Rings, The Place, Bedford, 18-23 Dec
Everybody knows how Clarence Odbody earned his angel wings, but what exactly does angel training involve? This socially-distanced show is made up of live and pre-recorded performances, including interviews and stories, in Mangled Yarn’s signature style. Can’t make it out to The Place? You can buy tickets to a digital performance instead.
XMAS: Live Nativity Trail, St Albans, 19 Dec
Dress up warm and go on a winter walk through town, meeting the characters from the Nativity story and getting your trail map stamped. Kids will love the stable animals – say hi to Dash the donkey and Billy and Lilly the sheep for us!
PANTO: Sleeping Beauty, The Elgiva Theatre, Chesham, 19 Dec – 3 Jan
Hop over the border into Bucks for this classic family favourite in a socially-distanced setting. Tickets are still available, so don’t get caught out sleeping on this panto (har de har).
VIRTUAL: The Big Festive Quiz, 20 Dec
Is there a more appropriate way to round off 2020 than a Zoom quiz? Keech Hospice Care are holding a big Christmas quiz to wrap up the year, with Tony Dibbin from Greatest Hits and Absolute Radio 70s playing quizmaster in his festive finest. Entry is £5 per team.
MUSIC: Christmas with the London Community Gospel Choir, Saffron Walden, Essex, 20 Dec
Hop over the border into North Essex for this spine-tingling Christmas performance from London Community Gospel Choir. You know you’re in for a treat here – after all, they’ve performed for Nelson Mandela and Freddie Mercury and recorded with Madonna and Elton John!
PANTO: Dame Terry’s Very Merry Christmas, Watford Palace Theatre, Watford, 23 – 27 Dec
For a healthy dose of camp festive fun, visit Watford Palace Theatre for their performance of Dame Terry’s Very Merry Christmas over the Christmas week. Socially-distanced seats will be sold in blocks of up to six.
XMAS: A Tale on Christmas Eve, St Albans Cathedral, 24 Dec
Visit the Cathedral on Christmas Eve to hear ‘Papa Panov’s Special Day’ read by candlelight in the Nave, as well as some classic Christmas carols. Guaranteed to get you ready for the big day itself.
OUTDOORS: Christmas Adventure Quest, Wrest Park, Silsoe, 26 Dec – 3 Jan
For a Boxing Day walk with a difference, head to Wrest Park in Silsoe to hunt for clues and QR codes around the grounds, all while sipping hot chocolate or mulled wine in beautiful surrounds.
THEATRE: A Christmas Carol, The Place, Bedford 27-31 Dec
This performance of the Dickens classic has a twist – it’s a one-man show! Expect comedy, live music and family fun, all in a socially-distanced setting. If the show can’t go ahead for any reason, your ticket price will buy you a digital version of the play instead.
EXHIBITION: Aimee Parrott: Gaia’s Kidney, Broadway Studio + Gallery, Letchworth Garden City, until 29 Dec
Get your culture fix with Gaia’s Kidney, a solo exhibition by London-based artist Aimée Parrott that’s inspired by the human body.
EXHIBITION: Phil Root: New Build, Broadway Studio + Gallery, Letchworth Garden City, until 29 Dec
Visit Broadway in Letchwork’s Gallery to see the newest exhibition from Phil Root, co-founder of Caraboo Projects in Bristol and visiting lecturer at University of West England. New Build focuses on our relationship to our dwellings – fitting, after a year indoors!
FOOD: New Year’s Eve Gourmet Dinner, Luton Hoo, Luton, 31 Dec
Ring in the new year in style (and black tie) with this lavish celebration at Luton Hoo. Splash out on a lavish five-course gourmet dinner in the Mansion House restaurant, a Champagne and canapé reception, and music from a live pianist.