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What’s on over Christmas and New Year

Fancy escaping the house for a spot of festive entertainment? Check out these events happening near you from now until the New Year.

LIGHT TRAIL: Stockwood Illuminated, Stockwood Discovery Centre, 3-23 Dec

Explore the historic gardens of Stockwood Discovery Centre by twinkling light, as it’s illuminated for the festive season. Go on a sound and light journey as you follow the self-guided paths through the greenery. There’s also the chance to show off your photography skills. Post your pics online for the chance to be picked as the winner in January. FIND MORE TWINKLY LIGHT TRAILS IN HERTS, BEDS AND BEYOND, HERE.

FAMILY THEATRE: The Elves and the Shoemaker, Hat Factory Arts Centre, Luton, 18-24 Dec

We all know the original story, but this version has a bit of a twist. Retired shoemaker Geoff is struggling to recall the past when some magical friends step in to help. There’s puppets and original music to make this an extra special show.

KIDS: Santa Spectacular, Willows Activity Farm, 10-13 and 16-24 Dec

Ok it’s only November but the jingle bells are ringing already. Book the little ones in for this special festive event and they can meet Santa in his grotto, where he’ll give them a key to his toyshop and they can choose a gift. There’ll also be soft toy making, gingerbread workshops, festive singalongs and films, as well as ice skating on the synthetic rink and magical woodland tractor rides.

KIDS: Meet Santa, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, until 24 Dec

Here’s another chance to meet the man himself (he’s a busy guy, right?!) He’ll be hanging out with the wildlife at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo during the weekends from 20 Nov and every day from 18-24 Dec. Go and grab an early Christmas pressie and enjoy some festive magic!

FAMILY: The Magic of Christmas, Mead Open Farm, 3-24 Dec

After a fun family day out? Well this will be just the ticket… or magical passport, should we say, which you’ll be given on arrival for entry into all the festive fun. There’s a magical walkthrough (with a naughty or nice detector!), Santa’s grotto, Elf Academy Show, magical toyshop and little ones can take part in the gingerbread decorating, or make a teddy bear to take home. Plus you’ll get to see all the usual farm animals and attractions, too.

KIDS: Santa’s Grotto, South Mill Arts, 4-24 Dec

Santa’s coming to town! Bishop’s Stortford to be exact. Visit his grotto between to take part in some festive craft, then listen to a magical story and receive a special gift from the man himself before guzzling down a tasty hot choccie and Christmas cookie.

THEATRE: The Borrowers, Abbey Theatre, St Albans, 17-28 Dec

The lovable story of unlikely heroine Arrietty and her miniature family who live under the floorboards is being brought to life by Company of Ten Theatre this month. As the little people ‘borrow’ from the ‘human beans’, while trying not to be spotted, they’ll face all sorts of challenges in the big wide world. Little ones will be enchanted and it might just bring back some memories for mums and dads too (remember the 90s TV series, anyone?).

THEATRE: Rapunzel, South Mill Arts, Bishop’s Stortford, 4 Dec – 2 Jan

Love a good fairytale at Christmas? Get the family over to South Mill Arts for this lively re-telling, with a feisty heroine, talking horse and a wicked witch, with plenty of adventure, dance and song to get those toes tapping. Read our review here.

KIDS: Christmas Adventure Quest, Wrest Park, until 2 Jan

Kids at a loose end before school starts back? They’ll enjoy following the clues on this festive family adventure trail and learning all about Wrest Parks fabulous themed parties. They can even have a go at designing their own party.

FAMILY THEATRE: Under the Frozen Moon, Southern Maltings, Ware, with Hertford Theatre, 14 Dec – 3 Jan

This gorgeous production by Half a String Theatre with Hertford Theatre tells the heartwarming story of little girl Amka and her family, who live in an icy wonderland where a dragon has stolen all the fire and light. Told with beautiful puppets and original music it sounds like it will mesmerise both young and old audiences alike. Read our interview with the Artistic Director, Peter Morton to find out more about the inspiration behind it.

KIDS: Christmas Adventure Quest, Wrest Park, weekends throughout Dec then daily from 26 Dec – 2 Jan

Kids at a loose end during ‘twixtmas’? They’ll enjoy following the clues on this festive family adventure trail and learning all about Wrest Parks fabulous themed parties. They can even have a go at designing their own party.

BOOK NOW: New Year’s Celebration, Saffron Hall, 2 Jan

Whip those gladrags back out of the wardrobe and ring in the New Year with this classical celebration of the music of Debussy, Ravel, Tchaikovsky and Strauss, with performances by pianist Louis Schwizgebel and and soprano Soraya Mafi, accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Michael Seal.

FAMILY: Enchanted woodland walk, Ashridge House, until 9 Jan

The gorgeous grounds of this former royal residence will be transformed into a super sparkly winter wonderland this month. Twinlking light installations and a magical musical score will lead visitors through the gardens, via glittering arches and uplit tree-lined avenues to a hidden Christmas scene in the woods. You had me at twinkling lights… READ THE MUDDY REVIEW HERE!

KIDS: Robin Robin trail, RSPB The Lodge, Sandy, until 10 Jan

Seen Aardman’s latest animated adventure, Robin Robin, on Netflix yet?? If not, pop it on your watchlist for the festive period – it’s suuuper cute! This family friendly (ages 3-11) adventure trail invites little ones to ‘sneak’ like a robin (you’ll geddit when you’ve seen the film!), sing like a robin and find your own robin superpowers. Pick up an activity pack for £3, plus there’ll be an audio trail too.

EXHIBITION: Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Natural History Museum, Tring, until June 2022

© Stefano Unterthiner, Wildlife Photographer of the Year
© Stefano Unterthiner, Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Can’t make it to London for the annual exhibition? See the highlights of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition closer to home this month including 34 images demonstrating the fragility and beauty of wildlife, from miniscule insects to mighty beasts.

Find more ideas here

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