*** UPDATED FOR 2016! New post here: 10 West Midlands Christmas Days Out 2016
I’ve always found it a little bit difficult to get in the mood for Christmas. I just think it starts a bit too early in the shops and it’s a difficult transition from scrooge to Christmas fairy.
Since having children, the one thing that has helped me to get into the spirit of things is a good day out with decorations, carols, a cheeky glass of mulled something or other and of course, the man in red.
I’ve researched the Christmas days out in and around the West Midlands. I’ve visited some of my top ten and the others just sound amazing. If you’ve been to any of the ones that I haven’t, please let me know!
1. Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market
This is the biggest German / Austrian Christmas market outside of the market’s native countries. There’s great food, mulled wine and cider and fabulous craft stalls.
The market starts on the 12th November and is joined by Ice Skate Birmingham outdoor rink and big wheel from the 14th November. The market closes on the 22nd December but Ice Skate Birmingham will still be there until 10th January.
The market is a great day out but it does get incredibly busy especially in the evenings and at weekends. If you’re visiting with young children I’d advise avoiding these times if possible.
More information about the market can be found here via Visit Birmingham: http://visitbirmingham.com/birminghams-frankfurt-christmas-market
More information about Ice Skate Birmingham can be found on their website here: http://www.iceskatebirmingham.co.uk
2. National Sea Life Centre Birmingham – Merry Fishmas
If you’re heading to the German market, it is well worth tying it in with a trip to the National Sea Life Centre Christmas event. Father Christmas has his grotto next to the attraction’s Gentoo penguins.
Children get a free visit to Father Christmas, including a gift. There is a Christmas tree in the Ocean Tunnel and the Polar Express film shows in the 4D cinema throughout December.
We loved this last year and took one of my favourite photographs of the girls with Father Christmas. More information can be found on the Sea Life Centre website here: https://www.visitsealife.com/birmingham
3. Drayton Manor Magical Christmas
We’ve been to Drayton Manor numerous times this year, most recently for their incredible War of the Worlds fireworks event. But we’ve never been at Christmas and I have to admit this is something I’ve been looking forward to all year.
The park is going to be decked out for Christmas with fairy lights and festive tunes. A snow machine will treat visitors to a snow storm three times a day.
There will of course be rides to enjoy but there are even more exciting things in place this season. There will be an outdoor ice rink and a light show Christmas tree but it’s Santa’s grotto that sounds really interesting to me.
This is set in the enchanted Castle of dreams with elves to show everyone the way to Father Christmas. After dark, there is a fireworks display to make sure everyone is in the festive spirit by the time they leave.
More information can be found at Drayton Manor’s website here: http://draytonmanor.co.uk
4. Clearwell Caves Christmas Fantasy
When Libby was about six months old, we took her to Clearwell Caves for their Christmas event. Even at that age, she got something out of it, as did we as adults.
The Christmas fantasy is set inside the caves and it tells a little story as you walk around. The story this year is Evie’s Aeroplane.
There is the opportunity to see Father Christmas and visit an underground café and Christmas market.
More information is available on their website here: http://www.clearwellcaves.com/events.html
5. Santa’s Winter Wonderland at Tamworth Snow Dome
This is one Christmas experience that I’ve never been to but I’d really, really love to because it just sounds brilliant.
There’s a snow trail with a slide, a snowball fight in an enchanted forest, sledging and snow tubing. This is what Christmas is all about to me and I’m sure that I’d enjoy it just as much as the children.
There’s also a Santa play on stage and you can meet Santa’s real reindeer and have a stroll around Santa’s house, dropping a letter into his postbox.
This is open from 20th November to 31st December and more information is available on their website here: http://www.snowdome.co.uk/santas-winter-wonderland
6. Webbs Garden Centre Christmas Grotto and Ice Rink
Webbs was the first thing that really got me into the Christmas spirit last year. They make such a huge effort with making the place look really magical. And I think you’ll agree, they do a pretty fine job.
The temporary ice rink at Webbs is set under a clear roof so that you can skate whatever the weather. There’s a café beside it where we popped in for a muffin and a hot chocolate to refuel after ice skating.
The Christmas Grotto is set at the end of a Winter Wonderland that is beautifully lit and decorated. The gifts from Father Christmas were brilliant last year and the girls were allowed to choose their gift from Santa’s warehouse after their visit.
More information is available on the Webbs website. The Christmas grotto is featured here: http://info.webbsdirect.co.uk/christmas-grotto-2015 and the ice rink is here: http://info.webbsdirect.co.uk/christmas-ice-rink
7. Westonbirt Arboretum
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening from the 27th November to the 20th December, Westonbirt Arboretum lights up in celebration of its trees.
I’ve never been to this but it just sounds magical. There is about a mile of lighting in the trees, forming around a 45 minute walk in the enchanted forest.
At the end of the trail, children are able to take part in free craft activities. Father Christmas will also be there, dressed in the more traditional green costume.
Mrs Christmas telling stories to the children, along with other festive characters and a carousel. There will also be local bands and choirs providing festive music at the event.
More information can be found on the Westonbirt website here: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-christmas
8. Blithbury Reindeer Lodge
The largest herd of reindeer in England live at Blithbury so around this time of year, they’re pretty busy getting ready for Christmas. This is another event that I’ve never been to but it sounds so authentic and magical that I’m hoping to go this year.
The Christmas theme is based around Scandinavian wooden buildings, a sleigh ride lined with Christmas trees and a barn full of fairy lights with an open fire.
You can feed and stroke the reindeer and have them pull you along in a sleigh. There’s Elf school to learn how the reindeer fly, gingerbread decorating and a visit to Santa’s grotto.
As well as the general experience, Blithbury cater specially for toddlers during term time and for adults at night so there really is something for everyone.
More information is available on their website here: http://www.blithburyreindeerlodge.co.uk/christmas
9. Victorian Christmas at Ironbridge
For just a few select dates in December, Ironbridge brings to life a Victorian Christmas. Traditions from the 1800s are shown to visitors by the cast of the Victorian village.
Children are able to get involved in crafts such as printing Christmas cards and making paper chains. Father Christmas will be present in his grotto and there is a Christmas party including a pantomime.
You can also watch Punch and Judy, ride a donkey, ride a horse and carriage and take a lesson in a Victorian school.
More information including available dates is on the Ironbridge website here: http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/plan-your-visit/events-and-exhibitions-calendar/victorian-christmas-2
10. Hawkstone Park Follies Santa Safari
I have always loved Hawkstone Park follies. It has some of the most beautiful views around, along with caves, follies and a beautiful natural landscape.
When the BBC filmed their adaptation of the Chronicles of Narnia in 1988, it was filmed at Hawkstone Park. I remember reading some years ago that they once recreated winter in Narnia at Hawkstone for Christmas.
Since seeing this, I’ve always thought it was somewhere I’d love to go at Christmas. Although they won’t be recreating Narnia this year, Hawkstone will be offering a Santa Safari.
This involves a ride in a Landrover across the park to the cave network of festively decorated and fairy-lit tunnels. After wondering through the cave network, elves will guide visitors to Santa’s grotto. It is also possible to meet Santa’s reindeer.
More information is available from the Hawkstone Park Follies website here: http://www.hawkstoneparkfollies.co.uk/santa-safari