This post goes against every ounce of my personality. It’s September and I’m writing about Christmas, this is most unlike me but hear me out. Last year, I wrote about my top 10 Christmas days out in and around the West Midlands. Lots of people found it useful but in my usual style, I didn’t get around to publishing it until November.
Well this year, people have been reading that post since the beginning of the school holidays. This has made me realise that it’s time for an update, so here are my top 10 West Midlands Christmas days out for 2016.
1. The Polar Express – Telford
The Polar Express at Telford Steam Railway is a new attraction for this year and it’s booking up fast. Boarding the Polar Express will be an incredibly magical experience that really immerses you in the story. There are sleigh bells, hot chocolate, singing chefs, the first gift of Christmas and other magical touches from the film. And the whole thing takes place on a real steam train.
The story is set both on-board and outside the train and it really does sound like the most magical Christmas experience ever. If your family would enjoy the magic of the Polar express you’ll need to book now – many dates are already sold out. It’s running on the 1st to 5th, 8th to 12th and 15th to 23rd December but is already sold out from the 16th to the 23rd. Booking information and tickets are available on their website:
2. Ice Rink and Christmas Grotto – Webbs Garden Centre, Wychbold
Of all the things we’ve been to in recent years, this is probably my favourite Christmas Experience. I’m putting this straight after the polar express because I suspect that by the time many people read this post, Polar Express will have sold out. Webbs haven’t yet made tickets available for their ice rink and Christmas grotto, so there’s likely to be much better availability as December approaches.I have done a full review of Webbs ice rink and Christmas Grotto but suffice to say it’s truly magical. The garden centre itself is well and truly decked out for Christmas, complete with sleighs for children to sit on – perfect for photos. The ice rink offers skating aids for small children to either sit on or push along and it is a fantastic experience that had my two smiling and giggling from start to finish. After a hot chocolate in the rink-side café, we headed to Santa’s grotto. The grotto is one of the best we’ve been to. You reach it via a long walkway covered in magical Christmas scenes and fake snow. You’re then escorted to see Santa by an elf, and after chatting with Santa children can choose their own toy from a huge selection in his warehouse. The toys are really good quality and we’ve still got ours from last year.Webbs haven’t yet published their opening dates and times, so I’ll update this post when they do.
3. Blithbury Reindeer Lodge – Rugeley
This is another experience that looks totally magical. It’s the one thing we didn’t make it to last year that I really wish we’d gone to. With the largest herd of reindeer in England living at Blithbury Reindeer Lodge, they’re pretty busy getting ready for Christmas around this time of year.
The Christmas theme is based around Scandinavian wooden buildings, a traditional sleigh ride 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, storytelling, making an edible Santa and of course a visit to see Santa in his grotto.
Blithbury even cater for adults with their reindeer at night experience, and during term time they open especially for toddlers to experience the magic when it’s a bit quieter.
They’re open every weekend from 12th November, Friday evenings from 11th November and on 20, 21, 22 and 23 December. Opening times and the dates of toddler days, as well as further information is available on their website:
4. Meet Santa at the National Sea Life Centre – Birmingham
Every year, the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham is decked out for Christmas. They have an underwater Christmas tree in the 360 degree ocean tunnel, a festive film in the 4D cinema and Santa’s grotto is set against the backdrop of the ice adventure area – complete with gentoo penguins! This year the focus of the event is turning the Sea Life Centre into a Winter wonderland in the heart of Birmingham.
We are ambassadors for the National Sea Life Centre but even before I started working with them, it was always one of our favourite days out. What I love about their Christmas event is that the visit to Santa’s grotto is included in the normal entry price, making it a really affordable way to take children to see Father Christmas.
The Meet Santa event is on from 10th to 23rd December and more information can be found on the events section of their website:
5. Santa’s Winter Wonderland at the Snow Dome – Tamworth
For anyone who craves the long-lost white Christmases of old, the Snow Dome is the perfect place to get into the festive spirit. You can play in real snow, have snowball fights, go down a huge slide, and ride on a sledge and snow tubes. There’s also a walkway for those who want to enjoy the snow with a rather less slippery surface underfoot!
After that, there’s a Santa stage show, real reindeer to meet and a trip to Santa’s house, where you can leave him a letter to let him know what you want for Christmas. I read a review of last year’s event that said that although it’s brilliant, you don’t actually get to meet Santa. Whilst this wouldn’t be an issue for us per se, I think it’s worth priming children so they know they won’t meet him to avoid disappointment.
The event is on from 18th November to 31st December. More information and booking details are available on their website:
6. Drayton’s Magical Christmas
This was another event that we all absolutely loved last year. You can read my full review of Drayton’s Magical Christmas 2015 but suffice to say it was amazing. There were fairy lights everywhere, fake snow and even little snowstorms. There was music, rides, a little ice rink and an enchanted castle where children could visit Santa in his Grotto. When it got dark, there was a fireworks display set to the War of the Worlds music. For my children, the day out at Drayton Manor was literally the highlight of their Christmas. This was despite being too small for the ice rink – they didn’t have the little skates that go over children’s shoes and skates only went down to size eight. This didn’t dampen their spirits at all, but it is worth bearing in mind for budding skaters that might be too little. Drayton Manor haven’t yet updated their Magical Christmas dates for 2016 but last year it ran from 21st November to 31st December. When they do release the information, it will be available on their website:
7. Hawkstone Park Santa Safari – Shrewsbury
I’ve always loved Hawkstone Park follies. It has beautiful views, caves, follies and a stunning 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 wandering through the cave network, elves will guide visitors to Santa’s grotto. It is also possible to meet Santa’s reindeer.
This runs on selected dates from 2nd to 23rd December and tickets go on sale today – 5th September. More information is available from their website:
8. Breakfast or Tea with Father Christmas – Wyvale Garden Centres – various locations
This is a very sweet little event that takes place in Wyvale Garden Centres across the country. We reviewed the breakfast with Santa at Hereford Wellington Garden Centre last year and it was a lovely experience.
Families arrive and are shown to their tables where a host of activities are provided including colouring, Christmas crackers, chocolate coins and biscuit decorating. When they’ve had a few minutes to play, breakfast is served. We all had a nice big fry-up – making this event a winner for parents as well as children! After breakfast, the children were each allowed to go and have a chat with Santa and choose their own gift from his selection of toys. This event is available at various dates and times in different Garden Centres from 12th November to 24th December. More information can be found on their website:
9. Frankfurt Christmas Market – Birmingham
This is the biggest German / Austrian Christmas market outside of the market’s native countries. For me, Christmas doesn’t start until I’ve been to the Frankfurt Christmas market. There’s great food, mulled wine and cider and fabulous craft stalls. In past years the market has been joined by Skate Birmingham outdoor ice rink. There’s no information available at present to say whether this will be happening next year, but I’ll update if it does.
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. The earlier in the season you go the quieter it is, and I would imagine that the few days after Christmas this year will also be quite quiet.
The market starts on 17th November and this year it runs right the way through to 29th December. It is open every day from 10am to 9pm, and more information about the market can be found on their website:
10. 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’s 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. This is supposed to be an incredibly special event to go to, especially for those of us who prefer traditional celebrations rather than the more commercialised Christmas events that happen nowadays. However there is very limited availability as the event only happens on 3rd, 4th, 10th and 11th December. More information can be found on their website: