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Festive Things To Do This Weekend


Vintage Sleigh Ride & Santa, Coventry Transport Museum, Coventry, until Sat Dec 23

Originally housed for more than 60 years at the city’s Co-op the sleigh ride is now a firm festive fixture at the museum – a new generations can now take a ride through a snowy landscape, meet Santa, tell him their Christmas wishes and receive a special gift. It remains unchanged since its original construction in the 1960s. Timed ticket slots have been introduced, also new are Relaxed Early Sessions on Thurs Dec 21 & Sat Dec 23 (9am-10am). Open daily, 10am -4.30pm & late-night Tue Dec 19 & Thurs Dec 21. £5, with up to two accompanying adults £1.50. Queues are expected, you’re advised to arrive early to avoid disappointment.

Coventry Transport Museum, Millennium Place, Hales Street, Coventry CV1 1JD, transport-museum

Enchanted Christmas KingdomHatton Adventure World, nr Warwick, weekdays Mon Dec 18 – Fri Dec 22; Sat Dec 23 & Sun Dec 24

The whole family can experience a magical Christmas and see Father Christmas in his twinkling Grotto. Children will receive a Golden Key to unlock his workshop and then choose a present from the secret toyshop.  The all-day Festive Entertainment Package includes entry to Zoobee’s Christmas Cracker Show’, Cool Colin’s Show’, Fun Fair Rides and Christmas arts & crafts. Timed slots to visit Father Christmas ideally need to be pre-booked via the website.

hattonworld, Tel 01926 843411

Enchanted Kenilworth, Kenilworth Castle, until Sat Dec 23 

In the grounds of the Castle after dark strings of lanterns and fairy lights will lead visitors along a garden trail into a magical wonderland with a traditional fairground, carousel and swing boats. Visitors can enjoy mince pies, mulled wine and shopping at heritage-inspired stalls.


A Christmas Carol, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Feb 4 2018 


Bah humbug! The RSC’s new eagerly-awaited stage adaptation by David Edgar of Charles Dickens’ seasonal classic starring the excellent PoldarkSherlock and Quadrophenia actor Phil Davis as Scrooge. Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, who brought The Wind in the Willows to the London Palladium earlier this year, starring Rufus Hound as Toad.

Book here.

Snowmouse, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, until Sun Dec 31

This enchanting winter’s tale for the very young about two new friends’ adventures in a magical forest wonderland is the perfect first theatre experience, full of play, puppetry and music. Recommended for ages 3 months – four years.


Twelfth Night, RST, Stratford, until Feb 24 2018

Dinita Gohil as Viola. Pic credic: Manuel Harlan (c) RSC

The RSC’s winter production, Twelfth Night, sees Ade Edmondson, of The Young Ones and Bottom fame, playing Kara Tointon’s dour steward Malvolio in Shakespeare’s bittersweet comedy. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, who recreated Warwickshire’s Charlecote Park on stage for the RSC’s fabulous Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing, it’s set in Victorian Britain. Also starring Birmingham’s Dinita Gohil as Viola.


Cinderella, The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, until Sat Jan 13 2018

Two tartan panto dames for the price of one: seasoned panto actor Greg Powrie, left, joins actor, writer and director Iain Lauchlan, right

‘Loch’ up your men – Cinderella’s raucous Scottish step-sisters Dyspepsia and Listeria, played by the brilliant panto legends Iain Lauchlan (who has the best laugh!) and Greg Powrie are looking for no strings attached festive fling! Iain worked on BBC’s PlayschoolFingermouse, BBC Playdays, Storytime and Fun Song Factory but is perhaps best known as writer of the BAFTA award-winning children’s TV series, The Tweenies. Fellow Scottish actor Greg Powrie’s TV and film credits include Outlander, Taggart, River City, Still Game and Dr. Finlay. Craig Hollingsworth returns for his 6th Belgrade panto, and Alice Rose Fletcher will be putting on her glass slippers as Cinderella!


Star Wars The Last Jedi

Nevermind the Christmas holidays, this is the big news in the Muddy household. In the  opening weekend after it was released on Dec 14 the sci-fi blockbuster latest earned a staggering £337m globally – and £27.5m in the UK! The 8th instalment in the Star Wars saga, which stars Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley and the late Carrie Fisher, opened in more than 700 sites – making it the widest cinema release of all time in Britain. It’s also been getting top reviews from national film critics, however there’s been a backlash from some fans.

In cinemas across Warwickshire and the West Midlands

Christmas Eve Carols and a festive supper, Mallory Court Country House Hotel & Spa, nr Leamington, Sun Dec 24

Enjoy Christmas Eve Carols and a festive supper on 24 December with mince pies, mulled wine and carols from the Boy’s and Men’s Choir of St Mary’s, Warwick followed by dinner. £35 per person.


Imperium Part I: Conspirator, The Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon, runs until Feb 10 2018

Imperium-Part-I: Photo-by-Ikin-Yum-_c_-RSC

RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran directs Richard McCabe in the epic title role of Robert Harris’ best-selling Cicero trilogy along with Siobhan Redmond. It follows playwright Mike Poulton’s highly successful RSC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies.


We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, The Goose Nest, Warwick Arts Centre, until Sun Jan 7 2018

An intrepid family and their musical dog will take you on an incredible quest through the swishy swashy grass, the splishy splashy river and the thick oozy, squelchy mud filled with catchy songs and interactive scenes. The stage adaptation of Michael Rosen’s award-winning book is brought vividly and noisily to the stage by Sally Cookson and accompanied by Benji Bower’s versatile lively score. Families can also join in a free Warwick Campus Bear Hunt an hour before each Christmas show! For ages 3+



The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Sisters, B2 stage, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, until Sat Dec 30


Cinderella meets Spaghetti Western in writer/director Nick Walker’s all-female spoof adult panto. Giddy up! This rootin’ tootin’ one-hour comedy farce packed full of groan-worthy puns and starring the super-talented RSC Associate Artist Katy Stephens heading back to the ranch to appear in her third B2 Christmas Show. Here the glass slippers have spurs and the bells chime for high noon. Yee-ha!

belgrade, Tel: 024 7655 3055

Sleeping Beauty, Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa, until Sun Dec 31

Well hello! JP McCue returns for his 6th panto season as the Panto Dame reunited with Sean Dodds in this fairy-tale story of a princess who falls into an enchanted sleep.


Christmas with Shakespeare, Shakespeare Family Homes, Stratford-upon-Avon until Jan 7


Feel Christmassy listening to the Peas Pottage group perform a selection of traditional and festive Jacobean Music in the stunning Jacobean surroundings of Hall’s Croft on Fri Dec 22 & Fri Dec 29, 12pm-4pm. Go on a Christmas Wassail Tour at Shakespeare’s Birthplace until Sun Dec 24, 12pm-4pm and make a Shakespeare-inspired Christmas decoration at Shakespeare’s New Place. Over at Shottery you can travel through time at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage discovering 400 years of Christmas within the Hathaway family, plus make your own paper lanterns and paper chains to help decorate the house. Children who break up by Thurs Dec 21 can see, meet and touch the animals that would have crossed Shakespeare’s path with the help of some curious creatures at a Christmas Critters with Zoolab UK Tudor Storytelling Workshop at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm & 3.30pm.

For more details see here.

Children go Free: The Play’s the Thing, the RSC’s family friendly exhibition, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sat Dec 23 – Sun Jan 7 (excluding Christmas Eve & Christmas Day)

The-Play’s The Thing. Image-by-Kossmann Dejong

Discover the secrets and stories behind the making of the RSC’s world famous productionsCheck out beautifully crafted costumes and props, try on virtual costumes, discover gory stage tricks and how sound effects are made, and experience how RSC productions are staged through interactive hands-on activities. Children go free throughout the Warwickshire school holidays.


Santa’s Mixed-up Martian, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, until Sun Dec 24

Written by the creator of The Tweenies, Iain Lauchlan, and produced by Imagine Theatre, this is the perfect first theatre outing for young children. This year, Santa, Ellie and Rudolph receive a very unexpected visitor as an alien from outer space makes an emergency landing right here in Coventry. An interactive 35-minute show, sing-a-long, a special gift and opportunity for littlies to give their own letter to Santa.

belgrade, Tel: 024 7655 3055.

Christmas Ceramics Collection, The Stratford Gallery, Stratford

Lara Scobie Vase with tilted rim 2017, £80.

British studio pottery continues to maintain its strongest period of creativity and variety for decades and to celebrate this The Stratford Gallery has curated a collection of amazing work by some of Britain’s best studio potters – all with a mind on gift level pricing for Christmas. Treat yourself, your friends or loved one  to a truly unique gift this festive season. There’s more than 120 new pieces from £42 – £100.

Rugby Art Gallery Christmas Holiday Activities, Sat Dec 23 – Sat Jan 6

Festive arty drop-in activities include creating a reindeer or robin Christmas tree decoration using a pine cone on Sat Dec 23, 10.30am- 12.30pm, and super hero mask-making on Sat Dec 30, 10.30am- 12.30pm. Suggested donation: £1. Two drop-in Little Discoveries – Mini Explorers sessions for under 5’s will be held on Tues Dec 19 & Tues Jan 2. Kids can also hunt for parcels hidden around the gallery from Sat Dec – Jan 6 and win a prize.


Christmas Market, Hatton Country World, nr Warwick, every day Dec Mon 18 – Fri Dec 22

Warwickshire’s Hatton Shopping Village is to host its popular Christmas markets every weekend starting this Saturday and every day from Dec 18 – 22. Expect a diverse range of stalls from local suppliers selling a multitude of fabulous festive gifts, festive singing, mulled punch, mince pies and a great festive atmosphere.  Late night shopping on Dec 8 until 8.30pm when shoppers can enjoy discounts in selected shops from 5pm, an appearance from Father Christmas, entertainment and carol singing.


The Frostmakers Guild takes over Magic Alley, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Sun Dec 24

Father Christmas at Magic Alley

Described as one of the “the most authentic Father Christmas’ in the country” one of my friends’ backs this up, she goes every year with her three and says the attention to detail makes it a really magical Christmas experience But it does tend to get booked up early in the year! Your kids can write a letter to Santa and post it in his special Reindeer Post Box to receive a personalised reply by post.

Tickets for Magic Alley and a visit to Father Christmas must be pre-booked to avoid disappointment, seekthemagic 

Christmas Activities, British Motor Museum, Gaydon, Warwickshire, until Sat Dec 23

Activities include a Christmas trail and festive tour where young visitors can help Martin the Mechanic get Santa back on the road to deliver his presents – at the end there’s a a chocolate treat or Christmas gift. Meet the costumed guides – Lady Edwards or William the Chauffeur and hear about the Christmas goodies that they will be delivering to the servants for Boxing Day. The Museum’s Christmas Elves will also be stopping by each day at 1.30pm to take families on a special festive family tour.

britishmotormuseum, Tel 01926 641188.

Birmingham’s Frankfurt German Market, until Sun Dec 24

The largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria – now one of the world’s biggest Christmas fairs – offering a range of traditional gifts, Pretzels, schnitzels and strudels washed down with Gluhwein, Weissbeer or a hot chocolate. Huge concrete security barriers have been put in place to protect visitors from terror attacks.


Magical Lantern Festival Birmingham, Kings Heath Park, Birmingham, until Jan 1 2018

See Christmas illuminated

One of the UK’s best winter light festivals returns after a hugely successful launch last year illuminating the park – turning it into a spectacular fusion of dual culture, vibrant colours and artistic sculptures. This year there’s life-sized and large-than-life lanterns in all shapes and forms, from a Gingerbread House to a magnificent giant lantern recreation of the iconic Birmingham Central Library.  This family event – also held in London (Chiswick House), Leeds (Roundhay Park) and Manchester (Philips Park) – has a Santa’s grotto, fairground rides and refreshments.


Christmas at Warwickshire’s National Trust houses: Packwood, Charlecote Park, Coughton, Upton House & Baddesley Clinton

Celebrate a 1920s Christmas at Upton

Christmas evening tours including a two-course Christmas dinner will take place at Packwood House on Thurs Dec 7, 14 & 21 at either 6pm – 9pm or 7pm – 10pm. Tickets £30 on Tel: 01564 782024. Over at Upton House there’s crafting including an Art Deco 1920s Table Decorations Workshop on Fri Dec 15 (£15); Christmas evening tours followed by Mulled Wine and spiced hot chocolate in the old kitchen on Dec 8, 9, 15 & 16 and Festive Family Trail ending up in an 1920s department store room where kids can meet Father Christmas. There’ll be mincemeat making demos at the Tudor style Baddesley Clinton and Victorian Charlecote is open and decorated for Christmas at weekends until Dec 24 & Dec 18 – 22

Paddington 2, in Cinemas now & Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Fri Dec 22- Sun Dec 24; Wed Dec 27 – Thurs Dec 28

Follow the adventures of the nation’s favourite bear in a new film as enchanting as the first with a scene-stealing Hugh Grant on top form as a cravat-wearing villain. A special run at WAC on assorted dates throughout Nov and Dec. On general release in cinemas across the UK.


Santa Sleepovers, Warwick Castle, Dates throughout Dec

Loving the sound of these sleepovers –  family stay in the Knight’s village or straight-from-a-fairytale Tower Suite and cute Christmassy stuff like stories with Santa and a wake up call from an Elf.  Still some dates left but be quick.

BOOK NOW: Set Your Career Compass Workshop, Heart of England Language School, Leamington Spa, Warks, Sat Jan 13 2018

Do you have a teen who’s struggling to know what to do in the future? Here’s the perfect Christmas present. Warwickshire and West Midlands based Teen Direct has a few places left on this course, ideal for unsure 15 – 17-year-olds wishing to develop and clarify their ideas of potential careers. Delivered by experienced, professional coaches, it gives teens the opportunity to discover where they could fit into the “World of Work” based on their own strengths, personality and interests. They will be asked to complete a questionnaire beforehand to identify certain characteristics and during the workshops, develop the skills and confidence to act on their chosen career action plan as well as creating a professional CV and learning dynamite Interview Skills, 9.30am – 3.30pm. £150.

email: or Tel 07901 517012, teendirect

The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Birmingham Rep, until Sat Jan 18

Gloria-Onitiri-as-Cruella-De-Vil. Photo credit: Graeme-Braidwood

West End Star Gloria Onitiri as villainous Cruella de Vil in furs. The Birmingham uni grad, who played Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard (The Adelphi) and Nala in The Lion King (The Lyceum), returns to her student city making her REP debut. This Dodie Smith stage adaptation by writer and director of the Nativity films, Debbie Isitt is sure to get tails wagging with its clever puppy puppetry! Running time: 90 mins. For ages 5+, Tel: 0121 236 4455


Book Now: Celebrate Twelfth Night with a special RSC-led Wassail and procession, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sat Jan 6

The RSC’s winter production of Twelfth Night on now at the RSC. Photo-by-Manuel-Harlan-_c_

Coinciding with the RSC’s Twelfth Nightfamilies are invited to a lovely celebration of the actual Twelfth Night with choirs from across the Midlands who will sing traditional wassailing songs and carols followed by a winter procession and special ceilidh, 2pm – 4pm. This free event will include 4 specially commissioned arrangements from ex-Bellowhead member and choral arranger Paul Sarti. Wassailing is an English tradition taking place on the Twelfth Night of Christmas. The procession is followed by a festive ceilidh, similar to a barn dance where a caller explains the moves, at The Other Place with music provided by English folk band Faustus. Hot dogs, mulled cider and non-alcoholic festive punch will also be on offer as part of the ticket price, £12. The event runs from 6.30pm to 9.30pm.

Admire the Penguins, Birdland, Bourton-on-the-Water, Glos, open daily except Christmas Day


Birdland Park and Gardens is open daily from 10am (except Christmas Day).

Rissington Rd, Bourton-on-the-Water, Glos, GL54 2BN, birdland, Tel: 01451 820480

Christmas at Twycross Zoo, Atherstone, Tues Dec 26 – Sun Dec 31

Baby Vicugna, Jack Frost, the latest addition Photo credit: Twycross Zoo

Christmas has come early for Twycross Zoo, which earlier this month announced the birth of Jack Frost, a male vicugna (a member of the camel family), the latest zoo baby to join the 500 animals already living at the zoo on the Leicestershire/Warwickshire border. 2017 has already seen the birth of two endangered snow leopard twins, two critically endangered orangutans, a northern white-cheeked gibbon and a Michie’s tufted deer fawn. There’ll be Santa story-telling sessions, which will take place in the Explorer Café at 11:15-11:45am and 3-3:30pm. The stories, specially written for Twycross Zoo, will be about William the Donkey (who visitors can also meet), and wildlife conservation work in the countries Santa visits annually. There are also arts and crafts sessions and festive films in the Study Centre.

FREE entry for teachers from Boxing day to New Year’s Eve with discounted entry for family and friends with valid ID. Open 10am-5pm daily, except on Christmas Day, twycrosszoo, Tel: 0844 474 1777.


ALSO Festival Christmas ticket offer until Dec 20

Treat yourself or a loved one to a ticket to this beautiful lakeside festival of ideas on Park Farm, Compton Verney in the Warwickshire countryside up until Dec 20, and they’ll send you a gift-wrapped present to go under your tree. The festival is back for its 5th year in 2018, offering more than 50 TED-style talks, 5 stages packed with incredible content, an extensive masterclass programme; immersive dining experiences all situated in 50 acres of Capability Brown landscaped parkland…

Find out more here

Winter Warmers at Talton Mill, nr Stratford, Fri Dec 22 & Sat 23rd Dec; Fri Dec 29 & Sat Dec 30

The butchery and Mill Woodhouse Cafe at this rustic countryside food and events venue will be open over the festive period. 3It’s located on a 30 acre smallholding alongside the river Stour in rural Warwickshire 5 miles south of Stratford-upon-Avon.



Christmas at Bletchley Park, Bucks, dates through Dec

Time travel back to a 1940s-themed Christmas at home of World War II code-breakers, Bletchley Park near MK. There’s live retro music (on Dec 9 & 16) and a 40s-style Christmas Grotto on selected dates between  until Dec 23 for kids aged 2 to 17 (somehow, I can’t image my 16 year old son being seen anywhere near a grotto or grown ups dressed as elves  – but, hey, each to her own!)

Bletchley Park, The Mansion, Bletchley Park, Sherwood Dr, Bletchley, Milton Keynes,

Christmas at Blenheim Palace, until Mon Jan 1

The Great Lake aglow with brightly-lit bobbing boats

Back by popular demand after an unforgettable launch last year, the grounds of Blenheim palace will be lit up after dark with a festival trail through Capability Brown’s landscaped gardens, with twinkling festival lights, larger-than-life snowflakes and baubles, set against the backdrop of glittering ancient woodland, glowing Christmas trees and a swaying lawn of fibre-optics.

North – Fashioning Identity, Somerset House, London, until Sun Feb 4 2018

Alice-Hawkins, LOVE magazine, ‘The Liver Birds’, 2012

Forget the north/south divide, London doffs its hat to Manchester, Newcastle et al in this new exhibition. Social documentary film and photography detailing life in the north of England in the mid-20th century sits alongside works by photographers, designers and artists inspired by the parts of our green and pleasant land beyond the Watford Gap. Contributors include Nottingham’s finest Paul Smith and Manchester’s Factory Records designer Peter Saville. You can also take a twirl on Somerset House’s gorgeous outdoor ice rink until Jan 14. See review

The RSC’s Rome MMXVII, The Barbican, London, until Jan 20

This winter the RSC transports London audiences to Shakespeare’s Rome with Angus Jackson’s thrilling London season of 4 of the playwrights most gripping plays – Coriolanus has ended its run but Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra and Titus Andronicus are now showing.

More info and booking info herersc

Codebreaker and Groundbreakers, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until Sun Feb 4

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, the Oscar-winning film about the life of Alan Turing

A pioneering exhibition to feed your mind celebrating the genius of Second World War codebreakers like Alan Turing at Bletchley Park with Michael Ventris who in the same year deciphered Linear B, the ancient Greek language.  It includes an Enigma machine, a rare loan from GCHQ, and unique archival documents held at the University of Cambridge, as well as encouraging visitors to explore ‘codebreaking’ in all its forms.


Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studios, until Sun Feb 4

Hogwarts in the Snow – as regular as Christmas!  The festive makeover will see Christmas trees line the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room dressed for the season and a blanket of filmmaking snow covering the majestic Hogwarts castle model. Visitors will even be able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light like ice. Trust me, your kids will love it.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden,

Christmas at Waddesdon Manor, Bucks, now until Tues Jan 2 2018

lights on waddesdon manor

No Bruce Munro light installations this year at Waddesdon Manor  (he’s up the road on the approach to Bicester Village) but instead there are several light shows to enjoy as dusk falls. Waddesdon Imaginarium is a light and sound show projected onto the Manor’s façade including roaming porcelain animals, dancing musical clocks, cascades of flowers, and 18th-century portraits, accompanied by an original score composed by students at the Guildhall School of Music.

© Lauren Booth. Photo: Kat Manning.

Also worth checking out is is Electric Menagerie, light-based artworks throughout the grounds by American artist Lauren Booth (above), inspired by the real and fantastical animals associated with Waddesdon (Baron Ferdinand collected a ‘zoo’ of animals and birds to amuse his weekend party guests, including antelopes, kiwis and even kangaroos). Check out Dylan, Rolo and Murphy (2017), three Neon Goats placed on the rockwork, and her neon Parrot, Bleeding Heart Dove and Rothschild Mynahs created in response to the 1889 Aviary. Perfect too for getting your littlies into the Christmassy mood, there’s Letter Writing to Father Christmas until 23 Dec and a special free Children’s House Trail until 2 Jan.

Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP18 0JH, Tel: 01296 820414,

Finnish Rooftop Sauna, Queen Elizabeth Roof Terrace, South Bank, until Sat Dec 30

woman sauna finnish

And now for something completely different. Why not warm up and unwind in a one-of-a-kind Finnish sauna experience in the heart of London? There’s a specially designed Nordic sauna that on the Queen Elizabeth Roof Terrace, combining beautiful Nordic design with a bespoke artistic commission. If 90 degrees celsius is a bit sweaty for you, cool down in the open air (or with cold water buckets – go on, dare you!), while enjoying some stonking views of the Thames below.



Find more ideas here

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Warwickshire