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Land of Lights Festival Warrington at Gulliver’s World Resort 2023: Guide and review

Land of Lights Festival Warrington at Gulliver’s World Resort 2023: Guide and review

All you need to know about the new Christmas trail Land of Lights Festival North 2023

A new festive lights trail has joined the list of popular illuminations events in the north-west of England.

The theme park Gulliver’s World Resort in Cheshire has launched its Land of Lights Festival 2023.

Read everything you need to know about it after our video tour.

 

Name:

Land of Lights Festival North (there is another one in Milton Keynes).

A girl at the entrance to Land of Lights Warrington, Gullivers World Resort

What is it?

A lantern trail through 12 themed areas.

Visitors walk through illuminations including giant animal and monument lanterns, enjoying festive food and drink.

Where is it?

It is at Gulliver’s World Resort in Warrington, Cheshire.

What did we think?

This was a lovely, long route, longer than most festive trails, past a lake, through play areas which younger children made the most of and felt really magical in places with lots and lots of illuminations.

Highlights

*Our favourite bit was a mesmerising walk through an insect and bug section with blue lights cascading down from above.

The insect-themed area at Land of Lights Warrington, Gulliver's Resort

The insect-themed area

*It was great seeing all the different themed areas, ranging from dinosaurs in a Jurassic section through to skeletons in a Halloween part. Illuminations included Dennis the Menace, animals and Santa.

A T-Rex dinosaur at Land of Lights Warrington, Gulliver's Resort

*A naughty highlight was a ride on the log flume – naughty as we found out afterwards, this wasn’t included in our lights package (see top tips).

Top tips

*Offers – there is a Land of Lights Festival voucher code if you book for a date in January or February – LIGHTS20 gives you a 20 per cent discount.

*Will you get to go on any rides at Gulliver’s World? Not with just a ticket to the lights, this is a separate event. It can be a bit confusing as some of the rides might still be open for other guests – we had two goes on the log flume, without realising that we shouldn’t! Also not included is a Christmas show that visitors were queuing for and a train ride to Santa’s grotto. It is useful to know this before you go else it can get confusing particularly towards the exit and you don’t want your children spotting other things going on and being disappointed. There are different Christmas packages that include the various options if you want to do more than just the lights. One of the festive packages this year called Twinkle includes the Christmas activities (rides, North Pole Express, Elf Workshop and Santa’s Grotto) and also allows access to Land of Lights.

Dennis the Menace at Land of Lights Warrington, Gulliver's Resort

Dennis the Menace

*Gulliver’s Annual Passport holders must still by tickets and don’t receive any perks as this is a stand alone event, say organisers.

*What to wear? This is all outdoors so make sure to wrap up warm and bring waterproof clothes.

*There are some dog-friendly nights (they must be kept on a lead) on November 16 and 30, December 14 and 28, January 7 and 21 and February 4 and 18.

*Can you buy tickets at the event – yes, at the higher price if they have not sold out.

*There is no strobe lighting but some lantern features do include flashing, twinkling and colour changing lights.

Land of Lights Festival Warrington information

Dates: It runs until February 25, 2024.

Food: There is festive food and drink to enjoy at The Food Hub at Safari Kingdom where you can buy churros, Yorkshire pudding wraps, German sausages and drinks.

There are other drinks stalls around the trail. And Lagado’s Restaurant and Grill (next to the entrance and exit plazas) is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings if you prefer to sit down in the warm.

Opening hours: Depending on the night, it runs from about 4.45pm until 8pm or 9pm

Cost: Depending on the date – there are peak and off-peak dates), tickets bought in advance online are £15 or £19 for adults and children. Concessions £9 and £11.

Tickets not bought in advance are £18 or £22 for adults and children and £9 and £11 concessions.

Under-twos are free.

There is no senior rate, the concessionary rate is for those with a Blue Badge, DLA or PIP letter and their carer.

Best for: All ages.

Time needed: The trail takes around 90 minutes, depending on walking speed and how much you stop to eat, drink and look at the lights.

Access and restrictions: The route is mainly flat and firm, with some slight inclines.

There is a boardwalk which will not suit all mobility requirements but marshals will assist people on an alternative route if required.

Accessible toilets are available along the route.

Address: Gulliver’s World Resort, Old Hall, Warrington, Cheshire, WA5 9YZ.

To bookLand of Lights Festival Warrington

Parking: Parking is free

BeWILDerwood Cheshire’s Christmas lights trail – all you need to know

BeWILDerwood Cheshire’s Christmas lights trail – all you need to know

Full guide and review of BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail

BeWILDerwood Cheshire’s first ever Christmas lights event has begun.

The woodland attraction is already an established favourite day out for lots of families since it opened last year.

And now lots are going to experience its Sparkly Light and Panto Trail by night.

We were lucky enough to get a sneak preview, here is everything you need to know.

Name

BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail

What is it?

It is a light trail along new woodland pathways, a 10-minute pantomime, BeWILDerwood characters and a glimpse of Santa Claus himself, with a special gift for all children to take home.

A giant Christmas pudding at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

A giant Christmas pudding

BeWILDerwood itself is a family attraction based on magical characters and their adventures from children’s books written by Tom Blofeld. The adventure park is all in woodland and includes treehouses, slides, den building, storytelling and zip wires – BeWILDerwood Cheshire – review, guide and top tips.

Where is it?

At BeWILDerwood Cheshire – north of Whitchurch on the A49 in south west Cheshire near the border with Shropshire.

What did we think?

This was a lovely Christmassy, magical evening out to get you in the festive mood.

Snowmen at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

It’s a lengthy walk along twinkly trails through gingerbread men, candy canes, disco lights, snowmen and more with occasional interactions with BeWILDerwood characters.

Halfway around is the mini pantomime and food stop, the second half of the walk is even better with Christmas trees, a lake and fake snow falling.

The 10-minute pantomime at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

The 10-minute pantomime

As it was the launch night, we were lucky enough to talk to the BeWILDerwood author himself Tom Blofeld, who was walking the route to see everyone’s reactions.

He has written a new Christmas-themed story to add to his collection of books, which introduces new characters. There are glimpses of the story along the route.

Highlights

*The staff are welcoming and friendly.

*There is hot chocolate available to buy before you begin the trail.

*There are a couple of parts in the second half where ‘snow’ falls – you will still be wearing dots of it in the car on the way home.

*Every child receives a copy of Tom Blofeld’s new Christmas story to take home as well as a craft.

Trees reflected in the pool at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

Top tips

*You get to see Santa at the end, you can wave at him but there is not a meet and greet or grotto situation.

*Tickets need to be booked in advance and you are given an arrival timeslot of 4pm, 4.30pm, 5pm, 5.30pm, 6pm or 6.30pm.

*The park closes at 8pm.

*This event runs when it is dark so all the play structures, zip wires, slides etc are closed. Also, parts of the trail are very dark such as around the pantomine area, you might need to use a phone light to see where you are going.

*Annual pass holders get free entry but still need to book a space by calling 01829 830 730.

The author

Tom Blofeld’s books include A Boggle at Bewilderwood, The Bewilderbats and A Bewildermuddle.

He hopes the event will bring the magic of Christmas and the magic of BeWILDerwood together.

BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail information

Dates: It runs on selected dates from December 2 to 23.

Food: Food is available at the Munch Bar where there are warm snacks and hot drinks for sale including hot dogs, turkey baps, steak slices, cheese slices and picnic boxes for children including a ham or cheese roll and crisps.

Munch Bar menu at BeWILderwood Cheshire Christmas lights

Munch Bar menu

Opening hours: Time slots start at 4pm and the park closes at 8pm.

Cost: Tickets must be booked in advance online and cost £15.50 per person. Children under 92cm, carers and wheelchair users are free but everyone needs a ticket.

Best for: All ages.

Time needed: An hour and a half.

Access and restrictions: The trail is accessible for wheelchairs, pushchairs and mobility scooters but can be very dark, narrow, bumpy in places and may be muddy.

Address: BeWILDerwood Cheshire, Bickley Moss Cheshire SY13 4JF.

To book: www.cheshire.bewilderwood.co.uk

Lightopia 2021: A Christmas Fantasy at Heaton Park, Manchester

Lightopia 2021: A Christmas Fantasy at Heaton Park, Manchester

We take our children on a family trip to a Christmas light festival in Manchester

We return for a second year to Lightopia, here is our full guide.

What is it

The Lightopia Festival – A Christmas Fantasy – is an award-winning and socially-distanced lantern and light festival, which also runs in London and at Alton Towers.

It takes place around a series of lit art installations and laser beams, which have been set up at the park in Manchester.

Snowman and lights at Lightopia Heaton Park, Manchester, 2021

When is it

Lightopia at Heaton Park runs from November 5, 2021 to January 3, 2022.

Gates Open at 5pm, last entry is 8.30pm and it closes at 10pm.

How much are tickets

Tickets booked in advance are £20 online for adults (or £22 on the day), £13 for children (or £15 on the day) and £60 for families of two adults and two children (£68 on the day). Children under three can go free.

Essential carers of disabled visitors can attend for free, the disabled visitor pays the normal admission fee.

A girl enjoys Lightopia Heaton Park Manchester

Food and drink

There are stalls and bars dotted selling food like hot dogs, carvery baps, chips, donuts, malled wine and hot chocolate.

There are also Dine in the Light experiences, a formal and a less formal.

The Dome dining experience is a three-course meal in one of 10 illuminated Dining Domes which seat up to six or twelve people, before or after the light trail. This must be pre-booked.

Also new for Lightopia Manchester 2021 is a more casual dining experience at The Stables Courtyard Bar and Dining.

Tables are under a heated canopy and guests choose from a variety of food and drink outlets serving things like tacos, pizza, roasted chestnuts and festive beverages. You can reserve a seat or walk in on the evening.

Top Tips

*Prepare for a bit of a walk from the car park and a queue at the start.

*It’s quite a spaced out route, you will walk a bit further than some other light shows, so take a buggy if you have young children.

*It is all outdoors so dress for the weather and ensure children are wrapped up warm and wearing sensible footwear. You will always be on a path but look out for the occasional bit of uneven ground as it is dark.

*We have tried both car parks and the walk from the North, St Margaret’s Road, car park is slightly easier and quicker than walking from the South, Sheepfoot Lane, car park.

A fairy and pile of books at Lightopia Heatonn Park, Manchester

Other questions

Is everything included in the price?

All the displays are included in the ticket price. You pay extra for fairground rides, food and drink and those flashing hand-held contraptions that our daughter loves.

How long will it take?

It takes about an hour and a half but that depends on how fast you walk and whether you buy food and drink. Take your time walking around, to take it all in, you certainly don’t need to rush.

Unicorn at Lightopia Manchester

Where to park

There are car parks on site and it is best to book in advance, then follow the directions on your email confirmation.

North – St Margaret’s Road, M25 2GT

South – Lake Car Park, Sheepfoot Lane, M25 0DL

Buy a parking ticket here – the same page you book your event tickets and scroll down – the parking is below event tickets.

How to book

To book tickets, visit www.lightopiafestival.com

Address:

Heaton Park, Sheepfoot Lane, Manchester, M25 0BP.

Social media

Follow on Instagram and Facebook @lightopiafestival #Lightopia

Now enjoy our video from last year:

(We received free entry for the purpose of this review, all views are our own).

Harry Potter: The Forbidden Forest Experience – guide, review, video and top tips

Harry Potter: The Forbidden Forest Experience – guide, review, video and top tips

We follow Harry Potter, Ron and Hermione into the Forbidden Forest and test our nerve among the creatures who live there

Name

Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience.

What is it?

A night-time trail through the ‘Forbidden Forest’, known from being in the grounds of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books and films.

You walk at your own pace around an illuminated route, seeing and hearing some of the iconic forest scenes as well as magical creatures from Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts such as Hippogriffs, centaurs and spiders.

Hagrid ad Fang at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

Hagrid and Fang

Where is it?

At the gorgeous Arley Hall & Gardens, in Northwich, Cheshire, England.

What did we think?

This is a magical trail as befits a magical world. The experience is carried out on an impressive scale – it was created by Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment, in partnership with Thinkwell.

It is very atmospheric and spooky, with Harry Potter music, sound effects, characters talking and eyes watching you pass, which could be a bit too scary for some younger children.

It would make a great Halloween or pre-Christmas treat for fans of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts.

Ron's flying Ford Anglia at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

The flying Ford Anglia

Highlights

*Conjure a Patronus – choose your wand, point it and utter the words ‘Expecto Patronum’ to cast this spell, which sees off Dementors.

The Patronus Charm at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

Expecto Patronum!

*Bow to a hippogriff and it will bow back.

Hippogriff at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

*Try some Butterbeer (it’s alcohol-free), the wizarding drink loved by Harry Ron and Hermione.

Buy a butter beer at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

Buy a butterbeer

*The food is delicious.

*Try out a deluminator – to put out the lights like Dumbledore.

*Hear Harry and Ron crashing in the flying Ford Anglia and see the car lights sweeping through the forest.

*Catch a glimpse of a white unicorn slinking through the trees.

Top tips

*Spiders: Aragog and other big spiders lived in the Forbidden Forest and scare Ron in the Harry Potter books and films. They lurk in this forest too but those with arachnophobia don’t have to see them. You will walk through a section with ‘webs’ in the trees, then can choose to divert from the path if you DO want to see the spiders. Those who don’t, stay on the path. If you do divert, you will see large spiders drop down from overhead, stopping just above your heads.

*It is an outdoor trail in the dark so dress warmly with sensible shoes.

Light trail at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

*You can buy Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts merchandise.

Access and restrictions

It is a woodland walk so can be uneven so is not the best terrain to push a wheelchair. Motorised wheelchairs can be hired.

Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

Age

All ages are welcome, younger children may be frightened in places.

Time taken

Allow about an hour and a half to do the trail and eat at the end.

Food

There are places to buy food along the way or you can stop at the magical village at the end where our highlights included big marshmallows on sticks you can toast and smother with chocolate sauce , fish and chips, Cornish pasties and a roast dinner in a Yorkshire pudding. My son also enjoyed an edible wand.

Enjoying toasted marshmallows with chocolate sauce at Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

When is it on?

It runs from Mondays to Sundays, from October 16 to December 15, 2021.

Opening hours:

Sessions start at 6.30pm (October 16 to 31), 5pm (November 1 to 9), 4.30pm (November 11 to 28) and 4pm (November 29 to December 15). All sessions finish at 10pm.

Cost

Ticket prices vary by date and time, starting from £19.

Children under five are free and from five to 15 are a reduced price.

Buy tickets here.

Address

Arley Hall & Gardens, Arley, Northwich, CW9 6NA.

Harry Potter: A Forest Experience

*We were given complimentary entry for the purposes of this review, all views are our own.

 

Lightopia REVIEW: Christmas at Heaton Park, Manchester 2020

Lightopia REVIEW: Christmas at Heaton Park, Manchester 2020

We take our children on a family trip to an award-winning Christmas light festival

Family festive opportunities are in short supply this year so our trip to Lightopia at Heaton Park in Manchester was eagerly awaited.

Organisers promise a safe and socially distanced event.

We took our children after school for a 5.20pm start, here is our full guide to the Christmas festival.

What is it

The Lightopia Festival – Christmas at Heaton Park – is an award-winning and socially-distanced lantern and light festival.

It takes place around a series of lit art installations and laser beams, which have been set up at the park in Manchester.

Heaton Hall

Heaton Hall

When it it

Lightopia at Heaton Park runs from November 20, 2020 to January 3, 2021.

The event is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, except during school holidays and closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Gates Open at 5pm, last entry is 8.30pm and it closes at 10pm.

How much are tickets

Tickets are booked in advance, they are £20 online for adults (or £22 on the day), £13 for children (or £15 on the day) and £60 for families of two adults and two children (£68 on the day). Children under three can go free.

Essential carers of disabled visitors can attend for free, the disabled visitor pays the normal admission fee.

A peacock at Lightopia, Heaton Park, Manchester

Our highlights

*What we called the Rainbow Tree

Children stand on a circle and their moving feet sends different coloured lights shooting up the tree, creating a beautiful display.

Rainbow Tree

Rainbow Tree

*The laser show on the lake.

Visitors are directed to stand in socially distanced spaces to watch this lovely show towards the end of the trail.

*Food and drink

There are stalls and bars dotted around the trail selling food like hot dogs, carvery baps, chips, donuts, malled wine and hot chocolate.

Tunnel of light at Lightopia, Heaton Park, Manchester

Top Tips

*Prepare to queue at the start, entry is in 20-minute time slots and we did have to wait when we arrived, but it is organised very well so that you are spaced out from the groups in front and behind.

*It’s quite a spaced out route, you will walk a bit further than some other light shows, so take a buggy if you have young children.

Tinkerbell/a fairy at Lightopia

*It is all outdoors so dress for the weather and ensure children are wrapped up warm and wearing sensible footwear. You will always be on a path but look out for the occasional bit of uneven ground as it is dark.

Other questions

Is everything included in the price?

All the displays are included in the ticket price. There are stalls selling food, drink and those flashing hand-held contraptions that our daughter loves. It was card only for payment.

How long will it take?

It takes about an hour and a half but that depends on how fast you walk and whether you buy food and drink. Take your time walking around, to take it all in, you certainly don’t need to rush.

Where to park

There are car parks on site and it is best to book in advance, then follow the directions on your email confirmation.

How to book

To book tickets, visit www.lightopiafestival.com

Address:

Heaton Park, Sheepfoot Lane, Manchester, M25 0BP.

Social media

Follow on Instagram and Facebook @lightopiafestival #Lightopia

Animals at Lightopia

(We received free entry for the purpose of this review, all views are our own).

Children can meet Santa live from Lapland over video call this Christmas

Children can meet Santa live from Lapland over video call this Christmas

It’s a Digital Christmas 2020 with the new Santa’s Lapland video call experience

Taking your children to meet Santa may not be possible this year due to lockdown restrictions.

So holiday company Santa’s Lapland is bringing Father Christmas into children’s homes using the magic of video calls.

It will give families a taste of the festive excitement that comes from meeting Santa.

The new scheme follows the announcement that the company has had to suspend their December 2020 trips to Lapland.

The 10-minute video call will prove its Lapland credentials, as an Elf leads the family through the snow and gets up-close with a reindeer, before going live to Santa’s cabin for a personalised meeting with Santa himself.

Paul Carter, CEO of Santa’s Lapland, said: “With restrictions increasing throughout the UK, many of us have been wondering how we will keep the magic of Christmas 2020 alive.

“We intend to help make it one to remember, by offering families the chance to meet Santa from the comfort and safety of their own home.

“While no Christmas can compare to the sheer excitement of travelling to Lapland to visit Santa in his snowy cabin, where the reindeer are real and the Northern Lights dance across the night sky, families will now still be able to enjoy a taste of the real Lapland magic this Christmas.”

Santa Live video calls from Lapland

Santa Live video calls from Lapland

A personalised ‘Santa, Live from Lapland’ video call experience for up to four children costs from £85 per family from Santa Live.

The company cancelled its December 2020 trips to visit Santa in Lapland following concerns that increasing COVID-19 safety measures and travel restrictions would take too much away from the magic of the experience.

Many customers have postponed their trip to next year and others have taken refunds.

Santa’s Lapland three and four-night trips for 2021 are available to reserve now with departures from November 26 to December 24 from 13 regional airports.

The breaks include snow fun, husky sledding and reindeer sleigh rides, a search for Santa and other activities.

For more information, visit www.santaslapland.com

Tickets go on sale for Santa holidays to Lapland for Christmas 2021

Tickets go on sale for Santa holidays to Lapland for Christmas 2021

Families can look forward to a festive treat for 2021 with a visit to Santa in Lapland

This Christmas may end up being low key but families can already get ready for a fantastic festive 2021 with a Santa holiday to Lapland.

Santa’s Lapland and Inghams Santa Breaks have launched their Christmas dates for next year.

A family reindeer ride

The snowy breaks include husky sledding and reindeer sleigh rides, enchanted activities and a visit to the ‘real’ Santa at his home.

Huskies in Lapland

Families can choose from two breaks – Santa’s Magic with a selection of hotels or Santa’s Aurora where you stay at the Star Arctic hotel, great for those who want to spot the Northern Lights.

Star Arctic Hotel in Lapland

Star Arctic Hotel

Both are available as three or four night holidays with flights from 14 regional airports.

At the time of writing, 2020 holidays to Lapland could still be booked as well.

A spokesperson said: “Santa’s Lapland and Inghams Santa Breaks are paying constant attention to the guidance from the UK’s FCDO, ABTA, Public Health England and local health authorities in Finland.

“Following recent updates, they’re working closely with their partners in Lapland to see what these decisions mean for their Lapland holidays. The Lapland holidays are currently expected to go ahead as planned.”

For more information or to book a break visit Santa’s Lapland.

READ MORE: Children can meet Santa live from Lapland over video call this Christmas

A child meets reindeers in Lapland

Illuminated trails light up famous sites around the UK for families this Christmas 2020

Illuminated trails light up famous sites around the UK for families this Christmas 2020

Christmas fun for all the family at seven light installations around the country

Tickets are on sale for fantastic festive trails at seven famous sites across the country.

World-renowned artists and designers have got together to create the illuminated events at historic and iconic venues including Kew Gardens, Blenheim Palace and Dunham Massey.

The outdoor experiences are designed for all ages to enjoy and celebrate the festive season.

Additional facilities and significantly increased hygiene procedures will be made available for trail visitors.

The events have been organised by promoter Raymond Gubbay Limited, Culture Creative and the individual venues.

Christmas at Kew

When: November 18, 2020 to January 3, 2021

What: Now in its eighth year, Christmas at Kew returns with a new trail to illuminate the fabulous gardens with more than one million lights.

Address: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, TW9 3AE.

More details: kew.org/christmas #christmasatkew

Christmas at Bedgebury

Christmas at Bedgebury

Christmas at Bedgebury

When: November 20 to December 31, 2020.

What: This family-friendly one-mile magical festive trail is in the heart of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty countryside.

Address: Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest, Kent.

More details: christmasatbedgebury.co.uk   #christmasatbedgebury

Christmas at Blenheim Palace

Christmas at Blenheim Palace

Christmas at Blenheim Palace

When: November 20, 2020 to January 3, 2021.

What: The Illuminated trail returns to Blenheim Palace transforming it with a bright and magical winter walk inspired by the landscape itself, featuring lasers and light projections.

Address: Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1PP.

More details: blenheimpalace.com/christmas  #christmasatblenheimpalace

Christmas at Dunham Massey

Christmas at Dunham Massey

Christmas at Dunham Massey

When: November 20 to December 30, 2020.

What: The sell-out trail returns for a fourth year to this historic National Trust property in Cheshire.

See our review and guide from last year’s exravaganza Dunham Massey Christmas Lights 2019 plus exclusive video.

Address: Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire. WA14 4SJ.

More details: nationaltrust.org.uk/dunham-massey #christmasatdunhammassey

Christmas at The Botanics

When: November 26, 2020 to January 3, 2021.

What: The new trail at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh will feature bouncing lines of light in the laser garden and giant luminescent sculptures rising high into the night sky.

Inverleith House will be it by a new festive projection across its historic façade.

Address: Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, EH3 5NZ.

More details: rbge.org.uk/christmas  #christmasatthebotanics

Christmas at Belton

When: November 27, 2020 to January 3, 2021.

What: Christmas at Belton will once again light up the historic tree canopies of this magnificent country-house estate.

There will be giant luminescent candles, glowing flowers and snowflakes, plus children can look out for Father Christmas.

Address: Belton House, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG32 2LS.

More details: nationaltrust.org.uk/belton-house #christmasatbelton

Christmas at Stourhead

Christmas at Stourhead

Christmas at Stourhead

When: November 27, 2020 to January 3, 2021

What: The after-dark trail lights up the beautiful National Trust gardens at Stourhead, Wiltshire for a second year.

Address: Stourhead, Mere, Wiltshire, BA12 6QD.

More details: nationaltrust.org.uk/Stourhead  #christmasatstourhead

For more details on the trails or to book tickets, go to mychristmastrails.co.uk

Lightopia 2020: Spectacular lantern and light festival returns to Manchester

Lightopia 2020: Spectacular lantern and light festival returns to Manchester

Family fun awaits at award-winning Christmas light festival

While many Christmas events are being cancelled, an award-winning and socially-distanced light festival in Manchester is set to go ahead.

Lightopia returns to the city with this year’s Christmas at Heaton Park event.

The festive family festival runs from November 20, 2020 to January 3, 2021.

There will be new themes and creations but changes have also been made in light of Covid restrictions, to keep visitors safe including wider footpaths and three entry points to reduce queueing.

There will be a magical illuminated trail, designed so that people can maintain a social distance from each other and two car parks.

Lightopia 2020 will also pay tribute to Coronavirus frontline workers with a Local Heroes Area, featuring the words ‘thank you’ and a colourful rainbow display.

Lightopia creative director Ian Xiang said organisers are “excited” to bring Lightopia back to Manchester.

“We have once again created a world in which light, sculpture and art combine with traditional, Chinese lantern-making techniques to create an immersive experience, full of light and stories,” he said.

“We want our guests to become part of the Lightopia story, helping to create new forms of art as they interact and engage with the luminescent sculptures that trail through Heaton Park.”

Lightopia 2020 Christmas at Heaton Park, Manchester

Lightopia

Among the new additions will be a Christmas showcase using the Grade I-listed Heaton Hall as its sparkling backdrop.

There will also be Santa’s sleigh, a giant interactive walking piano, an astronomy display and interactive Zodiac sign installation.

Children will love robotic controlled pads on the floor, which create light shows when stepped on.

Another area is dedicated to the Manchester skyline and an immersive Musical City area, will encourage visitors to dance their way through the lights.

Returning attractions include the Woodland Fairytale area, the Animals attraction and the Discovery space.

Lightopia 2020 Christmas at Heaton Park, Manchester

A Lakeside water show includes a state-of-the-art projection while dragon sculptures will lead the way to Lightopia’s food stalls and licensed bars.

The event from November 20 to January 3 runs between 5pm and 10pm and last entry is 8.30pm daily.

The event is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, except during school holidays and closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Tickets are £20 online for adults (or £22 on the day), £13 for children (or £15 on the day) and £60 for families of two adults and two children (£68 on the day). Children under three can go free.

Essential carers of disabled visitors can attend for free, the disabled visitor pays the normal admission fee.

To book tickets, visit www.lightopiafestival.com

Follow on Instagram and Facebook @lightopiafestival #Lightopia

Families flock to Winter Funland 2019 in Manchester for a huge Christmas experience out of the cold

Families flock to Winter Funland 2019 in Manchester for a huge Christmas experience out of the cold

A panto, ice rink, circus, Santa AND funfair all under one roof at huge Christmas event for children

Thousands of families have been flocking to Manchester to escape the cold weather into an entirely indoor Christmas extravaganza.

The UK’s biggest Christmas indoor event Winter Funland 2019, includes a huge ice rink, a Christmas circus, a pantomime, a vast indoor funfair and of course, Santa Claus.

There is also loads of food and drink for sale including vegan, vegetarian, gluten and lactose free options.

For parents of young children, there is plenty of space to park prams and buggies as well as a quiet breastfeeding area and baby changing facilities.

Last year, over 85,000 people visited the event.

Winter Funland event director, Andy Windmill, said: “Last year’s event was a phenomenal success and this year is bigger, brighter and full of even more festive fun.

“We have pulled out all of the stops to ease queues for Santa, quicker service for food and of course – brought in even more exciting funfair rides.”

Winter Funland is at EventCity, opposite intu Trafford Centre and there are over 3,000 free car parking spaces.

It runs until January 4, 2020. Visits are in sessions of four hours.

All-inclusive admission tickets are £23.50 per person and under 3s are free. Fastpass tickets to visit Father Christmas at Santa’s Grotto are also available from the website here www.winterfunland.com

We visit the ‘Christmas capital of England’ whose festive market is hailed the best in Europe

We visit the ‘Christmas capital of England’ whose festive market is hailed the best in Europe

We take a festive family trip to Winchester

The city of Winchester is known as England’s Christmas capital and its market was recently voted one of the best in Europe.

So we take a December trip to the home of Alfred the Great to find out what its Christmas appeal is for children, plus see our video below.

The Winchester Cathedral Christmas Markets

The centrepiece of the city’s festive fun is this beautiful market which runs for 34 days around Christmas.

There are 110 stalls around Cathedral Close. You enter via the side of the building through some arches and onto the market which has dozens of stalls selling Christmas gifts, arts and crafts.

The main food and drink section of the market is at the far side. There are the usual selection of German sausages, Gluhwein and more. Our two enjoyed testing the pancakes from an excellent crepes stall, which was reasonably priced and properly cooked by two ladies from France. There was also a man toasting marshmallows and another roasting nuts.

Buying mulled wine at Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market

There is also a British Crafts Village section, which you enter via a small platform, with a nativity scene at the end.

The market is very popular with 350,000 visitors each year and it was busy when we went which means you need to keep a close eye on your children. Also, there are no toilets in the market itself, the nearest ones are at the Cathedral Visitors Centre.

The ice rink

In the centre of the markets is a covered ice rink. It offers one-hour skating slots through the day from 10am with the final one starting at 8pm.

The busiest times are in the late afternoon but numbers are limited so even in a full session the ice isn’t too busy.

A family skating ticket for two adults and two children costs £37.95. it also costs £5 to hire a Penguin skating aid, which is essential if your children are new to skating and makes for a more fun experience on the ice for beginners.

The rink has a large Christmas tree in the centre and viewing areas at either end for family and friends to watch.

You can collect your skates in the waiting area up to half a hour before your allocated time slot. All children’s sizes are catered for and there is a £1 charge to leave bags in a locker.

It is a great festive atmosphere with lights and music on the ice adding to the fun. There is also an ice bar and cafe next to the rink for hot and cold food.

Across the city

Winchester takes Christmas very seriously and even away from the cathedral there was a large market along the High Street when we visited. There were plenty of local stalls and food outlets at that market as well.

Further afield

The two nearest Christmas activities near Winchester are at Marwell Zoo, which we reviewed earlier in the year, read about it here. The zoo has a special Christmas at Marwell experience which can be booked as either a daytime or evening visit. Only the daytime experience includes a visit to the zoo itself.

The Watercress Line has a Santa Special train running until December 24. Children receive an activity pack and gingerbread on board while adults can enjoy white wine and mince pies. Tickets are available by advanced booking only.

Also, in Winchester there is a Meet Father Christmas event running at the Great Hall. From December 21 to 23, you can meet Santa in one of the city’s grandest buildings. Tickets include that all-important meeting plus a festive gift and Christmas-themed crafts.

Where do I park?

Parking is difficult but there are three park and ride options. If you are coming from the East, you can use either Barfield or St Catherine’s Park & Ride. Visitors from the south can use South Winchester.

If you want to try and get closer to the city centre, then the Chesil multi-storey car park is your best bet. We parked here and it was about a 10-minute walk to the cathedral.

For more information go to visitwinchester.co.uk

(We were given free entry to the ice rink for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own).

Lapland UK – our full guide, top tips and review of this popular Christmas day out for families

Lapland UK – our full guide, top tips and review of this popular Christmas day out for families

We take our children to ‘Lapland’ in the UK for a full family festive experience

It is one of the country’s most popular Christmas days out for families who want to experience Lapland without the cost of travelling to Finland.

So here is all you need to know about Lapland UK, plus our top tips for visiting and please watch our video below!

What is it?

A full Christmas experience for children which tells the story of Father Christmas, complete with elves, snow, a personalized Santa visit, toy making, gingerbread decorating, ice skating and more.

Where is it?

In ‘Lapland’ accessed by magic from Lapland UK, in Whitmoor Forest near Ascot in Berkshire.

How it works

1. Children get a special invitation each to visit ‘Lapland’ through the post telling them they have been chosen to help Santa make toys. There is a special app you can use so that two of the elves you will meet, appear on your invitation through your phone to talk and build the excitement.

2. When you get there and check in, each child is given an Elf Passport to have stamped at various points. You can also buy Jingles here – elf money that the children can spend there – £1 is one Elf Jingle.

A pouch of Jingles

A pouch of Jingles

3. The tour starts in a round room where elves tell the Father Christmas story, teach elf rhymes and the elf wave and build up the excitement for the children (Little Folk) and adults (Big Folk) until finally opening the doors to ‘Lapland’.

The doors to Lapland

The doors to Lapland

4. You walk past snow-topped cabins to the toy workshop. Here, as in other places around the site, children have the option of entering through much smaller doors than the adults, which is a nice touch.

5. Inside the workshop, they are entertained by more elves and then each child helps to make a toy (a soft snowman our year, which they stuffed and added buttons to and a nose and scarf etc), which they hand over to be wrapped for Santa to deliver to children on Christmas Eve.

Making toys at the Toy Factory at Lapland UK

Making toys

6. Then it’s through one of several magical tree tunnels to the next area, a kitchen where Mother Christmas is waiting, she talks to the children, they decorate gingerbread biscuits then listen to a story.

Mother Christmas tells a story at Lapland UK

Mother Christmas tells a story

7. After that it is on to the Elf Village where you have an hour-and-a-half free time to ice skate on the outdoor rink, visit husky dogs and spend your Jingles in the toy and sweet shops, food and drink outlets. There is even a special post office where children can write a letter to Santa, have it sealed and post it themselves.

The ice rink at Lapland UK

8. Then it’s on to the main event – visiting Father Christmas. You walk through a magical forest, past elf homes and past the reindeer to a waiting area.

Elves come and out and call each family group through using just the children’s names. Then you are taken down a winding path to visit Santa in a log cabin, who amazes the children by knowing special details about them. He gives them a present (soft husky toy dogs when we went) and they find their names in his good book. They have a photograph taken by an elf.

Children look to see if they are in Santa's good book at Lapland UK

Are they in his good book?

9. In the next area, you collect your free photograph and are slipped a toy like the one your child made earlier so that Santa can deliver it on Christmas Eve. Then it’s out through a gift shop where there are lots of accessories you can buy for your husky! And then it’s out the door and back into the car park in ‘England’.

What is included in the price at Lapland UK?

*Parking.

*An elf passport.

*Elf newspaper.

*Making a toy activity.

*A version of the toy they made in the toy factory to take away secretly to give them on Christmas day.

*The gingerbread that the children decorate.

*Ice skating and hire of skates.

*Meeting Father Christmas.

*A gift from Santa – soft toy husky dogs our year.

*A printed family picture from the Santa visit.

What costs extra at Lapland UK?

*Food and drink.

*Reindeer food.

*Shop purchases.

*Extra pictures from the Santa visit.

What did we think?

This is a magical Christmas day out for young children and very well organized. The staff are all fantastic, taking on the role of elves and reindeer and the children loved it. It is a fabulous four hours of festive entertainment.

Is Lapland UK worth the cost?

This is a staggeringly expensive Christmas experience. It is a shame this costs so much money as it just isn’t possible for many people, particularly bigger families.

For the four of us it was over £450 on a weekday – which works out at over £100 an hour. We were lucky enough to be treated to it for a special family birthday. I don’t think we would be able to justify doing it again another year.

If you can afford it and want to splash out, make sure your children are the right ages to appreciate it, I would say, no younger than three and of an age where they still believe in the magic of Christmas.

Top tips for Lapland UK

*Do take advantage of the app to make your child’s invitation come to life, it is a magical start to the experience.

*Get there half an hour before your time slot to park, walk to the start, check in etc. You can not start the experience until your time slot so there is no point getting there any earlier.

*Buy Jingles at the start – £1 is 1 Elf Jingle, they come in a red velvet pouch. Children can use them to pay for things in the Elf Village and you can cash in those you don’t use at the end. We bought ours £5 worth each and it was enough (a lead for the toy husky from Santa was just £3 in the gift shop at the end, but beware there are lots of toys which cost a lot more)!

*Personalise your visit online. Make sure Santa has all the details he needs to show your child that he knows all about them. But don’t worry if you don’t get chance to do this as you can tell them at the desk when you are waiting to see the Big Man (just make sure little ears can’t hear you)!

*Ice rink – children can have skates which go over their shoes and are easier to balance on instead of proper ones. There are also support penguins for young children to hold on to or stand on.

*Consider taking a change of clothes in case children fall over on the ice rink. It was raining when we went and there is no cover so the surface was wet even though staff were frantically trying to keep the water off it.

*You could spend a lot of money in the Elfen Village if you aren’t careful as a lot of it is shops and food and drink outlets so take your time doing the ice rink and the Santa letter writing!

Our five-year-old’s verdict

“We saw Father Christmas and he gave us some huskies. And we went in the Enchanted Forest. It was fantastic! I liked seeing Santa Claus best.”

Address

Whitmoor Forest, Swinley Rd, Winkfield Row, Ascot SL5 8BD

Where to stay

We stayed at the Hilton Bracknell Hotel 10 minutes away, which has a fantastic swimming pool, read our review here.

Website

https://www.laplanduk.co.uk

Have you been? What did you think? We would love to hear from you.