Jingle bells! Christmas will be here before we know it, and it’s looking good for a sparkling festive season. As always, there’s plenty of choice of family-friendly Christmas events in and around York for children of all ages, from meetings with Father Christmas to pantomimes and days out with added twinkle. Here’s our pick of the best things to do this Christmas in York with kids – do keep checking back as we’ll be adding more events as we get them. Top tip – book early as the popular events do tend to sell out and we don’t want you being added to the naughty list…
A Kirkgate Christmas Tale at York Castle Museum
The Victorians knew how to do Christmas, so where better to immerse yourselves in all things festive than Kirkgate, York Castle Museum’s recreated Victorian street? New for 2021, A Kirkgate Christmas Tale promises large-scale projections telling a story of festive merriment. Colourful animations of Victorian puppets will go on an adventure to bring the magic of Christmas back to Kirkgate, accompanied by music and lights. Pre-booking is advised
Selected dates in November, December and January 2021 – Visit the York Castle Museum website for more information and to book
Christmas at Northwood Trail
Northwood Trail is hosting a Santa experience with a difference: no red-suited ‘ho ho ho’s here! Expect a more natural, wholesome and enchanting experience with stories, candles and imagination. Dressed in green, Northwood’s St Nicholas mirrors the Father Christmas of the past, while Lady Winter encourages us to rest, be still and dream. Enjoy a glass of hot punch (alcoholic/non-alcoholic), before being taken to the woodland grotto to make a wish with Lady Winter and listen to a short story with St Nicholas. Children will receive something symbolic to take home, and a chocolate coin too.
Sat/Sun 11th & 12th December, then 15th to 23rd December 2021 – Visit the Northwood Trail website
Meet Father Christmas on the river with City Cruises’ Santa Experience
Join the City Cruises York Santa Experience for the most magical event on the River Ouse! Santa works hard all year round and manages to find the time to visit all of the especially well-behaved boys and girls in York before Christmas! Each child will be hand-delivered a personalised present from Santa whilst everybody on board will enjoy refreshments, fun and surprises, making this a Christmas treat to remember.
Christmas Festival at The Web Adventure Park
For a full festive day out, The Web Adventure Park is a perfect place to park your sleigh. Enjoy an audience with Father Christmas, meet the elves and reindeer, watch Dazzling Darren’s Christmas performance and the Elf on the Shelf show. That’s on top of the usual indoor and outdoor fun, from unlimited fairground rides and more indoor play options than you can imagine. Pre-booking required.
27th & 28th November, 4th, 5th, 11th, 12th and 18th – 24th December 2021 – Visit The Web Adventure Park website
Christmas at York Minster
York Minster has just announced a selection of fabulously festive activities that children will enjoy, from a Christmas Tree Festival to a Winter Village, Christmas decoration workshop and the York Minster crib service.
Various dates in November and December 2021 – Click here to find out more about what’s going on at York Minster
Barley Hall at Christmas
Gold, frankincense and myrrh… At Barley Hall this Christmas, explore how magic infiltrated this religious time in the middle ages, whilst discovering the fine line between science, religion and magic during the medieval period at the Magic & Mystery exhibition. The house will be beautifully decorated for Christmas too.
Meet Father Christmas at Mother Shipton’s
Follow the twinkling lights to Mother Shipton’s in Knaresborough this Christmas where you can wander through the winter wonderland, visit the Christmas village and meet Father Christmas himself. Say hello, take an ‘elfie and have a little chat. If you’d like to receive a gift, you can buy this separately to receive from Santa’s elf helper. Why not visit the Elf Post Office to post a letter to Santa while you’re there?
20th November to 24th December 2021 – mother-shiptons.co.uk
Fizzy Finn Finds His Feet at Friargate Theatre
New children’s show, Fizzy Finn Finds His Feet promises a crackling Christmas treat with vivid storytelling, original music and creative puppetry. Finn is a fidget. His brain is ablaze with an unbreakable buzz that fizzes to his fingers and tickles his toes… or it would do if he could only find his feet. Join Finn and Tink the cobbler in her amazing story-telling Shoe Shop, full of shoes filled with exciting, enlightening stories. Written for children who found that lockdown made them anxious, this play helps them bravely find their feet in a stormy world. Suitable for age 5+
18th to 23rd December 2021 –Visit the Riding Lights website for more info and to book
Get your skates on at Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland
If you missed your ice skating fix last year, don’t worry. Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland returns to York Designer Outlet for 2021 with 975 sq m of real ice to glide, slide and wobble around. There will be two skate hire marquees for extra space, and a viewing platform too. The Chalet will be open too, serving hot chocolate, mulled wine, sizzling sausages and more. You can even visit Father Christmas there too!
19th November 2021 to 9th January 2022 – yorkshireswinterwonderland.com
Chocolate Cottage Making at York Cocoa Works
Join York Cocoa Works this Christmas in their Cocoa Academy to create your own Christmas Chocolate Cottage, the perfect festive gift (or treat for yourself!). Learn how to mould and assemble your gorgeous Chocolate Cottage before decorating with festive chocolate and sweets. It’s perfect for chocolate lovers of all ages and abilities
Selected dates in November and December – Visit the York Cocoa Works website
Watch Cinderella starring CBeebies’ Andy Day
In this timeless rags to riches story, relocated to our very own city of York, expect magical transformations, sparkling sets, stunning costumes, catchy songs and heaps of hilarity. Starring Cbeebies’ Andy Day, this brand new pantomime runs from 3rd December 2021 to 2nd January 2022, so we’d recommend booking early to guarantee your seats.
3rd December 2021 to 2nd January 2022 – Visit the York Theatre Royal website for more info and tickets
Cosy up in Thor’s Tipi’s new Grand Alpine Hall
New for 2021, Thor’s Tipi is offering a new festive experience in the grounds of York’s Principal Hotel, ideal for catching up with friends or a sneaky child-free lunch or night out (although children are welcome too). Not only will it be a festive sight to behold, but YUZU Street Food will be providing the food – amazing. Book in advance or keep your fingers crossed and just rock up. Thor’s will also be back at their Parliament Street location too.
11th November 2021 to 2nd January 2022 – thorstipi.com
See the gardens sparkle at Harlow Carr
See the garden sparkle this festive season and follow dazzling displays lighting a magical trail at Harlow Carr near Harrogate. Wander the enchanting trail around twinkling trees and shrubs and enjoy more light features than ever. There’ll be mince pies and hot drinks on offer from Bettys Tea House too.
18 November to 18 December 2021 (Thurs/Fri/Sat); then 20 to 29 December (Mon/Tues/Weds) – Visit the Harlow Carr website
Chocolate making with Santa at York’s Chocolate Story
This December (27th November -23rd December 2021), York’s Chocolate Story will have a Christmas make-over as Santa himself takes up residence. Guests will be able to meet Santa on the special themed tours and they’ll even make festive chocolate lollies with him! Filled with festive fun, children will discover incredible seasonal secrets.
Visit York’s Christmas Market
York’s popular Christmas market, St Nicholas Fair, is set to return for 2021 with local businesses selling an array of gifts and treats. While children might not fancy the shopping element, they’ll love the twinkling lights and tasty food and drink on offer.
18th November to 23rd December 2021 – Visit the Visit York website for more info
Experience Narnia at Castle Howard
Step through the wardrobe into a magical adventure this festive season. An ice spell has been cast on this mystical land where it is always winter, but will Christmas spirits be restored and will warmth and joy return? The grand interiors of Castle Howard will be lavishly decorated, and a series of theatrical installations, lighting, projection and soundscapes will evoke all that we love about this special time of year.
Saturday 13th November 2021 to 3rd January 2022 – Visit the Castle Howard website
Meet Father Christmas at Nunnington
Step back in time whilst you explore the house and then meet Father Christmas. Enjoy traditional festive crafts before meeting Father Christmas in his grotto to receive a gift. Normal admission prices apply.
£8 per child, booking essential – 27th November to Sunday 19th December 2021 (weekends only) – Book online at nationaltrust.org.uk/nunnington-hall or on 0344 249 1895
Winter Woodland at Sewerby Hall
The Yorkshire coast is beautiful at this time of year, and Sewerby Hall’s Winter Woodland is the perfect excuse for a trip to Bridlington. The Snow Queen has cast a spell on the beautiful woodland, which has come alive with light and sounds. Join the Sewerby polar explorer on his expedition as you travel through an illuminated tunnel into the winter woods, and embark on a quest into the Snow Queen’s domain.
3rd to 23rd December 2021 – Visit the Sewerby Hall website to pre-book tickets
Twas the night before Christmas
This Christmas enjoy a festive Georgian styled chocolate experience for all the family from York Cocoa Works and York Mansion House. Create and take home an edible Christmas tree decoration and complete the festive chocolate trail through the Mansion House before unwinding like a Georgian Lord Mayor with a luxurious hot chocolate.
Selected dates – Visit yorkcocoahouse.co.uk
Meet Santa at York’s School of Magic
Christmas is coming and Old Saint Nicholas is on his way to make a special visit to York’s School of Magic! But look alive young witches and wizards, for the evil forces of winter are prowling the city and the magical professors need your help to keep the festive season safe! Guided by the magical professor, you’ll be taken on a winter wonderland journey through the winding streets of York. Within your 2-hour interactive experience with professional actors, you’ll learn spells, hunt for the school’s secret location through the historical city of York, and dine on delicious Christmas treats! Children’s tickets include a gift from Santa. Book your place at the online booking office.
Festive Afternoon Tea at The Grand, York
Enjoy afternoon tea with a festive twist at The Grand, Yorkshire’s only five-star hotel. Filled with Christmas delights and even served with a festive cocktail, it’ll be a sparkling experience to remember. There’s even an option for a special children’s menu.
Festive Sightseeing Cruise
York City Cruises’ Festive Sightseeing Cruise is the ideal way to escape the busy shopping streets and step into the Christmas spirit. Each ticket includes a choice of hot drink and a mince/apple pie, and the one-hour relaxing cruise features traditional Christmas songs punctuated with live captain’s commentary.
Selected dates in November and December – Visit the City Cruises York website for more
The Bar Convent at Christmas
Take a journey through the Christmas story with The Bar Convent’s family-friendly exhibition trail, follow the star to our eighteenth-century chapel and add a star to the dedication tree. Christmas dinner will be available in the cafe too – please pre-book.
30 November- 21 December 2021 (Not including Sundays) – www.bar-convent.org.uk
The Christmas Experience at Lotherton 2021
There’s a variety of festive experiences on offer at Lotherton’s Christmas Experience for 2021, from a one-on-one meeting with Father Christmas to a shorter experience for younger children or just a Christmassy day out including a new winter woodland walk. Booking is required for all elements.
27th November 2021 to 2nd January 2022 – thechristmasexperience.co.uk
Meet Father Christmas at Let Loose!
Let Loose!, the adventure park near Beverley, is set to be transformed into a winter wonderland complete with Santa’s grotto. Hop aboard the Christmas train ride from the garden centre to the park where you’ll see the forest of lights and search for Santa who will have a gift for you. Enjoy a ride on the carousel at the end, and warm up at the cafe.
1st to 24th December 2021 – Visit the Let Loose! website for details and to book
Christmas crafts at Rowntree Park
Join The Friends of Rowntree Park for a festive time as they craft decorations made from natural resources. Think pine cones, fern, cinnamon sticks, willow, dried oranges, log circles and more! You can even make your own mini wreath and learn basic willow weaving.