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 in 2023 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…
Jack and the Beanstalk at York Theatre Royal
York Theatre Royal’s ever-popular pantomime returns for 2023 with a much-loved classic, Jack and the Beanstalk. Expect stunning sets, lavish costumes, breathtaking special effects and of course lots of panto magic as you go on a fun-filled adventure with Jack. Family tickets are available for all performances.
8th December 2023 to 7th January 2024 – Visit the York Theatre Royal website for more info and tickets
Christmas at Raby Castle
There is truly no other place to go to embrace the magic this Christmas than Raby Castle. From meeting Father Christmas in the grand Entrance Hall to discovering the enchanted trail through their very own Christmas tree plantation, to shopping, a deer park and hot chocolates galore it has it all. Visit the Raby Castle website.
Meet Father Christmas on the river with City Cruises’ Santa Experience
Explore Santa’s North Pole Grotto then step onto the most festively adorned boat in York, accompanied by one of Santa’s elves and St. Nick! New this year, why not book a festive package to enhance your experience? For The NICE (kids!): They’ll send you a card from Santa with photographs taken on the day of your cruise to open on Christmas Day! For The NAUTI: As in NAUTI-cal, receive a gift-wrapped bottle of Prosecco to be taken away for a Christmas treat!
Join York Stage for a show filled with the magic of Christmas, as we join Mr and Mrs Claus in their busy home as they prepare for the big day. Being the wonderful hosts they are, they always have time to entertain the children and love a good sing-a-long, so expect Christmas stories, interactive wonderment and Christmas songs to join in with! Families can sit back and enjoy a brilliant 45-minute interactive audience with Santa as he talks to the younger ones and delves into his book of who’s been naughty or nice and checks in with what children are asking for this Christmas…He may even already know! Being a generous soul, he also has a Christmas book for every child to take away to read on Christmas Eve. Suitable for everyone who believes in the magic of Christmas! 19th December 2023, 5pm – Theatre@41 York – Visit the website for more details
Grue by Wintercroft in Scarborough
This popular immersive installation, made entirely from recycled and repurposed materials, can be reached through a magical door on the top floor of Scarborough Library. Grue invites you to step into a fantastical world and explore a series of enchanting landscapes. Prepare for an adventure, discovering forgotten creatures big and small.
Saturday December 3rd to Saturday 23 December – Scarborough Library – www.hello-arcade.com/grue
Robinson Crusoe and The Pirates of the River Ouse – The Grand Opera House York panto 2023
York legend Berwick Kaler returns this year for another madcap panto at the Grand Opera House York: Robinson Crusoe and The Pirates of The River Ouse.
Berwick will be joined on the Grand Opera House stage by his usual gang of David Leonard, Suzy Cooper, Martin Barrass and AJ Powell for a hilarious take on the classic story of the sailor from York who finds himself marooned on a desert island and finds that he’s not alone. Robinson Crusoe – Grand Opera House York panto – 9th December 2023 to 6th January 2024 – Visit the website
Christmas in Neverland at Castle Howard
This year’s theme is Christmas in Neverland! Fly into the adventure of a lifetime bursting with fairies, mermaids, and pirates. Vast ships will cruise into Castle Howard’s great galleries, Lost Boy laughter will echo through the halls, and beautiful rooms will transform into tropical lagoons. Follow the boy who never grew up into a fantastical festive world that will re-ignite your belief in fairies and leave your heart full.
11th November 2023 to 2nd January 2024 – Visit the Castle Howard website
Christmas at York Castle Museum
Wander through the famous Victorian street, Kirkgate, as Christmas arrives with a blanket of festive snow on the historic cobbles. Enjoy the charming period trimmings that adorn the street and take a peek at an exciting range of historical decorations and objects, all from the museum’s collection, in the stunning shopfronts. With a variety of free family-friendly Christmas activities on offer, there’s something for all ages to enjoy.
The popular Period Rooms will be adorned with authentic decorations too.
2023 dates to be confirmed – Included in general admission – Visit the website
Piglets Adventure Farm Magical Sleigh Ride
All aboard Santa’s sleigh for an unforgettable Christmas adventure at Piglets Adventure Farm! Check in at Elf Airlines before setting off for Santa’s Woodland Village. You’ll be guided through snowy trees and twinkling lights to arrive at Santa’s village where you’ll be greeted by elves. Meet Santa himself before collecting a magic key which you can use to unlock Santa’s toy shop and choose your favourite gift from a huge selection. Visit the Piglets website
York Christmas Market 2023
York’s annual Christmas market is back in 2023 from 16th November to 22nd December, with a range of stalls selling gifts, warming food and things to drink. Children will love the twinkling lights and warming up with a hot chocolate if you’re feeling generous. Visit the Visit York website
North Yorkshire Moors Railway Santa Special
The ever-popular North Yorkshire Moors Railway Santa Special is back this Christmas! Join Santa and his special team of elves at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway from either Pickering or Grosmont Station before a magical adventure aboard the Santa Express which will take you on a festive journey you won’t forget! There’ll be enchanting activities and onboard entertainment throughout the hour-long journey. Every child will have the opportunity to meet the one and only Santa Claus! Watch their eyes light up with joy as they receive a special gift from the jolly man himself.
Christmas Tree Festival at York Minster
York Minster has a selection of fabulously festive activities that children will enjoy, from a Christmas Tree Festival to the York Minster crib service. The Christmas Tree Festival runs from 3rd December 2022 to 5th January 2023, with 60 trees on display in the stunning Nave, Chapter House and Lady Chapel. We’re really excited that Little Vikings is dressing a tree for the first time, and our theme is a celebration of family-friendly York. Many of our partners are joining us in creating a tree that shows how amazing York is for kids.
Various dates in November and December 2023 – Click here to find out more about what’s going on at York Minster
Meet Santa at Whartons Wonderland
Meet Santa and enjoy a festive winter market at Yorkshire’s newest magical Christmas event with Whartons Wonderland Events! Here’s what to expect from their Santa experience (pre-booking needed): A magical walk where you will fly over the rooftops of New York; run through a real-life snowstorm; meet Buddy the Elf; laugh with the Grinch; visit Santa in his grotto and receive a gift from Santa. Under 1s go free; wheelchair & pushchair accessible; free parking.
– Free entry to the festive Christmas market (no ticket needed): fairground rides, donkey rides, food and sweet stalls and shopping opportunities
Rufforth Airfield, York YO23 3QA – Tuesday to Sunday, November 22nd to December 24th 2023 – Visit the Whartons Wonderland website
York Nutcracker Trail
It was one of the most popular free activities in York last Christmas, and it’s returning for 2023! The York Bid’s giant nutcrackers are returning to the city this festive season and it’s even better than before. Ten unique bespoke nutcrackers, painted by local artists, will be hidden in locations in York just waiting to be spotted. There will be ten to find, and you’ll be in with a chance of winning a £250 York Gift Card if you find them all. 16th November 2023 to 4th January 2024 – Visit the website
Christmas at The Bar Convent
Gather your loved ones for a visit to the Bar Convent as the historic house glows with a twinkling tree, dazzling decorations and an exciting new luminous installation as part of this year’s Christmas experience ‘Let there be Light!’. Discover The Bar Convent’s Georgian parlour historically dressed to reflect Christmas past and enjoy festive treats in the cafe. – Visit the website
The Plotters’ Forest Enchanted Christmas Trail at Raby Castle
Embark on an enchanting journey through The Plotters’ Forest and create cherished memories with your loved ones this holiday season. Immerse yourself in the magic of our Enchanted Christmas Trail, where twinkling lights and festive music guide your path through a captivating winter wonderland. As the sun sets and the night sky emerges, watch in awe as the trail comes to life under the blanket of darkness, each corner illuminated with a warm and inviting glow. Choose from day and evening tickets.
From 18th November 2023 – Visit the website
Meet Father Christmas at Mother Shipton’s
Santa is flying to see you at Mother Shipton’s! Let the twinkling lights draw you into the wonder of Mother Shipton’s magical, memory-making Christmas experience. Enjoy a personal family visit with Santa in his grotto, gather around Holly Berry, the enchanting storyteller, as she weaves tales of wonder and merriment, create your very own bag of reindeer food and find the Snowy Owl Sorting Office and send your heartfelt wishes to Santa himself. Stamp, seal, and imagine your letter soaring through the night sky. Venture into the depths of the woodland and discover the cave, the legendary Petrifying Well, and the Wishing Well.
Selected dates in November and December 2023 – mother-shiptons.co.uk
Winter Woodland at Sewerby Hall
An all-new spectacular display of lights, sounds and special effects will bring the grounds to life for a great evening out this festive season. This year’s Sewerby Winter Woodland will include a new route and a new theme – a chance to embark on a Magical Christmas Rescue, along with a host of cheerful festive characters! 8th to 22nd December 2023 – Visit the Sewerby Hall website
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.
A Very Georgian Christmas at York Mansion House
The Christmas Experience at Lotherton 2023
There’s a variety of festive experiences on offer at Lotherton’s Christmas Experience for 2023, 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.
25 November 2023 to 7 January 2024- thechristmasexperience.co.uk
Meet Santa at Murton Park
Tickets for Murton Park’s Christmas events are now on sale and, for the first time, there are two experiences for you to choose from! First up, Tea with Santa – You’ll enjoy a one-to-one with Santa and a delicious one-course meal at The Yorkshire Barn Café. For the original experience, book Christmas at Murton Park, an enchanting experience in Santa’s village, including meeting the big man in red, a train ride with Mother Christmas and much more. Selected dates in December – Visit the Murton Park website
Meet Santa at Yorkshire Air Museum
Visit Yorkshire Air Museum in the run-up to Christmas for a range of seasonal events including the chance to meet Santa! Visit the grotto, meet Santa and receive a gift. Each visit lasts up to an hour and includes story time in the Departure Lounge.
Selected dates in December TBC – Visit the Yorkshire Air Museum website
Santa’s Grotto at Beetle Bank Farm
Join Santa at Beetle Bank Farm this Christmas. Each family has a ten minute slot with the big man himself, and each child can choose their own good quality present. The barn will be open for cuddles with rabbits and guinea pigs and the cafe will be open for lunch with homemade cakes and Christmas treats! Visit the website to book.
Let there be Light! Christmas at The Bar Convent
Gather your loved ones for a visit to the Bar Convent this festive season as our historic house becomes aglow with a twinkling tree, dazzling decorations, and an exciting new luminous installation as part of this year’s Christmas experience ‘Let there be Light!’. A new light installation will take centre-stage against the backdrop of the stunning C18th Chapel.
28th December to 19th December 2023 – Visit the website for details