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Festive fun! 20+ family activities to do this Christmas

From panto to light shows, ice skating a meeting with jolly Mr Claus himself - discover the top festive things to do in Kent this Christmas.

MEET THE MAIN MAN

Rare Breeds Centre, Ashford, Sat 11 Dec – Thurs 23 Dec

Visit the Rare Breeds Centre this Christmas to experience the incredible twinkly magic in their Winter Wonderland Barn. There are just eight days available throughout December for booking this festive family event.

Sprout the Elf will be waiting and who knows what present Santa has in store just for you – you’ll just have to book a booth to see! Booths are socially distanced and accommodate 4, 6 or 8 people in whatever family groups you prefer. You’ll then have access to the 100 acre farm to enjoy the play areas, Meet The Animal sessions, tractor-trailer rides and Falconry Displays. Plus hot chocolate, burgers and plenty more to eat at their restaurant! Read to see what we thought here.

Wildwood, Herne Bay, until Fri 24 Dec

Experience the magic of Christmas and create memories to last a lifetime at Wildwood just outside Herne Bay this festive season. With over 200 native animals set in 40 acres of beautiful ancient woodland, there is guaranteed to be an animal-favourite for everyone! Expect to see bears, wolves, Arctic foxes, bison, owls, wild boar, lynx, wild horses, badgers and beavers (and that’s just 10 of those 200…)

Don’t miss the return of their legendary Santa’s grotto, their (wardrobe) doors are open to a magical Narnia-inspired Christmas grotto. Be transported to a magical world where you’ll get to meet the big man himself, get a luxury soft toy and have your photo taken with Santa. To book in for the grotto, call the team on 01227 209621.

FESTIVE FILMS

Drive-In Cinema, Brands Hatch, until Weds 22 Dec

The Luna Cinema is back this winter and at none other the UK’s best loved race circuit, Brands Hatch for their epic festival Christmas Drive-In run. Watch all you favourite Christmas films like FrozenLove ActuallyElfHome Alone or It’s A Wonderful Life from the comfort of your own car. Don’t forget your snacks!

Cinema, The Gulbenkian, Canterbury, until Thurs 23 Dec

We all love to celebrate this time of the year with a cosy Christmas film, so why not experience it on the silver screen? The Gulbenkian in Canterbury have a wonderful selection of festive films from; It’s A Wonderful Life, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Muppet Christmas Carol, Polar Express and lots more!

THEATRE

Prince & Pauper, Trinity Theatre, until Sun 2 Jan

Not into Pantos? You’ll love Trinity Theatre’s answer! Don’t miss this charming and hilarious adaptation of Mark Twain’s classic story this December. As King Henry VIII lays on his death bed, his son Edward is reluctant to face the trials of kingship whilst in Pudding Lane an impoverished Tom Canty dreams of a better life. A chance encounter between the two reveals that they look almost identical. Let the farce begin!

Beauty & The Beast, The Malthouse Theatre, Fri 10 – Fri 24 Dec

Belle will have her Ball (oh yes she will) in The Malthouse Theatre’s spectacular family pantomime Beauty and the Beast this December. Featuring stunning sets & costumes, side splitting comedy, catchy hit songs and a dazzling West End cast, you don’t want to miss this festive treat for the whole family! Make sure to book before the last rose petal falls…

Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs, The Assembly Hall, until Mon 3 Jan

Mirror, Mirror on the wall… What is the greatest pantomime of them all? Look no further than Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at The Assembly Hall this Christmas starring Shirley Ballas, head judge of Strictly Come Dancing as the Wicked Queen! Joining her is an amazing West End cast including; Cameron Blakely (The Addams Family), Leon Craig (Everyone’s Talking About Jamie) and Rhiannon Chesterman (Rock of Ages). One for all the family, prepare for top-quality entertainment with lavish sets and a seriously funny script!

Jack & The Beanstalk, The Marlowe Theatre, until Sun 9 Jan 

Don’t miss this fun-filled family pantomime at The Marlowe Theatre this December! Starring West End star and pop icon Duncan James, Strictly Come Dancing’s Joanne Clifton, alongside Marlowe favourite Ben Roddy, returning villain Marc Pickering (Mother GooseBoardwalk Empire), Milkshake! presenter Nathan Connor and Bobbie Chambers (South Pacific). Jack And The Beanstalk, promises to be a giant of a pantomime, so book your tickets now.

Cinderella, Leas Cliff Hall, Fri 10 – Fri 31 Dec

With one charming Prince, two Ugly Sisters and a huge sprinkling of Fairy Godmother magic, join Leas Cliff Hall this Christmas to find out if the glass slipper fits and if Cinderella will make it to the ball. Featuring breath-taking special effects, spectacular scenery and sparkling costumes along with plenty of traditional pantomime mayhem and laughter – exciting star cast to be announced soon!

The Three Scroges, The Beacon, Tunbridge Wells, until Sun 19 Dec

If you’ve never experienced a GOOMs production before, well you are in for a treat! Their Christmas production of The Three Scrooges is a fast-paced, hilarious and heartfelt immersive dining and theatre production of the all-time favourite classic, A Christmas Carol, where YOU get to decide who plays Scrooge. During the evening, you’ll be fed a three course Christmas dinner, designed by the local legend, Scott Goss, who won Chef of The Year 2019 in the Kent Life Magazine Food and Drink Awards, and represented London and the South East in the 2018 series of Great British Menu. Whilst enjoying this meal, you’ll be immersed in Dickensian London and witness Scrooge’s transformation as he learns to love Christmas. Which Scrooge will you choose?

Little Foxes Christmas Garden, The Brook Theatre, until Fri 24 Dec

Little Fox’s Christmas Garden offers the perfect introduction to theatre, allowing children to experience theatre interactively, as they join Little and Big Fox on a journey through magical landscapes, meeting larger-than-life characters.

TRAILS

Brickmas Lego Trail & Exhibition, Canterbury

Merry Brickmas! Lots of lego fun to be had in Canterbury this December. Including their Christmas Lego Trail, make sure to keep an eye out for all sorts of Lego creations in Christmas window displays across the city, just follow the map available at The Beaney on the High St (ends Fri 24 Dec). Then visit The Beaney’s BRICKLIVE Exhibition opening on Sun 11 Dec til Sun 2 Jan, it’s completely free and you’ll get to see life-size Santa, reindeer, elves and much more all made out of bricks!

Hever Castle, until Mon 3 Jan 

There’s plenty of Christmas magic at Hever Castle this year, with a fairground, Santa’s Grotto, and a visit from the huskies (weekends 12-8pm until 24 Dec). If you’re up for a longer stomp, try Hever’s after-dark Christmas Light Trail which takes approx 1.5 hours to see the Castle’s much-loved landmarks lit up in glorious colours. Starting from 4pm, wrap up warm, enjoy a walk under the stars and witness the enchantment of the Castle, gardens and lake festooned with fabulous colours and twinkling lights. 

Bedgebury, Goudhurst, until Mon 3 Jan 

Visit Bedgebury Pinetum at night to experience Christmas at Bedgebury, a magical spectacle of light. We’re talking singing trees saturated in colour-changing lights, giant baubles and snowflakes – and of course you won’t wanna miss the breath-taking tunnel of light. There’ll also be a special appearance from the big man himself. This event sells out early every year but there are a handful of tickets left so be quick!

Leeds Castle, until Mon 2 Jan

Step into Christmas at Leeds Castle and enjoy wintery woodland walks in the crisp winter air. Pop on your coats and spot the 12 unique artworks located around the estate, all themed to the Twelve Days of Christmas Carol. Walk under the turtle dove arch, admire the seven mirrored swans swimming on the Great Lake and bang the 12 drummer’s drums with your little ones. The castle itself will be dressed beautifully with magnificent trees everywhere!

Percy the Park Keeper’s Winter Trail, Scotney Castle, until Mon 3 Jan

Join Percy the Park Keeper and his friends on a winter adventure activity trail around Scotney Castle’s garden. Working with Percy’s animal friends follow the clues and find the activity boards, playing a couple of games along the way. At the end, find Percy and his friends all gathered together and pick up a prize which will help you do your bit for nature at home too. £2 per trail, available at the garden entrance.

MERRY MARKETS

Canterbury Christmas Market, until Fri 24 Dec

A colourful array of festively decorated huts, unique indie gifts, eats and treats plus a helter-skelter! Visit Canterbury Christmas Market in Whitefriars Shopping Centre and the lower section of St George’s St. Open Mon to Fri 10-6, Sat 9-6 and Sun 11-4. Enjoy live music at the market every Fri, Sat and Sun afternoons. You can book to see Santa Claws for a truly magical experience for your little ones or Santa Paws (for your four-legged friend, obviously).

Folkestone, until Sat 18 Dec

Support local this Christmas and shop the Kentish Christmas Market coming to Folkestone from Fri 26 Nov til the 18 Dec, 10am – 3pm outside of the Folca building. There will also be live music and entertainment from 11:45 am – 12:45pm and 1:30 – 2:30pm every Friday and Saturday.

Castlemas, Tonbridge Castle, until Sun 19 Dec

A fabulously festive, fun-filled event is coming to Tonbridge this December! Open from the 10-19 Dec, open 10am-11pm every day, Castlemas has everything you need for a festive day-out. There will be live performances at The Bandstand, Mistletoe Town where you can shop til your heart’s content with their fabulous range of independent local stalls – not forgetting The Jingle Bell Bar! Watch out for the snow at 6:30pm every day and weekends at 2:30pm!

The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells, until Sun 19 Dec

For a wide selection of food, gifts and crafts – plus plenty of festive carols choirs and feels visit this popular weekly event, open every weekend in the lead up to Christmas. Plus you’ve got all the gorgeous restaurants, bars and indie shops that flank The Pantiles to tempt you too. Open every Sat & Sun ’til Christmas (10am to 4pm) – make a day of it!

Folkestone Harbour Arm, until Fri 24 Dec

For the first time ever, Folkestone Harbour Arm will become home to a purpose-built Festive Market! Expect lots of wooden huts surrounded by decorated trees and fairy lights – pictured above. Beginning from Sat 27 Nov, running every weekend in the run up to Christmas, including the 23 & 24 of Dec. There will also be a programme of Christmas events including bands, choirs and films plus traders from The Good Yard will be offering the very best of food and drink with a festive twist.

Herne Bay, Mortimer Street, Sun 19 Dec

Mortimer Street will come alive in the build up to Christmas for a truly festive, Kentish Christmas Market. Supporting Kent based producers and crafters, it’s your one-stop shop to find unique, handmade gifts and delicious locally made food. 10am – 3pm. Free parking in William Street Car Park.

Chartwell, until Sun 19 Dec

The childhood home of the much beloved Winston Churchill, Chartwell has a glorious Christmas market this December. Open 7 days a week, 10am-5pm. Find that perfect gift for a friend of loved one – even a treat for yourself? They have a beautiful selection of homeware to fashion, food, drinks and plants. Including gorgeous Christmas decorations! 

ICE RINKS

Calverley Grounds, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, until Mon 2 Jan

It always heralds in the start of the festive season – when Calverley Grounds in Tunbridge Wells is once again transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland. There’s Father Christmas on-site to visit, Themed DJ Nights, Wreath Making Classes, Bavarian Curling and even Skate with festive characters including Cinders and those Snow Sisters!

Bluewater Ice Rink, Bluewater Shopping Centre, until Mon 2 Jan

Located outside The Village, this outdoor rink will sit under a clear roof, making it the perfect activity come rain or shine this festive season. There’ll be quiet sessions, as well as parent and toddler sessions for budding skaters. Penguin and seal skating aids will be available for little ones plus bob skates to help guests stay steady on the ice. What’s more, party nights are back by popular demand this year – let the teens show off their skills to classic party anthems.

Looking for more festive fun? 

The best things on TV this Christmas

Review: 8 days of Christmas at Rare Breeds Farm

Your guide to the big smoke this Christmas

25 films to get you in the Christmas spirit

Bake this: Anja Dunk’s perfect Christmas biscuit

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