23 Nov Step into festive Wonderlands across Essex this Christmas
This year step into the magic of Christmas at festive events; the county’s tourism organisation, Visit Essex, has provided the lowdown on the best things to do and places to go across Essex this year.
Councillor Mark Durham, Vice Chairman, Visit Essex, comments: “Last year everyone’s Christmas plans were put on-hold, so this year we’re all looking forward to a bigger Xmas than ever before. Essex has a wonderful range of magical festive experiences for people of all ages, whether you’re looking for the best in panto, unique gifts or a visit to Santa, there’s something for everyone.”
Nothing gets you more in the Christmas spirit than the wonder of fairy lights and illuminations. RHS Garden Hyde Hall is offering an enchanting evening with a twinkling light trail. Follow the winding route through a series of gardens and discover shrubs and trees awash with colourful lights as well as willow structures and leaf sculptures immersed in festive colour. Tickets are priced £12.95 for adults (£7.95 members) and £6.95 for children (£3.95 members) under 5s are free; Glow begins from 10 November until the New Year.
Hylands Estate in Chelmsford is hosting ‘Enlightened’; the stunning park grounds will be transformed into a star-lit illuminated trail. Visitors will be taken on a specially crafted route through enthralling installations for a wonderful experience. Tickets are priced £9 children and £12 adults; doors open from 29 November until 2 January 2022.
Meet Father Christmas
Father Christmas will be stopping his sleigh and heading to Colchester Castle’s magical grotto throughout December (slots need to be booked in advance). Together with his castle helpers he’ll spread plenty of Christmas cheer and hand out special presents to those that come to see him. Tickets £8.95 including a gift.
Santa will also be catching the Santa Express and stopping at Audley End Miniature Railway between 20 November to 24 December! Visitors can take the train to meet Father Christmas and his elves, where they’ll be a gift for every child. Children can also take part in letter writing, make food for Rudolph, listen to Mother Christmas’s Storytelling Show, meet Holly the Christmas fairy, visit the Gingerbread House and have fun in the adventure play area. Tickets are priced adults and children over 92cm, £18.00/£25.00, child under 92cm, £9.00/£12.50, child under 1 year is free.
The quest is on to buy local and find something unique for your loved ones. Essex is full of festive fayres, which are ideal hunting grounds for bespoke gifts, decorations and treats. Great Dunmow’s Christmas market takes over the town centre on Saturday 27th November between 2-6pm and offers gifts, festive food and drink, a Santa’s grotto, Christmas shopping, live music and children’s entertainment.
Hylands House Stables will be opening its doors on 1 December from 6-10pm for late night shopping. Meet the artists that reside in the studios and snap up unique pieces from the makers, designers and creatives. Festive food and drink will also be available.
Treat yourself to panto!
This year panto is back with more laughs, gags and cries of ‘oh yes it is’ than ever before! Colchester’s Mercury Theatre has recently been refurbished and the team are back with a spectacular production of Aladdin. Will Aladdin defeat the wicked sorcerer? Can the Genie of the Lamp make all of his wishes come true? Tickets are priced from £15-32.
Beauty and the Beast will be taking centre stage at the Civic Theatre in Chelmsford. Be enthralled by this classic love story and don’t forget to boo and hiss at the wicked landlord, Lapiscine. This panto offers fantastic sets, bewitching costumes, roof-raising songs and heaps of magic. Tickets are priced £25 and £22 concessions.
Have an alternative Christmas?
Looking for quirky festivities? Check out the Nuclear Wild Forest Activity Centre, Kelvedon Hatch and try your hand at Axe Throwing! It makes for a fun twist on the traditional Xmas party! Throw an angel, axe and knife for 60 minutes of medieval fun (priced at £30 per person).
Do you want to keep those Christmas pounds off? Runners will love The Wild Forest Activity Centre’s Christmas onesie 5km run on 11 December, which will have lots of Santa’s helpers enroute to help you get over the finish line. Tickets are £7.50 and the event will raise funds for Parkinson’s. Colchester Castle Park is also staging its Santa 5K! Sign-up for the run and you’ll be given a free Santa suit; the dash in the park takes place on 5 December and costs £10 for adults and £7.50 children.