Home > Places to Visit > Activities > What’s On for kids Christmas 2023: Santa’s Grottos, illuminated light trails, pantos and more in Oxfordshire and beyond

What’s On for kids Christmas 2023: Santa’s Grottos, illuminated light trails, pantos and more in Oxfordshire and beyond

Light/laser projections and water show for Christmas at Kew Gardens, London 2021
4 September 2023


We are fast approaching the festive time of the year and although, it is only September, I have put together THE ultimate list on popular demand, which includes Santa Grottos, illuminated trails and other Christmas events in and around Oxfordshire (including Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Warwickshire and Northants).

Some event details have not yet been released; I will keep adding and updating as they do but I have left on the prices for those events from last year. Unfortunately, everyone has inflated their tickets but last year prices will give you some idea of what to expect.

We went to a few events last year. If you can not make up your mind as to where you go, our review or pictures from last year may help you. Please check out our archives for seasonal special activities

If we have missed your event and you would like it to be added, please contact me HERE

Gardens and Stately homes:

  • Christmas at Blenheim Palace This has to be THE biggest Christmas event in Oxfordshire (18th November 2022 – 2nd January 2023). It is not cheap by any means but it is the most wonderful time of the year when over a million lights, lasers and seasonal sounds fill the air with festive fun through the Palace’s picture-perfect gardens. Blenheim have certainly outdone themselves this year. Its fresh, its revamped and has something that I only previously saw in Kew Garden. They have their own water show near the big lake/ waterfall. How cool!
    The Palace rooms are transformed by the story of Sleeping Beauty as this classic fairy-tale is reimagined for a new generation. Your valid Annual Pass can give you free entry to the story of kingdom of the snow queen in the Palace before 3.45pm but after that, you will need to buy full priced ticket.
    We went this year. Read the detailed review HERE
    Tickets: Adult pass holder trail only ticket: 25.50£ (+10£parking), child 18.50 £ (+1£ for non pass holders)
    Adult pass holder palace entry only ticket (after 4 PM): 35£ (+10£parking), child 20£
    Combi: Adults from £53.50 (+10£parking) Child from £33.50 (+1£ for non pass holders)
    MY TOP TIP FOR ANNUAL PASS HOLDERS: go for the 3-4 PM slot for the palace (which will be free) and only pay for the illuminated trail if you want to do it all in one go!
  • Christmas at Waddesdon Manor will be back (Wed 22 Nov – Mon 1 Jan 2024, Wed-Sun plus Mon 1 Jan, Christmas Fair 22 Nov – 17 Dec) with magical lights and the gardens aglow as well as dazzling displays inside the house creating a Waddesdon-inspired wonderland for the first time since 2019. Winter Light will continue Fri-Sun from 6-22 Jan 2023
    We went this year. Please see our review HERE
    Tickets: Gardens only £22 Adult, £10 Child, National Trust: £11.50 Adult, £5 Child
    House and Gardens £35.50 Adult, £16.50 Child, National Trust: Adult, £16.50 Child £7.50
  • Back for 2023, Bicester’s Christmas lights trail will see Garth House and the park lit-up with festive messages and dancing snowflakes from 8th- 17th December, 2023
    Read our review from last year HERE.
    Tickets:  5£ adult, under 5s Free, child 2.5£.  Santa’s Grotto need to be prebooked separately  2.5£ per child/ adults go free
  • Find Santas Reindeers at Waterperry Gardens: Help Rudolph find his friends who are lost all around the gardens from 19 November through till the 23 December. On 19 and 21 November from 11.30am till 2.30pm on both days, get a little taste of the North Pole with actual reindeers! There is a Christmas market on 3 and 4 December- stalls from 10am till 4pm
    Tickets: £2.50 per child with a prize and normal garden entrance fee applies for adults.
  • Enchanted Christmas at Evenley Woods, Brackley: SOLD OUT
    Tickets: ££19.95 for children, £8.50 for adults
  • Spot Santa at Compton Verney: Santa will be stopping by at Compton Verney this Christmas. Can you find him hiding in our grounds or galleries? He can’t wait to hear about all your festive plans and share your Christmas wishes. Don’t forget to take a Santa selfie and collect your badge. Santa will be visiting between 10.30am-4pm on Friday 22, Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 December. This event is free with a valid membership or day ticket
    Christmas Camel and friends: Come and see the camel and donkeys who are real furry friends. Can you guess their names and win a prize from our Gift Shop?A complimentary festive drink and sweet treat included. This event is free with a valid membership or day ticket
  • Windsor Great park illuminated: 16 November 2023 – 2 January 2024.
    With a generous sparkle of new installations and a sprinkling of favourites returning, this year’s Windsor Great Park Illuminated promises to be more magical than ever.
    Tickets: Adults £26.95, Children 3-15y 15.95£


  • Cinderella at Chipping Norton Theatre 15 Nov 2023 – 14 Jan 2024:
    In the small town of Santa Maria de las Orejas de Soplillo (St Maria with the sticky out ears) lives a beautiful, kind and very frustrated young woman. Cinderella dreams of a new life, away from her dreary chores and her awful stepmother. But what’s the use of dreaming?With Latin American music and dance, a riot of colour and non-stop, laugh out loud silliness from beginning to end – come and join the carnival!
  • Jack and the Beanstalk at Oxford Playhouse: Join Jack and his friends on an adventure of a lifetime, as they scale the beanstalk and take on a Giant. Full of infectious laughter, brilliant storytelling, singing, dancing, cheering for the goodies and booing for the baddies, an Oxford Playhouse pantomime is fabulous festive fun for everyone aged 5 to 105!
  • Jack and the BEANSTALK at Kenton Theatre, Henley:Packed with comedy, music, audience participation, and all the trademark ingredients audiences have come to love and expect from an Immersion show, this hilarious and action-packed adventure promises to be our most joyous and festive experience yet, oh yes it does!
  • Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury(Fri 1 Dec 2023 – Wed 3 Jan 2024) promises a traditional fairy tale with a magical twist, plenty of audience participation and possibly some pots and pans
  • Tom Thumb at Story Museum: The Christmas show for families, inspired by the traditional tale of Tom Thumb, from 21-29 December 2023- Suitable for children Ages 4+
    Tickets: £12 Per Person
  • A Christmas Carol at Creation Theatre: 2 December 2023 – 6 January 2024
    This Christmas will be back at The North Wall with the Creation’s Rep Company presenting a new spin on the 2017 production of A Christmas Carol, complete with suitably grim Victorians, a Fezziwig party you’ll never forget and, at its heart, the most christmassy tale of redemption around.
    Tickets:  From £13.50 Per Person

Farms and wildlife parks:

  • Father Christmas at Hogshaw farm (formerly Green Dragon Eco Farm) starts on the 25th November 2023!  Join Farmer Christmas on his big red tractor, receive a special early Christmas gift, decorate a biscuit, make some magical reindeer food for Christmas eve, even meet some of the farmer Christmas reindeer and much more. This year farm entry and access to the new Christmas market is included with the farmer Christmas ticket
    Tickets: £21.95 per child (1y+), £12.95 per adult, £9.95 per under 1y if participating.
    We went last year and were very pleased with the experience. Read our full review HERE
  • Christmas Spectacular at Odds Farm park: The experience goes beyond the enchanting Santa’s grotto and the joy of choosing a gift from the toy shop. The true highlight is the chance to craft your own Cuddly Creation to take home, complete with a charming birth certificate—a detail that added an extra layer of delight for our family. You also get a cute Christmas passport to take you through your journey in search of Father Christmas!
    We attended their preview on 25/11/23- read the full review HERE
    Tickets: Child  £43.95 or 15.95£ for older children with no gift, Adult £15.95
  • Santa’s Grotto at Millets Farm 11th November- 24 Dec 2023:
    Get your snow boots ready and join Snowball Sammy and friends at the North Pole. They’ll be time for some elftastic jokes before you head through to the reindeer stables. There you’ll mix up some strength-boosting reindeer food to help get the reindeer back to their magical best. Next, it’s on to visit Santa in his cosy living room. He will present each family with a bespoke jigsaw keepsake of him and his elves. They’ll also be time for a festive photo before you go through to choose a toy from the large selection in the toy workshop. Finally, you’ll arrive in Mrs Claus’ kitchen. Mrs Claus is known for her baking skills, and she’s thrilled to have little helpers to make her kitchen even merrier! Roll up your sleeves because it’s time to trim the tree and decorate some Christmas treats!
    Tickets: 1 Child & 1 Adult = £26.50, 2 Children & 2 Adults = £49.50, 4 Children &  2 Adults = £84.50
  • Christmas Dance About Disco on 20th & 21st December 2023:
    join the Sprouts team for an evening full of play frame climbing and disco dancing fun! Children can enjoy the play frame exploring all the play levels at night time with the lights down low and music up high! Tickets to go on sale soon
    We were invited to the trail in 2022 and 2023. Here is our review
    Witness the magical transformation and explore the illuminated barns, paddocks and woodland this winter. Join in feeding our animals their late night snacks, toast marshmallows on the cracking fire pits and pose for a beautiful photo amongst the woodland illuminations. 
    Tickets: from Adults £21.95, Children 4-15 16.50£, Toddler Ticket (2 & 3)-11.50£
    You can also upgrade to the Christmas Experience, which includes personalised visit to Father Christmas, make-a-bear activity, festive sweet treats activity and the choice of a gift from the toy shop. For the combined experience, children aged 2+ pay 54.95£ while you will have to pay 19.95£ for Baby (0&1) for personalised visit to Father Christmas and a gift.
    Brand new for 2023 is Parent and Child Combi-Ticket when visiting Father Christmas in the daytime! This saves over £5 on an accompanying adult ticket.
  • Christmas at Fairytale farm: This year’s event will be significantly expanded compared to previous years, with a whole new area that will feature a range of new festive experiences. All the best elements from previous years will remain, such as the cosy and atmospheric Grotto, the Castle walk-through and the Christmas illuminations.
    Tickets : £9.50 for Adult/Older Children tickets (i.e. those not receiving a present from Santa) and £16.99 for Child Christmas Fairytale tickets (i.e. those receiving a gift from Santa). SEN sessions available
  • Christmas at Cogges and Santa’s Grotto:
    Meet Father Christmas and enjoy the festively decorated Pantomime-inspired Manor House. Enjoy a wintery Christmas Trail around the Farm, and children’s crafts (times may vary). Meet Father Christmas and his elves in Santa’s Grotto, with story time and a gift for every child* (*tickets available to book).  As dusk approaches, visit for the ‘Later’ session where the Festive Light Trail brings magic to the grounds, and some surprises!
    Tickets : Day time admissions Adults £9 / Children £6.
    Later Admissions: 4pm-7pm (last entry 6pm) with Festive Light Trail: Adults £12 each / Children £8 each
    Santa’s Grotto is £10 per child, timed slots, pre-booking recommended
  • Christmas experience 2023 at Roves Farm: Meet Santa in his ALL NEW Grotto, choose a gift in the Toy Shop & mix up a treat for Rudolph at the Reindeer Food Station. Enjoy the party atmosphere at the live Elf Show, do some paper crafts to take home and visit our living Nativity Scene with donkeys, sheep & alpacas (in lieu of camels!). Plus all the usual activities
    Tickets: Adults ££10.80, Child (3 -16yrs) 30-35 £, Child (2 & 3)- 25-30£, under 1 year £10
  • Christmas Light Trail at the Old Shed Charlbury: SOLD OUT
    Immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit as you step into our illuminated woodland trail full of magical trees and sparkling tunnels of light! With the halfway ‘station’ being a firm favourite with light trail goers, the fire pits, marshmallows, hot chocolates, and mulled wine will be back waiting to warm you up along the way (1 x drink & marshmallow token included in each ticket).
  • Santa’s coming to Sutton Courtenay Environmental Education Centre on 9-10 December 2023:
    Suitable for children aged 2-10 years with an accompanying adult. £15 per child.
    BOOKING ESSENTIAL – tickets available soon on the website
  • Mother Christmas at Lillingstone pick your own: Visit Mother Christmas in her cosy Grotto where she will take you on a truly festive adventure! Upon arrival, you will be welcomed by Santa’s special Elves, and taken through to Mother Christmas’ enchanting Grotto, where she will spend some time chatting to each child and read a magical story!
    Tickets: £19.95 for children. Each ticket allows up to 2 adults per child.
  • Wellington Country Park will be magically transformed this winter to host Neverland Illuminova 16th November – 23rd December 2023: Join Hope on a journey into Neverland as they take you through their ideas, re-discover their curious and wandering mind, and take you on a journey that will ignite your imagination along the way. Be immersed in the poetic paths as you walk into the night and embark upon the enchanting adventure of Neverland Illuminova. The illuminated night trail that never grows old. New for 2023, explore the awakened woodlands and reach for the stars with our extended trail. Enjoy a magical quest with your friends and family, there is something for everyone.
    Tickets: without train ride: Adult £22, Children 18£; with Train Ride – adults £25, children £21, under 2s FREE
  • The magic of Christmas at Mead open farm 2023:Explore the Magical Christmas Walkthrough on your way to meet Father Christmas, choose a toy from his Toy Shop and build your own bear in the Make a Bear Workshop! Join in with the Tree Trimming Training show, make Reindeer Food and have a go at Gingerbread decorating with Mother Christmas
    Tickets: Child  £32, Adult £24.50
  • Beale Wildlife Park:
    Meet Santa is available on selected dates and requires separate pre-booked tickets at a price of £10 per child. You can meet the reindeer £5 (1 child and 1 accompanying adult OR 1 adult), £5 per pack for Wooden Reindeer Craft Packs and £2 trail sheet for the festive trail. Park entry tickets also required for all.
  • Enchanted Christmas kingdom at Hatton’s adventure world: Explore the Magical Illuminated Forest and don’t forget to Post your Letter to Father Christmas in the all new North Pole Postal Station. Meet Father Christmas, decorate gingerbread with the elves, mix magical reindeer food and be entertained by the magical Mr Holly (Father Christmas’ Head Elf). You will receive a magic key to visit and pick out your very own toy from the secret toy shop OR upgrade to ‘Create-a-Bear’ experience to receive both a toy and the chance to create your own special teddy with the help from the Christmas Elves.
    Tickets: non member child ticket: £25-45, Non member adult: £15-25
  • Make-a-Bear & more at Thrift Farm, MK:
    With new child-friendly activities, join the Make-a-Bear Workshop, make your own rustic Christmas decoration, and write a letter to Father Christmas. Plus, mix reindeer food and listen to an enchanting story from Father Christmas himself, then meet him with your family to share Christmas wishes
    Tickets: Child (0-15 years old): £24.50, adult: £16.50), babies in arm without gift: FREE,  with a bear £10

Indoor play areas:

  • Bicester Avenue Blue diamond Garden centre  offering Santas Grotto on 01/12/2023 – 24/12/2023
    Tickets: Child Ticket – £15.00, Accompanying Adult -free
    Breakfast with Santa 18/11/2023 – 24/12/2023: £14.95 pp
  • Bicester Avenue’s Real Ice Rink is back, running from 7th November till 7th January 2024. The rink has a maximum capacity of 40 skaters at any one time. Your purchased ticket includes a 45-minute skating session and hire of skates. We have Skate Aids available for children and are on a first come first served basis, so get there early.
    Tickets:  Family Ticket Peak (2 Adults + 2 Children): £45.00, Adult Peak Skate: £14.00, Child Peak Skate: £12.00
    Family Ticket Off Peak (2 Adults + 2 Children): £25.00, Adult Off Peak Skate: £9.00 ,Child Off Peak Skate: £7.00
  • Explore the sensory Winter room and Christmas train at the Riverside Hub. Take part in the Hub’s Snowy Disco. Decorate a gingerbread man,  meet Father Christmas in his grotto, choose a quality Christmas gift, and enjoy all the Hub’s wonderful play facilities. It’s an fun-packed 2.5 hour visit full of festive activities.
    Tickets: Weekends and school holidays: Babies 3 – 12 months £15, 12 months + £30, Adults £12
    Schooldays: Babies 3 – 12 months £13, Children aged 1 – 17 years £25, Adults £8
  • Childrens play village, Warwickshire are offering Santa visits, elf training school and the singing princess.
    Tickets: £16.95-32.50 per toddling/walking child, £5- 7.50 per adult & £4- 6.95 per baby/crawler.
  • Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall in Stratford-upon-Avon we will be offering a Christmas experience which includes storytelling by one of Santa’s Elves, a family Christmas Quiz delivered by Charles Dickens and then children will get to meet Father Christmas and help him prepare by designing wrapping paper.The experience is running from Dec 22nd to 24th inclusive and is bookable online via our website.
    Tickets:  £12.50 for over 16s, £10 for 2 – 16yr olds and free for under 2s
  • Magic alley, Stratford: Enter Christmas in the Crystal Kingdom and make your way through our magical rooms completing the Christmas quest and solving puzzles on the way before meeting Father Christmas and receiving an age appropriate present. In 2023 you will be asked to complete an online form to send them some information for “The Elf Reports”, making the experience more personal.
    Tickets: Nov weekends and Dec weekdays up to 12th December- All tickets are £15 each (regardless of age+ booking fee). Dec weekends and 9th December onwards, All tickets are £16-17 each (regardless of age+ booking fee). Babies are £5-7.
  • Breakfast With Santa 2022  at your local Harvester:  Santa’s taking a break from his workshop again this year to enjoy a delicious breakfast with your little elves. Kids can enjoy a delicious breakfast, Fruit Shoot, chocolate treat, colouring in activities and a Santa goody bag at this festive family event for just £9.99* per child.
  • Chsritmas trail 2023 at OXFORD CASTLE AND PRISON– Come and meet Santa at Oxford Castle and Prison. Meet some of Santa’s Elves and get the chance to make your own wildlife friendly reindeer food, a Christmas tree bauble and receive a pre-Christmas present.
    Tickets: 1 Child & 1 Adult = £20.00

Trains, locomotives and museums:

  • Bucks railway centre: See Father Christmas whilst enjoying a steam train ride and watch a pantomime – all in one amazing Christmas experience! This year’s mini pantomime is Cinderella.
    Tickets: Bronze tickets £17.50pp (shared standard compartment), Silver tickets: £19.50pp (whole standard compartment for 6-8 people), Gold tickets: £21.50pp (whole First Class compartment for 6 people), Babies: £5.00
    We went for the experience this year. Read the full review HERE
  • Dodo’s Christmas Trail at Natural history museum (21 December – 7 January (excluding 24 – 26 December): Take part in the FREE Christmas trail around the Museum, finding all things festive with the dodo.
  • Christmas at Didcot Railway Centre: 2-23 rd December 2023
    Steam into Christmas and help Santa find his missing reindeer! You’ll all receive a special passport and a stocking as you enter and as a reward, at each reindeer station, you’ll receive a small gift. Your visit will culminate with a visit to  Santa in our giant toy workshop where he’ll hear what you want to get for Christmas and you’ll get to choose your own gift from the selection on offer. Your entry ticket will also include unlimited train rides on our main demonstration line.
    Tickets: Child tickets £25, adults £20
  • Santa Steam Special at Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway 25 November- 23 December 2023
    All trains will begin their journey at Princes Risborough with Santa’s Elves welcoming everyone onboard. You will then travel on Santa’s steam train to see the Great Man-in-Red in an enhanced Workshop and Grotto at his North Pole station, where we will halt-a-while for refreshments and a much anticipated visit to see Santa and get a Christmas present!
    Tickets: from £22 per person.
  • Festive Lunch at the British Motor Museum 8-12 December. Lunch will be served in our stunning roof-top Sky Suite with entry to the Museum included for all diners on that day.
    Price: 2 Courses £29.95 per person, 3 Courses £34.95 per person
  • A special festive weekend at Chilten Open air museum (2/3 December). Come and find out a little about how Christmas was celebrated in the past and see some of the Museum’s historic buildings traditionally decorated for Christmas. There will be an artisan Christmas market and the Museum’s shop will be full of handmade products made by local crafts people including jewellery, candles, preserves and gin – perfect for a bit of Christmas shopping!
    Tickets: Adult £14.00*, Children (4-16 years old) £8.00

National Trust Properties

  • Aesop’s Fables Cheeky Creature Christmas Quest at Upton House and Gardens: Find the hidden clues with animals from Aesop’s moral tales, as you explore decorated rooms in the house. Collect your cheeky creature activity pack upon arrival at Visitor Reception, £3 per child, normal admission applies.

  • The Wind in the Willows’ Christmas at Basildon Park Starting from 18 November until 5 January 2024, immerse yourself in a wonderland of beautifully adorned trees, garlands, and twinkling fairy lights, all inspired by the captivating story. The magical atmosphere extends to the gardens, where you’ll encounter charming woodland creatures and whimsical decorations.
    Mr Toad is obsessed with cars, the problem is – he’s crashed seven of them! Race around the garden to find the activity stations and help him stay out of trouble. Pick up an activity sheet at visitor reception to help find your way. Cost £2, includes a prize. Normal admission applies.

 Merlin attractions, theme parks and others:

  • Milton Keynes Magic Lantern festival 21st October  2023 – 31st December 2023
    Embark on a visual voyage across the Land of Lights, featuring 12 incredible worlds inspired by legendary fairytales and iconic characters. See classic tales in a whole new light!
    Tickets: over 2s (from £15) though day time entry is from 12£- Early bird offer running at the moment
    Super Early Bird Tickets will go on sale from 10am on Friday 1st September (12£  off peak and 15.50£ peak). This first stage of discounted tickets will be available until 17th September.
  • Escape to Gulliver’s Land at Christmas time for a festive family adventure.  Explore the magical Winter Wonderland, look out for Elfie mischief, fairy fun and snowy surprises, selected festive rides and attractions for all the family. Meet Santa  and children choose their own gift from the Elf Workshop.
    Tickets:There are 3 different Christmas packages to choose from at Gullivers Land, starting from 22£pp (height 90cm+). Save 25% on 2023 Christmas packages using online code XMASGL. Valid for packages on the following dates: 25th and 26th November, 2nd, 3rd, 20th and 21st December 2023 at Gulliver’s Land, Milton Keynes. Must be booked before midnight 10th September 2023.
  • Bletchley Park: Details not released yet
    Tickets: £10.50 per child for the Grotto. Accompanying adults need to purchase standard admission tickets (£24.50 for adults, £16 for children aged 12-17 and free under 12).
  • Experience the magic of Christmas at Warwick Castle: Discover splendid Staterooms adorned with twinkling trees, dazzling decorations and festive flourishes. In the Great Hall, marvel at medieval armour, majestic architecture and the renowned 20ft high Christmas tree. Also, join Santa as he settles down to tell charming tales, sharing stories of festive cheer with little ones, accompanied, of course, by his merry elves. (additional ticket required)
    Tickets: Castle only: 21£, Castle and Santa: £38, Light Trail only: from 16.50£
  • Experience the magic of LEGOLAND® at Christmas, starting from  25th November 2023 when the park transforms into a winter wonderland, complete with twinkling lights, snow dusted trees, and of course…a sprinkling of LEGO® magic!
    Tickets: from 34£ pp- upgrade from 20£ pp to meet Santa
  • Chessington winter trail and Santa’s grotto:
    With the help of our jolly elves and reindeer, meet Father Christmas in his log fire grotto and revel in all the Christmas cheer that a traditional panto and carollers offer. Plus, NEW for 2023, visit the charming residents of Enchanted Hollow as they prepare for a magical Christmas. Help them countdown to the BIG day and wish them all a ‘Merry Christmas’ as you and your family wander through the delightful underground town of Enchanted Hollow decked out in all its festive finery.
    Tickets: from 3o £ pp
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