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12 great things to do with the kids in the Christmas holidays

School's out, Santa's coming and we're all a little bit excited. Keep the kids busy with these fab events around Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Winter at Marwell Zoo, Winchester. Daily until 24 December

Snow Leopard Marwell Zoo

You don’t need to go all the way to the North Pole to find penguins – see them right here in Hampshire, along with beautiful snow leopards (above) and the rest of Marwell’s resident menagerie. The front of Grade 1-listed Hall will be lit up for photo ops a-plenty beside a carriage filled with firefly fairy lights and Santa’s sleigh with flying reindeers. Carrying on the SUPERSIZED extravaganza, 10 tiny brick reindeers are hidden in a festive hide and seek.

Santa’s Present Problem at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Romsey. Daily until 3 January

Harold Hillier Garden festive trail

The elves have muddled things up and Santa’s sent out an SOS (sounds a lot like our house this time of year). Find out just how helpful your kids can be as they hunt for Santa’s lost gifts in the gardens and reunite them with their owners using a special spotter’s sheet. Afterwards, do your own hunt for coffee and cake in the Tilia Tree Café, tucked away in the gardens.

A Victorian Christmas at Milestones, Basingstoke. Daily until 3 January

Milestones Museum Basingstoke

There’s not a Dickensian orphan in sight at Milestone Museum’s cheerfully historical event. Instead, the Victorian origins of Christmas traditions are laid out along with mulled wine and a mince pie in the café afterwards. For younger kids not quite ready for a history lesson there’s a trail to help Santa find his lost reindeer (careless).

A Celebration of Christmas at Paulton’s Park, New Forest. Daily until 23 December

Paultons Park Christmas Peppa Pig

Ready for a bit of cartoon-style festive cheer? Aren’t we all! Find it at Paultons Park, with its giant Christmas trees, magical light show, brightly lit Victorian Carousel and, of course, the happy world of Peppa Pig. This year, everyone’s favourite Christmas porker and her good friend, a certain Mr. Claus, will be at the park for a new Santa’s Special Christmas Show.

Magical Christmas at Finkley Down Farm, Andover. Various dates until 24 December.

Finkley Down Farm Christmas Santa

The sheep have got their woolies on and even the rabbits are dressed to impressed at Finkley Farm’s Christmas. Mother Christmas is running a gingerbread decorating masterclass, Father Christmas is handing out pressies in the barn and there’s hot chocolates all round.

Christmas Sounds Amazing at the Winchester Science Centre, Winchester. Various dates until 4 January

Winchester Science Centre Christmas

The Winchester Science Centre is back with a bang for the Christmas Holidays. Let’s face it, science is much more fun when edgy experiments are involved – especially explosive live science. Plus there’s two festive Planetarium shows – Santa’s Christmas Countdown (for littlies) and Santa’s Festive Space Flight with a Christmassy take on planets and constellations, a brand new interactive sound exhibition and huge live science demos in Science LIVE. If it all gets to much, chill-out in BIO:SPACE with nature activities or blast off for inter-stellar fun in Explorer:Space.

Christmas at Tapnell Farm, Yarmouth, Isle of Wight. Daily until 23 December

Tapnell Farm Isle of Wight Christmas

Get your skates on and join the elves and festive friends down at Tapnell Farm Park for storytelling, interactive puzzles, a spot of Gingerbread decorating and an audience with the big guy. Feel like doing something silly after a pretty serious year? Roller skating around the tree ought to do it.

Santa Specials at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, Havenstreet. Daily until 24 December

Santa Isle of Wight Steam Railway

All aboard the nostalgic Isle of Wight Steam Railway for a 10-mile round trip on the Santa Special in your own (heated) Victorian carriage. Always the VIPs at this time of year, youngsters that stay on the right side of the tracks will get gift from the Santa.

A Peter Rabbit™ winter trail at Mottisfont. Daily until 1 Jan 2021

Lanterns twinkle along garden pathways lighting the way to woodland creatures gathering for Christmas celebrations at this cutest of winter trails at Mottisfont. Peter Rabbit and friends Squirrel Nutkin, Mr. Jeremy Fisher and Jemima Puddleduck are all there – help the littlies solve the clues and they’ll earn a special trail badge and certificate.

CHRISTMAS: POLAR at Robin Hill Country Park, near Newport, Isle of Wight, 19 – 23 December

Polar Robin Hill Isle of Wight

The bear is back as the POLAR story continues this December on the Island. Join star of the show, Pippa, along with friends from Blackgang Chine for outdoor rides, illuminated woodland walks and immersive walk-throughs, live music, a local market, with mulled wine for the big kids and hot chocolate for the littlies. If crafting’s your thing, book ahead for Christmas workshops.

A Christmas Quest at The Point, Eastleigh, 12 December – 7 January

Thrive on a challenge? Get yourself down to The Point Theatre in Eastleigh to save the day with this Bond-meets-Santa festive family quest. The sun has gone missing and Christmas cannot happen if it doesn’t rise. Your socially-distanced bubble is invited to find it, making your way through six very different rooms in the process.

THEATRE: Sleeping Beauty at The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, 19 December – 3 January

Sleeping Beauty Mayflower Theatre

Take a (socially-distanced) seat and prepared to be entertained by an all-star cast at the Mayflower including funny-man Joe Pasquale, Birds of a Feather’s Lesley Joseph and cabaret star Ceri Dupree. Beauty might drop off but everyone else will be too busy enjoying the good old-fashioned gags.

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