Ding, dong! What’s on this December
It's Chriiiistmas! Grab a santa hat and get involved. Here's what's on this December around Hampshire and the Isle of Wight
MARKET: Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market, until Wed 22 Dec, Winchester
Hampshire’s famous German-style Christmas Market is back at Winchester Cathedral. Yep, the one with the choir boys twirling around in ice skates… Sadly, there’s no rink this year but you can still sip mulled wine and mooch around the alpine-style chalet stalls lining the inner close.
LIGHTS: The Illuminated Garden at West Green House, near Hartley Wintney, Hook, until Tues 30 Dec
Gigantic shimmering flowers, glowing fairies and a forest of illuminated red tulips – it’s looking pretty magical at the famous Opera Garden at West Green House in North Hampshire. Look out for lit water lilies floating on lakes, bridges turned into tunnels of lights and classical follies twinkling in the darkness. Beautiful.
THEATRE: Jack and the Beanstalk at The King’s Theatre, Southsea, Sat 27 Nov 2021 – Sun 2 Jan 2022
It’s here! The always reliably uproarious ‘Big Pompey Panto’ is in full swing at Southsea’s Kings Theatre. Dame Trott (Jack Edwards, above) is absolutely hilarious as Jack’s mother in Jack and the Beanstalk, a festive favourite at the theatre since 1935. Love Island fans will enjoy guest star Amy Hart (Princess Jill) getting text updates and trying to avoid being “mugged off”. Come ready to join in with gags, singing and capers the whole family will love.
XMAS: Wylds Christmas Tree Farm, until Wed 22 Dec, Liss
Got your tree up yet? Doesn’t really matter if you do – there’s still plenty of seasonal fun to be found at Wylds, a small acreage, family-owned Christmas Trees Farm in East Hants. Glug a Glühwein in the heated log cabin bar and take the kids on a woodland walk to post letters to Father Christmas at the Wylds Postbox (Insta-moment). Oh, and look out for Kenai, the gorgeous big timber bear. Aww.
XMAS: Portsmouth on Ice, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, until Sun 9 Jan 2022
Locals turn out in force for this pop-up ice rink outside The Guildhall – from littlies on push-along penguins to panto stars, the Mayor and Santa! Look out too for show-stopping turns from the team’s talented skate marshalls. There’s family and season tickets to book now, as well as quieter SEND sessions.
MARKET: Portsmouth Christmas Market, until 24 Dec, Portsmouth
Christmas is back in Pompey, with Christmas markets and lights all around the city – including this cracker on the Commercial Road. Meander around the log cabins selling everything from personalised stockings to hand-blown glass. And yep, there’ll be street food (and drink) galore, from bratwurst sausages to roast pork rolls, crepes and gluhwein in the Alpine Lodge.
LIGHTS: Enlightened at Staunton Farm, Havant, Fri 3 Dec – Sun 2 Jan
Coming to Staunton Farm in Havant for the first time this winter, Enlightened promises to be an impressive, Insta-worthy installation. Expect huge twinkling tunnels, beams of light into the night sky, enchanted woodlands and err, talking trees!
KIDS: Christmas at Marwell Zoo, near Winchester, select dates from Sat 4 – Thurs 23 Dec
What could be more Christmassy than funny penguins and beautiful snow leopards? Spotting them and Father Christmas – all in the same place! He won’t have a grotto this year but the jolly present-giver will be taking letters outside the café and zipping around on one of Marwell’s golf buggies.
XMAS: Christmas at Mottisfont, nr Romsey. Sat 4 Dec – Mon 3 Jan
Follow glowing lanterns along Mottisfont’s garden paths then step inside the festively-decked out house, looking out for mini woodland creatures hidden amongst the decorations (aww). Outside, there’s sparkling waterways and meadows to admire on a festive walk and (of course), seasonal goodies to gobble-up in the café.
MARKET: Southampton Christmas Market, Above Bar and Bargate St, until Thurs 23 Dec
It’s all looking very Christmassy in central Southampton. Sandwiched between the big brand retailers and Westgate, the annual traditional German market is in full swing. Find scarves, snow globes and German pottery in the chalet stalls and diet-alert street food to enjoy in the bars like frankfurters and churros with cinnamon or hot Nutella. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
XMAS: Polar at Robin Hill Country Park, near Newport, various dates from Sat 4 Dec – Thurs 23 Dec
It’s back! Take the littlies to Robin Hill Country Park’s festive Polar Hollow to meet the gorgeous bears, Pippa and Pop. Stroll through the beautiful illuminated Walk of Wonder, then climb aboard the Big Red Express for a twinkling tractor journey, or try your hand at some festive crafts in the Decoration Workshops.
XMAS: Santa Specials at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, Havenstreet, various dates from Sat 4 – Fri 24 December
All aboard the Isle of Wight Steam Railway! After a 10-mile round trip on the Santa Special, follow the pathway to his North Pole station to meet the man himself onboard a traditionally festive Victorian carriage.
XMAS: Christmas at Hinton Ampner, near Winchester. Various dates until Mon 3 Jan
This year, Hinton Ampner’s delve into Christmas past will feature fairytales and fables in the beautiful, festively-decorated house. Outside, the gardens are also decorated and there’s a pop-up sweet shop full of traditional treats. Admission is ticket-only, so go quick.
KIDS: Science Dino-mite and Santa, until Sun 16 Jan, Winchester Science Centre
It’s not just Andy getting a dinosaur adventure at the Winchester Science Centre. This month, budding paleontologists can hunt for buried bones and watch dino-mite live shows. Team up with Santa to go back in time to Christmas in the prehistoric era (Sat 4 Dec – Thurs 23). In the planetarium, look to the stars in Solar System Stories, The Sky Before Christmas and Polaris live shows.
XMAS: Yarmouth on Ice, The Square, Yarmouth. Sat 11 Dec – Wed 22 Dec
Brand new for 2021, Yarmouth’s inaugural ice rink will open on Saturday 11 Dec in the town’s festive marquee in pier square. Expect music, lights, a snow machine and festive food and drink, all under the twinkly lights. Look out too for Mother and Father Christmas in their secret weekend hideaway and carols in the square with the Salvation Army.
MUSIC: A Christmas Spectacular, The Bands of HM Royal Marines, The Guildhall, Portsmouth. Wed 15 Dec
Christmas concerts don’t get much more rousing than this. Parade yourself to Portsmouth Guildhall and join the Massed Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines for Yuletide classics, solos and marches, overtures and film music.
XMAS: Christmas showing of Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, near Newbury, Wed 15 Dec
Calling all super fans! Step inside the real Downton Abbey to watch the first film all over again – this time in the Library of the magnificent Highclere Castle. Also included in the VIP event are a nose around the bedrooms and an Egyptian Exhibition in the cellars. Then, a real-life Carson and his team of polished butlers will whisk you off for a glass of Champs and some food from Highclere’s chefs.
KIDS: The Fairy Tale Forest at The Spring, Havant. Mon 20 – Fri 24 Dec
See The Spring as a magical wintery forest. Suitable for all ages, this free and enchanting sensory journey through a snowy landscape with real pine trees and twinkling fairy lights will culminate in a meeting with Mary Godmother and her gingerbread shop, the Ever-After Emporium.
XMAS: Christmas at The Vyne, near Basingstoke. Various dates until Sun 2 January
Fancy a festive Grand Tour? This year, the ground floor of the magnificent North Hampshire manor will be luxuriously decorated for a Victorian Christmas, with authentic, hand-made decorations. Strike out on winter walks across the ancient estate, with views across fields, woods and wetlands, then come back for mulled wine and mince pies in the café.
Ooops – too late on these:
XMAS: Port Solent Festival of Christmas, Port Solent, Sat 4 – Sun 5 Dec
Festive frolics by the marina! The Port Solent Festival of Christmas returns with over 90 stalls for Christmas shopping. Bring the family for balloon modelling, street theatre and the always-uplifting local ukulele band, the Pompey Pluckers. Free parking at this one as well.
MARKET: Bluebells at Briddlesford Christmas Market, Sun 5 Dec, near Ryde, Isle of Wight
Shop till you drop and support over 30 independent business on the Island at the cosy Briddlesford Farm Dairy (3pm – 7pm), from crafts to cakes and loads more. There’ll be live guitar music with a festive vibe to groove to and gorgeous grub from the farm café, like grilled Halloumi, burgers with chutney and mince pies, plus, of course, a cup or three of mulled wine to quaff.
DRINK: Wine + Words with Helen McGinn, The Yard, Alresford, Wed 8 Dec
A tutored tour of the Christmas wine aisle? Sounds like our sort of evening! Join TV critic and author Helen McGinn and host Rebecca Fletcher at the Yard, Alresford from 7.30pm – 9pm. Included in the £22.50 ticket price are Helen’s homemade orange and cranberry gin cocktail and wines from local independent retailer, the Naked Grape. Better book a ticket and a taxi.