The Muddy Guide
LaplandUK, Whitmoor Forest, Ascot, tours from 9am to 5pm daily until Christmas Eve
So you’ve heard that LaplandUK is up and running again for Christmas and you want to know if it’s worth the money. My verdict having been a couple of years ago when the mudlets were 6 and 7 is that after seeing their little faces at various moments throughout the day and wanting them to believe in the magic for as long as possible, is that it is worth the cost… just! If you haven’t been yet, it’s a walk through Disney-esque theatrical experience set in a specially created ‘snowy’ forest in Whitmoor Forest, Ascot. Your Christmassy tour lasts 3 1/2 hours and along the way you stop in log cabins to help the elves build toys in the workshop and decorate gingerbread men with Mrs Christmas. There’s some free time to ice skate, eat lunch, meet real huskies and visit the sweet shop, post office and gift shop. The experience culminates in a one-to-one with Father Christmas. Expensive, yes but it’s in its 9th year, attracting more than 300,000 visitors. Hollywood set designers and West End performers all contribute to the immersive show and it’s been frequented by celebs including Sir Elton John, the Beckhams and even the royal grandchildren, so they must be doing something right. Tickets start at £65.50 per person. The website has all the details with a really good FAQs page and tells you exactly what’s included in the ticket price.
Light up Reading, Reading town centre, 1 – 17 Dec
Reading town centre will be visible from the moon throughout December (ok, not quite) as the culmination of Reading’s Year of Culture sees many of Reading’s landmark buildings illuminated in a trail of light around the town over 17 days of December starting today. The illuminations will include The Thames Tower High Striker – visitors can test their strength in a traditional fairground style lighting up 15 floors of Reading’s newest tower, other highlights include the Abbey ruins, a pedal powered film night and an illuminated bridge. All events are free.
Bray Christmas market, Fri 2 Dec
Christmas is coming to The Crown at Bray and Bray High Street with a special Christmas market. It’s free to enter in The Crown’s lovely cosy gardens, showingcasing indie craft and food producers. Get there before 7.30pm to see Father Christmas turn on the The Crown lights (is it Heston? is it Heston?!! Um, probably not), then it’s choir time as The Crown chefs serve winter foods and mulled wine from the outside bar. On Saturday and Sunday there’s storytelling inspired by Dickens’ A Christmas Carol from the heated garden show tent, plus Santa’s Grotto (£14 per child to include a gift) and £10 per adult – buy your tickets here. It will all be done in the best possible taste, no question about that. Market opening times: Fri 2 Dec (6-9pm); Sat 3 Dec (11am-9pm); Sun 4 Dec (11am-6pm).
Exclusive Evening Tour, Windsor Castle, Sat 3 – Weds 28 Dec, 6pm
This special Exclusive Evening Tour offers a ‘behind-the-ropes’ experience in the State Apartments. You’ll discover how William the Conqueror’s wooden Castle was rebuilt by Edward III as a stone fortress with magnificent apartments, how Charles II set out to rival the Versailles of his cousin Louis XIV, while George IV filled the rooms with outstanding works of art and gave the Castle its famous skyline. Tours available on 3, 9, 17, 21 and 28 Dec and start at 6pm and 6.15pm. Tickets £65 per person, includes a glass of champagne, a copy of the official guidebook and 20 per cent discount in the shop.
Legoland Christmas Bricktacular, 3 & 4; 10 & 11; 17–24 Dec
Legoland pimps up its park with twinkling lights, snow-dusted pine trees and plenty of seasonal surprises from this weekend. Journey to the heart of the park on the Bricksmas Express and enjoy all the usual rides with plenty of added extras including Mrs Christmas’ toy shop where the kids can make a LEGO snowflake to take home, the Elves’ Workshop to help decorate the giant LEGO tree, and the highlight – meeting Father Christmas in his magical grotto where they’ll get a… you guessed it, LEGO gift! We took our two to this last year when they were 7 and 9, and they both loved it. Surprisingly, we spent the longest part of our day sitting quietly building LEGO decorations for the tree, very therapeutic after battling other people’s children and pushchairs around the park! Tickets £33 per person, includes full day in the park, chosen time slot to visit Father Christmas and car parking.
Shaw House Christmas Fair, Sun 4 Dec, 11am – 4pm
Whether you’ve not even given your Christmas shopping a thought yet, or you’re practically at the end of your list just looking for a few last stocking fillers, head to the Shaw House Christmas Fair for some brilliant creative gifts. Over 50 local crafters, bakers, artists and photographers are at the ready with their bespoke wares that can’t be found on the high street. And to provide the perfect Christmas sparkle there’s also carol singing with the Speenhamland Ladies Choir, mulled wine and hot food. Adults £1, children go free. To keep the kiddies entertained their are children’s Christmas Parties taking place during the fair at 11.30am, 12.45pm, 2pm and 3.15pm, featuring Mr Muddles the magician, plus a special visit from Father Christmas and all children will receive a present. The parties are £4 per child. Book online in advance or call 01635 279279.
Christmas wreath making workshop, Shaw House, Tues 6 Dec, 10am or 1pm
Make your own door wreath using a pre-mossed frame and a selection of foliage and decorations which will all be provided. You can bring any personal decorations along for your wreath and the price includes a hot drinks and mince pie served in the cafe. Run by Kim Harrison owner of Lavenders in Newbury, her workshops are relaxed and fun, designed for absolute beginners or anyone wanting to revive their floristry skills! Tickets £35.
Enchanted Christmas, Westonbirt Arboretum, weekends until 18 Dec
Illuminations seem to be the thing this year. Waddesdon Manor’s are already up, Blenheim is all set to go and Westonbirt is joining the optic party with its Enchanted Christmas, taking in around a mile of the arboretum’s paths. The walk is pushchair, wheelchair and mobility scooter friendly and takes around 45 minutes. Time it for 5pm and Father Christmas will pop up with a small token gift for your kids at no extra charge! (*thud*).
Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Westonbirt, Tetbury, Gloucs, forestry.gov.uk
Book now for later
An evening with Gizzi Erskine, Hungerford Bookshop, Fri 16 Dec, 7.30pm
The gorgeous Gizzi with her trademark edgy Audrey Heburn look and more tattoos than David Beckham and Cheryl Cole combined (she was also a professional body piercer before she trained as a chef) is definitely not one to mince her words – if her brilliant rant at the clean eating movement is anything to go by (‘When I want a potato, I’ll have a f****** potato!’). So an evening listening to her chatting about her foodie life, and her latest book, Seasons’s Eatings should be great fun and highly entertaining. There will be mulled wine and some tasty treats from the book at your table. I’m sure this will be a sellout so book now. Tickets £8 from the bookshop (01488 683480) or online at Hungerford Arts.