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30 things to do between Xmas and New Year

The days between Xmas and New Year can be a bit of a drag but we've found 30 lovely things for you to do in social limbo land.

I love Christmas with all the enthusiasm of a young child, but I often find the bit between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day a bit of a drag. Not this year though! I know I’m going to be knocking around Berkshire until my 80s New Year Party (roller skates, crimps and angry blusher, here I come) so I’ve done my homework and found 30 lovely things to do in social limbo land. You’re welcome, and yes I accept Visa, Mastercard and magnums of Champagne.

 

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

Waddesdon Manor – Using the amazing artworks in the Waddesdon collection for inspiration, the house and grounds are a feast for the senses this Christmas. The decorations in the house are inspired by the Venetian carnival and 18th century fancy dress, plus there’s a light show by the Guildhall School, this year projected onto the stables, and featuring Waddesdon’s objects, gardens and architecture, as well as neon-lit trees and tunnels in the grounds. Until Wed 2 Jan (reopens after Christmas on 27 Dec).

Blenheim Palace – Blenheim’s Christmas light shows are spectacular and this year’s trail has even more lasers, projections and thousands of pea-lights. There’s a new Field of Light, the scented Fire Garden, a Canopy of Light and Singing Trees. Santa and his elves will also be popping up along the way too and Cinderella’s carriage is looking mighty pretty in the house itself. Until Tues 1 Jan.

Kew Gardens, London – A spectacular winter trail with over a million twinkling lights and thousands of laser beams, Kew’s light show includes the Fire Garden, moonlit woods and the laser garden. Mulled wine, hot choc and spiced cider will help keep you toasty while the kids can whizz round on vintage fairground rides. Until Sat 5 Jan.

 

PANTOS

Aladdin Hexagon Reading Justin Fletcher dame dressed as egyptian pharaoh and so she with mummies

 

CHRISTMAS SHOWS

Aladdin, The Hexagon Reading – Mr TUUUUUUUUUMBBBBBLE! CBeebies mega star Justin Fletcher will be rubbing his lamp this year, while dame Paul Morse is up to his neck in laundry (I hear you) as Widow Twankey. Justin may make you reach for the gin bottle but any small people in your charge probably worship him. Reading’s mega panto is always a sell out, so get on that magic carpet to the box office pronto. Until Sun 6 Jan 2019. You can read my review here.

Dick Whittington, Theatre Royal Windsor – The fur’s gonna a fly with a cat and a fox in the house. Basil Brush returns to star in the Windsor panto alongside Anne Hegerty – The Governess on The Chase (rumoured to also be going into the I’m A Celebrity jungle) and 80s Radio 1 DJ Mike Read. Until Sun 6 Jan 2019. Review’s right here.

Dick Whittington & His Cat, South Hill Park Bracknell – With a whiff of X Factor style desperation, Dick Whittington and his Cat will be hitting the streets of Bracknell seeking fame and fortune. The South Hill Park production is cleverly staged, very funny with lots of brilliant song and dance routines. Spice up your life with an adult only performance or enjoy the relaxed shows suited to young first-time theatregoers, the autistic, dementia sufferers or anyone who prefers less whizz bangery. Until Sat 5 Jan 2019  Reaaad all abaaaart it.

Jack and the Beanstalk, Corn Exchange Newbury – Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum, we smell lots of panto fun! Expect adventure, mayhem and and the return of the utterly brilliant Matthew Grace – aka Billy Bumpkin. He missed his train to Newbury last year, bless him, and spent the season riding the Circle Line. But he’s back and we couldn’t be more excited. Until Sun 6 Jan 2019.

Dick Whittington, Kenton Theatre – Here puss puss! Immersion Theatre returns to Henley’s Kenton Theatre for Dick Whittington – always a sell out, this year sees the return of James Clifford in the title role. Until Sat 29 Dec.

 

CHRISTMAS SHOWS

Guys and Dolls Mill at Sonning woman in yellow dress held in the air.

Guys & Dolls, Mill at Sonning – Get your glad rags on because The Mill at Sonning are bringing New York to Berks with Guys & Dolls. Director Joseph Pitcher and Conductor Charles Ingles, who put on last year’s My Fair Lady, are back along with the promise of post-show piano tunes on Friday and Saturday evenings and cocktails from the Waterwheel Bar – music to my ears. First person to spy George wins Christmas at the Clooneys (joke, obvs). Ticket price also includes lunch/dinner. Until Sat 23 Feb 2019.

A Christmas Carol, South Street Arts Reading – It’s the first time South Street Arts have done a festive long-run production – and it’s a modern take on A Christmas Carol by there award-winning Reading Between The Lines Theatre Company. Set in the annual Office Christmas Party, boss Evelyn remains in a perennially bad mood. Her employees are unbearably cheerful, and no quantity of yule log can shake her from her penny-pinching miserdom. To top it off, over-enthusiastic intern Crystal has adapted ‘A Christmas Carol’ into a play for the party entertainment, but forgotten to cast someone as Scrooge… Until Sun 30 Dec.

The Fir Tree, Norden Farm Maidenhead – The marshmallow-looking Moomin family are moving to Maidenhead. Created by Finnish author Tove Jansson, The Fir Tree is a heartwarming family tale about the true meaning of Christmas featuring music, live puppetry and a Moomins. The Norden Farm show is always beautifully staged and perfect for smaller children. Read the review.  Until Sun 30 Dec.

Robin Hood, Watermill Theatre Bagnor – Bow and arrows at the ready! Critically acclaimed children’s author Laura Dockrill has written this year’s panto for Watermill Theatre that promises to be a barrel of laughs. Until  Sat 5 Jan 2o19.

A Christmas Carol, The Old Vic, London The smash hit of Dickens’ classic adapted by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and directed by Matthew Warchus returns to the Old Vic and this time Stephen Tompkinson stars as Ebenezer Scrooge. This big-hearted and warm production’s unique staging immerses the audience in the story and there’s music, mince pies and much merriment for a fab festive night out. Until Sat 19 Jan.

 

ART EXHIBITIONS

Fashioned by Nature at the V&A Museum London

A Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Windsor Castle – Better late than never, but we’ve all been invited to Windsor Castle to get up close and personal with newlyweds Harry and Meghan. OK, so they won’t actually be there but a new exhibition will display Meghan’s Givenchy bridal gown designed by Artistic Director Clare Waight Keller is, her 5m veil embroidered with flora symbolising the 53 Commonwealth countries and the 1932 Queen Mary diamond and platinum tiara loaned to the Duchess by the Queen. It’s not all about the bride (even though we known it is really), Harry’s Blues and Royals frock designed by Dege & Skinner on Savile Row will also be standing to attention. Now until Sat 26 Jan.

Spellbound, The Ashmolean, Oxford – Showcasing the history of magic, mysticism and superstition over eight centuries, the Ashmo’s quirky major autumn exhibition draws to a close in the next couple of weeks. It has everything from a unicorn’s horn to a human heart encased in lead (sounds like my ex) so if you haven’t yet gone, now’s your last chance. Until Sun 6 Jan (reopens 27 Dec). Read our review here.

Fashioned by Nature, V&A Museum, London – Love a tassel earring? How about the heads of two real Honeycreeper birds? Very fashionable in 1875, but a step too far for me. This is your last chance to see the V&A’s exhibition Fashioned By Nature, which takes the idea of fashion victim to a new level, tracing 400 years of fashion and its cost on the environment. Check out the dress embellished with beetle wings, Jean Paul Gaultier’s beaded leopard dress and innovative fabrics like Vegea’s Grape gown made from the waste in wine production. Permission to pour a large one. You’re drinking with a conscience. 

 

HISTORIC HOUSES, GARDENS & WALKS

Basildon Park Georgian national trust house and snow covered parkland

Basildon Park, Lower Basildon, West Berkshire

Basildon Park, Berks – With over 400 acres of wild park to explore, you’ll definitely work off your Christmas dinner here. It can get pretty muddy at this time of the year, so make sure you take your wellies. Once you’ve blown the cobwebs away, head inside and see the house in all its Crimbo splendour. The decorations represent the Basildon Park’s history rom a stripped back World War Two room and tree, through the lavish Victorian tradition, and right back to the Georgian decadence of the Sykes family.

Cliveden, Berks – A gorgeous walk down by the river and up to Cliveden is an absolute must – prepare for the climb at the end!  There are over 300 acres of natural woodlands with dog-friendly paths and great views over the Berks/Oxon countryside. The Cliveden rangers have also created an oversized den called  Clive’s Den with picnic tables should you want to eat outside at this time of year (I’ll be heading to the café – it’s open!).

Windsor Castle, Berks – Having hosted two Royal weddings, Windsor Castle at Christmas is absolutely magnificent. The castle is a stunner without the festive accessories and the stonking Nordmann Fir in St George’s Hall, decked with lights, tinsel and golden decorations is a beaut. Plus you can still see Meghan’s Givenchy wedding gown, tiara and other wedding outfits in the magnificent Semi-State Rooms.

Savill Garden Windsor, Berks – Created in the 1930s, the Savill Garden in Windsor Great Park boasts 35 acres of beautiful interconnected gardens. Over the festive period, while granny ooh and ahhs over the plants, the kids can search for Winter  Sprites hidden around Obelisk Pond and enjoy a ride on a vintage carousel. Then head to the  cool curvy Savill Building for brew and bite to eat.

The Vyne, Hants – Following a huge two-year roof project, this former Tudor palace has re-opened. Explore the grounds, the new roomss and collections, and get the kids running around in the fresh air on the Christmas Carol Trail. Fancy brew? The cafes open and you might fancy something stronger. `

Grey’s Court, Henley, Oxon – The house will be decorated for a Swiss Christmas, exploring the links the Brunner family had to Switzerland, and they’ll be different Christmas recipes baked in the kitchen with tasters available. Until Sun 6 Jan (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

Stowe, Bucks – One of my favourite places to meander in the UK (and I’ve meandered a lot!). So much to recommend in these stunning Capability Brown grounds from the classical architecture, glistening lakes and beautiful trees. Dog friendly and also great for elderly legs . you can hire buggies meaning multi-generational days out are possible for those less able to walk. Open daily, except Christmas Day.

Hughenden Manor, Bucks – A Very Royal Christmas: a visit from the Faery is the theme for Christmas at Hughenden. The manor will be decorated in traditional Victorian splendour to celebrate the visit of Queen Victoria and her daughter Princess Beatrice who came to lunch with Benjamin Disraeli in 1877. There’s a treasure hunt round the house for little ones – they have to find 10 gold crowns – plus miniature scenes to discover in the gardens. Until Wed 2 Jan.

 

THEME PARKS

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London – Go big or go home when it comes to festive fun, London’s Winter Wonderland is huuuuge. Free to enter but once inside, prepare to sell a kidney. The costs can get out of control – particularly if you hit the glühwein a little too hard. What to expect? Winter markets, fairground rides and ice skating. Major attractions this year include the Magical Ice Kingdom Secret Forest, an immersive showcase of woodland animals and mythical creatures created from ice and snow; a Bavarian village offering an authentic Oktoberfest experience; karaoke cabins, ice sculpting workshops, the Winter Wonderland Comedy Club, immersive screenings of The Snowman and plus Peter Pan on Ice. Until Sun 6 Jan.

Harry Potter Studios, Watford – Hogwarts in the Snow – as regular as Christmas!  The festive makeover will see Christmas trees line the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room dressed for the season and a blanket of filmmaking snow covering the majestic Hogwarts castle model. Visitors will even be able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light like ice. Trust me, your kids will love it. Until Sun 27 Jan (closed 25 & 26 Dec).

Bletchley Park, Bletchley, Milton Keynes – Not a theme park in the true sense of the term, but it is themed in that the house is decorated for a 1940s Christmas and it’s in a park! Explore the code-breakers huts, marvel at the Bombe machines which broke the Enigma code and visit the Veterans’ Exhibition. (Closed 25 & 26 Dec).

 

ICE SKATING

Somerset House London Ice Rink at night

 

Windsor on Ice, Alexandra Gardens – Windsor On Ice is back for the winter and whether you’re Olympic standard or a ‘cling on’ like me, they’re great for a family day out, or a fun slippy-slidey Christmas party. There are two rinks here. The main one is under cover and there’s a smaller open-air rink. There’s also food and other attractions including an ice bar and grill. Sessions are for 45 mins. See you in A&E, I mean on the ice. Until Sat 6 Jan (closed Christmas Day).

Natural History Museum, London – Triple salchows first, triceratopses after? The Natural History Museum’s ice rink has a 30ft Christmas tree centrepiece, fairy lights and an alpine style cafe/bar that overlooks the rink. Sessions run for 50 mins and kids can get lessons with The Penguin Skate Club on Saturday mornings. Opening times vary but core hours are 10am-9pm every day except for Christmas Day. Until Sun 20 Jan.

Somerset House, London – The classic London rink experience – and there’s way more than just skating at Somerset House this Yuletide. Alongside the huge ice rink in the fountain courtyard, Fortnum and Mason’s Christmas Arcade returns with loads of pop-up shops offering food, tea, gifts and decorations, as well as Fortnum Lodge that’ll be serving all sorts of Christmas nibbles and tipple from mulled wine and champagne to boozy hot chocolate and cocktails. Sessions are one hour, core opening hours are 11.15am – 10.15pm, closed Christmas Day. Until Sun 13 Jan.

 

Compiled by Nicky Richardson and Rachel Jane

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