MON 17 – SUN 23 DEC
MUDDY’S PICK OF THE WEEK
FOOD: Giancarlo’s Christmas Party, Caldesi in Campagna Bray, Tue 18 Dec
If Italian’s do it better, then get yourself round to Giancarlo Caldesi’s for a traditional Italian Christmas dinner. Great food, party games, hot Italians (wishful thinking?) and no family rows. Start with antipasti, tuck into a fresh ribbons of pasta coated in a delicious ragu sauce, comforting Tuscan stew and a pud for the indecisive – Panettone pudding, Crème Caramel, Mini Tiramisu, Sienese spiced fruit cake and Almond biscuits. Turkey will look a little sad in comparison. £65pp.
NIGHT OUT: A Festive Evening of Burlesque and Cabaret, Norden Farm, Maidenhead, Fri 21 Dec
Have you been naughty or nice this year? Hundred Watt Club’s gift to you is this hot toddy of a show, jam packed full of festive burlesque, cabaret, circus and drag acts. If you like your Winter nights bawdy and a little bit naughty, this is for you! Starring the angelic Eva Von Schnippisch; slinky sugarplum fairy Lena Mae; circus royalty and her tinselled hula hoops Abi Collins and the ridiculous, but hunky Santa Claus, Dave The Bear! No rummaging in the stockings, you’ll get arrested.
MUSIC: Christmas Silent Disco, Norden Farm Maidenhead, Sat 22 Dec
Not so silent night, but a brilliant silent disco where the Crimbo hits of the 80s – Wham’s Last Christmas and The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York – will do battle with the festive floor fillers of the 90s, East 17’s Stay and Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas. But which decade are you? Shower yourself in sequins and see you on then dance floor.
EVENT: Christmas Racing Weekend, Ascot Racecourse, Fri 21 – Sat 22 Dec
Giddee up to Ascot for the last race of 2018. Kick off Christmas with winter cocktails, mulled wine, brass bands, free mince pies and two days of dramatic Jumps racing. Just blow your last minute xmas shopping budget on the horses. Come the 25th, your celebrations could be a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol.
DANCE: Bolshoi Live: The Nutcracker, UK cinema broadcast, Sun 23 Dec
Nothing says Christmas like an evening spent with sugar plum fairies, toy soldiers and a Mouse King. Prize your kids away from the iPad and give them a cultural boost with the Bolshoi’s stupendous version of a ballet classic. Tchaikovsky’s magical score, stunning sets and a large bag of Minstrels will provide all the festive feels.
PANTO: Aladdin, Hexagon Reading, Thu 6 Dec – Sun 6 Jan 2019
Mr TUUUUUUUUUMBBBBBLE! The irrepressible CBeebies demi-god Justin Fletcher may make you reach for the gin bottle but any small people in your charge will surely go insane in the membrane at the prospect of seeing him live on stage. He plays Aladdin in his 7th panto for The Hexagon alongside award-winning dame Paul Morse, man with joker strut than Beyonce.
THEATRE: Guys & Dolls, Mill at Sonning, now – Sat 23 Feb 2019
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.
THEATRE: A Christmas Carol, South Street Arts Reading, now – Sun 30 Dec
It’s the first time South Street Arts in Reading 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…
THEATRE: The Fir Tree, Norden Farm Maidenhead, now – Sun 30 Dec
If you have young children the Norden Farm Christmas Show will give you all the warm and fuzzy feels of the festive season. This year, the Moomin Family will be heading to Maidenhead to tell the tale of The Fir Tree – an innocent take on Christmas featuring live puppetry and music – set in peaceful Moominvalley. Suitable for 3+. And here’s the review.
CHRISTMAS: Dick Whittington & His Cat, South Hill Park Bracknell, now – Sun 6 Jan 2019
Like an X Factor finalist, Dick Whittington is everywhere this season seeking fame and fortune. Dick and his Cat will be taking to the gold plated streets of Bracknell battling with Simon Cowell, sorry King Rat, getting flirty with the groupies and belting out a few toe-tapping tunes along the way. Always brilliantly staged, you’ll love the panto bants.
THEATRE: Dick Whittington, Theatre Royal Windsor, now – Sun 6 Jan 2019
The fur’s gonna a fly with fox in the house. It’s a flashback to the 80s with Basil Brush, DJ Mike Read, Marti Webb and Anita Harris standing in for Governess Anne Hegarty while she’ downing blended fish eyes and snacking on witchety grubs. She’ll take up her role as Queen Rat from Tue 18 Dec. Read my review here.
EVENT: Christmas Parade, The Oracle Riverside Reading, Saturdays throughout Dec
Christmas klaxon! Saturday night in Reading’s gonna shine brighter than the Strictly Come Dancing glitter ball and Simon Cowell’s teeth combined. It’s the first ever Crimbo LED parade – and it’s going to huuuuge. A swarm of LED stilt walking drummers and puppeteers will create an extravaganza of melting ice, snowflakes and an Ice King that will make even the biggest Christmas Grinch feel immersed in the display.
WALKS: Mother Christmas Festive Trail, Cliveden National Trust Taplow, now – Sun 23 Dec
A charming Christmas trail round the grounds where kids need to help Mother Christmas with all sorts of tasks and challenges to make sure Father Christmas sets off on time on Christmas Eve. Open Sat and Sun 1, 2, 8, 9, and 16 Dec plus 20-24 Dec.
DAYS OUT: Christmas at Legoland, Windsor, throughout Dec
Legoland is all twinkly lights and snow-dusted Christmas magic. Entry price for the Christmas season includes a visit to LEGO Santa in his magic grotto for kids who’ll receive a LEGO gift to take home. Make a Lego decoration and scavenger hunt with the elves. Think of your children’s faces lighting up and the enormous gin you’ll need the you get home.
DAYS OUT: Christmas at Basildon Park, Lower Basildon, now – Sun 6 Jan 2019
Basildon Park is blinged out for festive fun. The family usually spent Crimbo in France, where they would party with Grace Kelly. Does it get more fabulous than that? Every 10th year they celebrated at Basildon Park. To mark the 40th anniversary of its donation to the National Trust, the house is being decorated to show Crimbo through the centuries. Crack open the Black Tower, pass the nuts, and introduce your kids to life before Netflix.
EXHIBITION: A Royal Wedding: Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Windsor Castle, now – 26 Jan 2019
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.
THEATRE: Jack & The Beanstalk, Corn Exchange Newbury, now – Sun 6 Jan 2019
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.
ACTIVITY: Windsor On Ice, Alexandra Gardens Windsor, now – Sun 6 Jan 2019
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.
CHRISTMAS: Christmas Carnival, Waddesdon Manor, now – Wed 2 Jan
Using the amazing artworks in the Waddesdon collection for inspiration, the house and grounds are a feast for the senses this Christmas. The house is decorated beautifully, inspired by the Venetian carnival and 18th century fancy dress, and the manor is hosting its biggest Christmas fair ever with food and gifts on offer from charming wooden chalets (Sat 10 Nov – Sun 16 Dec). There’s also a light show by the Guildhall School, this year projected onto the stables, and featuring Waddesdon’s objects, gardens and architecture until Wed 2 Jan. Muddy went to the opening night – read our review here.
CHRISTMAS: Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail, Blenheim Palace, now until Sat 6 Jan
Blenheim’s Christmas light shows are pretty 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. The house opens up this Sat decorated with the theme of Cinderella and the Christmas Market begins in the Great Court with rustic wooden chalets selling all sorts of festive gifts.
CHRISTMAS: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park London, now – Sun 6 Jan 2019
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.
CHRISTMAS: Kew Gardens, London, now – Sat 5 Jan
A spectacular winter trail with over a million twinkling lights and thousands of laser beams, Kew’s light show is awe-inspiring. You can be mesmerised by the Fire Garden, walk through the moonlit woods and check out the laser garden. Mulled wine, hot choc and spiced cider will help keep you warm and the kids can whizz round on vintage fairground rides whilst looking out for Santa and his elves.
Winterville, Clapham Common London, now – Sun 23 Dec
If you’re in Sarf London over Christmas, Winterville on Clapham Common’s is well worth a look. There’s everything from an outdoor Ice Rink to a fairground, roller disco, plonk golf and free kids’ entertainment, but there’s lots more unusual stuff than at your standard Christmas Fair. We’re particularly loving the sound of the Spiegeltent, where you’ll find cabaret, bingo, kids raves and, er, Mexican wrestling.
Santa Sleepovers, Warwick Castle, throughout December
LIVE SCREENINGS: Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, London, Mon 3 Dec – 7 Jan
See a live screening of The Nutcracker, followed by 20 screenings of great operas and ballets with memorable casts as the Linbury Theatre (within the ROH) becomes a cinema for 5 weeks. ROH staff and well-known artists will introduce the screenings and on selected weekend matinees, children 5 -15 go free. Opera highlights include La bohème, La Traviata and Otello. Undoubtably, one of the ballet highlights will be Darcey Bussell introducing the screening of Sylvia, starring herself, and offering her unique insights into the role.
THEATRE: A Christmas Carol, The Old Vic, London, Wed 5 Dec – Sat 19 Jan 2019
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.
KIDS: Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studios, Watford, now until Sun 27 Jan
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.