FRI 20 – SUN 22 DEC
MUDDY’S PICK OF THE WEEKEND
DAYS OUTS: Christmas Racing Weekend, Ascot Racecourse, Fri 20 – Sat 21 Dec
Don’t tell the Rudolph but Father Christmas is cheating on the reindeer at the races. Let the festive fun really begin this weekend and kick off Crimbo in style. Saturday is a special family fun day – meet Father Christmas and his reindeer, there’s story-telling from Mrs Christmas, an animatronic polar bear, carols, and animal meet and greets. Plus winter cocktails, mulled wine, mince pies and two days of dramatic Jumps racing for the grown ups. Don’t blow your last minute xmas shopping budget on the horses, come the 25th, your celebrations could be a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol.
PANTO: Cinderella, The Hexagon Reading, now – Sun 5 Jan 2019
He’s baaaaack! CBeebies megastar Justin Fletcher (aka Mr Tumble) is a Reading panto regular and he’ll be laying on the charm with a trowel as Cinderella’s perky Prince. Justin’s slapstick sidekick, Paul Morse, also returns as the dame, with a wardrobe that would make Karl Lagerfeld weep (literally). Reading’s mega panto is always a sell out, so wave your magic wand and book up pronto.
THEATRE: The Prince & The Pauper, Watermill Theatre Bagnor, now – Sat 4 Jan 2019
The Watermill Theatre is renowned for its high quality bookish Christmas shows – and this year it’s The Prince & The Pauper. It’s a superb alternative if you’re not a fan of panto. So don’t expect a camp, thigh slapping prince. Funny, fearless and brilliant family entertainment, it’s always a treat at Chrimbo.
PANTO: Aladdin, South Hill Park Bracknell, Fri 29 Nov – Sat 4 Jan 2019
Aladdin will be rubbing his lamp this year in Bracknell and dame Brad Clapson is up to his neck in laundry (I hear you) as Widow Twankey. South Hill Park always put on a fun, their creative staging is award-winning. Jump on that magic carpet and book your tickets pronto.
OUTDOORS: Circus On Broad Street, Broad Street Mall Reading,
You can keep those flames away from me, I’m head to toe in man-made fibres. Don’t miss the madcap, crazy and circus fun in Reading this week. There’s juggling with a comic twist, daredevil acrobatics, knife balancing, escapology and a fire show that will heat up your chills. Warning! You might have to watch through your fingers!
CHRISTMAS: Christmas At Windsor, Windsor Castle, now – Sun 5 Jan
Something a little spesh at Windsor Castle. No, Meghan and Kate will not be scrapping on the steps of St George’s Chapel. Ogle the 200ft tree from Windsor Great Park and, this year, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the births of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Octagon Dining Room will feature a special display of gifts exchanged between the royal couple during the many Christmases they spent together at the castle.
FAMILY FUN: The Bear, Norden Farm Maidenhead, now – Sun 29 Dec
From the author who had us ‘Walking in the air…’ and Aled Jones reaching pre-teen musical notes, Raymond Briggs brings us The Bear – the story of a little girl who befriends a mischievous polar bear. It’s got all the warm and fuzzies to be a festive classic.
CAROLS: Cliveden Christmas Carols, Cliveden House Taplow, Fri 20 Dec
You can’t beat a good carol concert (unless Ma Muddy is belting out Silent Night, she can’t sing a note, bless her), but when you have the The Queen’s Six (half of the Lay Clerks of St George’s Chapel) carolling at Cliveden House., all the Xmas feels are guaranteed. Tickets £135 but include bubbles, canapes, the concert an a 3-course festive supper with wines. Book a cab. Ditch the naff festive knit for Black tie.
THEATRE: The Hundred Watt Club – Festive Burlesque, Norden Farm Maidenhead, Sat 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! No rummaging in the stockings, you’ll get arrested.
FAMILY FUN: Lapland Wish Store, The Lexicon Bracknell, now – Tue 24 Dec
If you missed out on tickets to Lapland UK, good news, you kids can still get their letters off to Santa at Lapland UK’s very first Wishing Store at The Lexicon Bracknell. It’s a gorgeous immersive letter writing experience with Wish and Squiggle the elves – who make sure those special wishes makes into Santa’s in tray. Book your visit froom now until Christmas Eve.
PANTO: Aladdin, Theatre Royal Windsor, now – Sun 5 Jan
There’s a reason why families return to the Theatre Royal Windsor year after year. Filed under ‘classic cheesefest’, this year they’re putting on Aladdin. Windsor’s brilliant comedy duo, Kevin Cruise and Steven Blakeley are celebrating their 10th year in panto together at the Theatre Royal, so it’s guaranteed to be bigger and more bonkers than ever. Fans of ’80s nostalgia will be thrilled to hear that Paul Nicholas, Marti Webb and Basil Brush are joining the cast. Booooom booooooom!
KIDS: Legoland at Christmas, Legoland Windsor, now – Tue 24 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.
PANTO: Sleeping Beauty, Corn Exchange Newbury, now – Sat 4 Jan
I got insanely drunk on my 18th birthday but Sleeping Beauty celebrated hers by pricking her finger on a spinning wheel and falling asleep for hundreds of years. Bummer, eh! Step up Nanny and the dream team as they battle to save the day. Will they defeat the evil fairy? Will love conquer all? You know the drill.
DAYS OUT: Christmas at Basildon Park, Lower Basildon, now – Sun 5 Jan 2019
Basildon Park is blinged out for festive fun. This year, we’re time travelling to the Victorian period – multiple trees wearing more accessories than Sue Pollard, with special candlelit tours available. Crack open the Black Tower, pass the nuts, and introduce your kids to life before Netflix.
Family Festivities Trail, Cliveden National Trust Taplow, now – Mon 23 Dec
A fun Christmas trail round the grounds where kids need to help Lady Astor prepare for a festive shindig.Inspired by the stories of Astor family Christmases on the estate, The big day is creeping closer and Mr Lee, Lady Astor’s butler, has a to-do list as long as his arm (we hear yer). Make your way through the mayhem and help Cliveden have the best Christmas ever.
ICE SKATING: Windsor On Ice, Alexandra Gardens Windsor, Sat 16 Nov – Sun 5 Jan
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: Winter Wonderland, Forbury Garden Reading, now – Sun 5 Jan
It’s back! After a mini break, Reading’s Winter Wonderland is popping up at Forbury Gardens with more festive fun than a Mariah Carey video. There’s an ice rink, fun fair, Aprés bar, Santa’s grotto, German sausage and lots and lots of mulled wine.
PANTO: Sleeping Beauty, Kenton Theatre Henley, Fri 13 – Sat 28 Dec
This year the Henley-based theatre will be pricking fingers and hacking through briars in Sleeping Beauty. Always a sell out and I love this local funky space, gratifyingly close to the river for a walk after the matinee.
PANTO: Dick Whittington, Wycombe Swan, Fri 13 Dec – Sun 5 Jan
Scantily-clothed Love Island contestant (and younger brother of Strictly’s AJ Pritchard) Curtis Pritchard makes his panto debut in Wycombe Swan’s Dick Whittington. Will there be an influx of millennials at the panto this year? Will Curtis be able to fill Brendan Cole’s (tap) shoes after the New Zealander’s performance in Snow White last year? Will Curtis finally put some clothes on? We’ll have to wait and see.
THEATRE: Hansel & Gretal, South Street Arts Reading, now – Mon 30 Dec
The multi-award-winning theatre company, Reading Between The Lines, is back with Hansel & Gretel. Two children lost in the forbidden forest, lured to a creepy cottage by the smell of sweets. Nothing to scary about that… NOT. A childhood classic, given a fresh and imaginative twist.
THEATRE: Singin In The Rain, Mill at Sonning, Sat 30 Nov – Sat 8 Feb
The Mill at Sonning is bringing Hollywood to Berks. Sadly not a George Clooney one man show, although I’d be front row, for sure, but Singing In The Rain, this year’s Christmas musical. All tickets before 23 Dec include a festive buffet and from Boxing Day onwards a delish two-course meal. First person to spy George and Amal wins Christmas at the Clooneys (joke, obvs).
DAYS OUT: The Magic of Christmas, Chobham Adventure Farm, Chobham, now – Tue 24 Dec
This immersive 2.5 hour experience will transport your family to a magical place where they’ll learn how to become an official elf helper and get an official elf name, meet real live reindeer, help Mrs Claus decorate gingerbread men, make a teddy bear and finally get their hands on the golden key and meet Father Christmas himself.
EXHIBITIONS: Swan Upping at Cookham, Stanley Spencer Gallery Cookham, now – 22 Mar 2020
On loan from the Tate, Stanley Spencer’s most famous paintings – Swan Upping at Cookham, is on display to celebrate 100 years since its completion. Inspired by the sounds he heard from Holy Trinity Church as Cookham villagers as the annual swan count took palce, he started work on this oil painting in 1915, but was only half-way through when forced to leave the village to serve in The Great War.
EAT AND DRINK: New Year’s Eve Party, The Hind’s Head Bray, 31 Dec
If you can’t have a right royal knees up on New Year’s Eve, when can you? Party where Prince Philip had his stag do (you know that was a wild night) and see in 2019 at Heston’s Michelin star posh pub The Hind’s Head in Bray. Scoff signature snacks in The Royal Lounge, followed by a five-course tasting menu, with wine pairing (an extra £50pp, but oh so worth it), with live music and a casino. Cost £120 pp.
EVENT: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park London, Thu 21 Nov – Sun 5 Jan
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 a new 70m observation wheel, Magical Ice Kingdom’s A Christmas Carol, Paddington on Ice, a Bavarian village offering an authentic Oktoberfest experience; karaoke cabins, ice sculpting workshops, the Winter Wonderland Comedy Club and more.
Illuminated Light Trail, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, now – 1 Jan
Blenheim is kicking off festivities this week with its annual Illuminated Light Trail – over 100,000 for the Tunnel of Light, a Laser Garden, scented Fire Garden and light finale on the Water Terrace and front of the Palace set to music. For kids there’ll be a Victorian-style fairground and Santa.
XMAS: Christmas at Waddesdon, Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury, until 5 Jan
Love a festive display? Waddesdon has started it’s Christmas season pretty early this year with the Manor decked out with festive accessories and a light trail around the Aviary combining light, sound colour and movement. There’ll also be two light shows performed on the facade of the Manor.
Southbank Centre Winter Festival, London, Fri 8 Nov – Sun 5 Jan
As well as purchasing Christmas produce, artisan treats and other goodies from the Nordic-themed chalets, visitors are in for a treat with Christmas shows, including Circus 1907 and Black Beauty, workshops, performances and other family-orientated fun.
Kew Gardens, London, now – Sun 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.
Bath Christmas Market, Somerset, Thu 28 Nov – Sun 15 Dec
Voted No1 UK Christmas Market in 2017, this market is set amongst the Bath’s Georgian splendour. A whopping 87 per cent of the stalls are businesses from Bath and the South West, selling gifts, artisan food and drink, jewellery and lots more. And you know how much we’re #inlovewithlocal.
Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studios, Watford, until Sun 27 Jan
Hogwarts in the Snow – as regular as Christmas! The festive makeover sees 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 can touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float, crunch under foot or glisten in the light like ice. Trust me, your kids will love it.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Alexandra Palace, Fri 13 Dec – Sun 5 Jan
Assuredly NOT a panto, this West End production (it showed at the Apollo Theatre in 2015 and 2016) comes to Ally Pally, promising a riotous spin on JM Barrie’s classic tale. From the creators of award-winning The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. alexandrapalace.com
Nativity! The Musical, The Eventim Apollo, London, now – 29 Dec
This made the leap from film to Christmas show in a touring production in 2017 – now it’s back again for the third round. Great cast for this one including the return of father and daughter duo Dani and Danny Dyer, plus Rylan Clarke-Neal and Sharon Osbourne. West End star Simon Lipkin will also reprise his role as Mr Poppy. I saw a version in Oxford last year and it was hilarious and heartwarming (even without the star cast), so this is bound to be brilliant. Proper feel-good family theatre. Tickets here.
A Christmas Carol, The Old Vic, now – Sat 18 Jan
This production of festive classic A Christmas Carol staged by The Old Vic’s artistic director Matthew Warchus had such great reviews that it’s returning for round three. It’s adapted by Jack Thorne, co-writer of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. oldvictheatre.com
Mama Mia! A brand new (and, quite frankly, must-see) exhibition is coming to The O2, London this month – ABBA: Super Troupers is a journey through the Swedish band’s career and will feature personal items and artefacts never seen before in the UK (6 Dec – 21 Aug 2020).
Another newbie is Tutankhamun – Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh at the Saatchi Gallery. One of the biggest cultural events in the winter calendar, the exhibit features 150+ original artefacts found in the Pharaoh’s tomb that was unearthed in 1922.
Other exhibitions worth a snoop are Vogue fashion and portrait photographer Tim Walker‘s enchanting, fantastical, frankly insane collection of work at the V&A (until 8 March); William Blake at Tate Britain, with the visionary painter and poets work blown up to enormous scale using digital technology (until 2 Feb 2020); Into the Night: Cabarets & Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican – a history of cabarets, clubs, dancefloors and party spaces that inspired artists from the 1880s to the 1960s (4 Oct – 19 Jan).