FRI 27 – TUE 31 DEC
MUDDY’S PICK OF THE WEEKEND
NEW YEAR’S EVE: Beverley Knight, Hurley House Hurley, Tue 31 Dec
If you’re a go big or go home kinda gal – Hurley House, in Hurley, sure know how to throw a party. On offer this year is your own private gig and British soul sensation Beverley Knight is top of the bill. There will be Champers and a four-course festive feast. Bring your A game, this is going to be mega (£285pp).
CHRISTMAS: Christmas At Windsor, Windsor Castle, now – Sun 9 Dec
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.
PANTO: Cinderella, The Hexagon Reading, now – Sun 5 Jan
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.
PANTO: Aladdin, South Hill Park Bracknell, Fri 29 Nov – Sat 4 Jan
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.
ICE SKATING: Windsor On Ice, Alexandra Gardens Windsor, now– 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.
XMAS: Winter Wonderland, Forbury Garden Reading, Sat 16 – 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.
THEATRE: 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.
THEATRE: The Prince & The Pauper, Watermill Theatre Bagnor, now – Sat 4 Jan
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.
DAYS OUT: Betway Chadle Hurdle Day, Newbury Racecourse, Sat 28 Dec
A day at the races was always a family tradition in our household. Let’s be honest, by the time we get to the 28th we’re all desperate to get out out. For fresh air and gee gees, gallop to Newbury for its last race day of 2019 – and you’ll even get to meet Elsa and Olaf. Children under 18 go free!
NATIONAL TRUST: Christmas at Basildon Park, Lower Basildon, now – Sun 5 Jan
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.
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).
EXHIBITION: Swan Upping at Cookham, Stanley Spencer Gallery Cookham, now – 22 Mar
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.
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!
PANTO: Sleeping Beauty, Corn Exchange Newbury, Fri 29 Nov – 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.
PARTY: Roaring 20s Party, The Vineyard Stockcross, Tue 31 Dec
Meanwhile, The Vineyard in Stockcross is putting on a decadent 20s themed affair with Chef Tom Scade preparing a five course tasting menu. Dress code is black tie, but go all out and channel your inner flapper for a sensational night at an exclusive speakeasy (£150pp).
FOOD 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.
PARTY: NYE Party, The Bel & The Dragon Reading, Tue 31 Dec
The Bel and the Dragon in Reading are going big and having tasted my share of Porn Star Martinis, I can totally recommend. This year they’re laying on a fabulous feast, with live music from The Hay Stacks Band as you countdown to 2020. The atmosphere is always buzzy, so book up (£60pp, include a glass of Laurent Perrier).
For Muddy’s pick of the decade ending parties, you’ll find the full list here.
DAYS OUT: The Festival of Light, Longleat, nr Warminster, until Sun 5 Jan
A thrilling odyssey as myths and legends from across the world are brought to life in giant light sculptures.
EXHIBITION: The Dress of the Year, Fashion Museum, Bath, Weds 1 Jan
Dress of the Year 2019, as chosen by Donna Wallace, Fashion and Accessories Editor at British Vogue is a pleated pink tulle dress by Giambattista Valli for H&M. Go drool.
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.
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 – Sun 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 (now – 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).