If you’re already thinking ahead to the school holidays, or simply want to make this Christmas one to remember, there are lots of festive family activities taking place in Kent over the next couple of months.
From show-stopping illuminations to traditional markets and Santa’s grottos, you can make your kids’ Christmas wishes come true this festive season…
Bedgebury Pinetum, Goudhurst
The ever-popular Christmas at Bedgebury trail returns this festive season with even more twinkling lights and colourful projections. This year, the 90-minute trail includes breathtaking new installations including overhead fireflies, water-based projections and the Northern Lights.
Details: Friday, November 17 to New Year’s Eve at Bedgebury Pinetum and Forest in Goudhurst, near Tunbridge Wells. Adult tickets start from £19 and can be booked online here.
Betteshanger Country Park, Deal
Set off on a whirlwind adventure through snowy blizzards and the Candy Village as you make your way to the North Pole. The country park will be turned into a Santa’s grotto where Father Christmas and his elves will be waiting to meet you. There’s also a dog-friendly Christmas trail and ‘Santa Paws’ photo opportunities.
Details: Saturday, November 25 to Christmas Eve at Betteshanger Country Park in Deal. Tickets cost £15 for children, £4 for adults and can be booked online here.
Bluewater’s magical outdoor fair, Winterland, is back. Tuck into tasty treats such as Yorkshire pudding wraps and loaded doughnuts, enjoy family fairground rides and soar above the shops on the 40-metre-high observation wheel. During the Christmas period, there will also be an undercover ice rink and the Believe grotto, which includes the elves’ post room, gingerbread decorating and a visit with Father Christmas.
Details: Winterland is open from Saturday, November 11 until Sunday, January 7 at Bluewater in Greenhithe, near Dartford. The ice rink opens on Tuesday, November 14 and the Believe grotto opens on Friday, December 1. Ticket prices vary depending on activity and can be booked online here.
Calverley Grounds, Tunbridge Wells
Take a seat in a virtual reality sleigh and fly over the treetops and mountains until you reach Father Christmas in his grotto. The family-friendly experience also includes writing your very own Christmas letter and a special gift to take home. Calverley Grounds will also bring back its festive market and the Skate ice rink until Christmas Eve.
Details: Friday, December 1 to Christmas Eve at Calverley Grounds in Tunbridge Wells. Tickets start from £32 and can be booked online here.
Take a break from your Christmas shopping and pop into one of Dobbies’ grottos. The garden centre will create an enchanted forest for visitors to walk through before they meet Father Christmas, snap a selfie and receive a present inside the grotto.
Details: Saturday, November 25 to Christmas Eve at Dobbies Garden Centre in Ashford. Tickets cost £11.99, including a toy, and can be booked online here.
Meet elves Jingle, Jangle and Buddy as they put on a fun-filled festive show. The performances, which are part of Dreamland’s Christmas World, are interactive and full of music, dancing and jokes. The festive experience also includes Bavarian beer nights for grown-ups, Santa’s grotto, snowball fights, sleigh rides and fairground attractions.
Details: Friday, November 15 to Friday, December 22 at Dreamland in Margate. Entry is free but some activities are ticketed and can be booked online here.
Folkestone Harbour Arm
This popular seaside destination is shifting from a summertime hotspot to a cosy Christmas attraction. The Harbour Arm will transform into a traditional Christmas market with huts selling gifts and treats, and there will also be a unique Santa’s grotto with a maritime twist. The harbour’s Goods Yard venue will be putting on a range of free activities, including film screenings and carol concerts, until Christmas Eve.
Details: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Friday, November 17 to Christmas Eve at the Harbour Arm in Folkestone. Entry is free, no need to book.
Hawley Garden Centre, Dartford
Meet the elves at Hawley Garden Centre and let them lead you to this year’s magical festive grotto. While there will be some secrets that you can only discover if you visit, families can expect a photo souvenir, gifts, an ‘I’ve Met Santa’ certificate and time with Father Christmas.
Details: Saturday, December 2 to Christmas Eve at Hawley Garden Centre in Dartford. Tickets cost £12 for children, £2 for adults and can be booked online here.
Hever Castle, Edenbridge
Soak up the seasonal atmosphere as Hever Castle’s Christmas experience returns for its 17th year. This November and December, you can marvel at the colourful illuminations, join Red the Squirrel on the Festive Forest trail, take part in wreath-making workshops, meet Father Christmas, explore the castle’s decorated rooms and hop on a fairground ride or two.
Details: Saturday, November 18 to New Year’s Day at Hever Castle in Edenbridge, near Sevenoaks. Tickets start from £22 for adults and can be booked online here.
Historic Dockyard Chatham
After a successful first year, the Medway dockyard is reopening its doors for another Mission Christmas. The family experience sees visitors led through a series of historic rooms and given tasks to make sure Christmas goes off without a hitch. This time, it's Mrs Claus who needs your help, whether it’s making sure Santa’s sleigh is in tip-top condition or figuring out directions using the Santa-Nav.
Details: Saturday, November 25 to Christmas Eve at the Historic Dockyard Chatham. Tickets cost £17 for children, £14 for adults and can be booked online here.
Kent Life, near Maidstone
There’s plenty to keep the kids entertained at this Maidstone farm over Christmas. From the decorated grotto and toy shop to classes at the Elf School, you and your family can fully immerse yourself in festive activities. There’s also gingerbread decorating, a train ride aboard the Jingle Express, festive film screenings and food and drink such as mulled wine and mince pies.
Details: Saturday, November 25 to Christmas Eve at Kent Life in Sandling, near Maidstone. Tickets cost £18.95 for children, £13.95 for adults and can be booked online here.
Leeds Castle, near Maidstone
From the same team behind the Christmas at Bedgebury trail, the Christmas Lights at Leeds Castle experience is returning for a second year. The spectacular trail features lights, projections and installations alongside festive music and marshmallow toasting. The castle will also be transformed into a snow-covered Narnia this Christmas as it recreates the timeless tale of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with characters and storytelling.
Details: Christmas Lights at Leeds Castle is open from Friday, November 24 to New Year’s Eve and Narnia Christmas is open from Saturday, November 25 to New Year’s Day, both just outside of Maidstone. Ticket prices vary depending on activity and can be booked online here.
Lympne Castle, Hythe
This castle, which is often used as a luxury wedding venue, is putting the ceremonies on hold over Christmas as Santa sets up shop with his grotto. The slots - which fill up quickly - include a special visit to Father Christmas but, if you don’t manage to book in time, you still go along and enjoy the craft activities, photo spots and food and drink.
Details: Saturday, December 9, Sunday, December 10 and Saturday, December 16 at Lympne Castle near Hythe. Tickets can be booked by emailing email@example.com or by calling 01303 533533.
Manor Farm, Gravesend
For a festive visit with a twist, why not take a trip to see Farmer Christmas? Instead of a traditional sleigh ride, you’ll hop on board a tractor and journey into the woodland where you will meet elves and discover Farmer Christmas’ cabin. Inside, families can enjoy storytelling, Christmas presents and photo opportunities.
Details: Saturday, December 9 to Christmas Eve at Broadditch Farm Shop at Manor Farm in Gravesend. Tickets cost £14 for children, £4 for adults and can be booked online here.
Market Place, Faversham
Over the weekend there will be not one, not two, but three Christmas markets taking place in Faversham. The first two markets, the Faversham Charter Market and Christmas Best of Faversham Market, will open up on Saturday, selling local produce and gifts. On Sunday, there will be a traditional Christmas Market where you can tuck into your favourite festive treats and stock up on stocking fillers.
Details: Saturday, December 9 and Sunday, December 10 at the Market Place in Faversham. Entry is free, no need to book.
Penshurst Place and Gardens, near Tonbridge
If your kids won’t sit still through a whole panto, you can take them to see the Elf Who Lost his Voice, a mini panto-style show at Penshurst Place. There’s still enough time to boo the baddie and shout “it’s behind you!” but performances are only around 25 minutes long. There’s also a Christmas farmer’s market and wreath making workshops taking place on select dates.
Details: Select dates from Saturday, December 2 to Friday, December 22 at Penshurst Place and Gardens, near Tonbridge. Tickets cost £7.50 and can be booked online here.
Reindeer Centre, Bethersden
Say hello to some of Santa’s real-life reindeer at this friendly farm. Once you have met the animals and fed the reindeer, you can walk through the glittering 150ft grotto, visit Father Christmas and dive into the snow pit before heading home.
Details: Saturday, November 18 to Christmas Eve at the Reindeer Centre in Bethersden, near Ashford. Tickets start from £20 for children, £14 for adults and can be booked online here.
The annual Christmas market returns to the grounds of Rochester Castle this month and will be open for three weekends shopping, food, drink and live music. This year, there will also be a new children’s Christmas village with crafts, storytime and sweet treats. Don’t forget, the Dickensian Christmas Festival will also take place this year with Victorian decorations, Dickens characters, parades and street entertainment.
Details: Rochester Christmas Market is open Saturday, November 25 to Sunday, December 10 at Rochester Castle. The Dickensian Festival takes place on Saturday, December 2 and Sunday, December 3. Entry is free, no need to book.
Royal Engineers Museum, Gillingham
Pick up a vintage gift or two at this museum’s Wartime Christmas fair. There will be retro clothing, crafts and collectables, as well as living history groups and 1940s reenactors. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Christmas fair if there wasn’t a chance to meet Santa during your visit.
Details: Saturday, November 25 and Sunday, November 26 at the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham. Adult tickets cost £14 and can be booked online here.
Tenterden Town Centre
Grab a hot mulled wine or a Christmas ale from the festive bar, pick up a snack from the food stalls and sing along to live music at the Tenterden Christmas Market. The market will feature more than 50 stalls selling everything from local produce to handmade jewellery.
Details: Friday, November 24 to Sunday, November 26 in Tenterden town centre. Entry is free, no need to book.
There’s a brand new Illuminate trail coming to Tonbridge Castle, featuring a 45-minute journey through the grounds with projections and fairy lights. In addition to the eye-catching light trail, there will be an Alpine Bar serving drinks and hosting live entertainment, a Christmas market with more than 30 stalls and a food village.
Details: Sunday, November 25 to Saturday, December 30 at Tonbridge Castle. Adult tickets cost £17.50 and can be booked online here.
West Malling Town Centre
This year, the organisers behind West Malling’s annual Christmas Festival are teaming up with the Heart of Kent Hospice to raise money for charity. The event will include a fundraising tombola, live music from local artists, fairground rides, food and drink stalls, Santa’s Grotto, as well as twinkling Christmas lights across the town.
Details: Sunday, December 3 in West Malling town centre. Entry is free, no need to book.
Canterbury’s Christmas market will once again stretch from the city’s Whitefriars centre and along the length of the High Street with gift stalls, food and drink and local traders. The free market will also boast live music performances as well as some bookable activities including a VR Lapland experience and breakfast with Santa.
Details: Friday December 10 to Christmas Eve at Whitefriars and the High Street in Canterbury. Entry is free, but some activities need to be booked online here.
Christmas kicks off in Whitstable with a pop-up market at the castle. The market, which will have both indoor and outdoor stalls, will be launched with a parade led by Father Christmas as he heads from Oxford Street to the castle walls. The Christmas lights will also be switched on on Saturday with the cast of the Lindley Players’ Mother Goose and the Kent Soul Choir.
Details: Saturday, December 2 and Sunday, December 3 at Whitstable Castle. Entry is free, no need to book.