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BA (Hons) Social Work

Here are my 8 favourite Christmas events in and around Dorset!

1. Bournemouth’s Christmas Wonderland and Alpine Market, of course!

Being based in Bournemouth already, this is a must check out. The Alpine market is great to visit and buy some local gifts for friends and family, as well as relaxing at the outdoor Alpine Lodge bar once you’re done which can be found in the town’s main square. This year looks even better than ever, as they have added a 3D Walkthrough Tree and an animated tunnel that leads into the lower gardens.

The festival trail features over 100 illuminated trees that are replicas of different Christmas trees featured all over the world. The illuminated trees stand at over 60 feet tall and it is entirely free to attend! If you’re elegant on your feet, or looking for a fun festive activity, you may find yourself gliding towards the outdoor ice skating rink.

All of this can be found in Bournemouth from 17th November until 1st January 2024.

2. If you have young children in your life and fancy a trip to visit Santa, I would highly recommend Stewarts in Christchurch.

Stewarts Garden Centre also has another venue in East Dorset’s lively town, Wimborne. Stewarts is great for all the family, in-store you can pick up your own real or artificial Christmas tree whilst enjoying the dancing snowmen and reindeer inside. In previous years, you have been able to pet real reindeer but unfortunately at my visit this year, we were informed they had retired due to their age.

Nevertheless, once you enter Santa’s winter wonderland, you’ll immediately be impressed. You’ll be greeted by two elves who will hand the children a golden ticket and bag of Christmas craft goodies. This ticket allows them access to Santa’s grotto to meet him and receive an early gift. On your walk through to the grotto, you’ll be enchanted by a winter wonderland that tells a story on screens throughout.

It is very sensory-based, so you’ll experience snow falling, lights twinkling, music playing, and come face to face with moving reindeer, snowmen, deers and polar bears inside, waiting for you to pet. Once you get to meet Santa, you can have your photo taken.

Festival Of Lights, Longleat

3. Winchester markets, although not technically in Dorset, are less than an hour train ride from Bournemouth and usually rated one of the best city Christmas markets in Europe. The historic city is worth a visit to explore the cathedral and cobbled streets. During the month of December you can experience wooden chalets that are inspired by Christmas markets of Germany, festive lightings and carols being sung throughout the city.

4. National Trust- Kingston Lacy. One of my favourite places to visit is a national trust spot and Christmas at Kingston Lacy does not disappoint. You can experience story telling with Santa, and an experience like no other where you can visit the house and enjoy decorations from global traditional Christmas tales. Another National Trust spot that offers a beautiful Christmas illuminated trail is Stourhead. Although Stourhead just crosses the North Dorset border into Wiltshire, it’s still commutable from Dorset and worth a visit. From sparkling lit up waterfalls to twinkling flowers, this hour long trail is worth every penny for all to enjoy.

5. Deep inside your memory from your childhood, you may remember the Polar Express. You can now re-live this by experience in person, live, by visiting the Polar Express Christmas Train based at Swanage. It is a 1 hour steam train ride with actors re-enacting parts of the film and book, including a theatrical performance of dance and song and audience interaction. Think your childhood memories coming to life!

Red Riding Hood Scene, Festival of Lights – Longleat

6. Another favourite of mine, is Longleat Safari Festival of the Lights. Although based just outside of Dorset, near Warminster, Wiltshire, the safari is voted the UK’s number one. The festival of the lights is an award winning illumination trail that in 2023, consists of 3 different trails all featuring different fairytale themes. This year’s feature included Little Red Riding Hood, Peter Pan, Hansel and Gretel and Snow White.

A second trail was focused on the Narnia series, showing ice castles and characters from the story. A water feature light show brings images to life moving on water, with magical music to accompany it, this a must-see short watch. If you also wanted to visit some real animals, you can experience the safari and zoo throughout the day too, with monkeys stealing parts off your car and lions roaming right next to you, the safari is always a great visit.

If you want to experience some more interaction, you can head to the Long House and see a storytelling short show with owls flying around you, lights and music. This is a great watch for all the family.

Hyde Park – Winter Wonderland

7. If you haven’t experienced the capital yet, Christmas will not disappoint as a first-timer’s guide to visiting London! Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park is a small fee but if you book in advance £25 worth of rides, attractions, games or food and drink packages you’ll earn yourself free entry. It can get very busy so it’s important to book your slot in advance, however once you have entered the park, you can stay as long as you like.

This year includes an ice rink, an ice slide, ice kingdoms, ice bars, ice mountains and a lot more ice! Being just a short 2 hour train ride from Bournemouth, London’s winter wonderland is doable for a day trip and is worth every minute.

Warner Brothers Studio Tour

8. If you’re a Harry Potter fan and planning a London trip, I’d recommend venturing just North West of Hyde park, approximately 1 hour by transportation and you’ll be able to experience Warner Brother’s Studio Tour in Watford, London. My first time here was at Christmas and what a magical time to visit it was!

Everything is Christmas and wintery themed and the Hogwarts castle couldn’t have looked more beautiful. You can enjoy a mug of butterbeer in their lively themed café.

One Response to “My favourite Christmas events in and around Dorset”

  1. Alex

    I absolutely love the festive season in Dorset! From the charming Christmas markets in the heart of the county to the enchanting light displays that transform the coastal towns, there’s so much to enjoy. One of my favorite Christmas events has to be the annual Winter Wonderland in Bournemouth Gardens. The magical atmosphere, festive stalls, and ice rink create the perfect holiday vibe.

    Additionally, exploring the traditional Christchurch Christmas Festival and its Victorian-themed market is always a delight. Dorset truly knows how to celebrate Christmas, making it a season filled with warmth, joy, and unforgettable experiences. ✨ #DorsetChristmasMagic


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