50 unmissable Christmas events in Bristol and beyond

Last updated on January 12, 2024

A guide to the best of Christmas in Bristol and beyond…

The festive season can be a bit like Marmite, and I’m definitely on the lovers side. Mulled wine, the scent of cinnamon and fairy lights galore are among my favourite things. And I embrace all the events and activities that Christmastime delivers.

We’re lucky in Bristol and the South West that there are all sorts of Christmas events, from light shows to pantomimes to festive craft classes.

So here’s a round-up of the best 2023 Bristol Christmas events in the city and the surrounding South West of England…

Best light trails in and around Bristol

Evolution Drone Show

20 & 21 December 2023

New for 2023, Evolution is a visually immersive drone light show, created by Celestial, the visionary light artists behind drone shows such as this year’s Eurovision and London New Year’s Eve. The narrated story takes viewers on a journey through time and space, starting with the Big Bang, and following with everything from dinosaurs to the present day.

It sounds absolutely epic and definitely one not to be missed! It will be held at the Gloucestershire County Cricket Club in Bristol for two nights only on 20 & 21 December.

Christmas at Stourhead

1 December – 31 December

Stourhead Christmas light trail

The lights at Christmas at Stourhead, a National Trust property, are completely magical, with gorgeous light installations designed by creatives and set to atmospheric music on a trail around the impressive gardens. We go every year as part of a special UK Christmas break. Book tickets here.

Festival of Light at Longleat

11 November – 7 January

Longleat also makes for a fantastic Christmas family day out. Their annual Festival of Light includes a display of incredible lanterns set on a trail around the grounds and an iconic Winter Safari!

Plus they also have a Santa Train where a miniature train takes you on a journey to ‘Lapland’ to meet the big guy himself. You book the train separately and tickets sell out super quickly (weekend tickets tend to go within hours of going on sale). It’s easier to get a ticket for just the festival.

Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum

24 November – 23 December

Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt is a light trail through the already beautiful arboretum. The trees are illuminated and characters take you on a narrated journey through the woodland. There’s also a market and funfair at the end.

Christmas Nights Light Trail at Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park

Various dates from 1 December – 31 December

A now annual Christmas Night Light Trail through the grounds of the Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park. Added bonuses include a festive disco in the barn, plus the opportunity to ride on the Polar Express Miniature Steam Train. You could also pair it with a trip to the park’s ice rink (tickets sold separately) or make a whole day of it by doing the Christmas Experience too.

Sudeley Castle Spectacle of Light

Various dates from 24 November – 30 December

The Sudeley Castle Spectacle of Light in the Cotswolds is one of the south west’s most impressive light shows, set against the backdrop of the castle ruins. Grab a mulled wine or an indulgent hot chocolate to warm you along the way. 

Winter Wonderland at Wookey Hole

Various dates from 25 November – 1 January

Wookey Hole’s caves are transformed into a twinkling wonderland grotto during the festive season. Thousands of fairy lights brighten the caves, there’s a Christmas show at the Wookey Hole Theatre, and you can also meet Santa.

Old Down Estate Illumination Trail

26 November – 24 December

Old Down Estate is doing another illumination trail for 2023. It takes you through the estates’ beautiful grounds, including the fairy garden, ending in front of the manor house.

Illuminate at Hestercombe Gardens

23 November – 30 December

The magnificent Hestercombe Gardens celebrate the festive season in style with many events, including their Illuminate light trail. This year the route is three times as long as last year! It’s about an hour from Bristol in Taunton.

More light trails near Bristol

A few more to choose from near Bristol are:

On weekends from 24 November to 23 December: Enchanted Light Trail at Cotswold Farm Park (1 hour from Bristol)

Various dates from 1 to 31 December: Avon Valley Christmas Lights (included in the Christmas experiences below)

Best Christmas experiences in Bristol and the South West

Christmas Experience at Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park

Weekends in December and every day from 18-24 December

Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park is hosting a whole Christmas Experience this year, which includes all sorts of fun festive events. There’s a Christmas village with interactive experiences, including Santa’s toy shop (where every child gets a gift), Santa’s post room where you can write to Santa, the chance to make reindeer food in the Reindeer Kitchen, and plenty more.

There’s also a miniature ‘Polar Express’ train to ride on, a magical forest to explore and a festive disco. Plus you can also explore all the usual Avon Valley attractions and rides.

Children’s tickets are £30 and adults are £25. Buy tickets here. Note that you have to buy separate tickets if you want to go to the ice rink and/or light trail too.

Christmas at Dyrham Park

20 November – 7 January 

Christmas at Dyrham Park is celebrating Christmas through the eras, from Tudor times right up until the 20th century. The whole place will be decked in Christmas decorations, including a giant wreath, children’s trail, poetry trail, choir performances and Christmas food and shopping. 

Christmas at Tyntesfield

20 November – 7 January 

Head to Tyntesfield for a Victorian Christmas with a reindeer trail, a festive horse and carriage ride, Christmas card lino printing workshops and wreath-making workshops.

Victorian Christmas Weekends at Brunel’s SS Great Britain 

2-3 December and 9-10 December.  

The popular Victorian Christmas weekends at Brunel’s SS Great Britain feature Old Father Christmas in his traditional green robes, and the dockyard transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with falling snow and carol singers. Plus actors from Ragged Victorians living history group.  

Twilight Tobogganing at Mendip Activity Centre 

4 November – 3 January 

Expanding on the twilight tobogganing’s success at Mendip Activity Centre, this year they’re offering it all day! The toboggan slope is given a festive makeover with 10,000 fairy lights, coloured flood lights and lasers, as well as festive music and a snow machine! After the session, walk through the illuminated ancient woodland to find a campfire where you can toast marshmallows, make s’mores and light sparklers. 

Breakfast with Santa at WWT Slimbridge 

Weekends between 9 – 23 December 

Meet Santa and receive a gift at his wetland grotto at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre. You’ll also get a full English breakfast in the Kingfisher Kitchen. The wetland wonderlands will have Christmas-themed activities dotted around the centre too for a full, festive day out.

Undersea Grotto at Bristol Aquarium 

16 December – 1 January 

For something a bit different this year, head to the Bristol Aquarium where children can meet Charlie the Clownfish at an undersea grotto and get a gift this Christmas. The aquarium will be decorated for the season and there will e other activities on offer too.

More Christmas experiences near Bristol

A few more to consider are: Christmas at Cattle Country, Elf Academy at Farrington’s Farm and the Winter Glow in Malvern.

Best Santa trains in Bristol and the South West

As well as the Santa trains below, there are also rides at Longleat (see listing for the light show) and Avon Valley Adventure Park (see Christmas experience above).

Avon Valley Railway

Weekends 25 November – 17 December, then daily 19-24 December 

The Avon Valley Railway does a Santa Special where visitors get to ride on the historic steam train and then meet Santa. The train ride last 50 minutes and everyone gets a festive biscuit or mince pie for the journey.

Santa passes through the carriages to say hello. And then at the end, you can meet him, get a present and have a photo as a family group. There are festive donkeys and fake snow at the station, which were the highlights for our kids! Buy tickets here.

Perrygrove Railway

The Perrygrove Railway is super cute at any time of year, and at Christmas they have a twilight train ride where you get to meet Santa at the end. During the day, you can also see a ‘Down the Chimney’ theatre show where Santa comes down the chimney, or listen to Mrs.Claus’ storytime.

Other activities at the Perrygrove Railway include miniature tractor rides, a treetop adventure, and indoor and outdoor playgrounds (note that the woods, treehouses and tFoxy Hollow play area will be closed at night during the twilight train rides).

Dean Forest Railway

The Dean Forest Railway is another chance to ride on a steam train and visit Santa and his elves. The journey is 1 hour 20 minutes and you can also add on a festive afternoon tea if you like. There are two stops along the way and all children aged 2+ get a present. Book tickets here.

Best Christmas markets in Bristol and the South West

Bristol Christmas Market

3 November – 23 December

Broadmead’s annual Bristol Christmas Market with over 40 classic German-style wooden stands, selling everything from jewellery to sauces to Christmas crafts. There’s also a Christmas-themed bar and some kids’ fairground rides.

Frome Independent

3 December 2023 (always the first Sunday of the month)

The Frome Independent Market is particularly wonderful in December when mulled wine spice fills the air and everyone is high on Christmas spirit. It’s also an excellent place for Christmas gift shopping. See our guide to the best shops in Frome, the best Frome restaurants and things to do in Frome.

Bath Christmas Market

23 November – 10 December

Bath Christmas Market is known as one of the UK’s most magical Christmas markets, and as such it’s nearly always super busy, especially at the weekends. Many will be put off by the crowds, but it does still retain an air of festive magic.

There are over 150 stalls set among the picturesque streets of Bath and it’s a lovely place to do some Christmas shopping.

Made in Bristol Gift Fair

25-26 November and 9-10 December

The Made in Bristol Gift Fair brings together around 200 designer-makers from in and around Bristol. It’s held in the foyer of the Bristol Beacon on three weekends, and always has loads of excellent gifts and fun, festive atmosphere.

Christmas Craft Fair at Lost and Found

12 November

There will be more than 20 stalls selling festive, local crafts at the Lost and Found Christmas Craft Fair. Mulled wine and gin on sale too.

Ice skating in Bristol and beyond

Festive Outdoor Ice Skating at Avon Valley

Various dates from 1 December to 30 December

Skate rink and apres-skate bar at the Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park. There’s also a light trail and fun fair. Book tickets here.

Bath on ice

17 November – 3 January

Bath hosts an annual ice rink in Royal Victoria Park, complete with a cosy bar serving seasonal drinks. It’s also right next to the popular adventure golf course, which will be decorated for Christmas.

Planet Ice

For an indoor ice skating option, head to Planet Ice in Cribbs Causeway where they have lots of winter wonderland events.

Winter Roller Disco

If you prefer a non-icy option, Propyard are hosting an 80s-themed winter roller disco this year! There will also be a festive apres-skate area, and new Crazy Boules!

For the grown-ups, Propyard is also hosting lots of festive winter social events using the roller disco and 80s-theme. See all the details here.

More ice skating near Bristol

Other places near Bristol that have Christmas ice skating include: The Clarks Village Ice Rink, Warwick Castle (also included in my guide to the best UK Christmas breaks), and the Winter Glow in Malvern. There was also a planned ice rink in Cheltenham but that has been cancelled.

Theatre and music shows at Christmas in Bristol

Bristol has a strong theatre culture and there are plenty of Christmas shows, plays and pantomimes in Bristol. Here’s the 2023 programme of Bristol Christmas shows.


Peter Pan (2-31 December)

The Hippodrome pantomime is always one of the highlights of the festive season in Bristol, and this year’s Peter Pan production is one of the best. It even features David Suchet (Poirot!) as a fearsome Captain Hook. Bristol’s favouirte panto comedian Andy Ford is also back as Smee, never failing to get a laugh with his many punchlines.

Other starring highlights include Faye Tozer as the magical mermaid, and Ceri Dupree as Smee’s mum.

Our 5-year-old loved it and was especially enchanted by the flying Peter Pan. He giggled and got on board with all the classic panto banter.

The grand setting of the Hippodrome, plus the high-end panto production make this a really special festive outing. It’s the perfect family treat for Christmas.

Book your tickets here.

Wardrobe Theatre

Kid Carpet: Noisy Nativity (15 December – 29 December)

“The traditional Christmas story gets a radical remix with big beat songs, wonky carols, live special effects, puppetry and animation – for ages 3-8 and their families.” Book your tickets here.

Christmas Tales with Grandad (16 December – 2 January)

“Exquisite puppets and captivating storytelling combine to create an enchanting and magical Christmas show guaranteed to spark the imagination of ages 3-8 and their families, presented by Pickled Image” Book your tickets here.

The Good, the Bad & The Coyote Ugly (24 November – 20 January) 

The Wardrobe can always be trusted to deliver the most offbeat Cjristmas show, and this year they have a brand new alternative comedy mash-up from the people that brought you MDH: Puppets Do A Movie, Little Women In Black, Drac & Jill, Rocky Shock Horror and more! Book your tickets here.

Redgrave Theatre

Rapunzel (15 December – 31 December)

“This festive extravaganza about the lonely Princess with the super hair trapped in a tower but longing for a life of adventure in the outside world will keep audiences of all ages amused, entertained and enthralled. As always there will be plenty of audience participation, modern songs to sing along to, huge amounts of laughter and spectacular special effects including an incredible flying jet pack! So let your hair down this Christmas at Bristol’s biggest and brightest pantomime and book for RAPUNZEL – A Tangled Tale!” Book your tickets here.

Into the Woods at Redgrave Theatre 

28 November – 7 December 

 “Upon discovering that a witch has cursed their family, the Baker and his Wife must locate a list of curious ingredients in order to break the spell in this dark and comedic adventure. Along the way they discover princes, magic beans, red cloaks and just how happy-ever-after might not always be, well, happy…Featuring a host of familiar fairy tale characters, this spellbinding musical will enchant you this Christmas. ” Book your tickets here.

Bristol Old Vic

Four Seasons (1 December – 7 January)

This year’s production of Four Season is one of the best kid’s prductions we’ve ever seen at the Old Vic. We went on a pyjama night, all in matching jammies, which added to the fun. And all of us, including Arlo at 3, were entertained throughout. It’s a magical 50-minute show of skilful and enchanting puppetry, telling a heartwarming story of the seasons and life.

It’s by Olivier Award-winning Little Bulb (Hibernation, CBEEBIES’ The Nutcracker).”

Book your tickets here.

Arabian Nights

23 November – 6 January 

“From writer Sonali Bhattacharyya (Chasing Hares, Young Vic) and director Blanche McIntyre (All’s Well That Ends Well, RSC) comes Arabian Nights, at Bristol Old Vic Theatre. A performance for modern time featuring a daring heroine, stunning songs and a timeless story of wonder and hope to captivate audiences in this historic theatre, this Christmas.” Book your tickets here.

Tobacco Factory Theatres

Oliver Twist (1 December – 21 January)

“A brighter, bigger-hearted production you will not find, as Tobacco Factory Theatres brings a festive adaptation of this famous tale to Bristol with a belly full of cheer. You will leave the theatre shouting for more!” Book your tickets here.


The Snowman – Live! (9 December)

“Bringing a classic Christmas movie together with live musical performance, The Snowman – Live! is the perfect one-hour festive package for families and young audiences.” Book your tickets here.

Christmas Spectacular (18 December)

“Always a wonderfully entertaining and uplifting evening of Christmas music and readings, it is conducted by the inimitable David Ogden. Come and enjoy some wonderful Christmas music with choir items, audience participation and festive orchestral music.” Book your tickets here.

Festive Fiesta (19 December)

“There will be plenty of audience participation in this sparkling festive concert featuring all your favourite carols, Christmas choral works and orchestral pieces. Come and enjoy a brilliantly festive and fun evening under the baton of David Ogden, with City of Bristol Choir and the Bristol Ensemble, guaranteed to put you in the Christmas mood.” Book your tickets here.

Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas (21 and 22 December)

“In this 30-minute special from Aardman, Shaun – the world’s favourite sheep – stars in his very own winter’s tale, accompanied by Bristol Ensemble. Kat Kleve joins the Bristol Ensemble to present this Christmas special which will include Christmas favourites such as Jingle Bells, Sleigh Ride and Dreaming of a White Christmas.” Book your tickets here.

Christmas movies at the Bristol Museum

As part of the Bristol Film Festival, there will be screenings of Christmas movies at the Bristol Museum, including:

13 December: The Nightmare Before Christmas and Home Alone

16 December: The Grinch Stole Christmas

17 December: The Muppet Christmas Carol

22 December: Elf

Christmas craft workshops in Bristol and the South West

Bristol is a creative city and there are plenty of ways to get involved with craft and makers workshops at Christmas.

Yuup workshops

Say Yuup has lots of Christmas activities on offer, including: Ceramic Christmas Decoration Workshops, Christmas Biscuit Decorating Masterclass or Drypoint Print Your Own Christmas Cards. See more on Yuup.

Creative Space

The Creative Space in Southville has loads of amazing Christmas workshops this year, including the opportunity to make your own Christmas cards using various methods such as linoprinting and drypointing. Plus they also have a paper cutting workshop (with my lovely friend Sarah!) and Christmas decoration workshops too. See the full list here.

Wreath making workshops

One of the most popular festive activities is wreath making, so I’ve compiled a list of a a few options below. I try to do one of these each year and love spending a festive morning or afternoon, drinking mulled wine and creating something beautiful.

Various dates from 24 Nov to 9 Dec: Christmas Wreath Workshop at Creative Space, Bristol, £45

29 and 30 Nov and 1,6,7 and 8 Dec: Christmas Wreath Making Workshop with Treats at Sprouts of Bristol, £60

2 December: Make a Christmas Macramé Wreath at L’Étoile Studio – Art & Gallery, £35

28 & 30 Nov, and 5, 7, 14 Dec: Christmas wreath workshop at The Flower Shop on Gloucester Road, £65

Where to see Santa in Bristol and nearby

Here are few places where you can see Santa in Bristol and beyond in 2022.

Santa Trains

You can see the big man at any of the Santa trains mentioned above, including the ‘Down-the-chimney’ show at Perrygrove Railway.

Father Christmas experience at Ashton Court Estate

Ashton Court Estate holds an annual Father Christmas experience where professional actors help to create a magical experience in the old Victorian house (Santa arrives rather spectacularly!).

Sail with Santa

Go on a 45-minute trip around the harbour with the Bristol Ferry searching for Santa. Once you’ve found him, Santa will climb aboard with gifts for all the little ones and sail around the harbour with you! 

Santa’s Enchanted Woodland at Bristol Zoo Project 

2 December – 23 December  

Replacing the old Bristol Zoo grotto, you can now visit Santa at the new site, the Bristol Zoo Project. Step into the charming woodland and tipi to find a traditional green-robed Father Christmas and his forest friends, Deer Darlington and Squirrel Nutkins who will be sharing festive folklore and fables.

The free, drop-in story sessions with Father Christmas run on weekends in the lead-up to Christmas, starting on 2 December and then every day from 16 to 23 December. bear in mind you still need to pay to get into the zoo.

Christmas light switch-on events in Bristol

It’s pretty magical seeing the lights come on to mark the start of the festive season. Her are a few Christmas light switch-on events in Bristol and beyond…

8 November: Clifton Village

24 November: Clevedon

25 November: Puxton Park (30 mins from Bristol)

Festive family meals in Bristol

Photo from Breakfast with Santa at Brewers Fayre

There are some cool Christmas-themed food events in and around Bristol at Christmas. Here are some to consider…

18-24 December: Breakfast with Santa at Brewers Fayre Lewins Mead and Brewers Fayre, The Wessex Flyer Every Saturday and Sunday in December plus every day from 18th-24th December, join Santa. Book your 60 minute slot between 9-11:30am.

8-23 December: Supper with Santa at Puxton Park

9,16,17,23 and 24 December: Breakfast with Santa at all Hungry Horse pubs

2-24 December (selected dates): Breakfast with Santa at Harvester pubs

More Bristol Christmas events?

Let me know if you have anything else to add to the list!

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