Enjoy A Host of Magical Christmas Family Days Out this Festive Season

Despite us all having to tighten our belts and make our money go as far as possible “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” at Devon’s Top Attractions as they are offering some fabulous value for money days out to brighten the dark wintry days ahead and bring some real laughter, excitement and sparkle in the run up to the festive season.

Anne Blackham, Marketing Manager for Devon’s Top Attractions said, “Christmas is a special time of year to spend with family and friends and our award-winning attractions have pulled out all the stops to give families a magical day out to spend together. Everything from ‘Dashing through the snow’ to climb aboard the Polar Express to having a Ho Ho Ho with Santa in his Grotto and marvelling at the ‘Merry and Bright’ Spectacular Light Displays, or enjoying the fabulous array of Festive Shopping at some popular Christmas Markets, our visitors are promised a wonderful time. A Joyeux Noel is guaranteed.”

What’s On in South Devon

Babbacombe Model Village have their evening illuminations from 10th December to 2nd January with lots of Christmas sparkle and festive lighting. Enjoy some delightful miniature seasonal scenes as their little folk celebrate Christmas. A Christmas character spotter sheet will add some extra fun during daylight. Note: Santa will not be there!

A truly magical Christmas experience awaits anyone joining in the Carols in the Caves celebration at Kent’s Cavern in Torquay. Join in with this unique sell out event of carols by candlelight in this underground world. Get into the festive spirit with the team for a magical Christmas concert as they once again team up with the fantastic ‘Yours In Harmony‘ and the ‘Torbay Police and Community Choir‘ to perform Christmas carols and showcase festive songs underground. This spellbinding festival experience lasts two hours. See website for dates and times.

Throughout December step back into 1897 for a Victorian Christmas at Bygones, Torquay. The Victorian street, shops and rooms are transformed to celebrate a traditional Victorian Christmas.
Normal entry prices apply. Plus, why not bring the children along to visit Victorian Santa on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th December (Christmas Eve) between 11am – 3pm? The event includes entry to Bygones Victorian Christmas, children’s Christmas hunt, children’s visit to our Victorian Santa, traditional present and complimentary juice/hot chocolate and sweet treat for each child, complimentary mulled wine/soft drink, and mince pie for each adult. See more details online.

You’ll need some very sharp eyes to spot the mischievous Christmas Ocean elves who have made their way into 12 of the shops and cafes across Plymouth’s waterfront this festive season. From now up to 3rd January Visit Plymouth’s atmospheric and historic part of the city as you try to spot the elves in amongst the host of festive window displays or hiding inside causing chaos! Free to join in!

Track them down by using the list of locations on visitplymouth.co.uk/oceanelvestrail. Plus, from 1st to 18th December pick up some individual and unique Christmas gifts at Plymouth Christmas Market, located in the heart of the city centre on the Piazza. With an open-air festive bar, food and drink, plenty of artisan stallslive music and entertainment, it’s the perfect place to find some Christmas gifts and get into the Christmas spirit.

At Buckfast Abbey their popular three-day Christmas Market returns for 2022, taking place from Thursday 1st to Saturday 3rd December (10am – 5pm). There’s free parking and free entry. This family friendly Christmas Market will feature independent stalls offering everything from delicious food and drink to unique gifts handmade by local craftsmen so it’s an ideal place to get some beautiful presents for loved ones.

At Pennywell you’re invited to take a very special journey into Bethlehem where the story of the first Christmas is brought to life. The farm is transformed into a winter wonderland with twinkling lights, hundreds of Christmas trees and plenty of Christmas sparkle. After the Nativity, it’s off to Noah’s Barn for some Christmas cheer with a homemade Christmas biscuit and squash for the children and mince pies and warming drinks for the adults. Tickle, touch and stroke the Pennywell Miniature piglets, pygmy goat kids, and other furry friends. There’s a special festive photo frame to get that all important Christmas family selfie before moving to your final destination to meet a very special person. At the end of the dark enchanted forest, Father Christmas will be waiting in his grotto, with a gift for every child. The perfect way to end your Christmas visit. See online for dates and to book tickets.

Pennywell farm
Image: Pennywell Farm

The most iconic feature of The Polar Express returning to South Devon Railway is its sleek black steam engine. It’s even inscribed with the ‘1225’ signage to identify it as Santa’s own train. Your children will gasp with amazement as the Polar Express train pulls into the station. Billowing steam all the way, your authentic steam train ride will last around an hour. During your train ride you’ll be entertained, meeting the Conductor and his crew. All the while the train steams towards the North Pole. Here you’ll meet Santa and one of his friendly elves. He will climb on board the train to meet you all. The Conductor will even clip your Polar Express tickets just like in the film. After the show, there’ll be a photo opportunity. The whole family can pose with the Polar Express train with the steam covering the platform, it makes a magical Christmas photo. For dates and details go online.

The Woodlands Christmas Grotto experience is enchanting and more magical than ever! Up to 23rd December you can meet your elf guides and adventure through the magical forest meeting all of Santa’s festive friends before arriving at his toy workshop. Sneak a peek at where magical Christmas toys and gifts are made! Cherish the family memories you make from this Santa experience with a special souvenir photograph to take home and an early Christmas present for the little ones. Look out for lots of magical surprises hidden inside!

What’s On in Exeter and East Devon

Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) in Exeter have some fun Christmas craft sessions on 17th & 18th December - decorate your own wooden bauble featuring one of the museum’s animals in a seasonal setting. Perhaps Gerald the Giraffe playing in the snow or the polar bear wearing a hat and scarf? Let your imagination go wild and create a decoration to hang on your tree. This event is a drop-in event, simply turn up on the day. Plus stop by and add some cheer with some Festive Tunes this same weekend whilst you shop. On 21st December join the team from Double Elephant for a drop-in festive printmaking workshop where you can create and print your own festive decoration inspired by local plants. This session will use RAMM’s collection of botanical illustrations of local Devon herbs and plants by the Rev William Keble Martin to inspire collagraphs and monoprints. Book your free place on this creative workshop.

Enjoy Christmas at Powderham Castle from 1st December as you soak up the seasonal atmosphere on the Castle’s Christmas State Rooms Experience. Head over to the Secret Garden Petting Zoo. There are games, food and a bar in the Christmas barn and why not enjoy the beautiful grounds on the Christmas trail. Of course the day wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the grotto. The Exmouth Miniature Railway will also be running every day and evening (£2 per ride). For an extra special festive experience visit the castle later in the day for the Evening Light Walk (evening admission tickets only). See the website for details.

Powderham Castle at night

Image: Powderham Castle

Tis the season to Sail with Santa from 3rd to 22nd December! Stuart Line Cruises’ Sail with Santa Cruises makes a visit to Santa’s Grotto not only one to remember but will soon become part of your family Christmas tradition! Setting sail along the peaceful waters of the River Exe, their boats have an indoor heated lower deck with large windows for great viewing. This cruise is packed from start to finish with heaps for everyone to do including watching the balloon modeller creating a masterpiece for children to take home plus enjoying some close up magic from their fabulous magician! There are tasty treats for the children before they visit Santa in his custom-built grotto, and for the adults there are some warm locally produced mince pies and a glass of our homemade secret recipe mulled wine to enjoy whilst the children are delighted and entertained.

Relive your favourite Christmas film at Seaton Tramway. THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Tram Ride, is coming to the award-winning Tramway on selected dates through December! Families will enjoy the magical tram ride to Santa’s home at the North Pole in one of the specially decorated single deck tramcars, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, a delicious treat, speak to Santa and admire the awesome lights whilst they walk around the North Pole. Based on the hit 2004 Warner Bros Film, experience the magic of The Polar Express™ yourself! Children will also receive the first gift of Christmas – the sleigh bell – from Santa himself. Enjoy singing along to Christmas carols on the return journey.

Discover the spirit of The Donkey Sanctuary this winter with stories of sanctuary spirit along the winter trail. Come and see the Spirit of the Sanctuary as love in action, sharing joy and peace and being together. Follow the festive trail to uncover each spirit word and its matching donkey in their merry poems. This joyful activity combines family fun, exercise and brainpower and is just £5 per trail, including a prize when you complete the trail. Head to the Gift Shop to pick up a trail sheet and you’re ready to begin searching for the stories of sanctuary spirit. Plus with a new play area, daily talks, scenic walks, engaging exhibits, award-winning gardens and, of course, hundreds of adorable donkeys to meet, there’s so much to explore with your own herd, whatever the weather. Friendly dogs on leads are welcome too!

What’s on in North Devon

It’s a magical time at Clovelly in North Devon on 4 December as you get the chance to watch the Christmas lights turn-on. Starting at 3:30 pm, a local brass band leads the procession down to the harbour with festive carols sung along the way. A hog roast, grog and other refreshments are available at the harbour and Lifeboat Station.  Then Father Christmas himself will make a surprise visit. At 5pm the switch is thrown and the entire village and harbour are lit up. It’s a fantastic sight and there’s a grand finale of fireworks to finish off. All proceeds to the RNLI. The Boxing Day Barbecue should make the perfect follow-up to Christmas day for all your family and friends. With FREE entrance to Clovelly village all day, take a walk along the estate or explore the village in the morning.  Then come on down to the quay to enjoy a lunch barbecue starting at midday with live music running from 1pm to 3 pm. The Red Lion serves some great mulled cider and delicious, hot chocolate drinks. There will be a Land Rover available to take you back up if you do not wish to walk.

The Magic of Christmas is coming to the Milky Way on the 10th & 11th and 17th to 23rd December. Journey through the magical snowy forest to Buzzlewicks Elf Emporium in The Old Barn, where all children will get to meet Buzzlewick the Elf and friends, have a go at gingerbread decorating and make reindeer food. Then there’ll be the chance to be invited into Santa’s cosy Christmas Cottage to chat to the jolly fella himself and collect your special festive gift. But that’s not all … all visitors to The Milky Way at Christmas can look forward to visiting their garland festooned train station made jolly with festive music and giant Christmas tree for a hot chocolate to enjoy on the Festive Train. Plus, keep an eye out for Santa’s naughty elves as you make your way around the whole park – their mischievous antics are bound to give you a chuckle!

Visit Quince Honey Farm on Thursday 1st December for some Late Night Christmas Shopping until 8pm and explore the launch of their new natural skincare and soap range! You will receive a warm welcome with a glass of prosecco on arrival and be free to browse the giftshop. Also on the same day make your very own rustic Christmas wreath in their first ever Christmas Wreath Workshop! Get creative and festive by making your own wreath to take home. Led by talented gardener Rebecca Flay, the workshop will use seasonal fresh foliage collected from the Nectar Gardens as well as natural and reusable decorations. Enjoy a glass of Bucks Fizz to get you into the festive spirit followed by a well-deserved mince pie and drink while you are busy at your craft. A Festive Feast with Santa and his Head Elf awaits you on 3rd, 10th & 17th December. Join Father Christmas and his Head Elf for a festive feast full of naughty and nice delights with a festive sing-song, plenty of Ho-Ho Ho-ing, games and a special gift from Father Christmas.

The Big Sheep Farm and Theme Park are holding their Christmas Farmers Market on  3rd, 10th, 17th and Thursday 22nd December from 9am-2pm. It’s free entry too. You’ll find fabulous food and fayre. Free range turkeys, organic meats, sprouts on stalks, cheeses, cakes, fresh fish and Christmas trees are just some of the delights which will be on offer at the South West’s BIGGEST indoor Market. Don’t miss your chance to WIN a selection of Christmas goodies in the Prize Hamper Draw! Plus join Claire & Alice from Jiggy Wrigglers to sing and dance to your favourite Christmas festive tunes. Enjoy an indoor snowball fight, dance in the snow and meet the Jiggy Wrigglers Christmas characters at the Christmas Toddler Takeover from Monday 5th – Sunday 11th. This event is for Babies and Pre Schoolers with an EX Postcode.

From 17 November to 30 December head over to RHS Rosemoor for a magical evening where you can see the garden in breath-taking beauty and follow their longest Glow trail yet with spectacular new light displays. See your favourite garden areas, including the Lake and Woodland, light up the night with festive colour and sparkle. New for 2022, enjoy an enchanting galaxy of giant stars on the Stream Field, a tunnel of lights along the Long Borders, and the Orchard shelter all aglow. Tickets must be booked in advance. Warm yourself with a selection of hot drinks and tasty festive treats along the trail. Plus on 17 December there’s Live Panto (oh yes, there is!!) so get swept away by one of the most enchanting fairy tales as Wonder Productions brings the most loved pantomime of them all – Dick Whittington. Please book your tickets online. Plus on 23rd December it’s time to party at Rosemoor with Project Dance, a family-friendly afternoon of activities from 3pm to 5pm and includes admission to Glow afterwards.

If you believe in the magic of Christmas make a day out with your family really special this festive season at one of our quality-assured attractions, after all, ‘Tis The Season to be Jolly!’

To find more information and ideas for a day out check out the Devon’s Top Attractions website and their What’s On pages here www.devonstopattractions.co.uk/events/christmas/

To find attractions and book tickets see here 

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