The lead-up to Christmas can be just as exciting as the big day itself from festive treats to parties - not to mention it offers ample opportunities to spend some quality family time together.
There are plenty of ice rinks to check out , Christmas markets across the UKto explore, and hilarious pantomimes and shows to watch , not to mention the host of festive events and winter festivals on offer.
From a magical trip to Santa's Grotto to enchanting Christmas trails, we've rounded up the best family days out across the UK you won't want to miss this festive season.
Check out our top picks below...
What's in our guide?
- Santa's Grotto highlights
- The best Christmas trails
- Top UK winter festivals and days out
The best of UK theme park Christmas events
Santa's Grotto highlights
Â©National Trust Images/Chris La
1. The National Trust
A host of National Trust properties across the UK will be getting a visit from Santa for some very special storytelling sessions.
Ancient castles, Tudor houses and woodland hideaways will serve as his grottos where he'll set up shop to read kids some festive tales - and kids will get a chance to tell him what they want for Christmas of course.
You can see the full list of properties expecting a visit from Santa , but highlights include:
- Stourhead in Wiltshire : Weekends only 2nd-17th December, 11am-2pm. Normal admission applies, plus £8 per child, including gift.
- Lacock in Wiltshire : Daily until 31st December, 11am-4pm. Normal admission applies.
- Saltram in Devon : Daily until 23rd December (excluding Tuesday and Wednesday) - 3pm, 4pm, 5pm and 6pm. Normal admission applies, plus £3 per adult and £6 per child, including gift.
- Standen in West Sussex : An outdoor grotto. Weekends from 2nd-17th December, daily from 21st-23rd December. Times vary. Normal admission applies plus £6.50 per child, including gift.
- Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire : Weekends 2nd-17th December, 10am-4pm. Normal admission applies, plus £8 per child including gift.
- Quarry Bank in Cheshire : 8th and 15th December, 10:30am-4pm. Normal admission applies, plus £9 per child including gift. For kids aged 6 months to 5 years.
Booking is essential. For more information visit the National Trust website .
Â©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey
2. Boringdon Hall Polar Express themed Santa's Grotto
On Sunday 17th December, this stunning Elizabethan Manor will be offering up some luxurious festivities. Arrive at the breathtaking grounds and enjoy a dazzling dance performance before going in to indulge with a Festive Afternoon tea (includes activities like gingerbread decorating!).
Then head off to meet Santa in his grotto - and anyone on his 'nice' list will be treated to a gift!
The grotto runs at 12.30pm or 4pm - book your place here .
As for grown-ups, Boringdon Hall will be hosting a wide array of festive activities throughout the season including festive lunches, wreath making and even magical murder mystery parties.
For more information visit the Boringdon Hall website .
3. North Yorkshire Moors Railway Santa Special
Fancy something a bit different to a traditional trip to Santa's Grotto? Then this could make for a memorable family day out!
Departing from Pickering and Grosmont stations, this event gives children the chance to meet Santa in his festive grotto - on board the train!
They will also receive treats including a Christmas Activity Bag and a gift from Father Christmas himself, while adults can also indulge with a mince pie, hot drink and an alcoholic tipple.
Oh and if you are going from Pickering, there's also a chance to meet the 'real life' reindeers!
Tickets are £21, and the train will run on selected dates from the 2nd December. Click here for the full details .
The best Christmas trails
National Trust Images Megan Taylor
1. Christmas at Kew
The Royal Botanical Kew Gardens are stunning by daylight - but this Christmas, come nighttime and they transform into an enchanted wonderland.
Until 1st January there's a spectacular trail of colourful lights, with impressive shows and creations on offer for a magical walk unlike any other. Think singing trees, gigantic flowers, oversized baubles, and even a flickering Fire Garden.
2.Birmingham Botanical Gardens Christmas Trail
Until the 1st January, Birmingham Botanical Gardens will be home to a spectacular jewel-coloured trail, highlighting its impressive Victorian history, with plenty of stories through its dazzling light installations.
Discover The Twelve Days of Christmas, a tunnel of lights, a mistletoe moment, a scented fire garden and even a Singing Tree!
Advance Non-Member Adult ticket from £14-£16, Child from £8- £10; Advance Family Ticket £40-£48. Book your tickets here .
Already a firm favourite with families looking for an enchanting Christmas day out, Longleat is back - and this year it's got a storytelling theme.
Journey through iconic scenes of classic fairytales including Cinderella's horse-drawn pumpkin carriage, Rupunzel's tower and and Snow White's infamous encounter with the peddler woman.
Daily until the 2nd January (excluding Christmas Day).
Adult tickets from £30.55, child tickets from £22.90 when bought on the Longleat website .
4. Tunnel of Light Norwich
Last year Norwich's Tunnel of Light became a social media sensation as thousands flocked to the city centre to snap away inside the dazzling attraction.
This year, it's back until the 5th January, when it will close at 5pm. Expect over 50,000 pulsating LEDs with sequenced light shows that make for an unforgettable stop.
Not quite a Christmas trail, but definitely worth a visit if you're exploring Norwich.
Simon Finlay Photography
5. Step into the Fairy tale
You'll feel like you've stepped right into a storybook at this breathtaking historic house, which is hosting a fairytale galore!
Discover the best of iconic tales from the Brothers Grimm; spinning wheels whir, glass slippers are lost and gingerbread crumbs are left behind, in tributes to Rapunzel, Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel.
Alongside the sparkle will be Hinton's famous floral displays, while outdoors there will be a family trail featuring 25 fairy tale secrets hidden behind Advent Calendar boxes.
The 'Step into the fairy tale' trail will run until the 24th December. Tickets for entry to the house are £12 per adult, £6.60 per child, with an extra £2 per trail. Click here for full information .
Top UK winter festivals and days out
1. Holker Hall
The team at Holker Hall has pulled out all the stops this Christmas!
There's a jam-packed programme of exciting activities including wreath making workshops (8th December), children's Christmas circus workshops (16th-17th December), a festive concert (14th December), food markets (10th December), and even buffet breakfasts with Father Christmas himself (9th and 10th December).
Then of course there are the hall's stunning Christmas decorations to explore - and if you're really inspired, you can even buy some of them in the gift shop.
Holker Hall is open 11am-4pm daily. Adult tickets £8.50, children go free. Visit the website for more information .
2. Free snow slide in East Village, London
Head to East Village E20 on Friday 15th or Saturday 16th December where it will be transformed into an Alpine Adventureland - complete with a high-octane Snow Slide.
The 25 metres long slide has been created with 20 tonnes of real snow; guests can jump on a rubber ring and sled their way down, and all for completely free!
The slide will be open 12pm-8pm on both days. Click here for full details .
3. Hogwarts in the Snow
Harry Potter fans should head to Warner Bros. Studio London, which has undergone a very festive makeover just in time for Christmas. Expect snow-covered Hogwarts, a giant feast in the Great Hall and, of course, all the Yuletide props and sets from the films. Take a sneak peek of what you can expect here .
Adult tickets from £37, child tickets from £29. Click here to book .
4. Christmas in Leicester Square
If you're visiting the capital, make sure to stop off at the 'Christmas in Leicester Square', a pop-up including a Christmas Market, Santa's Grotto, and a Belgian Spiegeltent that's playing home to a host of comedy, cabaret and burlesque shows.
For more information visit Christmasinleicestersquare.com .
Royal Collection Trust / Â© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
5. Christmas display at Windsor Castle
Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the restoration of the Castle, this year will see the State Apartments decked with glistening gold decorations, as well as a toweing 20-foot-high Christmas Tree, taken from Windsor Great Park.
There will also be a host of immersive evening performances of Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol', ideal for families wanting a bit of festive entertainment.
And if you head down on Saturday 9th/Sunday 10th December, you'll find a pop-up pantomime, storytelling, festive music, a floral display, decoration-making workshops and the ever popular Bach to Baby concerts for under-fives!
The Christmas display will run until 5th January. Adult tickets from £20.50, child tickets from £12. Children under 5 go free. Click here for more information .
6. Meet huskies and reindeer in Brighton
Animal lovers can meet Santa's reindeer and a pack of arctic huskies at Drusillas Park in Brighton. Then, wander through the park taking in the beautiful Winter Wonderland Illuminations, or visit the nearby Brighton Christmas market for extra festive cheer.
7. Legoland Brick Live Event
If your children are obsessed with all things LEGO, then BRICKLIVE might be their dream event.
Held in London's Saatchi Gallery, BRICKLIVE Christmas will offer four themed zones with plenty of interactive games and experiences, whether you're after Christmas offerings, wanting to play Minecraft, explore your creative side, or even if you're a Star Wars fan looking for a Galactic adventure.
Tickets start from £15 per person. The event runs until the 7th January. To book your tickets visit Bricklivechristmas.com .
8. Zip World
Thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies, this one's for you! head to Zip World Forest Coaster at Betws-y-Coed this Christmas and take on the exciting trail - all for free.
All you have to do is turn up dressed in a Santa suit, and take on the course to receive a complimentary single ride. Sure to make for plenty of laughs.
The offer is valid until Christmas Eve and is restricted to one per person throughout the promotion. Visit Zipworld.co.uk for more information .
The best of UK theme park Christmas events
1. Cadbury World
Head down to Cadbury's World and not only will you be treated to all of the excitement from their usual tours, but there will be plenty of Christmas-themed extras too!
For example, discover the brand-new pantomime of Aladdin, on every Saturday and Sunday, including daily performances between the 21st-23rd and 27th-30th December.
Elsewhere in the attraction, the sounds of sleigh-bells and reindeer hooves spell the arrival of the big man himself, who will be flying in to Cadbury World to continue the Christmas cheer. In fact, Santa's getting his own stage show - and there's a gift for every child in the audience! (Shows are on the 21st-23rd).
Both the pantomime and Santa show are included in the Cadbury World admission price. Adult tickets from £16.75, child tickets from £12.30. Book your tickets on the website here .
2. Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Blackpool Pleasure Beach is launching a Nicktoons Christmas Grotto and Ice Skating, where beloved characters inckuding Spongebob SquarePants will be on hand to join you in the festive fun.
Santa will also be paying the grotto a visit, and gifting good boys and girls a Blackpool Pleasure Beach Diamond Pass for the 2018 season and a special Nickelodeon gift.
Visits to the Grotto can be booked online in advance for just £13.99 at blackpoolpleasurebeach.com/grotto or you can pay £15.99 on arrival at Blackpool Pleasure Beach Arena.
3. Alton Towers
Alton Towers is transforming into a winter wonderland - and kids will have the chance to meet Father Christmas himself thanks to their Santa Sleepovers packages.
Think fairytale grottos, charismatic elves, a roaring fireplace and plenty of treats from hot chocolate for kids to mulled wine for grown-ups. Not to mention a host of feasts - including a morning breakfast prepared by Mrs Claus!
There's even a fun-packed pantomime of jack and the Beanstalk, as well as a traditional Christmas dinner and breakfast.
Santa Sleepovers will take place on 10th December, and then from the 15th-23rd December 2017. Book your place here.
Prices start from £270 based on a family of four sharing and include Christmas dinner, bed and Breakfast; Meet and greet with Father Christmas, 1 day access to the water park, pantomime and selected rides. Book on the Alton Towers website here .
4. Paulton's Park
Home of Peppa Pig World and the Lost Kingdom, Paulton's Park is offering up a host of exciting seasonal activities for Christmas.
Kids can Santa's Grotto and join a reindeer on his journey to find Santa in time for Christmas Eve and return with a gift - and parents can enjoy a complimentary hot punch and festive treat.
Included in the cost of a ticket is the chance to enjoy the delights of a daily, family festive show where visitors can meet Frosty, Rudolph and two cheeky elves, Billy and Belinda.
Christmas at Paultons will be taking place on selected days until Friday 23rd December. Tickets start from £28.75 and include entry to Santa's Grotto and Peppa Pig World, as well a gift for the children.
All visits must be pre-booked and certain rides will not be open. Visit the Paulton's Park website for more information .