Subscribe to the City of Stories newsletter
By subscribing you will be added to our Newsletter mailing list.
This Christmas is going to be one to remember for all the obvious reasons. But global pandemic aside, this December there are lots of ways we can celebrate the season with wonderful Christmassy things to do in Norwich and across Norfolk to get us in the mood. Many attractions have extended the dates of their Christmas events too meaning January is going to be a month we can get out more than ever.
Top Tips this Christmas
1. Book ahead. Many attractions have limited capacity – don’t leave it too late or you may miss out.
2. Book with confidence, check cancellation policies.
3. Think about booking in January. Many attractions have extended their dates into the New Year.
4. Remember to be safe – Hands, Face, Space. We must all take responsibility to keep each other safe.
Support our local businesses
There might be fewer opportunities to visit Santa’s Grotto this year but here are a few ways the kids can get to see the big man and not be disappointed.
Bure Valley Railway has been working hard behind the scenes to make Christmas happen again this year. The Festive Express (£12 per person, 5 – 24 December) is a one-hour experience from Aylsham station in the Broads which includes a 30-minute steam train ride, Christmas refreshments for all the family, a guest appearance from Santa and a personalised present for each child.
At Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure (every weekend until 19 December, then every day until Christmas Eve) families can expect a pre-historic Christmas as a Triassic winter wonderland arrives. Dippy and his friends are ready to sprinkle their magic across the park – with guests able to visit Father Christmas in his grotto. Expect Christmas songs, carol singing, festive decorations and plenty of dino fun!
A first for Norfolk this year is Thursford’s Enchanted Journey of Light (£15 per person; 3 December – 10 January). This event is a magical walk-through experience for all ages, with an all-new indoor Wonderland Trail. The trail includes a maze of steam engines, fairy-tale characters and an immersive experience of light and sound. In fact, it’s one of the UK’s biggest kinetic light displays. Follow this by heading to the 4-acre Lantern Light Extravaganza: a beautiful, breath-taking outdoor installation of luminous sculptures, from a fantasy forest of jungle animals to the wilds of the North Pole. There is a maximum of 6 tickets per booking with time slots allocated from 3pm. Children 2 years and under are free and this event is suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
If you’re looking for free things to do at Christmas in Norwich then the adored and ever popular Tunnel Of Light (until 5 January) returns to Hay Hill with social distancing and a keep left approach. There will also be new beautifully animated projections onto Norwich Castle until the end of January so there’s plenty of time to get out and enjoy.
We have another new Christmas event to shout about – this time in Norwich – a Scandinavian-style winter beer garden. Organised by a local team with years of great experience in hospitality and events, this is going to be the festive treat we have all been aching for. Under a large, heated tent wrap up warm to enjoy great food and an 18-tap beer bar – as well as other delicious alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. All in the shadow of Norwich Castle. Bookings need to be made in advance and tables are for up to 6 people for 2-hour periods. This takes place in December: Wednesday to Sunday.
The Maids Head Hotel and The Assembly House both offer festive afternoon teas and several special events from themed Christmas meals to wreath making and more. Take a look around their websites for full details. We particularly like the sound of the Narnia Teas at The Assembly House and the Festive Afternoon Tea with Milly J Shoes Workshop (6 Dec, £45). Millie J has made shoes for many a celebrity so this will be a fun workshop for sure.
Christmas may look different this year but there are still plenty of special events taking place at Holkham Hall for all ages to enjoy. Their programme is varied and packed full so whatever you like doing there’ll be something at Holkham to take your fancy. Enjoy guided tours indoors, trailer tours outdoors, making workshops, Christmas Markets, shopping, secret gardens, children’s activities and even an outdoor Canine Christmas Carol Service.
Pensthorpe Natural Park is one of the best gardens and nature reserves in the county – so on a beautiful winter’s day, it’s the perfect place to visit. This December they have a Christmas Market (6 December; 10am – 4pm) plus two late night Christmas shopping events (12 & 19 December).
We’ve missed a lot of culture this year but thankfully Norwich Theatre Royal is opening its doors once again for 3 unmissable Christmas shows. Panto in a Pickle! (16 – 24 December various times; £10 to £13.50 & Family Ticket (x4) £50, 3yrs +) is a brand-new show for the whole family that captures lots of the traditional panto fun in a madcap adventure through six favourite stories. Be prepared for pantomime but not as we know it!
A Circus Carol starring Lost in Translation Circus (16 – 23 December various times; £10 to £17.50 & Family Ticket (x4) £65; 10yrs +) is Charles Dickens’ timeless classic Christmas Carol literally turned on its head in this spectacular production filled with gasps, thrills and laughs. Combining acrobatics and truly amazing trickery with ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, this marvellously intricate reimagining captures all the thrills and spills of the original festival tale with even more spectacle.
Finally, for the over 16s Norwich Theatre Royal presents She Go Does It Under the Christmas Tree…with Friends, starring Karl Minns (16-23 December various times; £10 to £21.50). It may be a bit naughty but it will be a barrel of laughs. For anyone who’s seen Karl Minns before – you’ll know what to expect!
The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is a fantastic place to do some Christmas shopping and see their permanent collection of world-art for free whilst you are there. Their contemporary design shop stocks trinkets and books, cards, jewellery, ceramics and more. And if you’ve time spend a little longer to look around their latest exhibition Bill Brandt | Henry Moore (3 Dec – 7 March 2021, £13 – under 18s 50%; closed Monday’s + 24 – 28 Dec & 1 Jan). The photographer Bill Brandt (1904–1983) and sculptor Henry Moore (1898–1986) first crossed paths during the Second World War, when they created images of civilians sheltering in the London Underground during the Blitz. These photographs by Brandt and drawings by Moore today rank among their most iconic works.
The exhibition is organised by the Yale Center for British Art in partnership with The Hepworth Wakefield and brings together almost 200 works including significant sculpture, iconic photographs and drawings, little-known photo collages and rare original colour transparencies.
Finally, 2020 has been the year of walking and so why not book yourself a Paul Dickson Walking Tour – Shardlake’s Norwich – all about the locations of the CJ Sansome novel Tombland following the story of Kett’s Rebellion. The tours take place on 12 and 19 December, cost £9.50 and include tea or coffee and a biscuit at the Maids Head Hotel at the end of the tour.
Find out more information about events at Christmas in Norfolk and Suffolk with these official tourism sites.