We (well, me and the kids…Ben not so much!) love the run up to Christmas, and over the years we’ve discovered some treasures that aren’t your usual run of the mill festive offerings, but something unique that will fill your heart with Christmas cheer!
We don’t venture too far (long car journeys with 3 small children are enough to turn anyone into The Grinch!) so everything we recommend is within 1.5 hrs of Stoke-on-Trent, but includes neighbouring counties too.
So, if you are looking for a different take on festive family fun then look no further:
Twilight Christmas Adventure at Amerton Farm.
This is a Santa visit experience with a difference! The fact it is set at night meant the excitement was turned all the way up for my boys. The experience lasts for approximately 1hr starting with a tractor ride (in the dark, mummy!) to the Enchanted Village. The village; set at the far end of the farm is festooned with twinkling fairy lights and has a beautiful Christmas tree at it’s entrance.
Mrs Claus will be waiting to invite you into her cosy cabin for story time. This was such a lovely part of the evening and one my boys thoroughly enjoyed.
After that it is a visit to Santa himself in his log cabin grotto, complete with central fire to keep you toasty – just keep an eye on little grabby hands! Each child will receive a present and Christmas tree decoration to take home. You will also meet a few cheeky elves and Santa’s (real) reindeer on your journey. Back onto the tractor before finally ending your adventure by sending your letter to the North Pole via the Elf Rocket Express.
Play time in Billy’s Farm Barn before and after your alloted time slot is included within your ticket price. The Twilight Christmas Adventure runs every weekend from 7th December onwards.
To read about our experience of the Twilight Christmas Adventure 2018 in more detail click here.
Tickets can be booked via the Amerton Farm website.
The Singing Reindeer at Trentham Garden Centre
OK, so this isn’t a day out as such, but these daft animatronic reindeer never fail to delight my boys year on year, and I’m quite fond of them too.
Singing Christmas carols and cracking festive jokes they are a bit of furry fun that you can visit for free during November and December. They will bring out the big kid in you, I promise!
I recommend watching the reindeer on repeat for a while (there may be the odd squabble over who presses the button) and then heading for Caffé Bello to enjoy a hot drink while the kids entertain themselves in the small play area at the back.
Perfect for a budget friendly day out, or last minute plans!
The Hanging Gate’s Christmas Decorations
The Hanging Gate is somewhere that I have known about for a while now, and it has been on my Christmas visit list for a few years but, life has always got in the way and I’ve not made it…until now!
Fanfare please…we are booked in this year! 2019 is the year that I will get to experience this winter wonderland for myself and my mum is coming along for the ride too.
We are renowned for our Christmas decorations which are truly amazing and take us over three weeks to put up. We build on them each year and now have an extremely large collection! Last year there was over a 1700 lengths of garland used on the ceilings and walls. That’s 5x the length of Man Utd’s football pitch. Over 7000 baubles were strung up and most staggering of all, there were 35,000 lights used to illuminate us!
Wow, 7,000 baubles…I’ll never moan about getting all the decs out from the loft ever again!
The Hanging Gate is set in the heart of the beautiful High Peak and is perfectly situated overlooking the picturesque Combs reservoir, making it popular with walkers.
For those of you who have younger children, The Hanging Gate are completely baby friendly with changing facilities, toys, and complimentary jars of baby food. For little ones there is a colouring corner, outdoor play area for dry weather and a full children’s menu is available.
I thought I’d share this with you as it’s just too good not to! I can’t think of a more fabulously festive backdrop for a family meal or catch up with friends over the Christmas period, can you?
For bookings call 01298 812 776 or visit the website for further information.
The Lanterns at Chester Zoo
Our first visit to The lanterns was last year and let’s just say that we will now be visiting annually as part of our Christmas traditions – we are hooked!
Explore our magical FESTIVE wonderland, full of SPARKLE, illumination and a SPRINKLING OF SNOW!
The Lanterns are just beautiful and some are downright bonkers. As the sun goes down they change the familiar zoo setting into a magical land of fantasy, where new adventures await around every corner.
There is everything from beautifully detailed animals which are absolutely amazing to see close up, to UV reactive flowers and interactive puppets to delight all ages!
We are huge fans of Wild Rumpus, [the team behind The Lanterns, Timber and Just So Festivals] and their ability to transform any landscape with their fantastical art installations. We are absolutely delighted to have been invited to this year’s opening night!
You can read in more detail about our take on last year’s experience here. But, in short our highlights include singing and dancing with some friendly giant penguins, waiting for it to snow and then wearing crazy glasses to look at the lights!
You’ll be pleased to know there is also a Christmas Market where you can buy hot food and drinks to warm you up, all set within a traditional scandi style village. You are also welcome to take your own food, and there are seating areas and picnic benches dotted around for your convenience.
Astbury Live Nativity
Again, another firm favourite of ours and one that holds some really special memories for our family.
This is your traditional Christmas in a nutshell. We’re not a religious household but I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that the story of the nativity is one that we all grew up with and that it brings comfort through it’s familiarity. This live nativity is good humoured and is more about bringing the local community together to enjoy festivities.
The event is held in the village of Astbury and you will start off in the church with a Roman centurion starting the evenings proceedings. As a group you will then walk around the village, first calling at the pub to ask the innkeeper if he has any room – you can see where this is going right?
Get practicing to shout ‘has anyone seen a BABY?’
After intermittently singing carols on route the evening rounds off in the barn at Glebe Farm via finding a few shepherds and their flock, and the obligatory donkey on the way.
On stage will be two tired new parents holding a baby looking confused as to how it got there… which I know is the norm, but these two happen to be Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus (who was a girl in 2017). The barn is all decked out in its festive glory and there is mulled wine, hot chocolate, mince pies and biscuits for all.
It is a very well organised event with stewards and road closures to keep everyone safe and with so many children and animals in attendance there are always a few giggles. It really is a lovely way to spend an evening, remember what Christmas is all about, and have fun together as a family.
Astbury Live Nativity runs on Mon 16th and Tues 17th December 2019. Tickets are available from Glebe Farm on 01260 273916
Buried Treasure Adventures
And now for something completely different! Buried Treasure Adventures is a brand new venture that’s based in Trentham.
We [your ever faithful guinea pigs] have been invited to discover the fun for ourselves on Sunday 1st December. We are all a healthy mix of nervous excitement!
The whole booking system and website is shrouded in mystery, take a look for yourselves here, you’ll be intrigued to say the least! I have a secret password to start our experience and then we will be sent instructions and our first clue.
We are booked onto the Christmas Adventure which will take us hunting through the woods, problem solving and following clues to help Santa find his missing toys! Yes, that’s right Santa, toys and woodland exploring…it couldn’t be any more suited to my tribe!
Every adventure is personalised depending on who’s in the group and you can choose how long you’d like the adventure to take and how far you’re prepared to walk. You can also choose how tricky you want the clues to be.
The adventures are suitable for all ages so it really is something that the whole family can enjoy together. There are some buggy friendly trails available too, but access is not suitable for wheelchairs.
You can book your own Christmas Adventure from 15th November via the website.
Weston Christmas Light Display
If you really want to get in to the festive spirit this Christmas, a visit to the Weston Christmas Light Display is an absolute must!
For the seventh year, 24 yr old, Graham Witter will create a magical winter wonderland by decking his family home, farm buildings and garden with thousands of Christmas lights to create a magical community spectacular for families and children.
With a visit from Santa every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening and a chance to have a sleigh selfie with the big man himself; this is sure to put you in the mood for a jolly Christmas!
You can meet inflatable festive characters, enjoy surround sound Christmas music, take a look inside Santa’s Grotto, and enjoy your own festive ice-cream from the very special ‘Mr Whippy’ van!
The festive fundraiser which raises money for the Donna Louise Hospice was originally set up for Graham’s sister Jessica, who passed away in 2015. Jessica had cardio-facio cutaneous syndrome and severe epilepsy, but always had a truly magical fascination with colours, light and sound, which started this festive light display.
Having raised £92,310 so far for The Donna Louise Hospice, a place which provided many hours care and family support to Graham’s late sister Jessica, means this much-loved community event must not be missed! He is determined to beat the £26,760 raised in 2018, so has guaranteed this year’s event will be the ‘brightest, best and most animated’ display yet!
So, why not pull out your camera, wrap up warm and visit this much-loved community event?
Weston Christmas Light Display runs daily from 1st – 28th December. Find out more here.
I hope that I’ve given you some inspiration to get out there over the festive period and experience some of the more unusual offerings our fab local area has to offer.
I’m proud to be a #mystokestory Ambassador, supporting our local area.
Disclosure: This post contains details of past experiences that we received gifted tickets for or will receive in exchange for a review and coverage across my social media channels.
Images are my own unless otherwise credited and must not be reproduced without permission.
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