With so many festive events and activities happening in the New Forest over Christmas, I sometimes feel a bit swamped with leaflets and overwhelmed by event information. There always seems to be so much to do and very limited time to fit it all in. However, there are ten fail-safe festive events we never want to miss.
My kids adore the following markets, grottos and activities and, to be honest, so do I. If lights, music, tasty festive treats and Christmas fun are what you’re after then look no further than this list.
1. Christmas at Paulton’s Park
The magical world of Paulton’s comes into its own at Christmas time. You’ll have a whale of a time meeting Santa and his friends, marveling at the lights, watching a 4D Christmas film, having fun on the rides and catching the festive show. Book early though because this sells out fast!
2. Longdown Farm Christmas Barn
While most of this well-loved farm is closed, you can still visit the Christmas barn for a wonderfully festive experience. The barn, which is decorated with Christmas trees and twinkling lights, houses a nativity scene, animals, festive kids’ activities and Santa in his grotto.
3. See The Lights On Byron Road
This residential road in Barton-On-Sea really goes to town with the Christmas lights. It really is a spectacle worth seeing, as normal houses are transformed into a magnificent exhibitions of light. It’s all put on for charity and you can leave your donations in the boxes outside the houses.
4. Visit The Real Reindeer At Stewarts
As well as an enchanting Santa’s Grotto, Stewarts Garden Centre in Christchurch also has real reindeer to visit. Kids will love saying hello to Donner, Blitzen and friends as they wait for Santa. Adults will love the magnificent range of Christmas items on display!
5. Ride The Postal Express At Exbury Gardens
For two weekends in December, Exbury Gardens opens up select areas for free. Kids can draw a picture for Santa and post it in a special mailbox, before boarding the Postal Express and deliver all the pictures to the man himself. Santa will choose his favourites and give the winners a prize at the end of each day. While on-board the Postal Express, everyone can marvel at the beautiful gardens and then head to the tearooms afterwards for a festive treat and Christmas crafts.
6. Browse The Stalls At The Christmas Fair, Hoburne Bashley
Wander round 80 stalls crammed with Christmas gifts, treats, drink and activities. There’s also a brilliant play park on site for the kids. This has to be the best Christmas market in the forest.
7. Have Tea With Santa At Fairweather’s Garden Centre, Beaulieu.
There are plenty of places to have a drink and bite-to-eat with Santa but this is one of our favourites. Kids will love the tasty afternoon tea, story-time with Santa and biscuit decorating. Oh and the present of course!
8. Take Part In The Avon Tyrrell Christmas Trail
Find Santa’s hidden presents as you navigate this beautiful Christmas themed trail, solving problems left by the elves along the way. Make sure you book as this is a popular activity.
9. Cheer Along The Parade in At The New Milton Christmas Festival
The New Milton Christmas Festival is my favourite of all those happening in the forest. It’s jam packed with festive stalls and all the shops are open especially late for the occasion. You can indulge in a mulled wine and mince pie while dancing to the live music as well as seeing Santa at the head of the parade. It really is bags of fun for the whole family.
10. Visit The Christmas Tree Festival In Burley
If Christmas trees are your thing, you can admire some beautifully decorated ones at this annual event. Held at St. John the Baptist Church, it’s free to attend though you are requested to give a donation to charity.