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Christmas boredom beaters: top days out with the kids

Sail with Santa across Bristol Harbour or see him swim with sharks at Cheshire Oaks. Simone Kane suggests ways to keep all the family happy over the festive season


Gothic decorations, icy webs and creepy trees will frighten the festive life out of your family in Satan's Anti-Christ(mas) Grotto at the London Dungeon, until Wednesday (020-7403 7221; www.visitlondon/events). Also, the hugely popular Doctor Who Exhibition at Earls Court has been extended until 7 January. Fans of the Doctor will love the first Dalek Zone, as well as the chance to see many of the original monsters from the series (0871 230 1092; www.doctorwhoexhibition.com).


Families can celebrate a Victorian Christmas at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, until Tuesday (01273 292820; www.royalpavilion.org.uk). There's a magic lantern show, festive readings and costumed characters demonstrating how a palace would prepare for a royal Christmas. Or, make a paper fruit or a sculpture from broken crockery at Far West, an exhibition that is transforming Turner Contemporary's project space in Margate into an interactive "concept store", and features works by artists including Yoko Ono that focus on the rising economic dominance of the East (01843 294208; www.turnercontemporary.org).


There is plenty of festive fun on offer at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard until early January, including a Hunt the Slipper family trail aboard HMS Warrior, Tudor Christmas at the Mary Rose Museum, and making maritime calendars at the Royal Naval Museum (023-9283 9766; www.historicdockyard.co.uk). Milestones, the living history museum in Basingstoke, is hosting one of the top five exhibitions in the country, Titanic Honour & Glory, which takes a look at the 1912 disaster and the lives of those left behind (0845 603 5635; www.milestones-museum.com).


All aboard for Sail with Santa, a 45-minute cruise of Bristol Harbour, including a meeting with the man himself, a gift for the kids and mince pies and sherry for the adults, until Tuesday (0117-927 3416; www.visitbristol. co.uk). Every day until 2 January, the Animal Surf Academy is running 90-minute Christmas Dip taster sessions for families on Polzeath Beach, North Cornwall, including instruction and hire of the gear (01208 880617; www.animalsurfacademy .co.uk).


Until 4 January, catch the new Snowstorm ride at Waterfront Winterland in Swansea, where the National Waterfront Museum has been transformed into a wintry playground, including carousel, ice skating and giant wheel. (For skating call 01792 637300; www.swanseachristmas.com) Meanwhile, scientists will teach children under seven how to spot animals such as Taurus the Bull and the Great Bear in the night skies at Pawprints in the Night Stars at Techniquest in Cardiff, also until 4 January (029-2047 5475; www.techniquest .org).


Last chance to board a Santa Special on the Northamptonshire Ironstone Railway at Hunsbury Hill Country Park today and Wednesday. The train departs hourly from 11am to 5pm, with passengers receiving a small gift and nibbles (07790 163114; www.britainonshow.co.uk). Check out the collection of museums at the Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire, where kids can relive history at Blists Hill Victorian Town and dabble in engineering at Enginuity. Seven of the 10 venues will be open for most of the holiday period (01952 884391; www.ironbridge.org.uk).


Children and adults can make last-minute table decorations from natural and decorative materials today between 11am and 3pm at Sheringham Park in Norfolk (01263 820550; www.nationaltrust.org.uk). Don't be a stick in the mud: get down to the Mad Maldon Mud Race on 4 January to lend your support to the brave people who will wade across the sticky River Blackwater in Essex for charity ( www.maldonmud race.com).


Make movable puppets in the form of Father Christmas (until Tuesday) and Jumping Jack Frost (28 December to 2 January) during free craft workshops at the National Media Museum, Bradford (0870 701 0200; www.nationalmedia museum.org.uk). You can work off the excess with a manageable Boxing Day family walk, starting at Lakes Aquarium at Lakeside on Windermere's southern shore – just pick up your free details at the reception desk (01539 530153; www.lakesaquarium.co.uk).

North West

A scuba-diving Santa will drop in on sharks, stingrays and tropical fish to deliver treats at Santa Jaws at the Blue Planet Aquarium, Cheshire Oaks, daily until Tuesday (0151-357 8804; www.blueplanet aquarium.com). Children can learn about the roles and experiences of animals during times of conflict through an interactive Animal and War Tour at the Imperial War Museum North, in Manchester, today, 28 December and 4 January (0161-836 4000; www.iwm.org.uk).

North East

NewcastleGateshead will be alight on New Year's Eve when the Glowmobiles parade takes over the city centre and mechanical art cars, using light and sustainable power, will breathe fire, make music and pulse with pyrotechnics ( www.newcastlegateshead. com). The following day get the adrenalin pumping with a 4x4 Charity Drive in Kielder and Wark Forests, Northumberland. Pile the kids into your own vehicle and head off for a day of guided trailblazing through the forest (0844 586 3484; www.gton.co.uk).


Get the kids in the kitchen with a Cookingmania session in Edinburgh, where in Hogmanay cooking classes they will produce everything from marmalade to shortbreads and flavoured butters, on 27, 29 and 30 December (0131-336 2012; www.cookingmania.co.uk ). For a taste of hidden Scotland, head to Comrie in Perthshire on New Year's Eve to join the centuries-old Hogmanay Flambeaux Procession. When the midnight bells ring, a parade of flaming torches and fancy-dress dancing is set to music to kick off the all-night party ( www.comrie.org.uk).

Northern Ireland

Take a journey through a giant pop-up storybook version of The Nutcracker and the King of Mice at W5 in Belfast, where illustrator PJ Lynch has designed six original scenes for the exhibition, until 11 January (028-9046 7700; www.5online.co.uk). Or head to the Exploris aquarium in Portaferry, Co Down, for Seal Week from 27 December to 4 January. There are seal talks, an art workshop and a touch tank experience (028-4272 8062; www.exploris.org.uk).