The Fun List: Christmas Days Out

Don't spend the festive season stuck in front of the telly. Get the family out and about. Juliet Rix offers a regional guide to the best special events taking place over the holidays


London

LONDON ZOO - CHILDREN'S WINTER WORKSHOPS

Make food crackers for the squirrel monkeys or "Santa's sacks" for the bearded pigs, give the animals their presents and watch them consume! And meet Santa's reindeer too.

Details: Regent's Park NW1 (020-7722-3333; zsl.org), 26 December-3 January, 11.30am and 1pm. Adult £13.50, child £11, family £45, workshops (3-10 years) free with admission.

OPEN-AIR ICE RINKS

Choose from the historic - Somerset House, Hampton Court, The Tower of London, the Natural History Museum, the pastoral - Hampstead Heath, Kew Gardens or the modern - Canary Wharf, Bluewater. Most rinks have cafés.

Details: Times and prices vary. Go to: visit london.com/christmas).

South-East

LEEDS CASTLE TREASURE ISLAND TRAIL AND PANTO

Search through the grounds to find Treasure Island-themed clues, do a word quiz and win a prize. Then warm up watching a Treasure Island mini-panto.

Details: Maidstone, Kent (0870-600 8880; leeds-castle.com), 26-31 December and 2 January. Adult £13.50, child £8, panto £2 per person on the door. Trail 10am-5pm (last admission 3pm); panto noon-3pm.

CHRISTMAS AT THE ROALD DAHL MUSEUM AND STORY CENTRE

Kids over seven can listen to "sparkling legends full of ice magic". Or decorate a chocolate bar and join in craft and storytelling activities.

Details: Great Missenden, Bucks (01494 892192; roald dahlmuseum. org), 28-29 December. Adult £4.95, child £3.50. Legends/ Chocolate £3. Centre open 10am-5pm. Legends 29 December, 1.30pm and 3pm; Chocolate 28 December; other activities daily.

South

CHRISTMAS TOURS AT OSBORNE HOUSE

Get a true sense of a Victorian Christmas on a special tour of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's private home, where they spent the festive season with their nine children.

Details: Isle of Wight (01983 200022; english-heritage.org.uk), 27-31 December. Adult £9.50, child £4.80, family £23.80. Open 10am-4pm; last tour 2.30pm.

FAMILY FUN AT WEALD AND DOWNLAND OPEN AIR MUSEUM

Follow a children's trail around the 45-acre grounds then warm up by open fires in the period buildings decorated for the Christmas of their time: Tudor, Stuart and, in the case of Cromwellian, not decorated. Watch mummers, 29 December, and listen to bellringers, 27 and 30 December.

Details: Singleton, Chichester, West Sussex (01243 811348; weald down.co.uk), 26 December-1 January. Adult £7.95, child (aged 5-16) £4.25, 10.30am-4pm.

BOURNEMOUTH SKI SLOPE

The first ski slope to be erected in a town centre, this 18-metre slope, designed for children, offers tube-riding, tobogganing and a "cliff hanger" climbing wall.

Details: City centre (0845-051 1700; bournemouth .co.uk), 26-31 December, 11am-8pm (closes 6pm New Year's Eve). Four rides cost £2.50.

South-West

NEW YEAR'S ROCKET AT THE NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM

Make a mini-rocket, put in your New Year wishes and fire!

Details: Discovery Quay, Falmouth, Cornwall (01326 31388; nmmc.co.uk) 27-31 December. Adults £7, child £4.80 (tickets last allyear). Museum open 10am-5pm; rockets 1pm-4pm (children must be with an adult).

POLES APART AT LIVING COASTS

Discover Alaskan culture and follow an Alaskan wildlife trail.

Details: Torquay, Devon (01803 202470; living coasts.org.uk), until 6 January, 10am-4.30pm. Adult £6.75, child £4.70, family £20.50.

Midlands

WARWICK CASTLE'S VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS

Whoosh down the ice slide (on a rubber ring) against the backdrop of Warwick Castle's medieval battlements, and skate in the castle courtyard. Then learn the origin of Boxing Day and make your own decorations.

Details: Warwick (0870-442 2375; christmas atthecastle.com), until 7 January. Castle: adult £13.95, child (4-16) £8.95, 10am-5pm. Slide and glide costs extra. Daytime skating (one hour): adult £6, child £5. Evening: (no castle entry) £10/£7. Ice slide, 10am-10pm: daytime, £2 a go; evening, first slide £4 then £2 a go.

MELBOURNE FAMILY RAMBLE

Join this circular family walk, strolling an easy three miles from the grounds of historic Melbourne Hall, around the lake and across fields before returning for a hot drink in the tea room. Part of the Ramblers' Association Festival of Winter Walking.

Details: Melbourne, Derbyshire (07802 890135; ramblers.co.uk/winterwalks), 30 December. Free. Meet 10am in Melbourne Hall Car Park (no need to book). Suitable for young children but not pushchairs.

Eastern England

GREAT YARMOUTH CHRISTMAS CIRCUS

One of the largest Christmas shows in Europe with more than 50 circus performers. For the second half, the ring is filled with water for a spectacular with fountains and show-swimmers.

Details: St George's Road, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk (01493-844172; hippo dromecircus.co.uk), 7 January, 2.30pm and 6.30pm. Adult £10-£15, child £8-£9. New Year's Eve Gala, 8pm - add £2 to prices.

SWAN FEEDS AND TRAIL AT WISBECH

Take in the spectacular views of thousands of swans, ducks and other water birds coming in for their winter feed from a heated observatory at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust near Wisbech. The Twelve Days of Christmas Trail will tell you all about the 12 creatures that spend winter here.

Details: Welney, near Wisbech, on the border of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk (01353 860711; wwt.org.uk), 26-31 December, trail 10am-5pm, feeds at noon. Adult £4.50, child £2.70, family £12.

North-West

RIDE MANCHESTER'S BIG WHEEL

Rise above it all on the world's largest transportable big wheel, 60 metres high with 42 gondolas each carrying six.

Details: Exchange Square, Manchester (worldtouristattractions .co.uk), until 7 January 10am-11pm (29 December until midnight, 30 December from 9am, 26 December and 1 January, noon-10pm). Adult £5, child (4-12) £3, family £14.

POWER BOAT RACING ON MERSEYSIDE

Watch boats power past at up to 120 miles per hour. Stand on the banks at Car Mill Dam and feel the speed.

Details: Garswood Old Road, St Helens, Merseyside (lprc.info), 26 December, 1pm-4pm. Free.

North

DIVINITY, DEER AND DECORATIONS AT FOUNTAINS ABBEY

Discover fascinating facts about the abbey and its monks on a Christmas tour of Fountains Abbey, a World Heritage Site. Feed the deer in the medieval deer park and drop in to the learning centre to make your own Christmas tree decorations.

Details: Rippon, N Yorks (01765 608888; fountains abbey.org.uk), 27-29 December. Tours 1.30pm, deer 10.45am, decorations 11am-3pm. Special events free with admission: adult £6.50, child £3.50 (over 5), family £17.50. National Trust and English Heritage members free.

LANTERN TOURS OF CARLISLE CASTLE

Victorian Lantern tours with costumed guides take you round this 900-year-old castle.

Details: Carlisle (01228-591922; the heritagetrail.co.uk/ castles), 27-30 December. Castle, 10am-4pm: adult £4.10, child £2.10. Tours, 11am, noon, 1pm and 2pm: adult £3, child £1.50. Booking advised.

North-East

NEW YEAR'S EVE DANCING AT BARRASS BRIDGE

Join in with a variety of performers in this free family-oriented, open-air, early-evening dance event accompanied by a light show and firework display.

Details: Outside the Civic Centre, Barrass Bridge, Newcastle (newcastlegateshead. com), 31 January, 6pm-6.45pm. Free.

SNOWDOME AT SUNDERLAND WINTER GARDENS

To complement an exhibition at the National Glass Centre of 100 miniature snowdomes, the glass dome of the winter gardens is transformed by light into "the biggest snowdome in the world".

Details: Burdon Road, Sunderland (0191-553 2323; newinterfestival. com), until 31 Dec. Free.

Wales

CARDIFF'S WINTER WONDERLAND

Open-air ice rink with ice bar café and fun fair.

Details: City Hall Lawn, City Centre, Cardiff (029-230130; cardiffs winterwonderland.com), until 7 January, 9.40am-9.40pm (26 December and 1 January, 11am-6.40pm). Skating (one hour): adult £7.50, child (3-12) £5.50. Or skate in the new year at midnight on 31 December.

BEAUMARIS TRADITIONAL FESTIVITIES

Anglesey's historic walled town celebrates Boxing Day with hot penny throwing and a pram race. And New Year sees a midnight fireworks display at Beaumaris Castle and a tug-of-war on the green the following day.

Details: Beaumaris, Anglesey (beaumaris .org.uk), 26 and 31 December and 1 January. Pennies 11.30am; pram race, noon; tug- of-war, noon.

Scotland

RAINBOW TEXTURES WORKSHOP IN EDINBURGH

This family workshop exploring texture and colour at Edinburgh City Art Centre is for everyone aged over three years. Linked to the "Strands" fabric exhibition.

Details: 2 Market Street, Edinburgh (0131-529 3963; cac.org.uk ), 28 and 29 December, 10am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-4pm. Free. Booking essential.

GLASGOW'S IRN BRU CARNIVAL

Europe's largest indoor funfair, at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), offers more than 50 rides.

Details: Glasgow (0870-040 4000; irn-bru-carnival .com; secctickets.com) until 14 Jan, noon-10pm (until 9pm, 31 December). Wristbands allow access to all rides all day: adult £17, 6-11 years £13, 5 and under £6; 10-ride vouchers £8.50 (£10 on the door). Non-participating, accompanying adults £2.50 (£3 on the door).

Northern Ireland

PENGUIN CURLING AT BELFAST'S W5

A family-friendly (and warmer) variation on the Olympic ice sport. Receive a penguin on wheels, roll it into the floor circle and compete to push opponents' penguins out. Also, an exhibition on the making of Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and original A Christmas Carol illustrations by P J Lynch.

Details: 2 Queen's Quay, Belfast (028-9046 7700; w5online.co.uk), 27 December-7 January, Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sunday noon-6pm. Adult £6.50, children over three £4.50.

ART AND HISTORY IN HOLYWOOD

Explore the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, where the 1900-1914 houses are dressed in period Christmas decorations. The venue will also be holding family art workshops to make a ceramic flying machine to add to the museum's collection.

Details: Cultra, Holywood (02890 428428; uftm.org.uk), 27 December-1 January, Mon-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-5pm. Family workshops 28-31 December, 11.30am-3.30pm. Adult £7, child (5-18) £4, family £19.

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