Jane Dunford, The Guardian, December 23, 2014
The period between Christmas and New Year needn’t be spent slumped on the sofa. From panto in Cardiff to painting in Liverpool, here are a few ideas to put some spark into the holiday.
Catch a show
He’s behind you … Oh no, he isn’t … Twixmas is all about the pantomime. Cinderella at New Theatre Cardiff promises to be a hoot, with former rugby star Gareth Thomas as the prince’s friend, Dandini; adult from £10.50, child from £8.50. At the Opera House Manchester, Priscilla Presley takes a turn as the Wicked Queen in Snow White – snap up limited tickets from £11.90. For £15, you can catch something a bit more highbrow: on 27 December, there’s a live screening of the Bolshoi Ballet performing the Nutcracker, beamed straight from Russia to the Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead. Or take part in a bewitching interactive fairy tale at a performance of Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales on the South Bank in London; adult £45, child £20. Five floors of the Bargehouse have been transformed into another world – you’re literally in the witch’s cottage with Hansel and Gretel. The Eden Project in Cornwall stays open with the new Enchanted Rainforest in the Biome, a bewitching mix of live performance, soundscapes and magical lighting effects created by theatre group Wildworks. Plus there’s storytelling, ice-skating, choirs and craft workshops, all for the bargain price of £23.50 for adults and £13.50 for children aged 5-16.
Eat, drink and be merry
The Queen of Hoxton rooftop wigwam
For those who can still face a drink after Christmas, the Distillers’ Fair on 29 and 30 December at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh is the place to go. After a guided interactive tour revealing the stories behind the craft and a whisky tasting, visitors can talk to expert distillers over a wee dram; prices from £14. If you’re in London, the Queen of Hoxton’s heated rooftop wigwam is open from 5pm on 27 December for hot buttered rum, toasted marshmallows and sparkling views across town. Sweet tooth not satisfied? Check in to the Chocolate Boutique Hotel in Bournemouth on 27, 28 or 29 December and enjoy a free Belgian truffle workshop. Doubles (chocolate-themed, of course, with chocolate-pancake breakfast) from £90, quote “stay and play” when booking.
Thermae Spa in Bath, Somerset
Wash away the excesses of Christmas with a long soak at the Thermae Spa in Bath. It’s open as usual between Christmas and New Year (but closed Boxing Day). Opt for the Twilight package and enjoy three hours in the spa and a light supper with a glass of wine from £42. Be pampered at the Portal Spa in Cheshire, which has a special package for stays between 26 and 30 December, with use of spa, a 30-minute treatment or round of golf, dinner and breakfast from £89pp. For a grounding couple of days, join an urban retreat with stress-relieving yoga and meditation at Yoga at the Mill in Chelmsford on 29 and 30 December; £125, non-residential.
Take a hike
Christmas adds another dimension to London Architecture Walks
Burn off some calories on a guided five-mile walk through Sheringham Park in Norfolk on 27 December, with views over the coast and pretty woodland, complete with roaming deer. Set off at 11am and finish with a hot drink and (another) mince pie; £5.25 for adults, £2.75 for children. At Leigh Woods in Bristol on 30 December, kids can follow clues to hunt for Father Christmas’s reindeer as they rest after their round-the-world trip on a festive family trail – with prizes, too (10am-2pm, £3 for a trail paper). Combine fresh air and history on a free guided walk through the Elan Valley in Powys, mid-Wales, on 28 December, taking in the remains of Nant-y-Gro Dam, used for tests before Second World War Dambuster raids. Starts at 10am. For an urban stroll with a difference, a two-hour tour with architect Ike Ijeh will take you around the best Christmas illuminations in London on 29 December. Learn about the decorations’ wider cultural significance and see the capital in a new light. Meet at the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree at 7pm; adult £15, child 11-15 £7.50, booking essential.
The West Somerset Railway is England’s longest heritage track. Photograph: flickr
Take a nostalgia trip on a 20-mile steam train ride through picturesque wintry English landscape on the West Somerset Railway. England’s longest heritage track has 10 well-preserved stations, served by historic locomotives and wagons. The Winter Steam Festival runs on 29 and 30 December, with museums, and model railways to check out en route. Adult tickets cost £15.30, children’s tickets £7.65. To the south, the Isle of Wight Steam Railway will be running on 26 and 27 December – hop off at Ashey or Wootton for countryside romps and visit the Winter Wonderland at Havenstreet station (there’s a free mince pie and festive tipple for every traveller). Prices are £10.50 for an adult, £5.50 for a child.
Norwich Puppet Theatre
To tie in with the Transmitting Andy Warhol exhibition at Tate Liverpool, kids can get arty for free on daily afternoon winter workshops, running from 27-30 December. They will get the chance to create Warhol-inspired works, ranging from digital collages to self-portraits, with help from artist Harriet Hall. Housed in a medieval church, the Norwich Puppet Theatre is an atmospheric setting for a string puppet workshop on 30 December. Over-fives can make and decorate their own marionettes, taking inspiration from Beauty and the Beast (£8.50, 10am-1pm). Families can get their creative juices flowing at the Kelvingrove gallery in Glasgow at a “Discover family portrait drawing” class (1.30pm-4pm until 31 December). These are free sessions teaching simple techniques for capturing family and friends, inspired by Scottish artist and writer Alasdair Gray’s iconic style.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
This article was written by Jane Dunford from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.