Having trouble finding your festive mojo? Or perhaps you’re in search of ways to entertain the kiddos Yuletide-season-stylee? Fear not! Bristol has more Christmas things to do than there are elves in the North Pole…well, nearly. I’ve rounded up 101 (yes 101!) family-friendly Christmas things to do in the city, #MERRYBRISTMAS!
Santa Claus is coming to Bristol – where to see the man in red
1. Snuggle down for Christmas storytime with Mother Christmas and her elf, Jingles at St Peter’s Hospice Christmas Market at Ashton Court on 30 November. There’s over 50 stalls, entertainment, Prosecco and coffee, plus Pieminister Pies. £1 on the door for adults, free for kids, all proceeds go to the hospice.
2. Sail with Santa’s elves on a decorated Bristol Ferry boat and seek out Santa on the Harbourside!
3. Follow animal-shaped decorations, take part in festive arts, crafts, pen a Christmas letter with the team of elves and meet the big man in red at Bristol Zoo’s magical Santa’s grotto (30 November – 23 December).
4. Visit Santa and the elves in a magical wonderland on the Upper Ground floor (next to Pret) at Cabot Circus Christmas Grotto (weekends and selected dates from 9 November- 24 December). Book online to personalise your child’s visit by telling Santa anything you think he should know and download the Cabot Circus PLUS app before you arrive so you and your kiddos can join in with Santa’s reindeer food-making workshop for free!
5. Go on a lively, theatrical grotto adventure with Father Christmas and his Tick Tock Team (theatrical company Bakehouse Factory) in Santa’s Enchanted Ice Castle at The Mall at Cribbs Causeway Winter Wonderland (16 November – 24 December).
6. Ride in a vintage carriage on a steam-hauled train and meet Father Christmas at Avon Valley Railway (24 November- 24 December). Eat mince pies and festive biscuits from Santa’s helpers gazing over gorgeous countryside before receiving a gift from FC himself.
7. Journey to the North Pole to meet Father Christmas at Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park. The hour-long immersive experience will take you on a magical adventure to meet Santa’s elves Evergreen, Mistletoe and Patch. Mrs Claus is also on hand for cookie decorating and secret stories. Weekends from 30 November-24 December.
8. Get creative with the eco-elves in Santa’s Eco Invention Workshop at We The Curious (30 November – 5 January). Visitors can design their own laser-cut snowflake, make a decoration from Somerset-grown willow, fold and decorate a paper house lantern and create your own greetings card design from recycled materials.
9. Discover Santa’s Cottage, Christmas crafts and unlimited soft play at The Grand Pier, Weston-super-Mare (30 November -24 December).
10. Learn from Santa’s elves what it takes to work with Father Christmas at The Galleries (weekends from 7-22 December). Each (free, pre-bookable) session will offer a different activity, giving little ones the chance to see what it really takes to be Santa’s assistant.
11. Pre-empt those mince pies and get into the true spirit of Christmas with hundreds of other Santa’s on the Run, who will be running 2k around Bristol Harbourside in aid of Children’s Hospice South West (8 December, Lloyd’s Amphitheatre).
12. Go a magical adventure and meet Father Christmas at Ashton Court Mansion (5-23 December) in a new interactive experience featuring professional actors as well as Christmas activities and trails around the grounds.
13. Discover a magical festive secret hidden deep underground at Cheddar Gorge. A team of Father Christmas’ elves has built a fantastical workshop deep inside Gough’s Cave (weekends from 16 November to 8 December, daily from 14 – 24 December). See the elves sorting letters, making toys and inspecting the famous sleigh, peek into the elves’ kitchen, toy workshop and reindeer stables, sing some festive songs, listen to a Cheddar Christmas tale and meet Santa himself.
14. Visit Father Christmas and his Elf in his Wonderland Room at John Lewis and Partners. Kiddos can listen to him read a story before receiving a gift (selected dates from 5-23 December).
15. Join Santa and his elves for breakfast or afternoon tea in a magical grotto at Slimbridge Wetland Centre (7-22 December). Get stuck into activities such as gingerbread icing, building an elf den, toasting marshmallows, arts and crafts, as well as sending a letter to the North Pole.
16. Meet Father Christmas at Tyntesfield in his new workshop up at the Home Farm courtyard when he stops in at Tyntesfield. For those who’ve made it onto the nice list, there’s crafts and treats too. 3-5, 10-12 and 17-19 December.
17. Breakfast on pancakes or full English with Santa in the Cowtastic Playbarn at Farrington’s Farm Shop, Café & Farm Park in·Farrington Gurney. Weekends from 7-22 December)
18. Ride on a festive tractor and trailer ride around Cattle Country Adventure Farm Park before being dropped off at Santa’s Farmyard Grotto in the Animal Experience Barn. There’ll also be an Elves Workshop with Christmas crafts, face painting, and Christmas decoration-making. Weekends from 24 Nov-23 Dec.
19. Breakfast with Santa and Mrs Claus at Cadbury Garden Centre – Ho, Ho, Ho, for Christmas stories, juice, cookies, and festive fun!
20. Tuck into a three-course Santa Sunday lunch at De Vere Tortworth Court on Sundays in December. There’ll be a magician on hand impressing with his table magic and the magical man in red himself, Santa will be dropping by with gifts.
21. For oodles of yuletide magic, check out the displays at Whitehall Garden Centre, Whitchurch complete with moving polar bears, snowmen, decoration bedecked Christmas trees, reindeer (with feeding on at 4pm everyday) and Father Christmas (who you can pay to see)
22. Visit Santa and Mrs Clause in their magical Grotto at Born in Bristol from 30 November and every Saturday throughout December (plus some Wednesdays). Each kiddo gets a present from Santa and a chance to have their photo taken.
Run, Rudolph, Run, skate, dance…Christmas activities in Bristol
23. Swoosh in style at BUMP Rollerdisco’s ‘Skate with Santa sessions’ on Millennium Square (15 November – 15 January), grab drinks from the Disco Ball Bar, have a go at some of the fairground stalls nearby and devour a Christmas bap while you’re at it.
24. Get ready to shimmy in your sparkles and clown around at the Spiegeltent’s Baby Disko for ages 5 and under on Waterfront Square (30 November and 21 December)
25. See Santa by the sea at Clevedon Pier’s Porthole Room Christmas Grotto – a sparkling sunken ship grotto, made entirely from recycled materials (December 14-24).
Baby, it’s cold outside – outdoor Christmas things to do in Bristol
26. Plonk yourself down for a family-friendly festive pop-up cinema screening – from Elf at Arnos Vale Cemetery (6-7 December), to Bristol Film Festival’s seasonal favourites at Bristol Museum and Bristol Old Vic – click here to check out the full list of Christmas movie screenings here.
27. Gaze over wintry city views from the Sky View Wheel as part of Wintertime on Millennium Square (17 November – 6 January). Afterwards, venture into the pop-up Apres Bar to warm your cockles with mulled beverages, raclette and alpine vibes.
28. Swish and swirl on UK’s biggest ice track at The Mall at Cribbs causeway Winter Wonderland (now double the size of last year!) from 16 November – 5 January. All new for this year are toddlers-only skate sessions, a theatrical Santa experience in the Enchanted Ice Castle, IceByks® and a new Tipi bar.
29. Don your best festive costume to wave off Santa in his sleigh and a whole host of special characters including Dora, Lego Man, Paw Patrol, Olaf and more in the Christmas Parade at Old Down Park (30 November 2pm). The parade celebrates the opening of the ice rink and grotto for Christmas 2019. They’ll also be music, face painting, market stalls and lots of yummy sweets to add to the yuletide vibes!
30. Find out if Stick Man ever gets back to the family tree by joining a winter exploration of Arnos Vale’s woods before creating a Stick Man of your own on December 21.
31. Hunt for bugs and Christmas surprises, make a decoration and warm up with a hot drink next to the fire in Leigh Woods on 1 December. There’s a Christmas prize for all who take part!
32. Gaze at the city’s twinkling Christmas lights from an open top bus on a Bristol Insight Twilights Tour (14, 15, 21, 21 December).
33. Wander twinkly lit streets at dusk on foot – check out the new festive lights on King Street, the Christmas tree-lined streets of Clifton and it’s glittering arcade and the glowing lights of Wapping Wharf.
34. Being your torch and head off on Pensford’s Nativity Trail, a unique festive adventure featuring the work of artist Paul Baxter. The trail starts at the Old Lockup and ends in the Church tower. 1-27 December.
Oh Come all ye artists – festive arty things to do in Bristol
35. Check out Visit Bristol’s #MerryBristmas street art splashed across the giant glass front of Colston Hall. The eight pictures which fill the squares have been created by local artists and make a fabulously festive selfie background.
36. Let’s Make Art we will be taking over the top floor of Colston Hall (23-24 November) during the Made in Bristol Gift Fair (also 7-8 December) for a jam-packed family extravaganza of dressing up, handmade decor, printing gift wrap and tags and free festive colouring in.
37. Spur on your budding Banksys with Where the Wall’s Stencil Art Spray Session using laser-cut stencils and water-based spray paints (30 Nov, 7, 14 & 21 December).
38. Play with colour, shape, texture in a special Christmas edition of Baby Art Hour for under 5s in Spike Island Cafe, led by artist Éilis Kirby (13 December).
39. Ditch those plastic baubles and create bespoke Christmas decorations for your home at City Hall 30 November.
40. Get stuck into original art, handcrafted goods, and vintage up-cycled items at Centrespace Studios on 14 December. As well as creative workshops and demonstrations on lino printing, screen printing, letterpress card printing and dog life drawing, there will be freshly-baked cakes, hot drinks and mulled wine for sale, performances from local musicians and a shadow puppet show available to book.
Have yourself a historic little Christmas in Bristol
41. Travel back in time 100 years and celebrate Christmas Victorian-style at Brunel’s SS Great Britain’s Victorian Christmas weekend (7-8 Dec), a wonderfully festive day out with raggedy characters, falling snow and traditional printing processes. Don’t miss the Dickensian Improvised Christmas Tale (8, 9, 21 & 22 December 2019). Bristmassy!
42. Hark! The herald angels in the house where Charles Wesley penned this very carol! While you’re there you can also see how Christmas was celebrated in Georgian times (28 Nov, 5, 14, 19 Dec).
Now bring us some figgy pudding…and the rest! Festive food in Bristol
44. Head up Park Street for heavenly festive-flavoured winter gelato from Swoon. Mince Pie or Panettone Gelato are sure to keep your Christmastide tastebuds tantalised!
45. Mrs Potts Chocolate House on Park Street is the place of cocoa-inspired dreams for kids and adults…pop in to warm your cockles and indulge in their sugar-tastic Christmas menu.
46. Hunker down with some Yuletide grub inside Pieminister on Stokes Croft or Broad Quay. Their Christmas feast is hard to beat – festive flavour sensations on the menu include pigs in blankets, Mistlemoo (steak, bacon and port) pie, a stuffing ball and mini Yorkshire pudding ‘stick’ and mince pie ice cream sundae.
47. Kick off the festive feasting with a traditional three-course Christmas Carvery at Bowood House Hotel and Spa on 1, 8 and 15 December.
Step into Bristmas – indoor Christmas things to do in Bristol
48. Join in with a festive workshop and activities and meet a Christmas Clownfish at Bristol Aquarium’s coral reef themed Christmas – Christmas Wreath geddit? 21 December-5 January 2020.
49. Marvel at over 100 decorated Christmas trees at St Mary Redcliffe Church’s Treefest (3-7 December)
50. Fulfil your Greatest Showman dreams in the The Hype’s ‘Big Top’ inside Bristol’s iconic Passenger Shed. Learn circus skills, marvel at a song and dance spectacular, join in the fun and frolics on an interactive disco and indulge in lashings of circus-themed nosh (8,14, 15, 21 December)
51. Celebrate the Winter Solstice with The Wild of the Words crafty storytelling of the Norweigan fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Hot drinks and a hearty veggie supper to nibble around the fire available will be available (20 December).
52. Let your hair down at The Egg’s musical version of Rapunzel (6 December 2019–12 January 2020), packed with comedy, songs, a magic pig and a lorra princes in this Bath theatre designed especially for kids.
53. Go on a trip with the Adventure Bureau (17 November & 15 December), watch intricate puppetry, hilarious characters and sumptuous design in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (19-31 Dec) and cosy up for fireside tales with Granddad (22 December-6 January) at The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol.
54. For the ultimate in snuggly family Christmas shows, grab a ticket for Boing! at Bristol Old Vic’s special Pyjama Nights performances. Don your jammies on selected Friday Nights at 5.30pm for a pre-bedtime performance plus a steaming hot chocolate, whipped up in the 1766 Bar & Kitchen.
55. Join Mr Time and Tide Taletellers for Christmas-themed stories from around the globe as they blend myth, legend and history into tales of Father Frost and winter wonders around the warming fire at Arnos Vale Cemetery’s atmospheric Underwood Centre (1 December).
56. Enjoy everything that’s good about Christmas in Dragonbird Theatre’s sparkly festive shows. Think sleigh rides, snow fights, songs, Christmas trees, twinkling candles, stockings and…. Father Christmas!
57. Hunt down Santa’s elves at Clifton Observatory and Cave (1 December-5 January). Climb to the top of the tower, check out the Camera Obscura, then venture down to the depths of the Giant’s Cave searching for elves, in exchange for a festive treat!
58. Watch Christmas movies in unique surroundings courtesy of Bristol Film Festival. From a Muppet’s Christmas Carol at Bristol Old Vic to Neverending Story at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. See a full round-up of pop-up cinema screenings in Bristol here.
59. Be sure to put Elf at Watershed (14-15 December) on your Christmas cinema list, sit back and watch the hilarious scrapes ensue.
60. Check out characterful venue, Curzon Cinema, Clevedon, one of the oldest continually working cinemas in the country. Their festive cornucopia of family movies includes Elf at 2pm on Christmas Eve.
61. Try your hand at blowing your own glass bauble at the Bristol Blue glass open day. As well as mulled wine, mince pies, talks and demos, look out for special offers and wonderful handmade gift ideas.
62. Let it go at Discobabies’ Frozen Workshop in Avon Way Hall, Portishead on 29 December. The session includes singing, games and face painting, plus a special visit from Olaf and Elsa.
63. Frolic the afternoon away at LA Children’s Christmas Party at Long Ashton Community Centre on 15 December. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for more details.
64. Holler along with the crowd to Bristol’s biggest panto, Dick Whittington at Bristol Hippodrome, starring Shane Richie.
65. Join master magicians Ollie Collins & AJ De Luca for The Showmen Christmas Spectacular at BAWA Leisure, Filton, for a spellbinding show filled with grand illusions, mind-boggling magic, chucklesome comedy, special effects and sensational showgirls (9 Dec).
66. Let kids get messy making all kinds of Christmas tree decorations, gingerbread biscuits and other Christmas surprises in a special Gingerbread Cooking it! Baking class. (14 Dec).
Giddy up, let’s go on a festive day trips from Bristol
67. Wander in glittering forests, through glowing lanterns and past laser-lit historic buildings and experience a magical festive feast for the senses at a Christmas light festival near Bristol – I’ve rounded up six of the best here.
68. Inspired by US writer Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’, the American Museum & Gardens near Bath have created a very colourful Christmas, with trails, wreath making, St Nick and a festive fair (28 November – 22 December).
69. Go on a luminous adventure through thousands of Chinese lanterns and stunning structures at the magnificent Longleat Festival of Light (9 Nov-5 January). This year’s theme is Myths and Legends.
70. Soak up up a Victorian Christmas atmosphere inside Tyntesfield house as the Gibbs family and servants set about their festive preparations. There’s also Christmas horse and carriage rides, local choirs crooning Christmas classics in the chapel plus seasonal Sunday markets for a spot of festive shopping. 23 November – 5 January.
71. Experience a festive feast for the senses at Westonbirt Arboretum’s Enchanted Christmas. Grab a mulled cider from one of the stalls to quaff on your way along the mile-long illuminated trail through the trees, 29 November – 22 December.
72. Celebrate an eco-friendly Christmas at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, join in with festive recycled wildlife trails, listen to festive music, take part in a DIY nativity (21 Dec), and a winter wildlife trail at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm (30 November -21 December)
73.For plenty of wow moments and sparkly thrills, check out Sudeley Castle’s Spectacle of Light – themed around J.M. Barrie’s timeless classic, Peter Pan and Wendy this year. Expect glamorous topiary, dazzling plants, visual effects and an enchanting wander through the dark. Weekends 30 Nov-30 Dec.
74.Delve into a subterranean world and tour Wookey Hole’s magnificent caverns (home to the legendary Witch of Wookey) before exploring above ground, where you’ll find a gigantic gorilla, fairy garden, animatronic dinosaurs, 4D cinema, live shows, soft play, a Victorian-style arcade and a chance to meet Santa and his elves.
75. Hop on a train to Bath (13 minutes from Bristol), have a twirl on the ice rink and hitch a ride on a hobby horse on Stall Street’s Victorian Carousel (19-29 December) for some ol’ fashioned family fun.
76. Enter another world where forests grow underground and caverns are filled with twinkling lights – Clearwell Caves in the Forest of Dean. Santa and his elves are waiting to help you choose an early gift (29 November – 24 December 2019)
77. Step away from the tinsel, baubles and trees of the modern age and learn about 17th century traditions at the National Trust’s Dyrham Park (30 November – 5 Jan). With church choirs at weekends, children’s (and adults!) trails through the parkland, a poetry trail and subtle decorations crafted from plants and dried flowers.
Music and theatre
78. See a show! There’s tons of festive family theatre on in Bristol over the yuletide season – for a full list of family-friendly Christmas shows click here.
79. Be filled with festive wonder watching children from primary schools across Bristol join together to sprinkle Christmas cheer and sing a selection of seasonal songs at St Georges Bristol, Bristol Plays Music concert (4 December). From festive favourites to new compositions, over 250 children will share their enthusiasm, talent and love of singing in the celebration of Christmas.
80. Get into the Yuletide spirit Bristol Cathedral’s Family Carol Service & Blessing of the Crib (22 December, 3.30pm) which includes well-known readings from the nativity story and carols sung by Bristol Cathedral Choristers. Children (and adults!) are invited to come dressed as wise men, angels, or shepherds.
81. Nervous that your toddler might not last the length of a traditional carol service? Bring little wrigglers along to Bristol Cathedral’s Toddler carols – a relaxed 45-minute carol concert. Characters from the Christmas story are brought to life as you move around the building (so no sitting still on laps or worrying about noise!) (19 Dec 10am & 2pm)
82. Hear the Christmas story in a child-friendly Christingle services at one of England’s finest churches, St Mary Redcliffe (21 December). Featuring popular carols and nativity tableau.
83. Introduce your little ones to the enchanting music of The Snowman at St George’s Christmas Carnival (22 December, 2 & 4pm), full of audience participation and seasonal musical treats.
84. Belt out some tunes in a unique environment – under the wings of Concorde Alpha Foxtrot (7 December), the last Concorde ever to fly. Free to enjoy with a Bristol Aerospace ticket.
85. Join in with the merriment at Holy Trinity Church, Kingswood (BS15 4AD) on 4 December. There’ll be special performances from local schools and choirs, mince pies and refreshments to raise money for Jessie May Children’s hospice nurses.
86. Bop along to songs about dogs eating soap and dragons called Keith when Nick Cope returns to The Wardrobe Theatre to perform his special live music gig for children (8 Dec).
87. Settle in for a charming Christmas show full of music, wit, magic and festive adventure, Snow White at Tobacco Factory Theatres created with the fabulous New International Encounter (28 November – 19 January).
88. Watch Theresa Heskins’ thrilling adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson classic, The Snow Queen at The Redgrave Theatre (29 November-12 December), performed by graduating students of Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
89. As well as the Winter Wonderland, during weekends on the run up to Christmas, The Mall at Cribbs Causeway will have colourful characters and sensational shows popping up all over The Mall as they countdown to the jolliest day of the year! Look out for giant clocks tick and tocking around the shopping centre as the countdown gets underway.
Christmas fairs in Bristol
90. Sing along to campfire carols, join in with christmas crafts, pick up a tree, shop at the Home Grown market, venture into the crystal grotto, sip mulled wine and roast chestnuts on the fire at Windmill Hill City Farm’s Magical Evening of Festive Fun on 12 December.
91. Choose a tree, meet Santa, grab a festive tipple and join in with oodles of family fun at Ashley Down Primary School Christmas Fair and Christmas Tree Sale (7 December)
92. Browse the stalls to the sounds of live music, pick up scrummy food and mulled drinks and have a chat with Santa in his Grotto at St Werburghs City Farm Winter Fair on 1 December.
93. Brave one of Bristol’s many buzzing Christmas markets – perhaps the smaller ones if you’re going with young kids! Then you can escape quickly if necessary!
94. Enjoy tasty treats, live music and charity stalls at Gloucester Road’s Street Party on 5 December. There’ll be biscuit decorating and festive samples at Joe’s Bakery Bristol, festive tunes from Filton Concert Brass outside Alchemy 198 (with mulled wine, soup and snacks). Handmade chocolate samples at Art & Chocolate and lots more!
95. Pick up local, handmade gifts and scrummy treats from over 50 food and craft stalls at Tobacco Factory Christmas Market (1,8,15,22 Dec). Choose a Christmas tree, stock up on mistletoe, take part in kids activities and tuck into mulled drinks as Bristol choirs serenade you with carols.
96. Support local crafters at St Anne’s Church Christmas Fair, Easton. There’ll be stalls (be sure to make a beeline to Jewellery Designer/Maker Chloe Paull’s stand), music and mince pies (Friday), a cafe, raffle, tombola and face painting on Saturday (29-30 November).
97. Get your festive on at Bishop Road Christmas Fair (30 November) with face painting, mulled wine, festive donkey rides, a rodeo reindeer and Santa in his grotto.
98. For more school fair seasonal spirit, head to Sefton Park School Winter Fair (30 Nov) for gift and craft stalls, pre-loved goodies, festive sustenance and street dancing students.
99. Raise money for CLIC Sargent at the Little Elves Festive Fair (14 December). Visit Santa, make a decoration, have a go at games and a raffle in Redland Park United Reformed Church.
100. Take the kids along to enjoy the traders, stalls and activities at the family-friendly Christmas Fair at HERE (1 December). Shop from the local vendors, sip festive refreshments and take part in festive fun stuff for all ages.
- Family-friendly festive pop-up cinema screenings in Bristol this Christmas
- 6 Best Christmas light trails near Bristol
- Festive feels at Sudeley Castle Light Show