Countdown to Christmas: A Guide to Christmas in York for families
Enjoy the countdown to Christmas with our bumper guide to Christmas in York for families!
There’s so much to see and do this Christmas in York for families! We have created a handy Christmas Countdown guide to help you decide what activities to do at home, in York City Centre and further afield.
We hope you enjoy our Guide to Christmas in York for families! How many activities will you do this Christmas?
FREE DOWNLOAD our Countdown to Christmas poster or pick up a printed copy from the Visit York Information Centre on Museum Street.
Colour in the shapes as you complete each activity to help you count how many you have completed from our Guide to Christmas in York for families.
Christmas in York City Centre for families
Do the York Bid Santa Search – Bringing more festive fun into the city for families to enjoy is the latest ‘York Quest’ AR (augmented reality) App trail from York Bid featuring a festive ‘Santa Search’ to encourage players to find a series of seven Christmas characters who have taken up residence on York’s historic streets. Take a fun photo and share on social media! The app is called York Quest, and is available on Google Play Store or App Store.
Trip to see Santa – There are so many places to see Santa this year and we have rounded them all up in our guide of where to see Santa.
View the Christmas lights around the city – The Christmas lights in York city centre are set to be better than ever! The winter light scheme this year includes the Tree of Light at the Eye of York, beautiful Christmas trees on St Helen’s Square, Parliament Street and Shambles Market and York’s historic bars illuminated with thousands of twinkling lights.
Mumbler Mythical Creature Quest – Our Mumbler Mythical Creature Quest takes you on a short but magical walk around York to seek out eight mythical creatures that are hiding in the city. Perhaps you’ve walked past some of them before and never even noticed them? Once you find each creature you’ll need to unscramble the clues to uncover the magical Mumbler password! Download a free copy of our trail or pick one up from the Visit York Information Centre on Museum Street.
Buy or paint a new Christmas tree decoration – Visit one of York’s Christmas themed shops such as Kathe Wohlfahrt on Stonegate or the Nutcracker Christmas shop on the Shambles to see their wonderful Christmas tree decoration selections. Or why not paint your own at Rainbow Ceramics and Bish Bash Pot. You can even make an edible decoration as part of the ‘Twas the Night before Christmas’ experience at York Mansion House.
Enjoy a festive themed afternoon tea – If you are spending the day in town and looking for somewhere to eat why not indulge in an afternoon tea! Check out our 5 reviews of some local favourites.
Post a letter to Santa in the museum gardens – NEW FOR 2021 there is now a Letterbox to Santa positioned just inside the Museum Street entrance to the gardens, and provided by the York BID, the post box will make sending a letter to Santa this year an extra special experience. (Please note letters will not receive a response). After Christmas you can also post a ‘Thank You’ to Santa for all of his hard work! Open Daily from 10.30am – 6pm from 18th November until 6th January.
Christmas Tree Festival at York Minster – a new, FREE festival for the city will be taking place in a festive marquee by the South Piazza and features over 30 trees decorated by local businesses, schools and charities. You can also visit the activity marquee to write your own Christmas message on a tag that will be added to a tree at the festival. Find out more HERE.
Trip to the pantomime – Check out our full list of the best Pantomimes and festive shows in York including carol concerts, theatre productions and magic shows.
Visit a Christmas Fair – Enjoy the Christmas markets in York this year. We’ve listed all the local Christmas markets, shopping events & Christmas fairs in York. Visiting a Christmas market in York gives you the opportunity to buy locally and support local crafters, makers and small businesses. Christmas markets are also great places to pick up unique gifts for your family and friends.
Visit the Library to borrow some Christmas stories – Christmas can be an expensive time of year so why not visit the reading café in the city centre or at Rowntrees Park to sit and read some Christmas stories together in the comfort of their children’s literary area. You can even borrow some books to enjoy at home and return to your local York Explore library.
Visit the Winter Jungle at Spark* -Explore the Winter Jungle. Delve deep into the urban rainforest to enjoy a tropical take on Winter. They have heaters on every table and the return of the canvas roof means the venue is now fully waterproofed and toasty! Spark have an amazing array of traders and events which will keep the space thriving and vibrant. Don’t forget to say hello to the latest jungle residents, life-sized tropical animals hidden amongst the greenery – see if you can spot them all!
Visit a Kirkgate Christmas – York Castle Museum Presents…A Kirkgate Christmas Tale. Step foot into a Christmas tale at York Castle Museum this winter and rediscover all the magic of the season! This Christmas their famous Victorian Street, Kirkgate, will be transformed into a glistening snow-covered ‘stage’ where spectacular large-scale projections present a very special Christmas story full of festive cheer!
Christmas at home
Decorate your Christmas tree – Decorating your Christmas tree together is a great family tradition! So pop on some festive tunes, lay out some seasonal snacks and take your time to create this wonderful centrepiece for your home.
Make Reindeer Food – Making Reindeer food is a great part of our Christmas Eve traditions, once we have made it we sprinkle it on the front garden to encourage Santa’s Reindeer to stop by our house. The RSPCA has created some excellent wildlife-friendly recipes including magical Reindeer sprinkle dust and Reindeer Cookies! Check out the recipes HERE.
Enjoy a Festive Film Night – Grab some popcorn, snuggly blankets and hot chocolates and pop on a family festive movie! HERE are some of our favourites to enjoy.
Have Christmas Disco – Pop on some festive tunes, your best Christmas outfits and have a boogie around the living room. This is also a great activity to do once you have just decorated your Christmas tree, turn out the lights and dance in the glow of the fairy lights! You could even have a game of musical bumps, statues etc.
Make and decorate a gingerbread house – This is one of our absolute favourite traditions! It keeps the whole family nibbling all the way up to Christmas. Most of the supermarkets now sell this as a kit so you don’t have to bake the gingerbread yourself, but if you do fancy having a go at making it from scratch here is a great RECIPE from BBC good food. You can then decorate it with whatever sweets your family likes! Or for a slightly healthier version why not adorn it with some dried fruit!
Play the York Mumbler ‘Build a Snowman Game’ – DOWNLOAD a free copy of our fun festive game.
Write and post a letter to Santa – We’ve listed below some great ways to get in touch with Santa. Don’t leave it too late to send your letter to Santa, he has a lot to read and reply to, so he needs to receive them as soon as possible! Get your pens at the ready and check out our BLOG to see all the different ways you can contact him.
Make a Winter Bird Feeder – Don’t forget about the birds this Winter, you might even see a robin in your garden if you put out some food for them. Here is a brilliant step by step GUIDE from the RSPB to making a quick and easy bird cake.
Random Act of Kindness – A random act of kindness is doing something nice for someone else when they least expect it. Usually we do nice things for people when they do nice things for us as a way of saying thank you. A random act of kindness is you making the first move and doing something for someone else without expecting anything in return. It could be something like drawing a nice picture for someone to make them smile, calling someone for a chat to see how they are, walking your friends dog, help with a household chore without being asked to do it. On the back of our Christmas Countdown poster there is space you for to think about doing something nice for friends, family, your teacher, someone on their own and something for your neighbourhood! Share your ideas with us #merrymumblerchristmas.
Picnic under the Christmas Tree – Once the tree is up our kids love any opportunity to sit around it and look at all the decorations twinkling in the fairy lights, so last year we had our very first Christmas Tree Picnic! Lay out a nice snuggly blanket for everyone to sit on and enjoy lunch or dinner around the tree. Here are some PICNIC IDEAS to get you started!
Do the Merry Mumbler Christmas Carols – We have put together a Merry Mumbler Christmas carol book which includes some of our favourite festive tunes! Download your free Merry Mumbler Christmas Carols Song Book and have fun with your family and friends with 5 ideas for how to use it to add some festive cheer this Christmas.
Christmas further afield
Visit your local Christmas lights – Take a walk around where you live to spot your neighbours Christmas lights, visit a light show or take a trip to some of York’s best Christmas light displays! We have listed them all in our FESTIVE LIGHTS blog.
Santa’s Staycation at Murton Park – Meet Santa in his cosy winter cabin where children will receive Santa money to spend in the Magical Toy Shop. Then take a walk through the village and be enchanted by the elves and peek inside their homes and workshops. Visit the Bakehouse up at the Derwent Valley Light Railway. Adults will have the opportunity to tuck into their complimentary mince pie and children will be given reindeer food, especially made by Mother Christmas herself to take home and put out on Christmas Eve. More info HERE.
Pick your own Christmas at Spilmans Farm – Take a trip to Spilman’s Farm this winter for some magical festive fun and instead of picking your own fruit and veg you get to PICK YOUR OWN Christmas!!! Includes storytelling with Santa, a trip to Mrs Claus’s Gingerbread Toy Workshop, Mulled Wine & Hot Chocolate, Pick your own Present, Christmas Disco and Fairground Rides. More info HERE.
Winter Scavenger Hunt – If you are going on a festive walk why not print off our WINTER SCAVENGER HUNT sheet and try and spot as many things as you can on your stroll.
Christmas in Narnia at Castle Howard – Step through the wardrobe into an enchanting adventure this festive season. An icy spell has been cast on this mystical land where it is always winter, but will Christmas spirits be restored and will warmth and joy return? See the lavishly decorated interiors of Castle Howard transformed. Enjoy breath-taking dramatic installations, lighting and soundscapes evoking everything we love about this special time of year. Marvel at the 25-foot Christmas tree adorned with over 3000 baubles providing a magnificent highlight in the Great Hall. More info HERE.
Christmas Festival at The Web Adventure Park – An audience with Santa, Christmas Magic performances and a Christmas fun fair with unlimited rides are on offer! More info HERE.
Visit a nature reserve – Even though it’s cold outside it’s still important to get out and about to get some fresh air, so why not visit one of York’s beautiful nature reserves, check out our local GUIDE to find one near you. Take a Winter Scavenger hunt with you to check two festive activities off your list!
Ice Skating at Yorkshire Winter Wonderland – The North of England’s largest outdoor ice rink at 975 sq. m is back with a 30ft high sparkling Christmas tree as its centrepiece. Surrounded by illuminated trees, log cabins, the rink side cafe and a viewing platform, this magical setting makes for the perfect festive experience for all ages. Overlooking the ice rink is The Chalet, a cosy alpine-themed, après-skate café and an ideal spot to warm up after a session on the ice or to watch the skaters glide past as well as a vintage funfair. More info HERE.
Christmas Parade at Askham Bryan Wildlife Park – Every weekend in December leading up to Christmas, Santa and his band of merry elves will be parading through the Wildlife Park! Visit Santa and receive an animal-themed gift and activity pack. More info HERE.
🎄💜 We hope you like our Guide to Christmas in York for families and enjoy having lots of Christmas family fun together!🎄💜