Step into enchanting wonderlands

  1. The county is beaming with illuminated enchanted gardens and parklands, hosting some of the best light displays in the UK. Join the Enlightened trail in the historic grounds of Colchester Castle, or Hylands Estate, Chelmsford. Both parklands will be beautifully lit, with lots of interactive festive trails. Tickets for each of the events cost £16 adults, £12 children, under threes go free. Colchester Castle – p126981 Hylands Estate –
  2. For more glow, step into the amazing gardens at RHS Garden Hyde Hall, which will be awash with colour this winter with a spectacular illuminated trail. ‘Glow at RHS Hyde Hall’ is priced at non-members £14.95, children £7.95; members £8.95, children £4.45. Pre-booking is essential for all venues.

Visit Santa!

  1. All aboard the Santa Express on the Audley End Miniature Railway, Saffron Walden, to meet Father Christmas! Delightful fairies and elves await in Santa’s winter wonderland of snowy fir trees. Led by Holly the Christmas Fairy, visitors will visit a reindeer feed factory, where children can make food to leave out for Rudolph, plus a visit the North Pole Post Office to send letters to Father Christmas. Mother Christmas will be visiting too and will be telling stories to enthral elves, fairies, and children alike. Adults and children (over 92cm) £22-£25, children under 92 cm £11 – £12.50. Children under one go free. Pre-booking essential.
  2. Share a tasty breakfast or brunch with Father Christmas and meet pigs ‘Fidget and Peaches’ and other animals at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, which is set on fifty-three acres of beautiful countryside in the heart of Brentwood. The visit also includes fun Christmas activities, a winter trail and a goodie bag. Tickets priced £30 for children; adults £10. Pre-booking essential.

Gin-gle Bells! Bespoke gin experience

  1. If you enjoy a Christmas tipple, a visit to the On the Wall Distillery Gin School, Bradwell on Sea, is a must. Visitors can sample a variety of gins, tuck into a tasty lunch and make their own personally labelled craft gin. Experiences are priced £80 per person

Family fun games!

  1. Christmas is the perfect time for family games, so treat loved ones to Hedingham Castle, near Halstead, where they can enter an historical escape room experience. Visitors will be sent on a quest to assess the mystery of King John’s jewels. Historical items hold the key to unlocking the secrets of the Essex barons who signed the Magna Carta, leading to hidden treasure! The 900-year-old Castle stands in landscape gardens within ancient ramparts. Prices vary according to the number of players. Recommended age 10+. Gift vouchers are available

Visit a Christmas Fayre

  1. Wonderful vintage items and handmade crafts will be available at a wide range of Christmas markets across the county. Saffron Walden Town Hall will be hosting a fayre on 2- 4 December. Whilst local artisans will be championed at Finchingfield’s historic Guildhall and at St. John the Baptist Church on 3 December. Tasty delights are always on offer, such as handmade chocolates and award-winning wines, stylish fashion accessories, jewellery, and ceramics. Saffron Walden –

Experience panto!

  1. Boo, hiss and cheer! Panto is part of a great British Xmas and there’s lots to choose from across Essex. Every child’s favourite, Cinderella, is at the Harlow Playhouse from 1 December – 8 January 2023, with a live band, lavish sets and costumes. Watch with wonder and cheer on Prince Charming and boo at the ugly sisters; tickets from £17 True love conquers all at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre in its production of Beauty and the Beast. Expect love, laughter and amazing costumes! Tickets are priced from £15 – 26 November – 15 January 2023

Get the Christmas party started!

  1. Bring your own wine and fizz and join in the party atmosphere with the Christmas party menu at the Hoop Pub in the charming village of Stock, near Chelmsford. The three-course menu is £45 per person, and you can bring as much wine and fizz as you want! Pre-ordering is required at least 48 hours before the booking – Or enjoy ‘Last Christmas’ with festive partying with a George Michael tribute act at the Beauvoir Arms, Downham, near Billericay on 16 December. Prosecco reception and a three-course meal is priced £45. Pre-booking required. Also, check out special Xmas themed nights at hotels across the county from Wivenhoe House Hotel to Down Hall near Bishop’s Stortford –

Xmas shopping

  1. Support your high street this Christmas and buy local. Late night shopping returns to city centres across the county, with special light switch-on ceremonies as well as pop-up market stalls and free entertainment. Foodies can check out the finest food at Ashlyns Farm Shop, Epping, or Blackwells Farm Shop, Coggeshall. The farm shops stock the best in fresh local produce to help you provide an impressive festive feast and special presents.

Councillor Mark Durham, chairperson of Visit Essex, is impressed with the range of things to see and do this Christmas. He said: “Essex offers an amazing number of things to see and do during the season of goodwill. There are events for families and friends; it is a great chance for everyone to get together and treat themselves to a magical Christmas time.”

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