THE BUMPER CHRISTMAS GUIDE: EVENTS & ACTIVITIES IN & AROUND SUSSEX 2020
Christmas 2020 is looking very different this year. Many of the Christmas events in Sussex we’d usually enjoy have been cancelled, are already fully booked or hanging in the balance.
If you’re in the same boat, don’t despair! You’ll find a diary filling-array of festive activities with availability and the promise of lots of Christmas family fun in this guide.
Christmas Events in Sussex & Beyond 2020
I’ve handpicked 12 fabulous family-friendly Christmas events in Sussex and just beyond. All have availability at the moment. There’s a BONUS watch list at the bottom of the article for good measure. Consider this a very early Christmas present from me to you ✨🎁✨.
One. Eridge Railway Santa Train (Tunbridge Wells)
Not in Sussex, but GREAT news if your small train enthusiasts are disappointed that the Bluebell Railway Santa Train has sold out.
Kick off your festive season with a Santa train ride at Spa Valley Railway instead. This Santa experience will be running every weekend from 23rd November until 24th December 2020. Lots of early-bird availability if you fancy stretching Christmas further this year; limited availability in December.
The experience lasts for about 2 hours. You’ll enjoy a ride through the picturesque Kent and Sussex countryside from Eridge to Tunbridge Wells on an impressive steam train. Boxed mince pies will be waiting for you on-board and children will receive a present from Father Christmas during the journey.
23rd & 24th November 2020, trains depart from Eridge Station 10:15, 12:15 and 14:15. Limited availability on selected dates in December 2020
Two. Ice Skating at Calverly Park (Tunbridge Wells)
This pretty rink can be found in Calverly Park, in the middle of Tunbridge Well’s town centre. We went last year and had a fab time pushing the girls around on seals as Anna and Elsa (yes, actual singers, in character, wearing skates) sang all the Frozen hits.
It’s not as grand as the ice skating at the Pavilion in Brighton, but it’s fun and twinkly, with a cosy log cabin-style pop-up serving drinks and snacks.
You can take your little ones for a socially distanced Santa visit too. I’m a fan of a multi-tasking, list ticking activity. And this one ticks a lot of Christmas boxes.
You won’t regret hiring seals for under 8s, worth the extra £4!
Do you have a 10 year old? If so, they’ll skate for free to celebrate the ice rink’s 10th year.
Running from 13th November to 3rd December.
£15 for adults, £10 for children, £53 for a family ticket, and £4 for a seal
Skate Tunbridge Wells, Calvarly Park, Mountfield Gardens, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1SJ
Three. Macs Farm Christmas Tree Event (Ditchling)
Decorating the Christmas Tree is a Big Deal in our house. Why not make Christmas tree shopping just as important this year? Mac’s farm are running a fabulous Christmas tree shopping event on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th December. Pre-order your tree and collect in your chosen time slot.
But it’s not just a trip to a field to pick up a tree. Oh no.
They’ll be music and street food, and mince pies and hot chocs. Mulled wine and spirits and coffees (and eggnog?). But the very best bit of all, a post box to the No-oorth Pole… (now name that tune 😉🦌)
Disclaimer: Macs Farm haven’t said anything about eggnog, I just reckon they should being an egg farm and all, plus it rhymed ;-).
Seriously. Don’t forget letters to Santa! Children can post their wish list in a special letterbox with an impressive direct service to the Main Man in the North Pole.
You can buy a £5 tree recycling option. Trees will be turned into mulch and all proceeds will be donated to charity.
Christmas Tree Event 5th & 6th December 2020
Trees start at £55
The Mac’s Farm, Ditchling, BN6 8TG
Four. Glow Wild, Wakehurst (Ardingly)
Lots of you mentioned Glow Wild on a recent Insta post. We haven’t been before but will be heading over to Wakehurst just before Christmas to take in the winter lantern trail.
The gardens are brought to life with glowing lanterns, mesmerising projections, immersive soundscapes, and glistening torches of fire. Wakehurst are host to the UK’s tallest living Christmas tree decorated with 1,800 lights, the perfect place to drink in some Christmas magic. If you fancy keeping the magic alive, order a DIY lantern kit to make at home.
Selected evenings, Thursday 26 November – Wednesday 30 December 2020. Entry time slots every 20 minutes between 4.30pm and 8.10pm. Gardens close at 10pm.
Entry: Wakehurst or Kew member – Family (2 adults & 2 children): £42. Non members Adult: £15, Children (4 – 16): £9, Infants (under 4) and carers: Free, Family (2 adults & 2 children): £46. Car Parking is included in the ticket price.
Wakehurst Place, Selsfield Rd, Haywards Heath RH17 6TN
Five. South Downs Nurseries Santa’s Grotto (Hassocks)
For locals not-in-the-know, this Grotto is a hidden gem. Loved by Hassocks and Hurst’s Mums and Dads for its seasonal simplicity, South Downs always manage to capture the quintessential Santa visit and spirit of Christmas in their garden centre grotto.
They’ve spent extra time planning and building a Covid compliant experience this year. Santa’s elves will greet you outside in the plant area and show you to Santa’s Retreat, where you’ll meet Santa and receive a gift. Social distancing measures will be in place throughout and Santa will be wearing a face covering or be behind a screen.
All profits from ticket sales will be used to fund local charitable projects are purchased directly from The Budding Foundation.
28th November 2020 to 24th December 2020.
South Downs Nurseries, Brighton Rd, Hassocks BN6 9LY
Six. Phileas Fogg World of Adventures (Brighton)
If your family are crazy for panto – “Oh no we’re not! Oh yes, we are!” – treat them to an immersive panto experience with a twist at Phileas Fogg World of Adventures in Brighton.
Immersive Elf Pantomime
Starting at Grand Central Station in New York City, you’ll hop aboard, travelling across various lands to help a lost elf on his journey back home to Santa Claus. The experience is for private groups to ensure compliance with government regulations.
Immersive Christmas Carol
Meet the famous “Bah humbug!” Scrooge and become a part of the magical re-telling of a Christmas Carol. Stroll under the twinkling lights of Victorian London as you’re immersed in a beautiful, theatrical production of the iconic Christmas tale.
Both attractions are suitable for all ages and include a visit to see Santa with children receiving a gift.
Tickets available for groups of 3 – 6. Open: 5th – 6th, 12th – 13th, 19th – 24th December between 10am and 7pm. Priced between £120 – £180 per group
Phileas Fogg World of Adventures, Sussex House, Crowhurst Rd, Hollingbury, Brighton BN1 8AF
Seven. South of England Agricultural Society: Winter Wonderland 2020 (Ardingly)
They’ve got it all going on at the South of England Agricultural Society’s Winter Wonderland this year. Buy gifts from local independent businesses, indulge in festive food and drink, step into a huge snow globe for a magical family photo, have fun making wreaths or get stuck into cake making at one of the festive workshops and demonstrations. There’s going to be festive street entertainment, a street food area with live music, funfair, and of course Santa’s grotto.
Saturday 21st November 9am – 5pm and Sunday 22nd November 9am – 4pm
South of England Showground, Ardingly, West Sussex, RH17 6TL
Ticket prices: adults £6.75; senior citizens/students £5.85; under 16s go free
Eight. Leonardslee Illuminated (Lower Beeding, Horsham)
4 – 6th, 11 – 13th & 17 – 22nd December 2020
Wrap up warm and cosy to explore Leonardslee’s magical, illuminated gardens. Be amazed by a silver moon floating above the lake, projections onto Leonardslee House, musical and theatrical performances and pathways of fire and flame.
A Victorian Vintage Funfair will be running from 4pm – 9pm. Tickets for rides can be purchased on the night.
Tickets: Adults £16 (aged 16+) | Children £8 (aged 2 – 15) | Entry is FREE for under children under the age of 2
Brighton Rd, Lower Beeding, Horsham RH13 6PP
Nine. Dobbie’s Santa breakfasts (Brighton)
If you have early-rising Santa fans, Dobbie’s Garden Centres are running Santa breakfasts every weekend in December. Enjoy a big ol’ breakfast, followed by fun activities and a gift from Santa.
Each family will have their own table.
Children’s tickets cost £13.99 including breakfast, activities and a gift from Santa. Breakfast for adults costs £6.99. Sadly, no gift for adults from Santa at this event.
Dobbie’s Garden Centre Brighton
Warren Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 9XX
Ten. Dad Le Soul Christmas Special (Worthing & Hurstpierpoint)
Dad La Soul are celebrating Christmas early with a kids and Dad-only (or Step-Dads, Grandpas, male carers etc.) Saturday morning playdate and party. There will be loads of festive fun, games and activities thrown into the mix.
Dad La Soul is a revolutionary, grassroots movement, that uses the arts, music, tech and play to tackle social isolation in dads and kids. This event has been generously funded by Comic Relief.
The Space, Stoke Abbot Road, Graylingwell Drive, Worthing, BN11 1HE. Saturday 28th November 2020 10am – 12pm
Court Bushes Community Hub, Willow Way, Hurstpierpoint, BN6 9TH. Saturday 5th December 2020 10am – 12pm
This is a free event but you’ll need to register your place in advance.
Eleven. Tree Dressing Day at Weald & Downland Christmas Market (Chichester)
Tree Dressing is a magical occasion for all the family, celebrating the importance of trees in our lives.
Get stuck into a day of crafts and fun: make a greenery headdress and turn a jam jar into a lantern. Dress the aspen trees as darkness falls. Join in with traditional songs and dances around the trees. And at the end of the day take part in a spiral dance around the aspen trees, which are dressed with hundreds of lanterns.
Winter warmers on offer will include mulled apple juice and spiced biscuits in exchange for donations.
Entry is by pre-booked tickets only – tickets will go on sale mid November
Sunday 6th December, 10.30am – 4.30pm (activities from 12.30pm)
Weald & Downland Christmas Market, Town Lane, Chichester PO18 0EU
Twelve. Santa’s New Sleigh, The Capitol Horsham
And finally, a festive trip to the theatre suitable for little ones. Santa’s New Sleigh will be live at The Capitol in Horsham on selected dates in December.
Christmas is fast approaching and Santa’s Sleigh is nowhere to be found. Will Sprocket and Dibs be able to create a new sleigh in time or will Christmas be cancelled? Can you help them save the day?
Only time will tell but with audience participation, sing-a-long songs and a present from Santa for every child it promises to be the perfect festive treat.
This show is ideal for children aged 2-8 years.
Selected dates between 12th – 24th December 2020.
Horsham Capitol, North St, Horsham, RH12 1RG
WATCH THIS SPACE: Christmas Events in Sussex – details coming soon
Festive Peter Rabbit Trails at the National Trust
National Trust will be back later this year with family-friendly Christmas events in Sussex. You’ll be able to book your slot to join Peter Rabbit™ and his friends on a trail around the gardens at Batemans, Sheffield Park, Nymans and Petworth later this year. Pick up a trail pack for £2 when you arrive and find the location of the activity stations to see how you can help them get set for winter. Discover more about our favourite wildlife characters, and how to care for nature, while you and your family enjoy some time together outdoors. There’s a reward for those who take part and the trail pack includes a booklet and pencil to record their answers and discoveries.
Christmas at Drusillas
Saturday 21st November onwards (weekends only). Daily from Saturday 12th December
Get stuck into all of the usual Druscialla’s fun and tag on a visit to Santa in his cosy cottage (booking is a must – the Santa visit isn’t included in the entrance ticket).
Soak in the festive cheer with Christmassy food and drink. Don’t forget to take a family snap by the 24 foot Christmas tree. If you have a big range of ages in your family, this is one of the best crowd-pleasing Christmas events in Sussex.
Tickets for Santa visits are going to be released soon, sign up to their newsletter of keep your eye on their Facebook page for news!
Drusillas Park, Alfriston Road, Alfriston, East Sussex, BN26 5QS
Christmas at Fisher’s Farm
Tickets will be released soon with more details of what’s on during the Christmas period.
Washbrooks Family Farm
No school holiday is complete without a trip to Washbrooks. Boasting fresh air, a cosy cafe and a Christmas activity? Festive perfection. Washbrooks are planning a Christmas trail, with more details coming soon.
Bockett’s Farm is an award-winning family farm off the M25, 5 minutes south of Leatherhead. We’ve visited a couple of times as it’s the mid-way point for meeting family. Santa will be visiting and Christmas festivities are being planned as I type. Sign up to their newsletter to get the deets first.
Brighton Pavilion Ice Rink
Traditionally our favourite of all the Christmas events in Sussex. But after Monday’s announcement and with Covid cases rising in Brighton, this really is hanging in the balance. I’m not holding my breath but magical things can happen at Christmas. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.
Dinosaurs Do Christmas at Glowballs
An excellent ho-ho-ho variation of the Globalls experience with UV Gingerbread people, Snowman, Reindeer, Nutcracker and other wonderful models and artwork. An essential great start to your Christmas celebrations.
Updates will be posted to social media.
Unit 8, Ground Floor, Mermaid Walk, The Waterfront, Brighton Marina, BN2 5WA
Don’t forget to sign up to the mailing list!