Keep the kids entertained this winter holiday season, with JLife’s pick of festive family-friendly activities in Leeds for the everyone to enjoy.
Expect the Unexpected
From gossiping paintings to singing crockery, get ready for the fantastical seasonal celebrations taking over Harewood House. For six weeks from 23rd November, visitors can take part in trails, get hands-on with artistic workshops and enjoy seasonal food and drink across the fairy-lit grounds. When it comes to festive family activities in Leeds, you can’t go wrong!
For the grown-ups, there are creative classes run by leading artists, from willow wreath-making to reindeer weaving, while the little ones can enjoy music and merriment with Santa Claus Christmas, including stories, songs and baked treats, topped off with a photo with the big man himself.
Continuing in a series of artistic partnerships – which began in 2017 with the Victorian House, created by award winning film and television set-designer Sir Michael Howells, followed in 2018 with artistic director Simon Costin’s Dreams of the 1920s – this year sees acclaimed multimedia artists Davy and Kristin McGuire project their creative fantasies onto the house. As part of A Night at the Mansion, visitors are invited to look under the stairs, listen out for voices and follow the music, as the house is transformed into an enchanting trail based around its fascinating stories and collections.
Get Your Skates On
Steeped in winter magic, Lotherton Hall’s Christmas experience promises a fantastical day out for the whole family.
Until 5th January, you can soak up the festive atmosphere at its brand-new open-air skating rink, as you glide gracefully (or scramble like Bambi) surrounded by fairy lights and the smell of Christmas in the air.
Enjoy the magical Twelve Days of Christmas Walk through the Captains Wood around the country estate, helping turtle doves fly, prancing through the five gold rings and making a racket with the drummers drumming.
You can even uncover a secret fairy hideaway in the rock garden, marvel in the splendour of the Edwardian House, its rooms dressed in festive finery, and drop in for a visit with Santa in the ‘North Pole’. Down in Elf Village, the little ones can join Santa’s little helpers in craft activities and storytelling, while mum and dad enjoy a cup of hot cocoa under the twinkling canopy.
Festive Fairground Fun
Leeds’ traditional German market brings a little piece of continental magic to the heart of the city centre, as Millennium Square will once again be transformed into a scenic winter village featuring a variety of authentic wooden chalets, cosy indoor retreats, a traditional carousel and a daily programme of seasonal entertainment.
While over on Cookridge Street (between The Headrow and St Anne’s Street) the Christkindel family funfair takes over Victoria Gardens every weekend until 21st December. Alongside a host of rides from bungee trampolines to dodgems, the 110-foot Leeds Wheel of Light, boasting over 25,000 LEDs, returns for its fourth year, affording views across the city centre.
And if you’re looking to warm up with a glass of mulled wine, you can drop into Thor’s, a fairy-lit tipi with a roaring log fire opposite the art gallery, offering a place to indulge in festive cheer and winter treats.
The Pantomime of Your Dreams
PHA theatre group brings a comic reimagining of the classic fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty to Leeds Carriageworks Theatre until 4th January for its annual feel-good panto.
After pricking her finger on a magic spinning wheel, Princess Ariana is placed under a curse, forcing her to sleep for 100 years. Join Ariana and her friends Muddles the Jester, Prince Benedict, Dolly Doolittle the Dame and King Crumble of Dilly-Dale, as they attempt to rescue the Kingdom from the wicked Carabosse.
True to panto form, extravagant sets, fairy tale costumes and larger-than-life song and dance numbers will be spun together with a little bit of magic and bundles of audience participation, making Sleeping Beauty a rip-roaring night out for all the family.