Top Christmas getaways
Fancy a festive short break pre-Christmas, or want a change of scene over Christmas itself? We've pulled together our pick of the best festive UK short breaks for winter 2012.
For a short pre-Christmas break on the south coast, head to Brighton for ice skating at the Royal Pavilion, where you can meet Santa himself (on selected dates) and walk through a forest of Christmas trees at the Sea Life Centre.
Brighton's outdoor ice-rink allows up to 250 skaters per session, with penguin stabilisers for younger skaters. Jamie Oliver's Fabulous Feasts will provide this year's pop-up restaurant alongside the rink.
Child tickets from £7 and adult tickets from £10.
Let someone else do the hard work and spend the festive period at Luxury Family Hotel's Polurrian Bay Hotel, on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. It's offering festive three and four-day breaks with carol singing, wine tasting sessions and traditional party games on tap, plus more food across Christmas Eve and Christmas Day than you could imagine.
Then on Boxing Day, take a walk through the grounds to burn off any over-indulgences, before meeting on the beach to watch the annual Boxing Day swim, with mulled wine and hot pasties in hand.
Three-night Christmas breaks start from £1,020 inclusive of meals and entertainment.
Mumsnetters receive an exclusive 10% discount on mid-week stays or a 5% discount on weekend stays (subject to availability).
Escape the last-minute shoppers, and spend a weekend in Devon in a barn conversion. Cottages4you has two nights at a two-bedroom barn conversion in Exbourne, near Okehampton, from just £143 (based on four sharing during December). Mumsnetters receive an exclusive discount.
At nearby Okehampton, The Polar Express™ will be arriving for the first time this year. Pyjama- clad passengers can climb aboard the train at Okehampton Station to relive the Warner Bros film and storybook.
During the journey, there will be a special reading of the classic book by Van Allsburg, along with a sing-song and a serving of delicious hot chocolate. At the 'North Pole', Santa will board the train to greet the children, and will give a special sleigh bell to those children who truly believe.
As home to one of the UK's finest Christmas markets, Winchester is a great choice for a short pre-Christmas getaway, with or without the children.
"It's big enough to be enjoyable but not so massive that it's overwhelming and crowded. The also do the best stollen and mulled wine! It's a nice town to visit as well - usual shops but all in really nice buildings plus lots of little gifty nick nack places. We went two years ago, tried Oxford last year but are going back to Winchester this time because we enjoyed it so much." Whythebigpaws
Winchester's market can be found in the grounds of the Cathedral along with an open-air ice-rink. There are plenty of quaint wooden chalets selling various handmade gifts and decorations and plenty of festive foods.
The market is open 22 Nov-23 Dec 2012, from 10am-6pm Sunday to Wednesday, and 10am-7.30pm Thursday to Saturday.
Ice skating sessions last for one hour and ticket includes free skate hire. The ice rink is open from 10am-7.30pm every day from 22 Nov-6 Jan 2013. Adult off-peak ticket costs £7.60, £9.50 at peak times; off-peak family ticket is £25, £30 at peak times.
Head down to Kent and spend a winter weekend just outside Tunbridge Wells from just £248 with Cottages4you. Mumsnetters get an exclusive discount.
For a festive day out, visit Mumsnet favourite (rated 5/5) Leeds Castle for a full-on Victorian family Christmas experience. With traditional stalls, giant Christmas tree, Santa's elves and reindeer, plus jugglers, magicians and fire eaters there is plenty to keep all ages entertained.
Tickets must be pre-booked and are £20 for adults and £15 for children.
Christmas lights, West End shows, late night shopping, ice-skating at historic buildings – London covers all the bases. The one big draw that brings together all these festive elements is Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, which runs from 23 November to 6 January, 10am-10pm.
"Took my two boys (seven and five) along to this and they had an absolute blast. There are loads of rides, more imaginative than your average fairground, and hundreds of food/drink/Christmas knick-knack stalls. It was teeming with people, so you need to keep an eye out to make sure yours don't wander out of sight, but I'd definitely recommend it as a treat." RowanMumsnet
If you've never been, it's essentially a huge Christmas fair - think big fairground rides, food stalls, the biggest outdoor ice-skating rink in the UK and Christmas Market stalls (gifts, decorations, jewellery etc) aplenty.
It's free to get in, but you do need to pay for rides and attractions. Costs are as to be expected for a day out in London – not cheap, so be prepared. Fellow Mumsnetters suggest eating before you head in, going armed with snacks and being prepared for crowds and waiting.
Fancy making a weekend of it?
We've secured an exclusive rate at Park Plaza County Hall just for Mumsnetters, with 20% off the best available rate, plus a complimentary upgrade for all family bookings (valid 15–30 December, subject to availability). To get the offer, call 0844 415 6762 and quote 'Mumsnet'.
Throughout December the hotel will be featuring a mini-Christmas market and Christmas classes for children including gingerbread-making lessons, Christmas tree decoration making and letter writing to Father Christmas.
A year-round favourite with Mumsnetters, north Norfolk is a great choice for a pre-Christmas break. In particular, Holkham Hall will be hosting three weekends of traditional family entertainment, which kicks off with Holkham's Christmas Celebrations, running across the first two weekends of December.
The Hall will be open from 11am to 5pm each day, where visitors can take in its magnificently decorated grand state rooms, enjoy story-telling, dancing, carol singing and tales from Christmas past. Then on the third weekend of December, the Marble Hall at Holkham will run two magical theatre productions - Mole's Christmas Wind in The Willows on Sat 15 Dec and A Christmas Carol on Sun 16 Dec, with a matinee and evening performance on each day.
Cottages4you is offering weekend breaks at properties across north Norfolk from £202 (based on four sharing a cottage in Wells-Next-the-Sea for two nights). Mumsnetters receive an exclusive discount.
"The Birmingham Christmas market is fab, gets bigger each year. Lots to see, eat, drink, carousels for kids etc. I'd definitely recommend it!" Cheeseandmushroomtoastie
Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market, 15 Nov-22 Dec, is the largest German-style Christmas market outside Germany and showcases some of the city's finest craftsmen. It has over 180 wooden chalets sprawled across Victoria Square, Chamberlain Square and New Street, with everything from glistening handmade baubles to traditional German beer.
Now in its 13th year, Manchester's award-winning Christmas markets, 17 Nov-23 Dec 2012, are made up of over 200 stalls spanning the city centre. Bursting with European flavours, the markets are foodie heaven.
"Manchester Christmas market is MAHOOSIVE! ALL of Albert Square, St Ann's square and most of the streets in between, and some more! I love it - we try to go every year, just for the gluhwein and the crazy talking reindeer." Wilfsell
And once you've lined your Christmas sacks with continental delicacies, you can go on the hunt for alternative handmade gifts.
The city also has an ice rink in Spinningfields from 22 Nov-6 Jan.
Spend Christmas in Scotland staying at Hunter's Quay. Surrounded by the Glens (where you'll have no excuse not to walk off your off Christmas dinner) and wildlife, the all-weather facilities including an indoor pool and onsite leisure complex. It's a great base to head out to explore Oban, Inverary, Rothesay and the Scottish Lochs, which are all within easy reach.
A three-night stay in Beech Comfort Lodge 6 (LP6337), which sleeps six, from 23 December starts at £228.
All prices correct at publication and subject to availability. Please see supplier websites for and additional T&Cs.