It may feel like Christmas is cancelled this year, but these outdoor winter events prove that’s not true (yet). While many areas in the UK are experiencing varying lockdown situations and increasing restriction measures, outdoor socialising in some capacity is still a go (for now) in most places, so let’s make the most of it, wrap up warm and embrace the Christmas spirit.
Lots of these outdoor spaces lost money this year due to the pandemic, so it’s important we support them through the winter when it’s equally hard to get people through the doors, pandemic or not. All have worked hard to make their outdoor winter events Covid-safe and most have pre-booking systems – and with a significant lacking of social activity planned for this season, we predict tickets will sell like hot mince pies.
Outdoor light displays are proving popular, with several springing up across the country this winter. And while we’ve heard news of many Christmas markets sadly being cancelled for 2020, some are still going ahead, such as the ones detailed below.
And panto-lovers, fear not! If this summer was the summer of the drive-in cinema, winter 2020 is the season of the drive-in pantomime – and there are several happening around the UK. Oh yes they are!
Outdoor winter events you can go to
St Martin-in-the-Fields Carols in the Courtyard, London
Most days of the week from now until Christmas will see mini carol services take place in the courtyard at St Martin’s Church in Trafalgar Square. There will be three 10 minute sessions every Thursday-Sunday where the choir will be singing carols and mulled wine and mince pies will be served.
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 6pm-7pm; Sunday 13 and 20 December 2020, 3pm-4pm. Free entry; more information here.
Bluebird Chelsea ‘White Wonderland’, London
The outdoor terrace at Bluebird Chelsea has been transformed into a white winter wonderland this December, with a special festive menu, christmassy events, such as a wreathe making workshop and festive afternoon tea and brunches, a special cocktail menu created in partnership with Taittinger and private bookable chalets.
Wondrous Woods, Edinburgh
At Hopetoun House near Edinburgh is the Wondrous Woods, a majestic and creative 2km light trail spectacular set within the ancient woodland of Hopetoun Park.
21 October – 22 November 2020. Adult tickets from £19; buy tickets here.
Selfridges Christmas Market on the Mews, London
The Selfridges Christmas Market on the Mews, situated on Edwards Mews (at the rear of Selfridges London store), will feature an incredible street food line up, plus stalls with gifts a treats, a place to pick out a Christmas tree, fairground rides and a bar with mulled wine and hot buttered rum.
2 December 2020 – 3 January 2021. 4–9pm weekdays, 12–9pm weekends; free entry, more information here.
Pergola Paddington ‘Miracle on Kingdom Street’, London
The outdoor top deck of Pergola Paddington has been transformed into a secret winter forest complete with bookable igloos and a backdrop of snow-covered hills. A brand new heating system ensures revellers will stay warm and cosy, as will the drinks menu dedicated to warming tipples of mulled wine, hot toddies, spiced cider and naughty hot chocolates. The four pop-up restaurants will include a new Alpine concept dishing up a hearty menu of bratwurst sausages, raclette, boozy cheese fondue, s’mores, mince pies and more.
Taking place at Manchester’s Heaton Park, Lightopia is a visually spectacular lantern and light festival. This year, as well as popular favourites (aka the ones everyone was ‘gramming last year), there will be new interactive and immersive displays to discover, too.
20 November 2020 – 3 January 2021. Adult tickets from £20; buy tickets here.
The Glenfiddich Grand Cru Celebration Terrace at Harvey Nichols, London
Head to the fifth floor terrace of the iconic Knightsbridge department store this Christmas and you’ll find it bedecked with trees, twinkling lights and plenty of sparkle, along with a selection of festive Grand Cru cocktails on offer to get you in the spirit.
2 December 2020 – 10 January 2021; free entry, more information here.
Chelsea Physic Garden Christmas Fair, London
With over 100 curated stands showcasing some of the finest independent suppliers in the UK, the Chelsea Physic Garden Christmas Fair is back for 2020 and they’ve added an additional day to ensure as many people can enjoy the event safely.
26 – 29 November 2020. Adult tickets £7 (free for Friends of the Garden); buy tickets here.
Longleat Safari Park Land of Light, Wiltshire
Illuminate the senses at Longleat Safari Park’s Land of Light, a sensory walk of discovery for al the family. Take in magical light installations, from immersive motion-detecting displays to a 360 degree laser ‘infinity experience’.
7 November 2020 – 10 January 2021. Adult tickets from £27.95; buy tickets here.
Le Pont de la Tour, London
Bringing winter in Paris to the heart of London, book at table on French restaurant Le Pont de la Tour’s outdoor terrace overlooking Tower Bridge, decked out with twinkling lights, sheepskin blankets and heaters to keep diners toasty.
2 December 2020 – end of Jan 2021. Bar & Brill two course set menu £20; three courses £25; book here.
The Parking Lot Social, various locations
The Parking Lot Social is taking their drive-in experience around the country once more, this time with some fabulously festive twists: pantomimes, Car-A-Oke, Christmas comedy nights, silent discos and classic Christmas films (including festive favourites Elf and Love Actually) all feature in the line up. Catch the Parking Lot Social’s festive drive-in fun throughout December in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glamorgan, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol, Birmingham and Dundee.
2 – 30 December 2020. Tickets per car at various prices depending on event; buy tickets here.
A newcomer to the growing light installation events list, Winterfest, situated at Wembley Park, began just last year. It’s a family-friendly light festival that illuminates Wembley Park like you’ve never seen it before, and this year’s theme is ‘United in Light’.
26 November 2020 – 17 January 2021. Free; more information here.
Christmas Drive-Thru at Conifox Adventure Park, Edinburgh
Conifox Adventure Park’s sell-out Christmas experience is back for another year, but with a ‘2020’ twist. This year, visitors will meet Santa and his gang in an utterly enchanting drive-thru experience, with stops including the Toy Workshop, the Reindeer Flying School, Mrs Claus’ Kitchen, the Enchanted Forest and most importantly, Santa’s Livingroom, where you will meet the big man himself, all from a safe distance.
3 – 23 December 2020. Tickets (per car) from £20; buy tickets here.
Car Park Panto, various locations
In partnership with the Birmingham Stage Company and Horrible Histories, Car Park Party present Horrible Christmas, a touring Christmas show coming to outdoor venues across the UK, ensuring families can get in the festive spirit from the comfort and safety of their own sleigh (car). Tickets are going extremely fast, so book now to secure your parking spot. Coming to Chelmsford, Duxford, Nottinghamshire, Northampton, Coventry, Exeter, Bristol, Cardiff, Shepton Mallet, Newbury, Stevenage, Manchester, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Edinburgh and Warwickshire.
11 December 2020 – 3 January 2021. £49.50 per car; buy tickets here.
Christmas at Kew, London
A firm favourite for the winter calendar, Londoners will be very happy to hear that Christmas at Kew is still going ahead. Returning for its 8th year, the trail meanders its way through the grounds of Kew Gardens, taking in light spectacles and beautiful illuminations at the Rose Garden, Temperate House and a grand finale at Palm House Pond. Montezuma’s Chocolate has partnered with Kew Gardens for this year’s Christmas at Kew, so visitors can pick up a warming hot chocolate as the wander around the trail.
4 December 2020 – 17 January 2021. Adult tickets from £19.50; buy tickets here.
Lodge d’Argent, London
Taking over London’s elegant French rooftop restaurant Coq d’Argent, Lodge d’Argent brings the après-ski vibe to the city with two bookable private cosy wooden chalets for festive gatherings of up to 6 people, decked out with luxurious faux-fur blankets, ski themed décor and romantic fairy lights, ready for cosy winter celebrations. Indulge in the Alpine-themed menu and warming cocktails created in partnership with Hennessy.
2 December 2020 – end of March 2021. Lodges come with minimum £200 spend in daytime, £300 in evenings, redeemable against all food and drink during visit; book here.
Haddon Hall Mercatum Winter Artisan Market, Derbyshire
Set within the beautiful grounds of Haddon Hall, the Artisan Markets held here throughout the year are hugely popular for the broad selection of high quality artisans and makers visitors can expect to discover, making Christmas shopping a doddle. For this year’s winter edition, the market will be held over three long weekends and you can book either a morning or afternoon visit. Most of the market is situated outside, however a few stands will be found inside the rooms of the Hall itself.
19 November – 6 December 2020. £5.50 (+ £3.50); buy tickets here.
Blenheim Palace Illuminated Light Trail, Oxfordshire
Discover the grounds of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire like you’ve never seen them before: the Illuminated Light Trail is set to be even more spectacular than ever before this year, with several new installations planned. From a scented fire garden to colour-changing neon tunnels, it’s set to be a magical outdoor winter experience.
20 November 2020 – 3 January 2021. £10 (free before midday); buy tickets here.