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This weekend

Fri 21 - Sun 23 Dec 2018


FOOD & DRINK: Native Feasts, St John’s Church, Stadhampton, Fri 21 & Sat 22 Dec

The Native Feasters find usual venues in which to feast and this time it’s a decommissioned church with underfloor heating, sound system and open kitchen. Kick off with a mince pie martini, then feast in the nave on partridge ravioli, Tamworth pork with duck fat roasties and whiskey caramel ice cream, or start with Cornish crab, confit duck leg with more roasties, and apple and almond crumble, depending on which eve you go. Expect communal tables, mulled grog and great music with the occasional Christmas classic thrown in for good measure (hope the vicar would approve).


THEATRE: Tabby McTat, The Stables, Milton Keynes, Mon 17 – Sun 30 Dec

A new stage adaptation of the book by Julia Donaldson (with illustrations by Axel Scheffler) lands at the Stables on its UK Tour. The story of a cat and his busking owner who get separated, the show is brought to life with puppets and original songs that should make for an ideal Christmas show for littlies.


THEATRE: A Christmas Carol, Creation Theatre, The Manor, Weston Green, Wed 19 – Sat 22 Dec

Creation Theatre is always pushing the boundaries of theatrical performance and this time it’s recreating Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in the perfect setting of The Manor at Weston Green. Performances will be interspersed with either afternoon tea or dinner, and you can also choose to spend the night. This is a one man-show created by Nicholas Osmond and promises to create some spooky Christmas spirit. Watch out for the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future as you wander round the manor.


FILM: Vintage Cinema, various locations, Thurs 20 – Sat 22 Dec

vintage summer

Enjoy some vintage festive films in unusual places. On Thurs, settle down in the Hell Fire Caves for screenings of Elf and Gremlins, Fri enjoy a Frozen sing-along and on Sat you can trot along to the Natural History Museum in Tring for The Polar Express and Love Actually. Comfy beanbags, popcorn and a bar add to the fun.


KIDS: Santa’s Christmas Show, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Fri 21 Dec

An interactive family show with Christmas songs, a pressie given to each child from Santa himself, party games and fun for 4 – 7 year olds at the Waterside. Only 45 mins long, you can get them in the festive mood and still have time to finish up your Christmas shopping or go for lunch with lots of options in the area.


SHOPPING: Oxfordshire Craft Guild Christmas Exhibition, Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock, now until Sun 30 Dec

View and buy from local makers and designers in wood, ceramics, jewellery, glass, textiles and leather at this family friendly museum with its dinosaur gallery, Victorian Oxfordshire and Roman Oxfordshire displays.


ART: Spellbound, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, until Mon 24 Dec

Showcasing the history of magic, mysticism and superstition over eight centuries, the Ashmo’s quirky major autumn exhibition draws to a close in the next couple of weeks. It has everything from a unicorn’s horn to a human heart encased in lead (sounds like my ex) so if you haven’t yet gone, it’s well worth a visit. Read our review here.



Waddesdon Manor, Waddesdon, Bucks

Using the amazing artworks in the Waddesdon collection for inspiration, the house and grounds are a feast for the senses this Christmas. The house is decorated beautifully, inspired by the Venetian carnival and 18th century fancy dress, and the manor is hosting its biggest Christmas fair ever with food and gifts on offer from charming wooden chalets (until Sun 16 Dec). There’s also a light show by the Guildhall School, this year projected onto the stables, and featuring Waddesdon’s objects, gardens and architecture. Until Wed 2 Jan. Read our review here.

Hughenden Manor, High Wycombe, Bucks

A Very Royal Christmas: a visit from the Faery is the theme for Christmas at Hughenden. The manor will be decorated in traditional Victorian splendour to celebrate the visit of Queen Victoria and her daughter Princess Beatrice who came to lunch with Benjamin Disraeli in 1877. There’s a treasure hunt round the house for little ones – they have to find 10 gold crowns – plus miniature scenes to discover in the gardens.

Stowe, Nr Buckingham, Bucks

There’s a landscape advent calendar in the stunning Stowe gardens this season – find all 24 doorshidden in the grounds (Sat 1 Dec – Fri 4 Jan). Then you can head to the Parlour Rooms for Christmas stalls (until Sun 16 Dec) and find stocking fillers and traditional Xmas products, listen to carols in the New Inn courtyard (weekends until Sun 16 Dec) and have Christmas lunch with all the trimmings in the cafe (weekdays 3 – 21 Dec).

Chastleton House, Moreton-in-Marsh, Oxon

Built by a prosperous wool merchant in the 17th Century, Chastleton House remained in the same family for 400 years until the National Trust renovated it in the 1990s. The beautiful house will be decorated for a Victorian Christmas and open to enjoy on the weekends of 1-2 Dec and 8-9 Dec

Grey’s Court, Henley, Oxon

A candlelit tour round the mansion with stories of the owners’ (the Brunner family) Christmas traditions, followed by mulled wine and homemade warm mince pies in the Old Kitchen awaits on 6, 11, 13, 18, 20 Dec. Booking essential. The house will be decorated for a Swiss Christmas, exploring the links the Brunner family had to Switzerland and you can scoff a Christmas dinner in the CowShed restaurant from Mon 3 – Fri 21 Dec on weekdays.

Ashridge Estate, nr Berkhamsted, Herts

There’s a festive trail for kids round the estate with specially decorated dens as they explore the homes of forest animals with a Christmas gift for every child. It runs every Saturday and Sunday in December, as well as Wed 26, Thurs 27 and Fri 28 Dec, from 10am to 3pm. There’s also a 1.5 mile long self-led seasonal walk – just follow the Christmas puds. And on Sun 9 Dec, you can bring your dog (Christmas decos and costumes encouraged) and follow Santa on a festive ramble. They round off the season with their annual post-Christmas stroll on 27 Dec where you’ll follow a scenic route and try to burn off the bulge.

Cliveden, Taplow, Berks

A charming Christmas trail round the grounds where kids need to help Mother Christmas with all sorts of tasks and challenges to make sure Father Christmas sets off on time on Christmas Eve. Open Sat and Sun 1, 2, 8, 9, and 16 Dec plus 20-24 Dec.


FAMILY: Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, until Tues 1 Jan

Blenheim’s Christmas light shows are pretty spectacular and this year’s trail has even more lasers, projections and thousands of pea-lights. There’s a new Field of Light, the scented Fire Garden, a Canopy of Light and Singing Trees. Santa and his elves will also be popping up along the way too. The house is decorated with the theme of Cinderella so you can explore the state rooms and immerse yourself in the magical fantasy world of the fairy tale / super rich.


ART: Penny Woolcock, Fantastic Cities, Modern Art Oxford, until Sun 3 March

Photo: Penny Woolcock, When I First Saw a Gun, 2018

 This super-cool exhibition celebrating the work of contemporary artist and director, Penny Woolcock, whose work unpicks social inequality, is a defo on the to-do-list. Argentine-born but Oxford-based for many years, she’s won many awards for her diverse range of work from film, opera, documentaries and art projects. This exhibition includes three brand new moving-image commissions exploring how dramatically different peoples’ lives can be within the same city. A real thought-provoker but don’t take the kids as there’s a bit of what my mother primly calls “language”.



Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Wycombe Swan, Fri 7 – Sun 30 Dec 

Brendan Cole as the comely Huntsman? Yes indeedy, Strictly’s nemesis to Craig Revel Horwood makes his panto debut alongside Britain’s Got Talent’s comedian Mandy Muden as the evil Queen and panto dame veteran Jason Sutton. It’s a 10 from us for inspired casting, darling! Read our review here.

Peter Pan, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Fri 7- Mon 31 Dec 

Aylesbury Waterside Theatre will see Holby City and Corrie star John Mitchie don a wig and tights as Captain Hook, drag act La Voixas the dame, Nickelodeon’s Holly Atterton as Tinkerbell and the always awesome Andy Collins. Read our review here.

Robin Hood, Milton Keynes Theatre, Sat 8 Dec –Sun 13 Jan 

EastEnders’ happy chappy Shane Ritchie will be all tights and double entrendres as he becomes Robin Hood at MK’s Theatre alongside a live orchestra. 

The Sword in the Stone, Limelight Theatre, Queens Park Arts Centre, Aylesbury, Fri 7 – Sun 30 Dec

This plucky arts and crafts centre hosts workshops, courses, events and theatre. They’ve chosen the Arthurian legend of The Sword in the Stoneas their Xmas Panto and it’s bound to get you feeling all warm and fuzzy and festive.

Read our guide to the best pantos in Bucks/Oxon and beyond here.


FAMILY: Vintage Christmas, Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, dates throughout Dec

Time travel back to a 1940s-themed Christmas at home of World War II code-breakers, Bletchley Park near MK. There’s live retro music (on 2, 8, 9 & 15 Dec) and a 40s-style Christmas Grotto until 23 Dec. If you’re really into solving puzzles you can book the Codebreaking Christmas Dinner Party on 12 Dec with a three course dinner in the mansion, live music and a code to crack with clues arriving throughout the dinner. A prize awaits the winning team.


THEATRE: Snowflake, The Old Fire Station, Oxford, until Sat 22 Dec

Written by Olivier Award-winner Mike Bartlett (of Dr Foster and Press fame), Snowflake is an original play touching on family and conflict at Christmas time. Directed by fellow Oliver Award-winner, Clare Lizzimore, it has serious creds. 12+.


SHOPPING: Oxford Christmas Market, until Sat 22 Dec

Historic Broad Street will once again be filled with quaint wooden chalets selling all sorts of gifts, seasonal food and drinks as Oxford’s Christmas Market returns. Fairground rides, a brass band and carol singers will help get you in the festive mood and, weather dependent, there will be performances by local groups such as Summertown Stagecoach and the Cherwell Singers.


THEATRE: Alice & Bob’s Whopping Christmas Cracker Show/Party, Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, until Thurs 27 Dec

A show that’s really a party with a heartwarming story at its centre, music and Christmas craziness, including the world’s biggest game of charades, present-opening, and a massive flash mob wrapping-paper war. You’ll feel like you’re at a family Christmas, arguments and all, but much more fun. Read our review here.


ART: Pop Art in Print, Banbury Museum, until Sun 3 Mar

Poster for the U.F.O Club, London, 1967 © The Estate of Michael English

Having extended their galleries so they can hold bigger exhibitions, Banbury Museum has reopened with a humdinger – Pop Art in Print – featuring work by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Damien Hirst and more. Organised by London’s V&A, the exhibition displays works of these famous artists of the 60s and 70s alongside contemporary artists so their influence can be seen. There are over 60 works by more than 30 artists so it gives a pretty comprehensive view of the pop art movement from the 1960s to the early 2000s.



EVENT: Christmas Racing Weekend, Ascot Racecourse, Fri 21 – Sat 22 Dec

Royal Ascot 2018 Ascot racecourse grandstand with large upon jack drapes and parade ring

Giddee up to Ascot for the last race of 2018. Kick off Christmas with winter cocktails, mulled wine, brass bands, free mince pies and two days of dramatic Jumps racing. Just blow your last minute xmas shopping budget on the horses. Come the 25th, your celebrations could be a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol.


FAMILY: Hogwarts in the Snow, Harry Potter Studios, Watford, until Sun 27 Jan

Hogwarts in the Snow – as regular as Christmas!  The festive makeover will see Christmas trees line the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room dressed for the season and a blanket of filmmaking snow covering the majestic Hogwarts castle model. Visitors will even be able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light like ice. Trust me, your kids will love it.


FAMILY: Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London, until Sun 6 Jan

hyde park winter wonderland illuminated heater skelter and fairground ride London

Go big or go home when it comes to festive fun, London’s Winter Wonderland is huuuuge. Free to enter but once inside, prepare to sell a kidney. The costs can get out of control – particularly if you hit the glühwein a little too hard. What to expect? Winter markets, fairground rides and ice skating. Major attractions this year include the Magical Ice Kingdom Secret Forest, an immersive showcase of woodland animals and mythical creatures created from ice and snow; a Bavarian village offering an authentic Oktoberfest experience; karaoke cabins, ice sculpting workshops, the Winter Wonderland Comedy Club, immersive screenings of The Snowman and plus Peter Pan on Ice.


FAMILY: Kew Gardens, London, until 5 Jan

Photo: RBG Kew

A spectacular winter trail with over a million twinkling lights and thousands of laser beams, Kew’s light show is awe-inspiring. You can be mesmerised by the Fire Garden, walk through the moonlit woods and check out the laser garden. Mulled wine, hot choc and spiced cider will help keep you warm and the kids can whizz round on vintage fairground rides whilst looking out for Santa and his elves.


FAMILY: Mother Christmas Festive Trail, Cliveden National Trust, Taplow, until Sun 23 Dec 

A charming Christmas trail round the grounds where kids need to help Mother Christmas with all sorts of tasks and challenges to make sure Father Christmas sets off on time on Christmas Eve. Open Sat and Sun 1, 2, 8, 9, and 16 Dec plus 20-24 Dec.


FAMILY: Winterville, Clapham Common, London, until Sun 23 Dec 

If you’re in Sarf London over Christmas, Winterville on Clapham Common’s  is well worth a look. There’s everything from an outdoor Ice Rink to a fairground, roller disco, plonk golf and free kids’ entertainment, but there’s lots more unusual stuff than at your standard Christmas Fair. We’re particularly loving the sound of  the Spiegeltent, where you’ll find cabaret, bingo, kids raves and, er, Mexican wrestling.


FAMILY: Santa Sleepovers, Warwick Castle, throughout December

Loving the sound of these sleepovers –  family stay in the Knight’s village or straight-from-a-fairytale Tower Suite and cute Christmassy stuff like stories with Santa and a wake up call from an Elf.  Still some dates left but be quick.



THEATRE: The Cat In The Hat, Aylesbury Waterside, Thurs 31 Jan – Sun 3 Feb 2019

Calling all Dr Suess fans! This Curve (of The Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine fame) production of The Cat In The Hat will have kids wetting themselves in excitement. The classic picture book will be retold with original songs, circus skills and lots of mischief so don’t forget to pack spare undies.


ART: Jeff Koons, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Thurs 7 Feb – Sun 9 Jun

Behemoth of the contemporary art world, Jeff Koons will curate his own exhibition in collaboration with Norman Rosenthal. It will span Koons’ entire career and showcase seventeen works, most of which have never been shown in the UK before. It will include his popular series Equilibrium, Statuary, Banality, Antiquity and his recent Gazing Ball sculptures and paintings.


COMEDY: The Guilty Feminist Live, Oxford New Theatre, Sun 19 May

Who knows what state the country will be in by next May but chances are you’ll need a laugh and Deborah Frances-White, AKA The Guilty Feminist, is bound to deliver. Host of the fabulous comedy feminist podcast and author of a book of the same name, she tackles the state of 21st century feminism in the face of the patriarchy in an hilarious and intelligent fashion. Tickets are bound to sell out so get snaffling now.

Find more ideas here

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