With the new year kicking in, I thought I would look back at the great family days out in the Midlands that we enjoyed over Christmas.
Middleton Hall is situated near Tamworth and is open as a museum and gardens. There is a courtyard of small shops and café to visit too.
We visited Middleton Hall in late November when they had an open day and craft fair in the hall and in a marquee.
There was the opportunity to visit Santa. Tickets were purchased from the sweet shop in the courtyard and were £10 per child. The owner of the sweet shop took time to write down the children’s names, schools they went to and what they wanted for Christmas to prep Santa beforehand. The room which Santa was set up was dimly lit with fairy lights and he was a lovely Santa!
He told a story of Christmas and spent a lot of time chatting with us all. There was no sense of rushing and the children loved how he knew so much about them. There was plenty of room too for all the family to squeeze into the room to enjoy the experience.
Chatsworth House decorated for Christmas is something else! Each year the historic property in Derbyshire chooses a different special theme for its decorations and this year it was The Nutcracker.
It is best to buy tickets beforehand, but you can purchase them on the gate. It costs around £20 per person though, so an expensive option, but a lovely treat. I would say this is more an experience to enjoy with grandparents or family and not designed with young children in mind. However, they (the kids) absolutely loved the decorations.
With the children being in school now we had to visit on a Saturday, so it was a lot busier than I am used to. Personally, I felt Chatsworth crammed too many people in at one time. You had to queue up in a line for your ticket time and each 15-minute section queue had a least 50 people in, perhaps more.
On entering the house, each room is decorated differently to tell the story of The Nutcracker. There were ballerinas wandering around and the staff were fully dressed in ‘Victorian’? outfits which are similar to the outfits worn by the guests of Clara’s parents in the ballet. Each Christmas tree in each room is decorated so finely and the rooms themselves are full of amazing (you can tell I am not that arty) portraits and furniture.
The self-guided tour takes about 45 minutes to visit all the rooms. You kind of get swept along at a pace as there are so many people. Then it ends in a great gift shop and you then have the chance to explore the gardens.
There is a great restaurant too with lots of tables for grabbing a bite to eat before or after your tour and another gift shop at the top of the car park.
We have visited Chatsworth at Christmas for four years now and seen some great themes including Narnia and Alice in Wonderland, and The Nutcracker was just as fabulous. Oh, and you can’t take a pushchair! You can leave them at the entrance to collect later and they provide you with hip belts if you need one.
This National Trust property in Derbyshire (junction 11 off the M42) offers a great Christmas treat.
Time it right and visit Calke Abbey about 3pm on a dry day and it is magical. In the stables, there are free craft activities for the kids including making Christmas cards, gift bags and magical oats for the Rudolph.
There is the opportunity to meet Santa too, which we pre-booked at £6 per child. He was a great Santa and coped well with the number of shy children in our group.
Then it was time for a hot chocolate from the café before heading down to the gardens for the Twinkly Twilight Walk. Lanterns are lit along the paths and colourful lights are projected on to the house.
You can walk up to the pretty church and then through the gardens to end up back at the house – about a 30 minute slow walk. Then you can walk through the tunnels to end up back at the stables where the café is.
This National Trust property is located near Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and we visited in December to see the house decorated for Christmas.
Charlecote Park is a grand Tudor mansion on the River Avon and has a beautiful Victorian interior. You can go ‘below stairs’ to see how the what life was like for the servants and role play in the Victorian kitchens.
The walk from the car park to the house is lovely and the gardens are small but great to explore. There is a large deer park for longer walks too.
When we visited in December there was the option to visit Santa. The tea room was small and busy but extra seating outside (with heaters) was good. There was a brass band playing and carol singers, so they really made the experience magical.
The house was beautifully decorated for Christmas with Victorian decorations and as with most National Trust properties, they had a treasure hunt for the kids around the house which was to find the mice hidden in each room. I love these as they keep the kids occupied.
Magical Lanterns at Birmingham Botanical Gardens
The Magical Lantern Festival came to Birmingham in 2016 and we were very excited to see them. We visited after Christmas for something to look forward to.
The tickets cost about £13 each but there were lots of discount promotional codes available so look out for them. Under 4s were free.
The Magical Lantern Festival was held at Birmingham Botanical Gardens in November, December 2016 and January 2017.
We drove to the Botanical Gardens and there were signs when you got to Edgbaston. There was no parking at the Botanical Gardens – the car park is quite small and a lot of room was taken up with the entrance to the lantern festival. However, there was free car parking at the University across the road which was sign posted and a man with a yellow vis jacket on directing people.
Although we purchased timed tickets, you could pretty much go in when you wanted as it was just a guide time. Entry was quick and easy and there was food stalls on the entry selling hot chocolate, sausages and donuts.
The lanterns were really spectacular! Every turn through the gardens you came across another display. It was easy to navigate around as it was all one way, and plenty of room for pushchairs.
There were lots of food and drink stalls on the way round. However, £3 for a hot chocolate was a bit steep for me! The Botanical Gardens’ cafe was also open however, we were all a bit cold so headed home. The whole tour took about 45 minutes.