As we approach the Christmas period most families start the search for memorable day out for the family. Although not technically a budget family holiday most day trips can easily be turned into a fantastic weekend or midweek break, if you choose to select budget accommodation the extend your stay.

Santa's Sleigh

If you are looking for inspiration of where to go ahead of the festive period, we have 6 fantastic lesser known Christmas days out for the whole family in the North of England for you to peruse.

Drayton Manor Theme Park

Located on the former grounds of Drayton Manor on the outskirts of Tamworth is Drayton Manor Theme Park and Zoo which is probably most famous for their Thomas Land area in tribute to Thomas the Tank Engine.

From the middle of November up until the end of December, Drayton Manor turns into a Magical Wonderland for the whole family as you can ride Thomas the Tank and other themed attractions from the famous Thomas the Tank Engine Programme.


Dependent on the type of ticket purchased there is also the option to visit Santa Claus in his grotto where you can also meet his elves and your children may be also be provided with a gift if they have been a good boy or girl!

Although there is only a section of the theme park open for the Christmas period it is still well worth a visit as all the attractions in Thomas Land and the Zoo will be open plus there is also a skating rink to enjoy. There are also plenty of eateries situated around the park though you can also take your own picnic if you are more budget minded.

Each Magical Christmas Day at Drayton Manor also ends with a firework display over the lake which provides a fitting end to a magical family day out.

If you are wishing the extend your stay at Drayton Manor then there is also a hotel on site which has Thomas Themed hotel rooms. There are also many budget hotels and Bed & Breakfast accommodation in the local town.Ice RInk at Drayton Manor

Please also note that it works out much cheaper to purchase your ticket in advance online as oppose the paying on the day.

Gullivers Kingdom – Matlock Bath

There are 3 Gullivers Kingdom’s in the United Kingdom based in Warrington, Milton Keynes and Matlock Bath which all offer festive events. For this article, we will concentrate on the Gullivers Kingdom located in the heart of Matlock Bath in picturesque Derbyshire.

Gullivers Kingdom at Matlock Bath is probably one of the UK’s steepest theme parks and if you are pushing a pram around for the day it is likely the test your leg and arm muscles. However, at Christmas time this theme park has a lot to offer small children.

There are various packages you can purchase when visiting Matlock Bath and the take advantage of any potential discount it would be advisable the book online. The packages available vary from solely meeting Santa and Park Entrance or you can add on extras such as breakfast with Santa or a dinner experience.

The theme park consists of a mix of rides, outdoor play areas and indoor play areas the keep the whole family entertained for the whole day. During the festive period there are also additional shows the enjoy as well the potential to create your own reindeer food.

The Santa experience is also excellent as you journey through a magical wonderland before being greeted by elves who will then escort you the see Santa. If Santa then deems that your children have been good boys and girls then they will be presented with a gift token which they can you use to choose a gift in the adjacent shop.

If you wish the extend your stay there is the Explorers Retreat which offers onsite accommodation or there is a range of local accommodation. Gullivers Kingdom is virtually situated next door to the Heights of Abraham which is well worth a visit and ride the cable car should you wish the extend your stay.

Wheelgate Park

Situated on the outskirts of Mansfield and the sister park of Twinlakes Park in Leicestershire and Woodlands Park in Devon, Wheelgate Park puts on quite a festive event for a family with young children to enjoy.

Like most theme parks at the festive time of year if you wish the get the best deal then you are better off booking online. By booking online you will also get the choice of which time slot you wish to visit Santa.

Everything within the theme park is open as per usual apart from the outdoor water park. Therefore, there will be opportunities for children the enjoy the many outdoor and indoor rides on offer. Within Twinlakes there is also a small zoo area including reindeers and several outdoor adventure play areas.

Meeting Santa is also a nice experience for the children as you commence by navigating your way through a magical display until finally getting the opportunity the meet Santa Claus. Having met Santa Claus your children can then head to the nearby pop up gift shop to choose a gift of their choosing.

The attractions at Wheelgate Park are quite spread out with various indoor and outdoor attractions scattered around the venue therefore it never feels like it is overly busy and you will be able the amble around in a relaxed manner.

The Train to Christmas Town

Departing Stanhope Station near Middlesbrough this magical Christmas train journey is based on the famous childrens book, The Train to Christmas Town.

Once you have collected your tickets for your magical journey you will have a chance the peruse the gift shops on the station before being called aboard The Train to Christmas Town.

Stanhope Station

Once on board you will be greeted by Santa’s Elves who will sing christmas carols, tell stories and entertain the whole family with other fun activities. Everyone will also be provided with the opportunity the indulge in a hot chocolate and cookie on the journey.

Once you arrive in Christmas Town, Santa will board the train the greet everyone and each child will personally be given a sleigh bell by Santa. The journey itself lasts around an hour and a half and it is advisable the book well in advance due it’s popularity.

One final thing regarding the Train to Christmas Town is that everyone is encouraged the dress up in pyjamas. The choice is completely up the you but it does add the the magical experience.

It is advisable to book well in advance for the Train to Christmas Town to avoid disappointment.

Sundown Adventureland

Sundown Adventureland is a real hidden gem of a theme park designed for under 10’s. Located just off the A1 near Retford, this park is magical all year round for little children but at Christmas it ups its game even more to ensure that your little children have the most magical time.

Sundown Adventureland

Within this park there are interactively themed outdoor and indoor rides and play areas ranging from Alice in Wonderland the Angry Birds. At Christmas one of the main ride attractions is transformed in the magical Christmas Wonderland and Santa’s grotto.

Each child visiting Santa will be provided with a gift and there is a host of children’s entertainment throughout the day in a nearby marquee. All the rides within the park should also be available to enjoy and all play areas are also open which will keep your children entertained for a whole day.Sundown Adventureland

There are also a couple of inside eateries to take advantage of at Sundown Adventureland and you can also bring your own picnic. Tickets for the theme park can either be purchased at the gate or online however it is advisable to book online to avoid disappointment and also to potentially take advantage of a small discount.

Sundown Adventureland is also located not too far from the historic city of Lincoln therefore if you are wishing to extend your stay why not visit Lincoln and enjoy their Christmas Market. If you do decide to visit Lincoln there is plenty of budget accommodation to suit the whole family and suitable accommodation can be found on hotel comparison sites.

Kirklees Light Railway and Caphouse Colliery

The Kirklees Light Railway is situated in Clayton West just outside of Huddersfield and provides a magical railway journey to visit Santa in his grotto.

Departing from Clayton West, you and your family will board a light railway themed on Thomas the Tank as you head on a magical journey towards Santa’s Grotto in Shelley. Having arrived at your destination there will be an opportunity to visit Santa in his Grotto where each well-behaved child will be provided with a gift.

Whilst at your destination there will also be an opportunity for your children to write to Santa, carry out other fun other activities and play on the outdoor play area whilst you tuck into a lovely mince pie and festive tipple.

Each train journey lasts around an hour and should you feel peckish there is a lovely tea room located at Clayton West station.

If you then still have time left in your day once you have visited Kirklees Light Railway why not visit Caphouse Colliery which is around 20 minutes away.

Caphouse Colliery is England’s last deep coal mine and here there will be an opportunity to visit Santa 140m underground. As well as learning all about the history of coal mining and visiting Santa there will also be an opportunity for your children to burn off any excess energy they may have on the adventure playground.

Should you wish the visit both attractions on separate days there are many budget hotels within the local area and the towns of Barnsley and Huddersfield are within half an hours drive. It is also advisable to book your visit to Kirklees Light Railway at Christmas well in advance as spaces do get taken up quickly.

Which Attraction is the best to visit

All of the above attractions offer something unique at Christmas and are lesser known than most commercialised attractions around the country. The best one for you to visit will largely depend on the age of the group you are travelling with, your budget and of course your location.

Santa's Verdict

Every single one of the attractions has the potential to offer a magical and memorable day for every member of your family so if you are feeling especially flush, why not try every single one and decide for yourself which is the best to visit.

If you have any comments or questions regarding the above article, please feel free to leave your comments below and we will endeavour to come back the you.

One thought on “6 Fantastic Lesser Known Christmas Days Out – Magical Christmas Days Out For The Whole Family

  1. Matt's Mom says:

    Wow, there really are a lot of great selections for a great Christmas outing.  Our family loves trains, so the train to Christmas Town, and the Kirklees Light Railway would be our picks for sure!  I don’t really like heading to commercialized holiday locations, as large crowds is not our thing.  I assume these are all in the United Kingdom?  It didn’t really say.  For us, we don’t have a lot of cool places like this that are not hugely commercialized….I guess that comes with living in Florida.

    1. Richard Leaver says:

      Thank you for your comment Matt’s Mom,

      Yes they are all located in the UK. The above mentioned attractions are lesser known in the UK which provides you with a relaxed and personal feel when you visit them. 

      The UK is similar to Florida in that we have a lot of mainstream theme parks which get very busy at peak times but like in Florida if you veer off the beaten path you will quite often find a hidden gem.

  2. Beth says:

    What a great post Richard!! It’s so good to know there is so much to do for young children if in the UK during the holidays, or it seems anytime. I have written down all of these sites and will share with my niece who will be traveling over there in December along with your website. I am not sure what her and her family have planned but this would be right up their alley as they have little ones who would love all of this. The only question I really have is what would be your favorite if you had to only pick one? Thanks again, this is great!!!

  3. Beth Pianka says:

    What a great post Richard!! It’s so good to know there is so much to do for young children if in the UK during the holidays, or it seems anytime. I have written down all of these sites and will share with my niece who will be traveling over there in December along with your website. I am not sure what her and her family have planned but this would be right up their alley as they have little ones who would love all of this. The only question I really have is what would be your favorite if you had to only pick one? Thanks again, this is great!!! 

    1. Richard Leaver says:

      Thank you for your comments Beth,

      All of the attractions are well worth a visit and many have sister parks as well so no matter where you are located in England you will be able to find a similar park offering the same events.

      Picking a favourite is a hard choice as they all specialise in different areas for different age groups. For example when my children were toddlers Sundown Adventureland was an absolutely fantastic day out but as they have grown up we have now gravitated towards Gullivers Kingdom and Wheelgate Park on a more regular basis. 

      However having said that my son has a real passion for Thomas the Tank Engine and he would tell you that Drayton Manor is his new favourite theme park. In conclusion you wouldn’t be disappointed with a day out at any of the above mentioned theme parks.

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