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11 Fabulously Festive Things to do with the Kids in Leeds

· Ali Turner · Christmas

Treat the kids to a magical day out this Christmas with these fantastic ideas.

The Christmas Experience at Lotherton Hall

Let’s face it, Christmas is all about the kids, so why not treat yours to a fantastic day out?

When you’ve got kids in the house, Christmas is one of the most exciting times of year, but while there are plenty of things to do at home, with lists to be made and letters to be written, there are even more out in the city. From traditional pantomimes to immersive theatre experiences, make the season a little more magical with these festive family days out.

1. Visit Santa’s Grotto at Kirkgate Market

Leeds Kirkgate Market Christmas

This one’s as good for the adults as it is for the kids. A trip to Leeds Kirkgate Market will give you the chance to tick off your Christmas shopping list, with everything from fruit and veg to Christmas wreaths, wrapping paper and pressies, but it also promises a treat for the little ones. Santa will be in town every weekend until Christmas Eve, with an extra visit on 22nd and 23rd December 2016. Meet the big man himself on the old Butchers Row and pick up a deliciously chocolatey gift. Make sure you stop by the 1904 Hall too, because they’ve got a brass band lined up to play festive favourites.

Santa’s Grotto will be on the Old Butchers Row at Leeds Kirkgate Market every weekend in December, as well as Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd December 2016.

2. See Rudolf West Yorkshire Playhouse

This Christmas, West Yorkshire Playhouse will have a very special guest, as they welcome Rudolf to the stage. He dreams of pulling Santa’s sleigh, but only the best reindeers get to do that, and with his bright red nose, he isn’t hopeful. But with the help of the Ugly Duckling (yes, you read that right), he may yet ace Reindeer School and come to Santa’s aid. This is a heart-warming Christmas classic the kids will love – and if you want to really make a day of it, you can also join their Galloping Reindeer workshop with Pop Up & Play on Saturdays.

Rudolf is at West Yorkshire Playhouse until Saturday 31st December 2016.

3. Explore the Hidden Christmas Market at Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey

This Christmas, Kirkstall Abbey will be transformed into a bustling market place, filled with street food, crafts and festive entertainment. But this is no average Christmas market – oh no, this is a magical, mystical and marvellously theatrical experience that will see you passing through a secret door, into an undercover world where you’ll be treated to two hours of entertainment in true Sneaky Experience style. Inspired by Narnia, the Hidden Christmas Market promises live music, theatre and performances courtesy of Sneaky Experience. By day, it’s all about families, so get ready to eat bratwurst, pick up presents and treat the kids to a completely unique day out.

The Hidden Christmas Market is at Kirkstall Abbey from Friday 16th to Thursday 22nd December 2016.

4. Enjoy The Christmas Experience at Lotherton Hall

The Christmas Experience Lotherton Hall

Lotherton Hall have something very special lined up for the festive season, as The Christmas Experience takes over the Edwardian house and country estate. Take on the 12 Days of Christmas Walk, hunting out everything from golden pears to French hens – the kids can even try to hook the ‘seven swans swimming’. You can also meet Santa, explore The Fairy Dell and dress up as Edwardians for a traditional Christmas photo. They’ll have workshops if you fancy getting crafty, with carol singing in the Drawing Room and a cafe in the Christmas Courtyard.

The Christmas Experience is at Lotherton Hall from Friday 25th November to Wednesday 23rd December 2016.

5. Visit The Magical Lantern Festival

Magical Lantern Festival

One of the most exciting attractions in Leeds this Christmas, The Magical Lantern Festival is sure to be a favourite with the kids. It’s a trail of massive Chinese lantern displays that will see you passing dragons the length of three buses and mushrooms bigger than people as you cover the 10 acre stretch of Roundhay Park. Alongside the light installations, there will be a fun fair, street food and a wishing well raising money for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal.

The Magical Lantern Festival comes to Roundhay Park from Friday 25th November 2016 until Monday 2nd January 2017.

6. Write to Santa at The Merrion Centre

Merrion Centre Christmas Post Box

Credit: Tom Joy

This Christmas, The Merrion Centre will be breaking up the hum-drum of shopping with Santa’s Christmas Post Office. Bring the kids along to write their letters to Santa, with a little help from his elves – post it in their special magical post box and watch it fly off to Lapland. While you’re there, be sure to stop by their Bauble Grotto, where you can meet Santa himself and maybe even pick up a present.

Santa’s Christmas Post Office and the Bauble Grotto are at The Merrion Centre (near the Wade Lane entrance) every weekend until Sunday 11th December and every day from Wednesday 14th December until Christmas Eve.

7. Catch Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs on Stage

Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs

There are loads of pantomimes in Leeds over the festive season, but Snow White is set to be one of the best. The fairytale classic will take place in a big top tent on the grounds of The Tetley, with a star-studded cast that includes Geordie Shore heartthrob, Scotty Timlin as the Prince, Brookside’s Louis Emerick as the Royal Tax Collector and Corrie’s Tupele Dorgu as the Wicked Queen. Get ready to shout, “He’s behind you” as the hilarious antics unfold on stage.

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs will take place in the grounds of The Tetley from Thursday 8th December 2016 to Sunday 1st January 2016.

8. See The Snowman with a Live Orchestra

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

Raymond Briggs’ festive classic The Snowman returns to Leeds this December with live music from the Orchestra of Opera North. It’s a moving story, as a young boy builds a snowman and they set off on a wonderful adventure together – the next morning, when the boy wakes, the snowman is gone, but he’ll never be forgotten. See this festive favourite, alongside two classic nursery rhymes, as Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, are brought to life with a big screen picture book.

The Snowman is at Leeds Town Hall at 3pm on Sunday 18th December 2016.

9. Delve into The Whispering Woods

The Woods Beneath The World, Leeds Town Hall

Credit: David Lindsay

Sneaky Experience have pulled out all the stop this Christmas. Not only are they putting on the Hidden Christmas Market at Kirkstall Abbey, they’re also taking over the underground forest beneath Leeds Town Hall. They’ve created two family-friendly shows, with The Story Trees for kids under five and The Whispering Woods for kids of all ages. Both promise puppetry, songs and storytelling as you set off on an adventure in the company of a few well-known characters – Ratty, Mole, Toad, Badger and Weasel.

The Story Trees & The Whispering Woods will be at Leeds Town Hall from Friday 16th to Friday 23rd December 2016.

10. Take the kids to the German Market

Carousel, The German Market Returns to Leeds

This year, the German Market is more family-friendly than ever – which means you’ve got the perfect excuse to take a turn around all those traditional wooden stalls. Santa and his Elves will be at the Alp Chalet from 10am to 11:30am on Sundays, where you can enjoy a buffet breakfast before meeting the big man, while outside, there’ll be children’s shows and entertainment in the square with everything from face-painting to sing-alongs and balloon modelling.

The German Market is at Millennium Square from 10:30am to 9:30pm (7:30pm Sundays), from Friday 11th November until Sunday 18th December 2016.

11. Head Out to Stockeld Park for a Festive Adventure

Stockeld Park Christmas Adventure

You’ll have to travel outside of the city centre for this one, but if you do, you’ll be treated to a magical Christmas adventure. Stockeld Park is filled with family-friendly attractions – you can go ice skating and Nordic skiing – or why not get lost in the maze? At Christmas time, their Enchanted Forest is lit up after dark by thousands of twinkling fairy lights – so you can enjoy the many playgrounds and activities in a magical setting. Don’t miss Santa’s Grotto either, where you can meet the man himself and pick up a pressie.

The Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park is open every day until Tuesday 3rd January 2016 (except Christmas Day and Boxing Day). Note that they close early on New Year’s Eve and open at 1pm on New Year’s Day.