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The Christmas must-do activities you need to book now

PUBLISHED: 18:59 25 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:31 26 September 2019

The Mid Norfolk Railway Polar Express. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Mid Norfolk Railway Polar Express. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

Yes we really are talking about the dreaded 'C' word in September - as tickets to the best family Christmas events in Suffolk and beyond are already beginning to sell out.

Christmas trees at St Peter & St Marys Church, Stowmarket  Picture: graham meadows/citizenside.comChristmas trees at St Peter & St Marys Church, Stowmarket Picture: graham meadows/citizenside.com

There's just three months to go until arguably the biggest day of the year and companies are getting prepared across the region by selling tickets to the most-popular Christmas events.

Here we take a look at some of the must-do activities to make sure you don't miss out.

Cinderella panto

The Ipswich Regent Theatre has announced that Cinderella will be its 2019 pantomime production - putting on a charming affair throughout December and trying its best to finish before midnight so the audience don't turn into pumpkins.

Staged by regular producers Enchanted Entertainment, the 2019 panto promises to be bigger and better than ever.

When is it?

Saturday, December 14 to Tuesday, December 31.

For the first time, there will be a 'Late Night Special' of the panto on Friday December 20 at 10pm. Expect debauchery and content that requires the 16+ warning.

Schools can also go to a performance especially them on Monday December 16 at 10.30am.

A previous Cinderella panto performance at the Ipswich Regent Theatre. Picture: DAVID KINDREDA previous Cinderella panto performance at the Ipswich Regent Theatre. Picture: DAVID KINDRED

How much is it?

Tickets range from £19 to £29 depending on the proximity of the seats selected. Book tickets here.

Where is it?

Ipswich Regent Theatre - 3 St. Helen's St, Ipswich IP4 1HE.

Santa's Grotto at Blackthorpe Barn

Visit Father Christmas in his miniature grotto, offering the ultimate Santa experience this festive season.

New for this year there will be a Santa's Treasure Hunt and a special prize for all successful children.

Details for the event are being kept hush-hush at the moment - however the grotto is ideal for ages nine and under and all children visiting will receive a small token gift from Santa Clause (if they have been good!).

When is it?

Your little ones can meet Santa at Blackthorpe Barn this year. Picture: TOM SOPERYour little ones can meet Santa at Blackthorpe Barn this year. Picture: TOM SOPER

Specific dates are available from Saturday, November 23 to Sunday, December 22 - with an 'extra special grotto experience' available on Saturday, December 21 and Sunday, 22 - with each child having the chance to make their own unique Christmas decorations to hang on their tree at home.

How much is it?

Tickets are £11 per child with adult entry priced at £2 - and you can buy tickets here.

Where is it?

Blackthorpe Barn, Rougham Estate, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP30 9HZ.

Illuminated Garden Trail 2019

A great way to get into the Christmas spirit is to visit the beautiful gardens of Helmingham Hall, as the grounds are lit up with thousands of lights to transform the space into an enchanted winter wonderland.

The trail starts by crossing the famous drawbridge and warming up with a complimentary mulled wine within the courtyard.

Continue through the gardens absorbing the 'magical sights and sounds', gather around the fire pits to toast marshmallows for s'mores and end the evening browsing the Stables Shops - where you may be able to find some early Christmas gifts.

Helmingham Hall at Christmas Photo: Juliette Wade/Espalier Media LtdHelmingham Hall at Christmas Photo: Juliette Wade/Espalier Media Ltd

You can even bring your 'well-behaved dogs on leads' to enjoy the festive celebrations.

When is it?

Saturday, November 23 to Sunday, December 8 from 4.30pm to 8pm (except Mondays and Tuesdays) - with timed entry every 30 minutes and the last entry 7pm.

How much is it?

Advance discounted tickets are available online now - with adults entering for £10, children aged five to 15 going for £5, under fives going free and a family ticket costing £25.

On the day gate prices: Adults £12, children £7, under fives free and a family ticket £27.

Where is it?

Helmingham Hall, Helmingham Park.

Santa Specials on the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway

The Christmas mid Suffolk railwau returns for another year.  Picture: Lawrie RoseThe Christmas mid Suffolk railwau returns for another year. Picture: Lawrie Rose

All tickets for this christmas extravaganza MUST be pre-booked - so don't miss out and get your tickets fast.

Passengers will travel from Brockford Station to meet Santa at the North Pole Halt. Each child will receive a special ticket and be given a present by Santa in his 'magic brake van'.

The idea is to provide a seasonal appeal to families with the objective of introducing the museum to new generations who may never have seen a stream train before. The Middy will be decorated in festive fashion for each of the Santa Special days, with a band of elves also on hand to ensure everyone is having fun.

When is it?

The Christmas special trains will depart every Saturday and Sunday from Saturday, December 7 to Sunday, December 22.

How much is it?

It costs £12.50 per adult or child, and a booking form needs to be completed before paying.

Where is it?

Brockford Station, Hall Lane, Wetheringsett, Stowmarket IP14 5PW.

The illuminated stage at the Thursford Museum in Norfolk  Picture: MICK WEBBThe illuminated stage at the Thursford Museum in Norfolk Picture: MICK WEBB

Christmas Spectacular and Santa's Magical Journey at Thursford

Thursford will host two separate Christmas events this winter - with a huge show and a magical visit to Santa Clause.

Bringing you non-stop singing, dancing, music, humour and variety - the 2019 Christmas Spectacular is a great way to get you in the seasonal spirit.

It's a fast moving celebration of the festive season, and with a cast of 120 it is the biggest Christmas show of it's kind in Europe, attracting over 5.7 million visitors to date.

Santa's Magical Journey takes you past the penguins and polar bears to see all the giant sized teddy bears ready to load Santa's sleigh, past the busy elves, hard at work in the toy factory taking in the wonderful wrapping machine.

You'll meet lots of fantasy characters, but watch out for the snowballs before you make your way through the magical forest to reach Santa's House where you will meet the man himself and receive a present.

When is it?

The 2019 Christmas Spectacular show will run from Wednesday, November 6 to Monday, December 23 with two daily shows at 2pm and 7pm.

Santa's Magical Journey will be open on November 23, 24 and 30 along with December 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 17 and through to the day before Christmas Eve.

Father Christmas brings the festive season to Kersey Mill Photo: Baby Art UKFather Christmas brings the festive season to Kersey Mill Photo: Baby Art UK

How much is it?

Christmas Spectacular 2019 - Tickets range from £36.50 to £47.

Santa's Magical Journey - Adults £11.50, children £18.50 (includes a present). Children under 12 months are allowed in for free if accompanied by one paying adult and one paying child.

See here.

Where is it?

The Thursford Collection, Thursford, Fakenham, NR21 0AS.

Santa's Workshop at Kersey Mill

Helping the elves in Santa's workshop will be a memorable Christmas occasion for children aged three to 10 years.

The journey will start with a short story to prepare the children for their magical experience, then heading to "Santa's Workshop" and will take part in various activities - along with loading the sleigh and singing with Santa.

The Mid Norfolk Railway Polar Express. Toby Westrup, 4, handing over his ticket to the ticket master. Picture: ANTONY KELLYThe Mid Norfolk Railway Polar Express. Toby Westrup, 4, handing over his ticket to the ticket master. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Each child will receive a small gift and meet the candy Elf where they are also offered a traditional clementine. They will mix reindeer food and help the elves with other festive preparations, before making a craft to take home with them. Each event lasts around 60 minutes long.

When is it?

The workshop will start on Sunday, December 1 with various dates available until the day before Christmas Eve.

How much is it?

Tickets are £20 per child, which includes the entry of one adult. Additional adults cost £10 and all parking is free on site. Any children under one years old can enter free of charge.

Online there is a booking fee, but this can be avoided by ordering over the phone on 01473 829317 (available from November 25, 2019).

Where is it?

Kersey Mill, Hadleigh Road, Kersey, Ipswich, IP7 6DP.

The Polar Express train ride

Love the movie? Then you'll definitely love this.

The Polar Express Train Ride is returning to the Mid-Norfolk Railway again in 2019, with the magic of the 2004 motion picture being theatrically re-created so you and your family can be immersed in the sights, sounds and intrigue of this classic tale.

Once on the train - which you are encouraged to board wearing your pyjamas - scenes from the film will come to life as dancing chefs and waiters arrive to serve cookies and hot chocolate, and tell the tale of the Polar Express.

Upon arrival at the North Pole, keep your eyes peeled for Santa's sleigh, a bag of toys and a giant Christmas tree, before returning home with more surprises on the return.

When is it?

There are a number of dates available across November and December - see here for specific details.

How much is it?

Different prices apply on different days - the experience is the same but the prices differ.

Tickets on peak days, including December 20, 21, 22 and 23, cost £27.50 for standard seating and £42 for premium seating.

Tickets on classic days, including December 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18 and 19, cost £26 for standard seats and £40 for premium.

Saver day tickets on November 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29 and 30, and December 27, 28 and 29, are £24.50 for standard and £38 for premium tickets.

Where is it?

Dereham Station, Railway Station, Station Rd, Dereham NR19 1DF.

Breakfast with Santa at Colchester Zoo

You will be greeted by the zoo's head elf upon arrival, before meeting the rest of the elf team who will be ready and waiting with their 'naughty and nice lists' to sort you into your groups.

The head elf will then take you to Santa's House, where you will wake up the big man himself with a sing along before being shown around the Christmas grotto, and through the enchanted woodland to see the reindeer.

After a busy morning you will have a well-deserved rest and will be served a delicious breakfast by the kitchen elves.

You can then spend the rest of the day enjoying the zoo and its animal enclosures to make the most of the day out.

When is it?

There is only one day left to book, as all of the final four days are sold out.

Tickets are still available to attend the breakfast experience on Saturday, December 14.

How much is it?

Entry for non-passholders aged three to 15 is £47.50, passholders is £27.50, participating under three's £37.50, non-passholder adults, £25 and passholder adults £10.

Due to limited capacity they have a two adult per child maximum policy for this experience - get your hands on the final tickets here by calling 01206 331292 extension 232 or 237.

Where is it?

Colchester Zoo, Maldon Rd, Colchester CO3 0SL.

Meet Santa at Glemham Hall

Father Christmas returns to Glemham Hall this December, where children will be able to meet Santa in the festive grounds.

Children will be welcomed into the Great Hall to enjoy story time with the elves before being invited to join in with some Christmas crafts, make some reindeer food, write and post a letter to the North Pole, take part in a reindeer hunt in the gardens and enjoy a personalised meeting with Father Christmas where they will receive a small gift.

This year the event will be in aid of East Anglia's Children's Hospices.

When is it?

Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8 - with each session lasting approximately one hour.

How much is it?

Tickets are available for £20 per child and £4 per adult here.

Where is it?

Glemham Hall, Little Glemham, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP13 0BT.

Steam with Santa 2019

This is another classic steam train experience which is bound to get you in the Christmas mood.

Make sure you are well-behaved this year and get on the 'nice list' as the heated special train will take passengers along the one mile line while Santa delivers a present to each child in the carriage.

A Christmas inspired buffet will also be available on the services.

Booking for this one closes two days before each event, so you need to be prepared to Steam with Santa.

When is it?

The following dates are available to book in December: Saturday 7, Sunday 8, Saturday 14, Sunday 15, Saturday 21, Sunday 22, Monday 23. There are trains at 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm, and 4.30pm.

How much is it?

Adults aged 15 and up cost £12, children aged three to 14 also cost £12 and any passenger under the age of two costs can book for just £5.

Where is it?

Colne Valley Railway, Castle Hedingham, Halstead CO9 3DZ.

Sunday brunch (or lunch) with Santa

Brunch with Santa is an ideal opportunity for mums and their tots to get together ahead of Christmas.

When is it?

Brunch - Sunday, December 1 or Sunday, December 15.

Lunch - Sunday, December 8 or Sunday, December 22.

How much is it?

The brunch costs £18 for adults and £10 for children up to 12, with under twos going free. Lunch is £25 for adults and £12.50 for children.

Where is it?

Stoke by Nayland Golf Club, Keeper's Lane, Colchester, CO6 4PZ.

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