‘Tis the season to be festive - so why not explore the best of what Kent and Sussex have to offer this Christmas?
From festive train rides to German markets, Dickensian themes to majestic ice rinks, there are lots of fantastic events going on throughout Kent and Sussex at this magical time of year.
We’ve selected five of the best things to do in Kent and five in Sussex to ensure you have a cracking Christmas. Take your pick!
Image: Visit Kent
Set in the trees and snow, come and visit Father Christmas at his special log cabin in Royal Tunbridge Wells. Little ones will have a chance to write a letter to Father Christmas before a 10-minute meet and greet, receiving a gift to take home, and having a photo taken with Father Christmas to treasure forever. Tunbridge Wells will also be home to its very own open-air ice rink where you can enjoy some ice-skating hand in hand and have a fantastic time out with the family.
- When: December 1st - 24th 2018
- Where: Calverley Grounds, Royal Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1BT
Image: Visit Kent
Take a step back in time and experience your very own ‘A Christmas Carol’ with this special celebration of all things Dickensian. This event has been a staple of Rochester’s festive calendar since 1988, and people return time and time again to browse the variety of stalls, sing carols, meet their favourite Dickens characters and take part in the candlelight procession, all to the backdrop of Rochester’s fairy-tale cathedral and castle.
- When: December 1st - 2nd 2018
- Where: Rochester High Street, ME1 1LX
Image: Visit Kent
Take a magical steam train journey through the countryside of Kent and East Sussex to meet Santa with this much-loved railway’s Santa Special events. Whilst onboard the festively decorated carriages, look out for the elf helpers who will be handing out treats for children and grown-ups alike before the kids get to meet Santa and receive a special toy. Before you board, you can even enjoy unlimited rides of the Victorian carousel at Tenterden station.
- When: December 1st - 2nd, 8th - 9th, 15th - 16th, 21st - 24th 2018
- Where: Tenterden Town Station, Tenterden, TN30 6HE
Image: Visit Kent
There's all sorts going on at Leeds Castle this Christmas. Throughout November and December they have Christmas Markets, Meet the Reindeer, Christmas Storytelling, Paddington's 'Once Upon a Time at Christmas' and The Winter Trail. They did offer a meet and greet with Santa Claus but it's already sold out! So book in quick for any other events that you don't want to miss at this magical castle. It's the perfect place for families to enjoy themselves throughout the festive season!
- When: Most events get underway from November 24th 2018 (dates vary, see website for details)
- Where: Leeds Castle, near Maidstone, ME17 1PL
Image: Visit Kent
Christmas comes to the historic city of Canterbury with a fantastic festive market with more than 50 German-style cabin stalls to check out in Whitefriars Square – enjoy barbecued bratwurst and a glass of mulled wine while shopping for gifts and decorations. For kids and families, The Canterbury Tales are hosting an event in which young adventurers are needed to help save Father Christmas. It ends with a visit to the grotto and a thank you present from old St Nick himself. Don’t forget to head to the Christmas Eve carol service in the grand cathedral to really get into the Christmas spirit!
- When: November 16th - December 24th 2018
- Where: Whitefriars Square, Canterbury
The Canterbury Tales Save Father Christmas!
- When: December 15th - 16th 2018
- Where: The Canterbury Tales, St Margaret's St, Canterbury CT1 2TG
Wakehurst’s majestic woodlands and stunning botanic gardens come to life with beautiful light displays and glowing lanterns. Lit by the lanterns, take a night-time stroll through the woods, admiring the scenery along the way. Children can also have a go at lantern making, at an extra charge, and you can toast marshmallows over a firepit and sample some festive food and drink.
- When: November 22nd - 25th, November 29th - December 2nd, December 6th - 9th, December 13th - 16th 2018
- Where: Wakehurst, Ardingly, Haywards Heath, RH17 6TN
Last year, a bundle of festive fun-filled Rye with Christmas cheer. Santa came to town, stalls full of goodies were set up at the market, a Christmas procession marched through the streets, rides and attractions were available and kids got to meet Rudolph in the petting area. This year they are doing something a little different: the Rye Christmas Festival team are holding a programme release event at the end of October. Keep an eye on their site for more information and have a browse of their photo gallery to see all the exciting activities that took place in town during the 2017 festival!
- When: December 8th 2018
- Where: Rye town centre, TN31 7JJ
Forget the Polar Express as the Bluebell Railway has it's own special Santa Express! This vintage railway makes its way through the Sussex countryside on a festive rail ride to remember. Departing from Sheffield Park or East Grinstead, Santa will be on board to greet all of the children and give out presents. On arrival at Horsted Keynes, you’ll find an amazing Christmas wonderland with reindeer to meet, a Victorian fairground, a special Elf House and a Christmas pantry filled with yummy treats.
- When: December 1st - 2nd, 8th - 9th, 15th - 16th, 22nd - 24th 2018
- Where: Sheffield Park Rail Station, Sheffield Green, TN22 3QL
There’s much to see at Drusillas Park this Christmastime. Throughout the season children and families are welcome to visit Santa's grotto and receive a Christmas present. There’s a meet and greet with adorable huskies and reindeer, Christmas lights, festive tattoos and face painting at the Hello Kitty Parlour, and seasonal tasty treats including the classic minced pies and mulled wine.
- When: November 17th 2018 - January 1st 2019 (some events at weekends only until December 23rd)
- Where: Drusillas Park, Alfriston, BN26 5QS
Tulleys brings the ultimate Christmas experience to Sussex with an array of festive activities for all the family to get stuck into. Climb aboard for a tractor ride through the forest before arriving at a log cabin to meet the man himself! Among the things to do in this winter wonderland are gingerbread decorating, meeting real reindeer, story time, elf hunts, puppet shows and toy building.
- When: November 24th - 25th, December 1st - 2nd, 8th - 9th and 15th - 24th 2018
- Where: Tulleys Farm, Turners Hill, near Crawley, RH10 4PE
If you’ve decided to indulge in the Xmas festivities in Kent or Sussex this year, take a look at our collection of Christmas cottages to stay in, perfect for gathering the family together for Christmas dinner, unwrapping presents by the tree and some quality time in each other’s company.
A YEAR-ROUND DESTINATION
Kent and Sussex aren’t only great places to visit at Christmas, but also year-round, offering something for everyone.
Interested in what else is happening across the region throughout the year? Take a look at our guide to the arts and culture highlights of Kent and Sussex, from unforgettable events to fascinating museum exhibitions.
If it’s some family fun that you’re after, our fantastic attractions guide offers ideas for some amazing family days out whatever the weather!
(Cover image: Visit Kent)