As the frosty mornings begin to envelop Oxfordshire, it’s time to embrace the season’s magic. This year there are a medley of events planned, from cozy meals to festive market stalls and exhilarating outdoor escapades, Oxfordshire has something for all. In this guide, we unwrap the festive delights that are waiting for residents and visitors alike this winter, as we prepare to immerse ourselves in the spirit of the season.
Christmas Light Displays
One of the most festive things during the Christmas season are the beautiful light displays, illuminations and the spectacular switching on events. Here’s our pick of the top Christmas light events in Oxfordshire, which are sure to add a special glow to your festive season.
Although Garth House in Bicester doesn’t quite match the grand splendor of the Blenheim Palace illuminations, this fantastic event is perfect for those on a budget.
Back for 2023, Bicester’s Christmas lights trail will see Garth House and the park lit-up with festive messages and dancing snowflakes, and the grounds alive with colour.
People will be able to walk around the grounds of Garth Park and enjoy the array of lights, festive music and refreshments with their family or in a small group.
The park is transformed into a sea of sparkling festive lights, complete with a Santa’s Grotto, and festive refreshments from park café Savoir Fare.
Visitors are able to see Garth’s house lit with a festive light show and then continue on to walk the trail and view the lights as festive music is played throughout. The event is fully accessible to buggies, wheelchairs, and scooters.
The event runs from Friday 8th December to Sunday 17th December 2023
The new Christmas illuminated light trail for 2023 brings together a multitude of twinkling lights, seasonal sounds and festive fun. Now firmly established as an unmissable diary date, our after-dark trail makes for an unforgettable time, with a glimpse of Father Christmas along the way!
Discover heart-shaped arches glittering in the moonlight, glowing tunnels filled with stars and an eight-metre sphere filled with over 20,000 moving lights (which are just a handful of this year’s installations). You will also see the return of the ever-popular dancing reflections in the colourful Cascades after an enchanting Lakeside walk.
17 November 2023 to 02 January 2024
Get ready to celebrate at the Oxford Christmas Light Festival, from November 17th to 19th. This weekend promises an enchanting blend of illuminations, installations, and crafts for friends and family. Join in creative workshops, revel in performances, explore exhibitions, and enjoy the sounds of local markets as lights twinkle throughout the city.
Not only are Christmas markets a great place to shop, but they are also a great way to really get into the festive spirit with music, amazing food and an array of independent businesses selling stunning gifts. The following are just some of the great Christmas markets happening throughout Oxfordshire this year
Step back in time and experience the magic of the Victorian era at the beloved Oxford Victorian Christmas Market! Join us on Broad Street for a festive celebration like no other.
Enjoy live music, browse through artisan traders, indulge in delicious festive food and drinks, and be captivated by exciting street entertainment.
The entire Broad Street will come alive with joy and merriment. Immerse yourself in the enchanting atmosphere and witness a fantastic lineup of performances.
Visitors will be transported back to the era when they step onto Broad Street from Thursday, 16 November, and Sunday, 19 November 2023.
Expect live music, artisan traders, festive food and drink and street entertainment to complement this wonderful seasonal celebration for the city.
Woodstock Festive Fayre returns, bringing cheer to the town on November 24th and 25th with a chance to enjoy Christmas shopping and a great festive atmosphere. The celebration continues with the Christmas Light switch on event, Night of a Thousand Candles, on November 25th, featuring music, a panto, feasts, and late-night shopping.
This year the Market will be spread across three venues, all within seconds of each other. The well-ventilated and heated Main Marquee will be in Shucklett’s Paddock in the centre of the village and will contain stalls selling high-quality and individual crafts, presents, Christmas decorations, wreaths and food. There will also be mulled wine and raffles and hamper draws.
Just over the road in the Memorial Hall, you can relax with some tea and cakes, and there will be additional stalls selling produce and cakes to take away. Almost opposite the Hall is the Royal Oak pub which will have more stalls and will also be offering festive food and drink. In total we expect to have around 50 stalls.
Visit Millets Farm on the 9th and 10th of November for an enchanting Christmas Craft & Gift Market, which promises to be the ideal chance to kickstart your festive shopping. Explore an array of over 30 talented artisan stallholders, each offering a delightful selection of items, from exquisite jewellery to scented candles, stylish homewares, captivating artworks, and much more. The event runs from 10 am to 4 pm on both days and is free to attend.
The Blenheim Christmas market is set against the magnificent backdrop of Blenheim Palace. With many loads of crafts, traders and scrum food to eat.
From Friday 17th November until Sunday 17th December shoppers and foodies can escape the bustle of The High Street and stock-up on festive goodies at the celebrated Christmas Market in The Great Court.
The seasonal village of wooden chalets offers everything from inspired Christmas gift ideas to tasty treats, and if you have worked up an appetite, there is a tempting selection of street food stalls to share with loved ones under the stars.
freshly cut Christmas trees
There is nothing more festive than picking a freshly cut Christmas tree, and there are a range of great places to choose from here in Oxfordshire. Whether you are looking for a Norman Spruce, a Nordmand Fir, or a Serbian Spruce, you can be sure that you will find a lovely tree in one of these excellent places.
These Christmas trees are grown in Marsh Baldon, where they are freshly cut every day to ensure you always have the best quality tree. Varieties include the popular Norway Spruce and the Nordmann, and there are even trees available with slight imperfections at discount prices.
The Tree Barn in South Oxfordshire is a small family business, which last year celebrated 50 years of selling Christmas trees. Today, The Tree Barn sells gifts, decorations and award-winning Christmas trees, which are used within prestigious locations such as Number 10 Downing Street. The Christmas shop will be open from Saturday 4th November, although tree sales do not open until 18th November.
Explore a world of contemporary art at the Ashmolean Museum until January 14th. The Ashmolean NOW series introduces Flora Yukhnovich and Daniel Crews-Chubb, two London-based painters, offering a unique fusion of historical and modern influences in their artwork. With each painting created exclusively for this exhibit, they share a profound connection with the timeless art of painting. This is the first in a series of three exhibitions, with Pio Abad in February 2024 and Bettina von Zwehl in October 2024 to follow.
Discover the history of British war comics until April 30th, at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock. In collaboration with Oxford-based Rebellion Publishing, the exhibition unveils the rich legacy of iconic comic titles such as War Picture Library and Battle Action. The exhibit features original comic artwork on public display for the first time, tracing the evolution of war comics from the 19th century to the emotionally charged narratives of the 1970s.
Science Oxford Family Day 10th December
Explore, discover and play in the Exploration Zone, where children and grown-ups alike have fun experimenting with interactive exhibits – create and test flying designs at the Air Table, build a giant magnetic ball run, and see what’s hot and what’s not with the Curious Camera.
On November 25th, discover a world of gin like never before at the Sky Wave Gin boutique distillery in Bicester. This is where the magic happens, and it’s not just any gin; it’s the World’s Best Contemporary Gin. As you step into the only distillery set on a former WW2 RAF base, now transformed into the picturesque Bicester Heritage, you’ll be treated to not only award-winning gin but also a journey through history.
If you are looking for a special event to attend this Christmas, these performances are sure to be remembered for years to come. We have selected just a few examples of popular favourites which the whole family are sure to enjoy.
Direct from the West End and after two sell out tours, the ultimate feel good Irish-inspired Christmas show is back with an even bigger production for 2023.
From the producers of Seven Drunken Nights-The Story of The Dubliners and featuring an international cast of singers, musicians and dancers Fairytale of New York brings you all of your favorite Christmas songs including Driving home for Christmas, White Christmas, Oh Holy Night, Winter’s Tale, Silent Night and of course The Fairytale of New York.
From November 15th, 2023, to January 14th, embark on a magical journey with “CINDERELLA.” Crafted by the creative genius of John Terry and featuring original compositions by Eliane Correa and Rebecca Applin, this timeless family panto offers a fresh take on the beloved classic. In the enchanting town of Santa Maria de las Orejas de Soplillo, Cinderella dreams of a life beyond her mundane chores and cruel stepmother. Immerse yourself in the vibrant world of Latin American music, dynamic dance, and continuous laughter from start to finish.
Direct from the West End and after two sell out tours, the ultimate feel good Irish-inspired Christmas show is back with an even bigger production for 2023.
On November 2nd, prepare for a unique journey. Delve into “Mr. Sandmann – bringer of dreams and nightmares” presented by The Crick Crack Club, featuring performance storytelling maestro Ben Haggarty. For 125 mesmerising minutes at The Woodshed, witness a world where dreams and nightmares intertwine, where truth blurs with deception, and the imagination knows no bounds. In this dark, unsettling, and intensely magical narrative, Ben Haggarty takes you on a captivating journey behind the lights into the enigmatic underbelly of the fairground.
Embrace the festive spirit at a Christmas Wreath Making Workshop on November 29, at The Magdalen Arms, Oxford. Join the workshop for a creative evening, where the organisers will provide all materials and guidance to craft your unique wreath. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, learn wreath-making techniques, meet new friends, and take home a beautiful holiday masterpiece.
In an unforgettable musical farewell, join the Burford Singers on Sunday November 26th for a poignant evening as they bid adieu to their Conductor, Brian Kay. They will bring Handel’s beloved oratorio, the Messiah, to life alongside the Cotswold Chamber Orchestra, led by Kate Bailey. Featuring a talented ensemble of vocalists, including soprano Jessica Cale, mezzo Marta Fontanal-Simmons, tenor William Searle, and bass Gareth Brynmor John, this concert promises a grand finale.
For many families with young children, Christmas is not complete without a magical trip to see Santa and his elves. The following are our pick of the most festive grottos which offer a beautiful experience for children of every age.
Experience the enchanting Illuminated Evenings event from October 7th to November 26th. Every Saturday and Sunday Fairytale Farm is opening its doors to a dazzling world of lights. While the park operates as usual during the day, as night falls, the Enchanted Walk transforms into a fairy light wonderland. New features in 2023 include the captivating illumination of the Fairy Dell. Marvel at the Giant’s Camera, The Extinct Band, Giant Party Poppers, and Light Fountains. Don’t miss the illuminated Snow White’s Castle, Jack’s Beanstalk, and the all-new Dino Valley display!
From Saturday 11th November until Sunday 24th December Millets Farm is inviting visitors to put on their snow boots and join Snowball Sammy and his friends at the North Pole. Start with elftastic jokes and a visit to the reindeer stables where you’ll whip up strength-boosting reindeer food. Then, head to Santa’s cozy living room for a meet-and-greet and receive a bespoke jigsaw keepsake. Capture a festive photo and select a toy in the workshop. Finally, join Mrs. Claus in her merry kitchen to trim the tree and decorate Christmas treats. Expect lots of festive singing, joy, and laughter throughout at this fun family day out.
As well as the dazzling Christmas lights, inside the Palace, a captivating reimagining of Sleeping Beauty awaits, where classic tales will be given a modern twist. But the magic doesn’t stop there; with visitors invited to step into the Great Court to enjoy a fun Christmas Market, where you will be able to find a variety of delightful treasures and gifts. Limited tickets are available now, with options available to enjoy both the palace and the trail.
Bicester Avenue’s Real Ice Rink is back, running from 7th November 2023 till 7th January 2024.
The rink has a maximum capacity of 40 skaters at any one time. Your purchased ticket includes a 45-minute skating session and hire of skates. We have Skate Aids available for children and are on a first come first served basis, so get there early.
On Sunday, November 12th, Waterperry Gardens are making an exception to the usual no-dogs policy in the stunning ornamental gardens. This is a great chance to explore the beauty with your furry friend for a day, and 10% of entries will support the Oxford Animal Sanctuary. Outdoor refreshments with your dog are available at the teashop, so don’t miss this unique opportunity to enjoy the gardens with your four-legged family member.
From November 29th to December 17th, Chastleton welcomes you to step back in time and relish a 1960s-style country Christmas, reminiscent of the Clutton-Brock family’s festive gatherings. Engage in board games, savour classic Christmas television, sip cocktails, and partake in a heartwarming family dinner around the table. Younger visitors can embark on an activity trail inspired by the merriment of the season. Admission follows the standard rates, but it’s free for National Trust members and children under five.
Meet Father Christmas and enjoy some fun festive fun at Oxford Castle & Prison.
On arrival you’ll be greeted by one of Santa’s Castle elves before being taken into the base of St. Georges Tower, home to over 1,000 years of history. You will then be taken to our 900 year old Norman crypt where another one of Santa’s elves will talk you through how to make wildlife friendly reindeer food that you can take away with you ready for the big day itself. Afterwards take a walk through the old Victorian Prison wing where you can make your very own Christmas Tree bauble and for the adults, you’ll get to try a sample of mead.
Magical Christmas trails are always a great way to get everyone into the festive spirit, with fun steam train rides also proving to be very popular. Here in Oxfordshire, there are a variety of great Christmas trails and train rides to experience, with the following being just a few examples.
One of the most amazing things for children to do in the run up to Christmas is to take a traditional steam train ride and visit Santa’s Grotto and share with Santa the things they would like him to bring them on Christmas Day!
All trains will begin their journey at Princes Risborough with Santa’s Elves welcoming everyone onboard. We will then travel on Santa’s steam train to see the Great Man-in-Red in an enhanced Workshop and Grotto at his North Pole station, where we will halt-a-while for refreshments and a much anticipated visit to see Santa – chat to him and take some great photos for the album – and pick-up that important very first Christmas present!
Kids, there’s been a disaster, Santa’s reindeer have all escaped and are lost – you know that he needs them to deliver all the presents on Christmas Eve.
We need your help!
Can you help him find them? Explore the unique collection of Great Western Railway steam locomotives, carriages, wagons, buildings and small artefacts at our 21 acre museum set around the original 1932 engine shed whilst you locate all of the reindeer stations.
You’ll all receive a special passport and a stocking as you enter and as a reward, at each reindeer station, you’ll receive a small gift. Your visit will culminate with a visit to Santa in our giant toy workshop where he’ll hear what you want to get for Christmas and you’ll get to choose your own gift from the selection on offer. Your entry ticket will also include unlimited train rides on our main demonstration line.
Wishing you a fabulous Christmas
We hope you have enjoyed our list of the best things to do in Oxfordshire during the festive season. As always, the best way to experience both the historic city of Oxford and the many beautiful towns and villages is to go out and explore, and we promise you will find something great to do! If you would like to find out more about spending Christmas in Oxfordshire, contact our team today and we will always be happy to share our local knowledge with you.