30 events and attractions that MAKE a Norfolk Christmas

John Cushing at Thursford, near Fakenham. Pic: The Thursford Collection

John Cushing at Thursford, near Fakenham - Credit: The Thursford Collection

There are so many wonderful ways to celebrate Christmas in Norfolk, from pantomimes to twinkling lights, winter walks to steam train rides to meet Santa Claus.

Here are just a few festive ways to enjoy the most magical time of the year in our beautiful county.

Thursford Show/Enchanted Journey of Light 

As well as hosting the country’s biggest Christmas show (quite the most incredible three hours you may ever spend in Norfolk) Thursford, near Fakenham, stages its Enchanted Journey of Light. The illuminated indoor and outdoor trail passes penguins, polar bears and more, through fields of lanterns and glowing sculptures ranging from the sea to the North Pole. November 19 to 23. Tickets from £16. thursford.com

The Tunnel of Light is switched on in Norwich ahead of Christmas 2021 Byline: Sonya Duncan

The Tunnel of Light is switched on in Norwich ahead of Christmas 2021 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Norwich Tunnel of Light  

The magnificent Tunnel of Light has returned to light up Norwich city centre until January 5. The walk-through illumination shimmers with ever-changing patterns and colours from Millennium Plain to Gentleman’s Walk.  

The Mid Norfolk Railway Polar Express. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Mid Norfolk Railway Polar Express - Credit: Anthony Kelly

Christmas Railway experiences in Norfolk 

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The Santa Steam Train Specials will be running from North Norfolk Railway’s Sheringham Station to take children on a journey to Santa’s Grotto at Weybourne’s charming Edwardian station where there’s a chance to see the big man himself after walking through Christmas Tree Kingdom (nnrailway.co.uk). NNR is also running the Norfolk Lights Express, a magical steam engine illuminated by thousands of tiny lights which travels to Holt and back past colourful dioramas. The Polar Express is back at the Mid-Norfolk Railway (midnorfolkthepolarexpressride.com for a magical recreation of the famous film so you can be immersed in the sights, sounds and intrigue of this classic tale - you’re even encouraged to dress in pyjamas! The Bure Valley Railway (bvrw.co.uk) only has waiting list availability for its Festive Express this year which involves a one-hour experience including a visit to Santa and a 30-minute steam ride, but there may still be availability for its Mince Pie Special which runs from December 27 to January 3. 

Garden lights at Fairhaven 

See Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden in South Walsham beautifully illuminated for Christmas from November 27 to December 23. The twinkling lights trail through the garden will be open from 4 to 8pm, Thursday to Saturday. 

Traditional Christmas lights switch-on events are back 

Holt and Great Yarmouth have already turned on their lights, and will be joined today (November 27) by North Walsham and Fakenham. 

See Cromer sparkle into Christmas on December 4. Belton, near Great Yarmouth also has a switch-on event on December 4.  

Swaffham will have a live animal nativity, ice-skating and a Christmas market at its festive lights switch-on over the weekend of December 4 and 5, with the actual switch-on at 5pm on December 5. 

Stalham’s Victorian Yuletide market in the High Street on December 5 will include stalls, music and a Christmas tree festival in the church. 

The ferris wheel and fairground at Luminate Sandringham

The ferris wheel and fairground at Luminate Sandringham - Credit: Chris Bishop

Luminate at Sandringham 

The Queen’s Christmas bolthole boasts a wonderful light trail from November 12 to December 19 when the gardens are transformed into an enchanted forest of light along a one-mile trail through Sandringham Country Park. There are special effects, music and interactive installations to enjoy along with the chance to warm up with hot chocolates and toasted marshmallows. For more information and to buy tickets, visit luminate.live/tickets/sandringham-estate/calendar 

Gardens of Light at Blickling Hall 

Blickling is beautiful all-year-round, but really sparkles at Christmas-time. Choose between a range of festive options that include A Christmas Morning at Blickling, offering visitors the chance to be welcomed to the Hall for a traditional Victorian Christmas – explore rooms decked with festive splendour and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. In the evening, Blickling is transformed into the Gardens of Light. Begin your journey through the magically-lit walled garden before discovering the light trail and lit acorns on the parterre. Warm up with mulled wine and a mince pie as you soak up the magical atmosphere. This takes place from November 29 to December 19, visit nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling-estate for more information and to buy tickets. 

The Hippodrome Circus' Christmas Spectacular returns for 2021.

The Hippodrome Circus' Christmas Spectacular returns for 2021 - Credit: Contributed

Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Christmas Spectacular 

The packed seats either side of Great Yarmouth's Hippodrome Circus say it all - this is a show which is now firmly part of Christmas in Norfolk. In a show packed with wonder and delight, there are always some truly breath-taking acts in the Hippodrome’s Christmas Spectacular drawn from every corner of the globe. This is a fabulous family production for families and it's a festive treat. Enjoy incredible acts, slapstick comedy, Christmas singalongs, and a wonderful alternative to a traditional pantomime with more festive fun than all Santa’s elves put together. The show runs from December 11 to January 9. Visit hippodromecircus.co.uk. 

The dancers rehearse for the Cromer Pier Christmas Show.

The dancers rehearse for the Cromer Pier Christmas Show - Credit: Denise Bradley

Cromer Pier Christmas Show 

Cromer Pier’s Christmas variety show will warm your hearts and get you in the mood for the Christmas season with a whole heap of festive fun. With beloved host Olly Day, comic Jo Little, magician and illusionist Taylor Morgan, vocalists Rob McVeigh and Hayley Moss and the Cromer Pier Dancers, the Christmas celebrations kick off on opening night (Saturday, November 27), with various matinee and evening performances available until December 30. Find out more at cromerpier.co.uk

Elveden Christmas Trees 

Not only can you pre-book a visit to see Father Christmas in his log cabin and pick up a Christmas Tree to take home (from November 27 until Christmas Eve) you can also have your tree towed to your car by the gorgeous gentle giants that are Elveden’s Newfoundland dogs on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 3pm in return for a donation to charity. Find out more at elvedencourtyard.com

The stately home's interiors will be revealed under the flicker of candlelight during a special tour

The stately home's interiors will be revealed under the flicker of candlelight during a special tour of Holkham Hall - Credit: Holkham Estate

Holkham by Candlelight 

Holkham has decked the halls and lit the hundreds of candles in readiness for an enchanting Christmas tour by candlelight. This is a truly magical opportunity to relish the magnificent state rooms adorned with opulent Christmas decorations and beautiful flickering candlelight. Lady Leicester, together with Christmas-connoisseur Catherine Zoll, spend the entire year designing the sets and themes and it’s absolutely stunning. Knowledgeable room stewards will take you on your tour, and share how the installations and unique decorations were created and divulge the inspiration behind each room setting. Book at holkham.co.uk

Families will be able to meet Santa at Bressingham Steam and Gardens, at its Christmas visits at Bre

Families will be able to meet Santa at Bressingham Steam and Gardens, at its Christmas visits at Bressingham event - Credit: Bressingham Steam and Gardens

Christmas at Bressingham 

Under twinkling fairy lights, your Christmas visit to Bressingham includes a ride on the steam train on the Fen Railway for everyone both young and old, a festive spin on the Gallopers and a visit to Father Christmas, including a present for children up to the age of 12 years. There’s also the chance to wander round a very Christmassy Walmington-on-sea in the Exhibition Hall to see the Dad’s Army display and vehicles decorated especially for the season. From November 28 on selected dates, book at bressingham.merlintickets.co.uk

Narnia Afternoon Tea in an Igloo at The Assembly House 

The Assembly House in Norwich is offering diners the chance to have its festive afternoon tea – this year a brand-new licensed Narnia Afternoon Tea complete with raspberry snowflake dodgers, Turkish Delight macarons and snowy Black Forest cheesecake amongst other treats – in an igloo in a forest of Christmas trees on its front lawn. There are three igloos and four chances to book each day beginning with Beforenoon Tea, the Assembly House’s novel breakfast-themed afternoon tea, to Narnia Afternoon Tea and an Apres Ski supper service. Find out more at assemblyhousenorwich.co.uk 

Stunning drone images show the fireworks at Holt's annual Christmas event

Stunning drone images show the fireworks at Holt's annual Christmas event - Credit: Brad Damms

Holt Christmas lights  

The picture-perfect Georgian town is illuminated with magical white lights for six weeks to early January to celebrate Christmas. Tens of thousands of festive silvery white lights sparkle in trees and pick out the gables, windows and roofs of the town’s lovely architecture. People travel miles to shop beneath the shimmering seasonal canopy and enjoy the fairytale atmosphere of the pretty town. The town is well-known for its many independent shops with everything from delicatessens to a book shop and gift shops to art and craft galleries. The pretty yards and lanes are ideal for browsing and buying and there are plenty of places to recharge with something local to eat and drink.   

Christmas Crown Trail 

In 1121 – 900 years ago – King Henry I chose Norwich Castle as the venue for his Christmas court. Much may have changed in the last 900 years, but one thing is as true now as it was then: Norwich is the perfect place to be at Christmas! Visit Norwich has organised a Christmas Crown Trail around the city where shops, restaurants, hotels and iconic historical buildings have all hidden crowns in their windows and stores to find. Aimed for all ages to enjoy, the trail takes visitors from Norwich Castle to the Tunnel of Light and everywhere in between spotting crowns of all shapes and sizes, in all manner of forms. Your task is to find as many as you can using the trail map to guide you along the way. Norwich Castle will boast gorgeous projections across its walls until January 5 from 5pm to 10pm, telling the story of King Henry’s Christmas visit to the castle. 

The Walks, Kings Lynn 

Vibrant with greenery in the warmer months, The Walks in Kings Lynn makes a perfect spot to spend an afternoon in winter too. Don't miss the Medieval Pilgrim's Chapel as you follow the route alongside the tranquil Gaywood River. There is plenty to see including artistic sculptures and carvings, children's play area and more. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the old Victorian park as the last of autumn's leaves pepper the floor with orange hues and the crisp, chill breeze blows. 

Blakeney National Nature Reserve 

Blakeney National Nature Reserve is a feast for the eyes in the colder months with its dramatic coastline, the saltmarshes just five miles away at Stiffkey and seal pups that gather on Blakeney Point. There are vast, open landscapes with stunning views of the north Norfolk Coast and ever-changing skies at this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You can even take a ferry trip to see the plethora of wildlife, from terns to seal pups and more. 

The spectacular sight of trees lit up at last year's Fakenham Christmas Tree Festival. Picture: Ian

The spectacular sight of trees lit up at last year's Fakenham Christmas Tree Festival - Credit: Ian Burt

Fakenham Christmas Tree Festival 

A festive staple on Norfolk’s Christmas calendar, the spectacular Fakenham Christmas Tree Festival is back for 2021 in the town’s Parish Church. Celebrating its 20th year, the charity festival raises thousands of pounds for good causes every year while offering a chance to see stunningly decorated trees in every colour of the rainbow. A real feel-good attraction. Find out more about the festival which runs until December 2 at christmastreefestival.co.uk 

See also: the Christmas Tree and Nativity Festival in Cromer Church from November 29 to December 4, the Hunstanton Christmas Tree Festival from December 3 to December 5 at Hunstanton Town Hall, the Christmas Tree and Crib Festival in The Minster on Church Plain in Great Yarmouth from December 11 to December 18 amongst others.

The cast of Dick Whittington and his Cat at Norwich Theatre Royal, one of the great pantomimes runni

The cast of Dick Whittington and his Cat at Norwich Theatre Royal, one of the great pantomimes running in the city for Christmas 2021 - Credit: Norwich Theatre Royal

Pantomimes  

There are a host of wonderful pantomimes in Norfolk this winter – oh yes there are! From Dick Whittington and his Cat at Norwich Theatre Royal from December 11 to January 9 (norwichtheatre.org) to My First Panto: Cinderella Rocks at The Garage which allows little ones to get up and join in (thegarage.org.uk), there are lots of chances to catch a great show this Christmas. The Princess Theatre in Hunstanton has Aladdin (princesshunstanton.co.uk), Gorleston Pavilion Theatre has Mother Goose (gorlestonpavilion.co.uk), The Workshop in King’s Lynn also has My First Panto: Cinderella Rocks (theworkshop.org.uk) and The Maddermarket Theatre will be staging Cinderella from December 15 to New Year’s Eve (maddermarket.co.uk). 

A prehistoric Christmas 

Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure will be hosting Dippy's Christmas Celebration where families can meet Santa AND dinosaurs. The Lenwade attraction will be hosting two sessions - choose between Jingle all the Day (around 10.30am until 3.30pm) or the evening experience Sparkle in the dark (around 5.30pm to 8.25pm). Running from November 27 and 28, December 4 and 5, December 11 and 12, December 18 to 24. Find out more and book here www.roarrdinosauradventure.co.uk 

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