Is anyone else feeling festive yet? I’ve been trying to decide which Christmas events in Cardiff to go to with my family this year. I started making a list, and the list turned into this blog post… so I thought seeing as it is the season of good will, I would share it with all of you.
I’ve done my best to include as many events as I can but do let me know if there are any I have missed that you think should be included and I will do my best to feature them. I’ve taken the information from the websites and publicity material of the places involved, but do check ahead in case any of the information is not correct. I’ve left off some that are already sold out, such as The Lion King at Wales Millennium Centre and Father Christmas at Cardiff Castle. You can scroll down for the sections on Christmas theatre and other performances, and some places to see Father Christmas. (For a more extensive guide on where to see Santa, click here).
Oh, and none of the events mentioned have paid me to be included in this article, I just thought it would be nice to have everything going on across the city in one handy place. I’ll be updating this post regularly, so do check back from time to time.
Cardiff Winter Wonderland
Open until 5th January
My children think the song Walking In A Winter Wonderland is about this place, and with good reason – fairground rides for all ages, an outdoor skating rink, festive food and drink in the Alpine Village area, dazzling lights… It’s not cheap to visit here, but it’s such great fun and lovely to see the Civic Centre transformed into a festive focal point for the city. The big lights switch on happens on Thursday 13th November, with Father Christmas and his reindeers parading through the city centre, street performers and other entertainment from 4.30pm-7.30pm, and New Year’s Eve sees the annual Calennig celebrations.
Cardiff Christmas Market
Thursday 13 November to Tuesday 23 December 2014
The Hayes, Trinity Street, Working Street and St John’s Church
10am-5.30pm Monday to Saturday, 10am-5pm Sunday. Also open until 7pm every Thursday during December.
This is one of my highlights of Christmas. There’s something so festive about browsing the local craft stalls selling unique and hand-made gifts, with the smell of seasonal foods and drinks wafting in the air. I’ve bought some gorgeous handmade presents here in previous years and will no doubt do the same this year.
Wales Millennium Centre
16-17 November & 22-23 November
Two weekends to get you into the festive spirit, with Welsh food and craft stalls, free live performances, workshops and children’s activities.
Wellfield Road Winter Festival
Saturday 15th November 2014
The festival is free, but charges apply to some activities
From local school children singing carols and a Santa’s Grotto, to a children’s bake off competition and a visit from a fire engine, this celebration of the festive season is hosted by the traders of this gorgeous shopping district. Anna and Elsa from Frozen will also be making a special appearance, with the lights being switched on at 5.15pm. We went to this last year and it was busy and chaotic but great fun, nonetheless.
Rhiwbina Christmas Festival and Lantern Parade
Saturday 29th November
As if this garden village in North Cardiff isn’t beautiful enough, they are once again lighting up the streets with a lantern parade. Many of the lanterns will be hand-made by local groups and schools in the area (although there will also be lantern making workshops on the day from 3pm and ready-made ones for sale). The big light switch on will be at 4.30pm, the parade starts at 6.15pm finishing with carols at the Christmas tree at 6.45pm, Santa will be in his grotto and many of the shops will be open late.
Chase The Pud
30th November 2014
10.45am (with registration for those taking part 9.30am-10.30am)
Regisration before the day is £12 adults/£5 children and on the day £15/£6.
One of the more energetic Christmas events, but for a great cause, this sponsored 5km family run sees hundreds of people dressed up as Father Christmas chasing after a giant pudding, in aid of the British Heart Foundation. Even if you’re not taking part, it’s quite a spectacle to see. All adult entrants over 12 years of age will receive a Santa suit, while children are encouraged to come along in Christmas fancy dress.
The Christmas Experience
Thornhill Farm Shop
£2 per person
To my shame, I’ve never quite made it along to this but it is at the top of my list for this year, as several friends say what a delightful experience it is. A barn plays host to a cosy nativity scene, with real goats, donkeys, cows and sheep all watching over the baby Jesus. There are reindeer too, as well as Christmas songs playing and twinkling lights. While you’re there you can pick up a real Christmas tree, order Christmas meats and buy other seasonal foods.
Winter Wonderland Toddler Day
Friday December 5th
£4.80, under 4s free
Techniquest’s monthly toddler day is one of my favourite activities for pre-schoolers. As well as all the usual hands-on science exhibits, young visitors are treated to festive themed arts and crafts activities, face painting and story time. We’re planning on being there!
The Great Cardiff Bay Santa and Elf Dash
Roadl Dahl Plas, Cardiff Bay
7 December 2014
Pre-booked registration £5
Another energetic spectacle as hundreds of Father Christmases and elves will take on a 5K walk, jog or dash around Cardiff Bay. Even if you can’t take part, watching will help support this wonderful charity which raises funds for prevention and management of heart disease, as well as cardiovascular research in Wales.
The Christmas Penguins
The Red Dragon Centre, Cardiff Bay
Sunday 7th December, 12.30pm, 2pm, 3.30pm
The Penguins of Madagascar is set to be one of the big family-friendly films of the festive season. To celebrate, the Christmas Penguin family will be performing their 30-minute show, combining animatronic costumes, traditional puppetry, strong characterisation and humour.
Christmas Decoration Workshop for families,
Saturday December 20th and Sunday December 21st
St Fagans National History Museum
11:00-13:00 & 14:00-16:00
Free (although there is charge for the museum car park)
Christmas decorations you have made yourself, and can bring out year after year, are so much more personal than ones you bulk buy in a shop. These free family workshops will give you the chance to make your own, with activities appropriate for all ages, whether that’s colouring for the youngest family members or sewing and pom pom making for those who are more confident. I’ve already written on my blog about why I think this is one of the most important places to visit in Cardiff, so don’t forget to have a good look round the museum grounds while you are here.
Bjorn The Polar Bear
Red Dragon Centre, Cardiff Bay
Sunday 21st December, 12.3opm, 2pm, 3.30pm
This life-size, mischievous animatronic polar bear is so life-like he has blinking eyes, a sniffing nose, an opening mouth, and fully animated sounds. He will be performing three free 20-minute shows in the Red Dragon Centre, as part of its Christmas festivities.
Theatre and performance
Christmas The Story
Taberncal, The Hayes
1st-20th December, Mondays to Saturdays
It’s easy to get caught up in all the excesses of Christmas, which is why since 2010, Tabernacl church has performed this free 20-minute nativity several times a day during December. Their re-telling of the story of Mary, Joseph and the birth of baby Jesus takes place every 40 minutes, apart from lunch times (1.40pm-2.40pm) with performances in both English and Welsh.
The Snow Queen
Paget Rooms, Penarth
Thursday 4th and Friday 5th December, 7.30pm
Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th December, 2.30pm
Adults £9, concessions £8, children £7
Okay, so it’s Penarth rather than Cardiff, but this one looks worth travelling for. Penarth Operatic and Dramatic Society present a pantomime version of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairytale The Snow Queen, which was also the inspiration for the Disney smash animation Frozen. At the weekend matinee performances, children will also get to meet Frosty The Snowman, Rudolph, Father Christmas and his elves.
Bert and Cherry’s Christmas Plum Pudding
Friday 19th and Saturday 20th December
St David’s Hall, Lefel 1
£7 per ticket
We’ve seen a few of Bert and Cherry’s summer Tiddly Proms and Christmas shows these last few years and, for young families, they are absolutely brilliant, The informal seating and interactive nature of the shows means they are perfect for the under 6s. They combine storytelling with songs to sing along to, accompanied by musicians performing classical instruments right in front of you. If you’re lucky, they’ll do the Whoops Banana song, one of Bert and Cherry’s most famous songs and a real favourite in our house.
Alice In Wonderland
Wednesday 17th to Saturday 20th December
6.30pm each night with a 3pm performance on the Saturday
St David’s Hall, Lefel 1
£10 per ticket, £8 concessions
Based on Lewis Carrol’s famous book of Alice, who finds herself tumbling down a rabbit hole into a magical world where nothing is quite as it seems, this adaptation from The Unknown Theatre Company features a young cast and is suitable for families of all ages.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales
Tuesday 25th-Saturday 29th November
7pm every evening with Wednesday and Thursday matinees at 1pm and Saturday at 2.30pm
This Dylan Thomas classic is touring Wales as part of the celebrations marking 100 years since the birth of our most famous literary talent. Told through the eyes of a young child, this heartwarming tale evokes memories of Christmases gone by and simpler times. With a running time of over two hours, this is best suited for older children.
Saturday 13 December to Sunday 18 January
From £10.50 to £29
Lee Mead stars as Prince Charming, Linda Lusardi is the Fairy Godmother and Gareth Thomas (yes, the rugby player!) is Dandini in this pantomime version of the classic fairy tale. Expect enchanted pumpkins, sparkling glass slippers, two ugly sisters, lots of comedy, familiar songs and plenty of booing, hissing and shouts of “it’s behind you”.
The Ugly Duckling
8 December – 3 January
Sherman Cymru create excellent theatre for young children and if their last two winter shows for the under 6s are anything to do by, this should be just as good. With informal seating and at under an hour long, this retelling of the classic Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale is an ideal introduction to theatre for youngsters. It follows the duckling as he waddles through the different seasons, meeting a host of farmyard friends in a show that combines puppetry, music and imaginative storytelling.
Both English and Welsh language performances are available. See website for details.
Friday 5th December-Saturday 3rd January (previews 5th and 6th December)
£15-£25 (previews £12-£20)
With all the women in the land in danger from their vengeful king, young Shahrazad hopes her mythical tales of Ali Baba, Es-Sindibad the Sailor and Princess Parizade, will save her life. Suitable for over-7s, and with a new musical score performed live, this is billed as a thrilling journey full of music, laughs and excitement.
30th December-3rd January
St David’s Hall
I’ve seen The Nutcracker a couple of times now, although not since having children, but I have a feeling Little E, who has been attending ballet classes for two years now, will love the tale of this enchanting world where toys come to life and an army of soldiers do battle with a gang of mice as much as I do. Coppelia is also a tale about toys, with comic antics and magic taking place in a doll maker’s workshop, while Swan Lake is a beautiful love story, that left me in awe the first time I saw it, as the swans gracefully dance on the lake.
See website for times and prices. http://www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk
Odyssey: The Spirit of Christmas
Wales Millennium Centre
Thursday 27 to Saturday 29 November
7pm, with a 3pm matinee on the Saturday
This festive musical theatre show follows Megan as she seeks to learn about her grandmother, a glamorous performer never talked about by the family. I’ve seen several shows by Odyssey over the years and they are always such wonderful, thought-provoking, heart-warming productions. Odyssey, a community group which includes performers with and without learning disabilities, will be joined in this performance by pupils from Woodlands High School and music students from the University of South Wales, Caerleon.
Father Christmas in Cardiff
Meet Father Christmas & Friends
29–30 November, 6–7, 13–14 & 20–22 December, 11am (Please note this session is Welsh language only on Saturday),1pm & 3pm
St Fagans National History Museum
£12 per child (including one adult). Must be pre-booked.
Santa and Mother Christmas will host a festive tea party complete with stories of their adventures and a small gift for children who have been good. The Museum says this is suitable for children aged 4-12. I’m not sure why it’s not recommended for younger children though.
I’ve already written on my blog about why I think this is one of the most important places to visit in Cardiff, so don’t forget to have a good look round the museum grounds while you are here.
Adults £6, children £10.50, concessions £5.50, babes in arms free, family ticket (2+2 £30)
A visit to Sana with a difference, as children have a tour of the stadium, picking up pieces of a puzzle along the way, which will give them the password to open Santa’s grotto, meet the big guy himself and receive a gift. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and must be pre-booked.
Afternoon tea with Father Christmas
Ffresh, Wales Millennium Centre
29-30 November, 6-7 December
£12 adults, £8 under 12s)
A chance to see Santa in style in WMC’s gorgeous Ffresh restaurant, accompanied by an afternoon tea of finger sandwiches, scones, seasonal pastries and cakes.
Round Table Cardiff Santa Sleigh
Various dates around Cardiff during December and Sainsbury’s Colchester Avenue on the days he’s not touring
I remember how excited I was as a child to see Father Christmas riding round in his sleigh, music blaring, throwing sweets to all the children lining the streets, many of them in pyjamas. It was such a magical experience and it’s wonderful that Cardiff’s Round Table still continue this tradition. I can’t wait for my children to see him driving through our neighbourhood this December, supported by the good people of the Cardiff Round Table. They are asking the different districts he is visiting to help out, so if you can support them in any way, do contact them directly.
MERRY CHRISTMAS – NADOLIG LLAWEN!
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And if you liked this post, you may also enjoy this one about why November isn’t too early to start getting Christmassy.