Festive family fun

Get into the Christmas spirit with our illuminating ideas for days out and evening endeavours to enjoy between now and the big day.

From parades and pageants to seasonal skating and gingerbread and glühwein, we've got something for everyone.

Forget the cold and get out and about this festive season. Have a very merry Christmas!

Real reindeer

If Lapland's beyond your budget this year, see reindeer a little closer to home. The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre at Glenmore, Inverness-shire, is open year round – but best visited in winter for full effect (tip: wait for the snow). You can trek to the herd and meet, stroke and feed the reindeer; or simply meet them at the paddocks.

See real reindeer and have some Christmas fun with Santa himself at Glenarm Castle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Visit baby reindeer at the Reindeer Centre, Bethersden, Kent. You can even adopt one if they're too cute to resist.

Light up your life

London lights

For Christmas lights with a little more sparkle, why not venture beyond the crowds of central London? Caerphilly’s River of Light Parade happens in late December every year and features a parade of beautifully crafted handmade lanterns.

Explore the Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire, and enjoy a magical atmosphere beneath sparkling trees. There's carol singing, gifts to buy, hot chestnuts, mince pies, and mulled wine, children's craft activities and a chance to meet Father Christmas. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening until 22 December.

Get your skates on

outdoor ice rink

If you love to hit the ice as the mercury plummets, wrap up warm and take to a seasonal skating rink. There are several in and around London, including Somerset House and the Natural History Museum, plus outdoor rinks at Cardiff, Glasgow, and even at The Eden Project in Cornwall. For a more dramatic backdrop, skate in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.

Gingerbread and glühwein

There are countless European Christmas markets around the UK throughout December, where you can buy jewellery, ceramics, candles, toys, glasswork, traditional Christmas decorations, gifts and more. Sample Continental snacks and drinks from bratwurst and gingerbread to lager and Gluhwein. Enjoy Christmas fun on fairground rides and even live music at some locations.

Choose from Birmingham, Manchester, Bath, Colchester, and Bournemouth, among others.

Something different

Warwick castle

Warwick Castle's Christmas fun features breakfast with Santa, party games and Christmas carols.

Or get outside and join in the annual Winter Solstice Parade in Brighton on 21 December – Burning the Clocks is the coastal city's antidote to the excesses of commercial Christmas. People craft and carry lanterns to the beach where they're set alight to mark the end of the year. And there's a fireworks display to finish.

For something completely different, tackle the icy waters off the coast of Tenby for the annual Boxing Day Swim. This charity event sees around 600 people sponsored to take the plunge, with thousands of spectators lining the coast, before a warming bonfire is lit.

Travel smarter

Wherever you’re heading this Christmas, plot your journey with the AA Route planner. And check the traffic news before you leave.

Looking for inspiration?

We’ve got plenty of bright ideas for top days out with the family all year round, not just at Christmas. Check out our travel inspiration area.

13 January 2015