With the summer festival season now a dim and distant memory, it’s time to wrap up warm and embrace the many festive activities and events to celebrate in the winter.
Christmas is a magical time for getting out and about in Dorset. The calendar is chock full of festive events to celebrate the Christmas season and take you into the New Year.
From seasonal food and craft shows to traditional pantos, there is something for everyone this Christmas.
Getting things started in fine style is the Poundbury Photographic Exhibition that was exclusively commissioned for the recent royal visit by Her Majesty The Queen. This special event takes place from 9am to 2pm on 3 December in the Jubilee Hall (next to Waitrose) and the Dorset Farmers’ Market.
Christmas has come early in Poundbury with the recent Christmas in the Buttermarket that saw many local stalls and a visit from Father Christmas.
Another festive treat is the special Christmas Children’s Party that runs on 4 December from 2-4pm at Brownsword Hall in Poundbury.
Of course, it just isn’t Christmas without the heavenly sound of carol singers. On song will be Christmas Carols at Poundbury Gardens on 8 December in the Engine Rooms restaurant at 6pm.
Seasonal celebrations in Dorchester can only truly begin after the town’s annual Christmas Cracker night on 8 December. The Christmas lights will be switched on at 6.30pm by paralympic gold medal winner Paul Blake and the High Street is lined with charity stalls and local food and craft. Many of the town’s shops open late and offer Christmas discounts or freebies to shoppers. The Corn Exchange hosts a craft fair from 4pm.
Dorset County Museum also opens late (and for free!) to celebrate Christmas Cracker night. Watching its sci-fi themed characters from Star Wars and Doctor Who walk around the museum is a surreal treat! For something more traditional, the museum’s Victorian Gallery is transformed into a grotto where little ones can visit Father Christmas for a small donation.
Pop-up skating rinks have become a regular annual event to look forward to in the winter. Brewery Square in Dorchester transforms into a winter scene with a skating rink to replace the usual colourful fountains following the Christmas light switch on at the end of November.
This year, Weymouth will boast its first real-ice skating rink in New Bond Street as part of the town’s Big Christmas celebrations and runs until the end of the year.
Free entertainment ranging from pop-up pantomime to festive shows will take place every weekend in the run up to Christmas on Weymouth’s Christmas stage. Father Christmas will arrive by reindeer and sleigh on 4 December before taking up residence in Cineworld every weekend in December and the week before Christmas.
Other yuletide highlights include stepping back in time for a vintage Christmas at the Tank Museum in Bovington on 3-4 December. Where else can you see Santa arrive in a tank! With an extensive vintage market offering unique Christmas gifts. Not to mention themed crafts and activities and living history reenactors around the Museum.
Over at Swanage railway station, you can meet Santa on his special train that departs on the 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 to 24 December. Children receive a wrapped age appropriate present from Father Christmas, while Santa’s helpers’ serve refreshments- a festive drink and a mince pie for adults, a soft drink and biscuit for children. During the one-hour return journey there will be entertainment in each carriage for even more festive fun.
For the more energetic, the Weldmar’s Family Santa Fun Run takes place on 4 December held at Dorchester Rugby Club. While the traditional Christmas Day Harbour Swim on 25 December at 9.45am sees a band of brave souls meet at the Weymouth Harbour Custom House.
The traditional pantomine season is upon us and there is plenty of choice in productions this year. Oh, yes there is!
Weymouth’s annual panto is popular locally and this year Jack and the Beanstalk will be taking to the stage at the Pavilion from 10 December to 1 January. Lee Redwood returns to Weymouth to take up the role of panto dame and Gwynfryn West stars at Simple Simon.
The enchanting story of Cinderella will be staged at Bournemouth’s BIC from 3 December to 2 January and starring Dani Harmer from the children’s hit TV programme Tracy Beaker. The production promises stunning scenery and real-life miniature ponies!
Aladdin will be flying into Poole for the Christmas pants season from 6 December to 8 January. Written by former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan, who also stars in the show, the role of Aladdin will be played by Max Bowden from TV programme Waterloo Road and Emmerdale actress Sapphire Elia will play the princess.
Aside from traditional pantos, Dorset’s theatres also stage more contemporary seasonal shows. The London production of ‘Snow Play’ by the Lyngo Theatre Company will run at the newly-renovated Sherling Studio at Poole Lighthouse from 6 December to 24 December. Suitable for ages 3+, the interactive show guarantees a white Christmas as children are invited to the stage to make giant snowmen and take part in a snowball fight!
Over in the Lighthouse’s concert hall, Christmas classic ‘The Snowman’ will be on the big screen accompanied by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra playing the soundtrack live on 20 December. ‘Paddington Bear’s First Concert’, composed by Herbert Chappell, will follow and is narrated by special guest Pui Fan Lee from CBeebies.
1-31: Skating in the Square, Brewery Square, Dorchester
1-23: Winter Exhibition, Artwave West, Morcombelake
3: The Poundbury Photographic Exhibition commissioned for the visit by Her Majesty The Queen, 9am to 2pm in Jubilee Hall (next to Waitress) and The Dorset Farmers’ Market
3-24: Swanage Santa Specials, Swanage Railway
3: Father Christmas at Farmer Palmers, Poole
3: Visit Father Christmas at Poundbury Gardens
3-2 Jan: Cinderella, Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre
3: Pull a Pine For Christmas, RSPB Arne
3-4: Vintage Christmas at Bovington, Bovington Tank Museum
3: Farmer’s Market, Queen Mother Square, Poundbury
4-31: Weymouth’s Big Christmas, Various locations, Weymouth
4-3 Jan: Ice skating in Weymouth, New Bond Street, Weymouth
4: Weldmar’s Family Santa Fun Run, Dorchester Rugby Club
6-24: Snow Play, Poole Lighthouse
6-8 Jan: Aladdin, Poole Lighthouse
8: Christmas Cracker Dorchester, Dorchester town centre
10-1 Jan: Jack and the Beanstalk, Weymouth Pavilion
10-30: Winter Lights at Corfe Castle, Corfe Castle
10-18: Santa Specials Moors Valley, Moors Valley Country Park
11: Bovington Marathon and Half Marathon, Bovington Tank Museum
16-2 Jan: Sleeping Beauty, Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne
17-19: Cool Coast Ice Rink, Bournemouth BIC
20: The Snowman, Poole Lighthouse
20-21: The Elves and the Shoemaker, Moors Valley Country Park
21: Winter Solstice, Studland Bay
25: Christmas Day Harbour Swim, Weymouth Harbour Custom House
31: Weymouth’s Big New Year 2016, Weymouth Town Centre