Winter isn’t all about hibernating in front of a roaring in your PJ’s you know.? It’s a great time for learning different skills, getting active in the ice and snow and having fun with the family. Remember those pictures of London in the big freeze where people skated on the Thames? While it’s unlikely to happen again in the near future the UK has been pulling out all the stops over the last couple of years with some fabulous seasonal events and cold weather adventures. Here we highlight a few of the best winter active adventures and events for 2019. Well, what are you waiting for? Get your skates on…
What activities can you do in the winter?
What can you do on a weekend in winter when the commercial frenzy of Christmas sets in? We recommend you wrap up warm and get out with the kids; especially on those cold, crisp days. UK Attractions and destinations have been putting a lot of thought into their winter activities for families and there’s no excuse for moaning about the weather as the chill is part of the point. Here are some ideas…
Chilling at the Chill Factore
It might rain a lot in Manchester but you can also pack in some cool frozen adventures. The Chill Factore, near the Trafford Centre, has more snow than a yeti’s backside, whatever the weather outside. The indoor 180m slope stays open very late in winter months and offers everything from beginner skiing to freestyle and mogul. Racing too, if your ski legs are up to it. Rob Jones, Snow Sports Manager of Chill Factore says the authentic skiing environment, paired with the experience of instructors, provides the perfect setting for a family whether learning a new skill or preparing for a holiday. “We’re thrilled to welcome people of all ages and abilities to Chill Factore and it’s great to see them tackle our giant ski slope. From beginners who are learning the basics and building up their confidence gradually, to those who are more experienced, working on perfecting their technique.” In addition to skiing, your kids can choose from a menu of icy treats including the delicious sounding Downhill Donuts. There’s a snow park with an ice and snow slide, and the dextrous can visit the climbing wall. The smaller ones can go wild in Mini Moose Land.
Ski and Santa in Tamworth
Santa will be at the Tamworth SnowDome this winter for the 15th year of festive fun. From 15th November the winter wonderland returns with a snow trail, a snow village and a santa show. Here’s a fun guy to talk you through it…
Dry Slope Skiing
Learning to Snow Plough in Llandudno
Dry slopes are a fun way to learn without investing in a foreign ski holiday. They are various centres around the country; check out our post on learning at the Great Orme in LLandudno where you can ski with a view of the sea. We also enjoyed having a go at skiing in Capel Curig in Wales. To save money, try joining a ski club, our local slope in Kendal offers a bargain annual family fee for members.
London on Ice
Who remembers when the first pop up ice rink appeared in London? Sliding about on the ice in front of a famous landmark is such an institution in the capital it’s hard to remember a time before it all began. What could be nicer than gliding past the Natural History Museum on a cold and frosty evening? Or gazing up at The London Eye as you show the tourists your nifty moves?
Staying near the Thames, Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason is a great day out for a family in the heart of London where you can skate together beside the forty foot Christmas tree. Little ones can attend the Polar Cub Club at weekends, and specially designed polar bear skating aids can help them find feet on a separate section of the ice rink during skating sessions. Somerset House recommends staying on afterwards for some apres-skate, “Families can warm up in the Skate Lounge with a hot chocolate and a mince pie while enjoying views over the ice rink.”
Alternatively If you are one of life’s wobblers who can’t let go of the side, you may be more comfortable catching Disney on Ice at the 02.
Pop up Ice Skating around the UK
The National Ice Centre in Nottingham is the former training ground of skating champions Torville and Dean and you can also take beginner skating lessons on the rink that they trained on. There’s no guarantee you’ll make it to the Olympics, but you’ll have some fun learning. Read our post about taking an ice skating lesson in Nottingham. Ice rinks with a more unusual twist include Beamish traditional ice rink from Nov 17th where one child skates free of charge with every paying adult and the indoor rink at the Eden Project.
Once upon a time in an Olympic competition far, far away we Brits did quite well at a winter sport. No it’s not a fairy tale; we have held our own at curling in the Olympics. To go curling in a UK city you really have to head up to Scotland. (The only dedicated curling rink in England is in a former cow shed in Tunbridge wells – and no that’s not a tall tale either!) Scots take their curling seriously; the Swan Trophy is believed to be the oldest continuously sponsored curling competition in the world. For an authentic experience head up to Edinburgh where curling goes back to 1795. The current curling ring is next to Murrayfield Stadium and you can book a ‘have a go’ session or a beginner’s course. So, brushes to the ready, and I don’t mean hairbrushes -it’s not that kind of curling!
Ice hockey bash
The best way to get a taste of ice hockey is to watch a professional team play. The GMB Nottingham Panthers are exciting to watch in a home match at the National Ice Centre. If you are inspired to have a go yourself and have completed grade five skating lessons you can sign up for a six week ice hockey course at the centre to learn how to be panther-like on the ice. Not sure if your family will be suited to ice hockey? Take them to have a go at more relaxed venues including Tobacco Dock’s Skylight in London.
Watch our experiences of having a go at this physical activity that’s not as easy as it looks but IS a whole heap of fun…
Why do roller skiing? Well it’s fun and also good training for a Nordic or cross country ski trip. If you’re in London there are lots of roller skiing races you can go and watch to get a taster of it. Or have a go yourself at sessions in Richmond Park, Hillingdon Cycle Circuit, Stanborough Park near Welwyn Garden City and Eelmoor near Aldershot.
The sheer scale of Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is a big part of what makes this seasonal extravaganza so special. Hop on the Ferris Wheel for views of the park and skyline, or see them upside down from one of the nine coasters. Let the Magical Ice Kingdom lead you into a frozen sculptured world; this year it’s all about Dickens, with a recreation of the Christmas Carol , with the MR Men and Little Miss show and Paddington on Ice providing further icy entertainment. An ice sculpting workshop helps you make your own mini winter wonderland, or at least carve a lump or two for your festive G and T! The comedy tent should warm you up afterwards or try the cosy Bavarian village. Winter Wonderland is open November 21st-January 5th 2019, except for Christmas Day when even ice sculptures need to chill out.
Winter is one of the most atmospheric times of the year to get fit by walking the hug indoor and outdoor set of a Warner Bros Studio Tour. As if by magic, (well what else?) Potterworld becomes bewitchingly white from 16th November 2019 – Sunday 26th January 2020 for Hogwarts in the Snow. The Harry Potter film series’ most iconic sets will be decorated in a fantastically festive way. The Great Hall will be transformed for the Yule Ball, the Gryffindor common room will be dressed up in its festive best and Hogwarts castle model will get snowed in. During filming, a member of the crew climbed aboard a platform and sprinkled the ‘snow’ mixture of granulated paper and grains of salt onto the model by hand with a sieve. The same process takes place at the Studio Tour every winter. Visitors will even be able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow.’ You can also have ‘Dinner in the Great Hall’ at Warner Bros. Studio each night from 9th-11th December, with drinks, canapes and a two-course Christmas feast. Dessert will be served on Platform 9 ¾.
Winter Light Trails and Walks
The winter lights season really kicks off with Blackpool illuminations where you can walk or ride under them to your heart’s content, or till the kids conk out. Then from November the fun morphs into various seasonal twinklings. The Kew Gardens Winter Trail is now well established and promises over a million twinkling pea-lights and thousands of laser beams. Walk under beautifully lit arches and canopies, take selfies in your best light and discover twilight in a whole new way as the gardens illuminate in an after-dark festive trail of lights. Christmas is at Kew from November 20th 2019–5th January 2020 from 5pm-10pm. No need to take a torch!
This winter, hundreds of Chinese lanterns light up 30 acres of Capability Brown landscaped grounds at Longleat Festival of Light. The safari park celebrates Myths and Legends for 2019 and famous figures and mythical beasts lie around every corner. Watch out for the kraken, a gargantuan sea monster lurking in the depths of Longleat’s Half Mile Lake. The lanterns are located next to wide, flat pathways and are accessible to all. The event runs from 9th November to 5th January. Catch them at 4:30pm in November and 4pm in December, depending on daylight.
In London and fancy some apres ski? The Montague Ski Lodge at the Montague on the Gardens hotel offers an icy array of pine trees, snow, reindeer, snowmen, and ski racks. In case you didn’t realise, this all adds up to apres-skiing without the Alps. And who wouldn’t want that on a cold night in London? Grab a piste map to get to the bar serving mulled wine, hot spiced cider and hot chocolate cocktails from 29th October till 5th January.