Our Southampton flights are popular at any time of year, but when December rolls round there’s an air of excitement which fills the cabin, as friends and family head over for the weekend to check out what’s on offer in the great city. And on the way back there’s an air of exhaustion, as people have been lugging suitcases weighed down with presents to the terminal.
So here’s what Southampton gets up to and why you should pencil in a weekend – or longer – to check it out.
But before we get to shopping galore, this year Westquay is installing its first ever real ice rink. Setting up in the Esplanade this is an entertainment package: with a backdrop of the city walls (perfect opportunity for a learning moment with the children), there are hundreds of fairy lights to add to the festive atmosphere, along with a Aprés Skate bar which that perfect winter-warming drink – hot chocolate. And then in the evening – Jaegar, which is probably best to have after you’ve been out on the rink. It’s in place for seven weeks from 11th November and open all the way until 2nd January, only closing Christmas Day.
And now for something completely different: Alien’s Crazy Christmas. Taking place at Royal Victoria Country Park, this is a chance to “visit” planet Blip and everyone is encouraged to dress like an alien and join Zobble on his home planet, as he prepares for his first ever Christmas. That’s not a joke. But it does sound like fun, so head along and experience an extra-terrestrial Christmas.
From outer space to back in time – everything happens in Southampton – get down to the Beaulieu for a Victorian Christmas, by seeing what the Victorian Montagu family home would have looked like way back in 1889. Start with having photos next to the life size gingerbread house in the visitor reception, before heading out back to see a truly gigantic tree decorated with some 10,000 lights – turning night into day (ish). There’s Christmas crafts, carol singing, mulled punch, a Christmas trail, and a chance to make traditional Christmas gifts. Not only that, there’s a Christmas panto rehearsal – which might even need some extra actors in it, so get those Oscar winning performances ready.
To complete this triumvirate of different activities to keep you entertained (and this one isn’t for kids), try out Nuffield Southampton Theatres with its “Who Sleighed Santa” murder mystery dinner evening. It’s fair to say this is a left-field take on festive things to do, but the basic premise is, “when Santa announces he wants to make some big changes, not everyone is happy.” Discover whodunit over a three course meal.
Right! Back to tradition. Back, to the main event. Shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. Westquay is great throughout the year, but when it’s adorned with decorations and everyone trying to secure the latest “must have” gifts to put under the tree for Christmas morning, there’s a bigger buzz about the place than you’d get in the centre of a beehive. Later opening hours so you don’t have to rush quite so much, special offers, competitions and free ‘festive make and take’ workshops for the kids.
Now, time for something purely seasonal: the Southampton Christmas Festival. Featuring a twice daily Flying Santa show – lasting roughly 15 minutes each at 5pm and 7pm – once the main man lands, children can accompany him to the large advent calendar where he will hand out treats. But beyond this is the traditional German market, selling handmade gifts all the way through to traditional German food, from Bratwurst and waffles to gingerbread, candied fruit, mulled wine and huge steins of cold beer.
There we have it, Southampton, your favourite year-round shopping destination made even more special this Christmas.
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