What Are The Best Family Christmas and New Year Activities in Sussex?
13th December 2013
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Christmas means different things to different people but for many of us, the most important element is having fun with family and friends.

Every family has its special traditions; we always go for a walk on Christmas Day. It’s a short circuit because we always walk before anybody opens their presents!

The children are teenagers now but when we talk about what we’ll do on Christmas Day, the walk is a definite feature that people want to include. I’d like to think it’s because they appreciate the simple pleasures of nature but its probably also because it encapsulates the anticipation which builds Christmas excitement.

We’re lucky enough to see lots of our extended family over the festive season and I love the feeling of sitting down round a big, crowded table with plenty of home-cooked food but constant catering for hungry mouths and excesses of food and drink (oh the hardship!)  can mean Christmas passes you by in a haze of mulled wine, brussel sprouts, party nibbles and yule log.

Getting out and about for simple walks and cycles or participating in seasonal activities definitely makes Christmas more relaxing - and probably more satisfying. It prevents that sluggish January 3rd feeling of “where did the holiday go?”

Christmas works best when you mix it up. Meet up with family or friends to participate in one of the activities below or try something active like ice-skating.

Here’s a round up of the best family happenings in Sussex to help you all get out and about.

I know that Christmas can be a difficult time of year for people who are on their own so I have included some guided walks to tempt those individuals out and about too! No excuses. If you prefer to walk or cycle under your own steam, my guidebooks are packed full of ideas for individuals, friends and families:


Advance booking recommended but tickets may be available on the day too. Check relevant websites for further information.

Royal Pavilion Ice Skating Rink

Nov 9th, 2013 – Jan 19th
This popular ice skating rink is now an established seasonal favourite in Brighton ( the phone picture above is several years out of date!). What better backdrop for ice-skating could you have than the Royal Pavilion?

This is a very atmospheric, almost fairy tale setting. The lights are particularly pretty in the evening but those with young children may prefer earlier sessions. There are free child sessions with Penguin Club.

It is a pricey option particularly in peak sessions. There are discounts for students.
Tickets Adults £13 peak session / £10 off-peak session. Under 12 £8.50 peak session / £7 off-peak session. Family £34


The Heart Winter Ice Rink

Dec 20th - January 4th
Tickets for this rink are better value. The rink is indoors so it might be better if it’s rainy. It may be less magical but I do remember having more space to skate here. It’s possibly less crowded so some learners may prefer it. We’ve had fun at both ice rinks. 

Tickets (including skate hire) Adults £9, Under 12s £7 Family £29 Spectator £1.50

Standen Garden of Lights

Every Friday, Saturday & Sunday, between 30 November and 22 December, 4.30 - 7.00pm (last entry 6.30pm).
The gardens at Standen are transformed by thousands of lights and glittering decorations to the music of Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker'.

As you explore the gardens, you may come face to face with King Rat, a Nutcracker or even a real life Sugar Plum Fairy, all hiding in a breathtaking display of lights amongst the beautiful trees and natural features of the garden. This event may not be suitable for those with specific mobility needs ( steps/ uneven ground)

Tickets (including NT Members) cost Adults £6, Children £3 (5-17 years), and £15 for a family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) and are available on the door.


Craneberry Fest - WWT Arundel Wetlands Centre

November 30th - Jan 26th
Make Cranberry bird feeders and decorations for your tree plus a special Craneberry Fest Trail to help you explore the wetland wildlife. There’s easy access for wheelchairs and buggies and a cafe for refreshments.

This event offers that ideal mix of crafts, convenience  and the outdoors which help to make a good family day out across the generations. Visitor centres like this are invaluable for making nature accessible to us all.

The event is part of usual admission fees. Adult £11.50 Concessions £9.10 Child £5.80 Family £30.90 Under 4s free.


RSPB Wild Families - winter wildlife watch & Christmas craft day

Sunday 22nd December, 11am - 3pm
Short guided walks for little legs to see winter wildlife. Face-painting, wildlife-themed  Christmas crafts and games.
Children £3. Adults - normal admission fees apply.

This event sounds perfect for young families who need to distract their children from the impending excitement of Christmas. Tear them away from Christmas catalogues and commercialism and remind them of the finer things in life.



Sussex Wildlife Trust January Walks

Coastal Walk -2 miles
Sunday 5th Jan, 10.30 - 1.30. See waders and waterfowl at this nature reserve renowned for attracting a wide variety of birds.
Meet Rye Harbour Car Park - no booking necessary.
Donations welcome. 

Hurstpierpoint History and Alpacas Walk
Sat 11th January, 9.45am
Starting point Friar’s Oak Pub, Hassocks
Morning walk 4 miles
Optional lunch at pub
Afternoon walk 1.5 miles


About the Author

Deirdre Huston

Member since: 12th November 2013

Deirdre Huston is a guidebook author and outdoors photographer with an interest in history and ecology. Married with 3 children, she has lived in Sussex all her life. She also makes short films about the...

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