Yes, there might be Lindsay Lohan-starring Christmas films on Netflix – and plenty of presents still to buy (guilty!) – but our beloved Northern city is doing its best to still tempt you outdoors. There are so many incredible things to do in Leeds for Christmas, so we’ve put together a little guide of things to see, do, or eat through this festive season.
Will you be enchanted wandering around Crimbo markets? Drink your body weight in mulled wine? Fall head over heels for an ice rink (literally)? Whatever you choose to do, go forth and spread that Yuletide joy like never before!
1. Join Willy Wonka and co. at the famous Leeds Playhouse
Nothing spells out Christmas like a festive theatre show, and this year, Leeds has pulled out the big guns and has two big festive shows rolling into town! The first of these is a musical adaptation of acclaimed children’s novel ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ at the prestigious Leeds Playhouse. Running until January 28, you’ll follow Charlie’s story as he wins a golden ticket and is invited into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – meeting various different characters, fantastical treats and more along the way.
The second show is none other than ‘The Nutcracker’ – a ballet based on Tchaikovsky’s famous score – which follows protagonist Clara as she is swept off her feet by the Nutcracker Prince into an enchanting Winter world which features none other than the Sugar Plum Fairy. Sounds pretty darn magical to us…
2. Get into the festive spirit At Harewood House
The mighty Grade II-listed Harewood House sits right in the heart of Yorkshire and is considered one of the ‘Treasure Houses of England’. With over 1000 acres’ worth of rolling green countryside surrounding it, it’s a spellbinding place which is worth a visit even when it isn’t Christmastime.
However, come the festive period, they really pull out all the stops. Open until January 2, you can while away the hours tucking into a festive afternoon tea, perusing for trinkets in their Christmas grottoes or exploring their festoon-lit grounds. Arguably the star of the show though is their ‘Long Live the Christmas Tree!’ exhibition, which incorporates artworks celebrating the – yep, you guessed it – Christmas tree.
3. Search for Santa throughout the city
‘What to do at Christmas in Leeds’ we hear you ask dear reader. Well, did you know that you could be in with the chance to win a shopping spree worth a grand just by searching for ten hidden Santa Claus’ dotted across the city? Sign up now and get your first clue here.
4. Discover the Winter illuminations at Stockeld and Roundhay Parks
You couldn’t do a roundup of the most magical things to do in Leeds this Christmas without mentioning some twinkling lights, and luckily there are two spots in town where you can marvel at some.The first of these is Stockeld Park, which offers the ‘most magical Winter Illuminations event in the whole of Yorkshire’. One of the country’s largest and most creative Christmas light festivals, you’ll be able to wander through an enchanted forest viewing dazzling light effects, animated installations and captivating sounds.
The second spot is in the wilds of Roundhay Park, which features bright and glistening trees, giant baubles and even a fire garden full to the brim with an eclectic array of flickering flames.
5. Chow down at Chow Down Winter Village
Another of the most magical things to do in Leeds this Christmas is paying a visit to Chow Down – which once again has been transformed into a Winter wonderland for the festive season.
Running until December 31, you’ll get to dig into a whole array of delicious street food, mulled wine, boozy hot chocolate and more. Plus, they’ve got plenty of fun events going on including drag bingo, DJ nights, World Cup screenings, comedy shows, drag brunch, gospel performances and live music too.
6. Meet Mr and Mrs Claus at Temple Newsam and Lotherton Hall
If you’re wanting to meet Santa and his Mrs, then you’re in for a treat, as there are two spots in town where you can do so. The first of which is Temple Newsam – a Tudor-Jacobean house whose site dates back to the Norman Conquest of 1066. Here you’ll find a trail of themed Christmas trees inspired by the estate, a whole host of free festive crafts and a Santa’s grotto too.
The second spot is Lotherton – an Edwardian country manor with landscaped gardens, stables, playgrounds and woodland walks. Santa and his elves will be here ready to welcome you with open arms – and potentially a gift or two. The question is – have you been naughty or nice?
7. Test your balance on the ice rink at Millenium Square
Fancy channelling your inner Torvill or Dean? Well then you’re in luck as Leeds has its very own ice rink – taking pride of place in the middle of Millenium Square. Featuring a transparent marquee-styled roof – which means you can enjoy outdoor ice skating whatever the weather – it’s a lovely spot where you can slide and glide to your heart’s content.
They’ve also got a brand-new Ski Bar with drinks and street food galore and even a replica Viking hygge at Thor’s Tipi!
8. Enjoy some mulled wine and festive treats at Thor’s Tipi
Ahhhhh mulled wine. It’s warming, it’s spicy, it’s alcoholic – and it’s certain to bring some Crimbo cheer to even the biggest of scrooges. But where exactly do you get some of this delicious nectar in Leeds we hear you ask – well fear not dear reader – we’ve got you covered.
This festive season, the folks at Thor’s Tipi Bar are once again to deliver not only mulled wine but hot cider, prosecco, hot chocolate, draft ales and some lip-smackingly good street food too. Open until 10.30pm, you’ll find them in front of the art gallery on Victoria Gardens and at Millenium Square. Winner, winner.
9. Take a ride on the Leeds Big Wheel
Another one of our favourite things to do in Leeds this Christmas is taking a ride on the city’s Big Wheel, which has once again rolled into town this year. Standing at an impressive 110-feet-tall and taking pride of place in Victoria Gardens too, it offers a bird’s eye view of the city and all the punters milling about below. Plus, did we mention that it was lit up by over 25,000 LED lights? Get ready to get your snap on.
10. Experience the magic of Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest
Ok, so this one technically isn’t in Leeds – it’s about 70 miles away in Cheshire – but we figured it’s an easy day trip and it’s to do with Harry Potter. Now what’s more magical than that hey?! Taking fans on a journey that will quite literally illuminate some of their favourite Forbidden Forest moments, this incredible experience makes for a perfect getaway if you’re looking to escape the city.
With illuminating sets, an atmospheric woodland trail and magical creatures from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series, there’s plenty to discover along the way. There are also some surprises too – come face to face with Centaurs, bow to a Hippogriff, cast a mesmerising Patronus and even spy some cheeky Nifflers. If you’re looking to experience some magic this Christmas, then get a hold of your tickets here.
11. Listen to your favourite movie soundtrack by candlelight in Leeds Minster
Step into the joyous world of film at Candlelight Christmas: Love Actually, Home Alone & More. Taking place at the magnificent Leeds Minster, this special night celebrates Christmassy movie soundtracks from all your favourite classics such as Love Actually, Home Alone, Elf, The Snowman and many many more. All of which will be performed by a talented string quartet, lit by atmospheric candlelight. Now if that doesn’t say Christmas – then we really don’t know what does! Cop your tickets here.
12. Party the night away to ABBA’s classics
‘Voulez-vous – aha’! Rounding off this list of the best things to do in Leeds this Christmas is a real good’un. If you’re looking for a fun old night on the town and are wanting to , then look no further than the ABBA Christmas Day Party.
Taking place in the lively Dollhouse venue – which is decked out with bright pink walls and portraits of Barbie – you’ll get to take to the floor and boogie all afternoon to the créme de la créme of the Christmas charts, alongside ABBA’s most classic hits and drinks too. Now what more could you ask for to round-off 2022? You can grab your tickets for this fiesta-fuelled extravaganza here.
So there you have it – a roundup of the most magical things to do in Leeds this Christmas. From out-of-this-world illuminations to giant ferris wheels, there’s plenty here to keep you entertained this Crimbo. So what are you waiting for? The city is your oyster…