Best Christmas Experiences in Yorkshire: North Yorkshire Moors Railway, William’s Den and Plotter’s Forest

Now the Christmas lights have been turned on, it’s time to turn our focus to some of the best Christmas experiences in Yorkshire.

From hopping aboard a festive themed steam train to exploring enchanted Christmas trails, no longer does a Santa’s Grotto alone suffice.

With five children at home to entertain this Christmas, our reporter Sophie Mei Lan Malin, shares where her family will be heading.

With our children ranging from two months old to 14-years-old, we are always on the lookout for things to do to entertain the clan during the holidays.

William's DenWilliam's Den
William's Den

First things first, it’s worth checking out your local council for a range of free events such as the one at Barnsley Town Hall.

We tend to use public transport so town halls are ideal as they tend to be near a bus depot.

In Barnsley the Christmas at the Town Hall event takes place on Sunday 10 December between 11am and 3pm, it’s free and Santa will be there too.

This year marks 90 years of Barnsley Town Hall which also has a fun and free compact museum open all year around too which is worth a visit with your little ones.

North Yorkshire Moors RailwayNorth Yorkshire Moors Railway
North Yorkshire Moors Railway

For younger children, it’s worth heading to your local museum for activities such as visiting Santa underground at the National Coal Mining Museum of England in Overton, West Yorkshire or for a taste of a Victorian Christmas, head to Abbey House Museum next to Kirkstall Abbey.

There’s a range of Santa’s Grottos inside the museums and other festive-themed surroundings such as inside Lotherton’s Christmas Adventure in Leeds or Santa’s Winter Village in Sheffield’s Meadowhall Shopping Centre. Meadowhall also has a Barbie Experience on at the moment, so if your kids are like ours and have seen Barbie as well as the themed experiences in the USA, we’ve bought tickets for Christmas.

After visiting an epic den built for a lad called William and people in Yorkshire, we’ll be heading back to William’s Den in East Yorkshire, this time for their Christmas Experience.

William’s Den is based between York, Beverley and Hull. It’s a bit of a trek for us from Wakefield, but if you drive it’s worth a visit. The kids love it here as there’s always a range of activities on offer that mean that there is something for all ages and tastes. Plus it’s fairly compact and self contained so it means you can let them run free without worrying.

The elves will land at Lotherton's Christmas Experience 2023The elves will land at Lotherton's Christmas Experience 2023
The elves will land at Lotherton's Christmas Experience 2023

Just outside the Yorkshire Dales, you can discover Plotter’s Forest at Raby Castle Enchanted Christmas trail. We’ll be trying this for the first time this year but apparently there’s a daytime and an evening trail.

There’s a range of other Christmas trails throughout Yorkshire which are perfect to get the whole family active. From Stockeld Park in Wetherby to free trails such as Saltburn Ice Trail and Doncaster Penguin Trail.

Scarborough’s first Live Advent Calendar looks fascinating and is free. Each evening in December a different street will be opened at 4pm revealing more windows of lights and festive displays.

There’s nothing like illuminations to brighten up the winter months which is why Light Up the North is building a network of light up events throughout the region and north of England. This year light up events are taking place in Bradford, Barnsley, Leeds and Wakefield.

Light Up Wakefield, where we live, saw community groups and artists participate in workshops to create some of the installations which pay homage to the history of the district while shining a light on the opportunities to come.

All aboard the Santa Express for our penultimate stop at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) where you can meet Santa and his elves on board while participating in a quiz, songs and a build your own soft toy activity.

NYMR has been celebrating their 50th anniversary of the heritage railway which is famous for its Goathland Station which is where Heartbeat and a scene in Harry Potter was filmed.

Oh no it’s not that time of year again, Oh yes it is. One tradition that cannot be missed is attending the Christmas Panto. In previous years we’ve loved the panto at Sheffield City Hall by the Manor Operatics Society, the Christmas Family Pantomime at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield and one of our favourites is the Rock n Roll Panto at Leeds City Varieties. As well as the star-studded shows at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, Bradford Alhambra, Grand Opera House, York and Hull New Theatre.