Christmas family days out

When the festive cabin fever sets in, there's plenty of great attractions to explore with relatives and friends

Enchanting animals at Shepreth Wildlife Park 

Make your family’s Christmas magical with a visit to Shepreth Wildlife Park for their Enchanted Christmas. Santa will be visiting every weekend throughout December from 11am, joined by his merry elves and bearing gifts for the children (pre-booking required). There will also be festive keeper talks and presentations, plus if you’re looking for a unique gift for the animal lover in your life, Shepreth offers adoptions and VIP experiences. 

Christmas at the museum

Treat yourself to some culture at the Fitzwilliam Museum this December. For those who would prefer to digest an exhibition at leisure, the museum is hosting two critically acclaimed exhibitions: Degas: a passion for perfection and Codebreakers and Groundbreakers. With fabulous seasonal shopping opportunities, festive treats on offer in the café and organised family activities, there’s something for all at the Fitz this Christmas, with an added bonus being that entrance to both the permanent collections and exhibitions is free.

Take a moment out at Cambridge American Cemetery

Need a moment to escape the Christmas hurly burly and spend some quality time with the family? Take the opportunity to visit the Cambridge American Cemetery and appreciate the quiet, wandering around the beautifully kept grounds.

Admire the sweeping views to Ely Cathedral on the horizon and stare in awe at the vibrant and colourful mosaic ceiling of the Memorial. Discover the stories of those young men and women who were plucked out of America and dropped ‘somewhere in England’ during the Second World War. At the new Visitor Centre you can immerse yourself in history, and there’s something for younger visitors too.

Explore the great outdoors at Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve

If you fancy a gentle family stroll or longer ramble over the festive period, why not head to Wicken Fen, Britain’s oldest nature reserve? At just over a kilometre, the Boardwalk Trail is ideal for families. It’s wheelchair and pushchair friendly, and there are two hides on the route where you can spy on passing wildlife. For a longer walk head to Adventurers’ Fen for flocks of wildfowl, short-eared owls and Wicken’s famous herd of Konik ponies. Don’t be in a rush to head home – you’ll likely be rewarded with an amazing fenland sunset and hen harriers coming into roost on the fen as darkness falls. 

A magnificent tree at Ely Cathedral

Ely’s magnificent Christmas Tree, which stands over 30 feet high, is in itself well worth a trip to this awe-inspiring medieval Cathedral.

For those feeling the need to burn off the excesses of Christmas, you an book a tour of one of Ely’s famous tours: the unique Octagon (165 steps) is considered the jewel in the Cathedral crown while the West Tower, dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, dominates the Fenland landscape and is well worth the 228 step climb, rewarding you with stunning views over the beautiful, historic city and surrounding fens.

The less energetic can take the time to explore the Cathedral and browse the gift shops and have a break in the Refectory Café or Almonry Restaurant, located in a 13th Century undercroft.

Something for everyone at the National Heritage Centre in Newmarket

Work off your Christmas turkey on the racehorse simulator, where you can experience the thrill of riding like a jockey. There are beautiful ex-racehorses to meet too, and you can watch them being retrained in the daily demonstrations, plus you can explore the museum, where you will find out about the history of horseracing from its origins to the global industry it is today.

In the palace, meanwhile, originally built for Charles II, you will discover a gallery of British Sporting Art, with artwork from the 17th century to the present day.

Open throughout the festive season, the national heritage centre offers a museum, art gallery, live horses, exhibitions, restaurant and shop all under the one roof.

A Christmas family outing at IWM Duxford

At Duxford this Christmas, stare up into the guts of the Vulcan bomber, board Concorde, the fastest commercial jet airliner ever built, and get up close to Second World War classics including the Spitfire, Lancaster and Tiger Moth. Then gaze at the sleek Blackbird spy plane, the fastest air-breathing jet aircraft ever built, and take in the sheer size of the B-52, which stretches the length of the American Air Museum. Open daily over Christmas and New Year with the exception of 24 to 26 December.

Let off steam at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Work off some energy in the great outdoors this Christmas: six of the Botanic Garden’s favourite trees have each been given a pair of eyes so children (and adults!) can explore 40 acres and discover some of the Garden’s giants using the free ‘Giants of the Garden’ tree trail. Or for a fun family day out, get into the festive spirit at the Garden’s December drop-in family activity where kids and their grown-ups can make decorations using plants from the Garden, recycled materials and delicious-smelling cinnamon glitter dough. The Garden is open 10am to 4pm every day but closed 24 December to 1 January inclusive.

For a special gift that will last a whole year, you can buy a Friends’ annual membership to Cambridge University Botanic Garden.