2022 really has been Birmingham and the West Midlands’ time to shine. Not content with hosting a brilliant summer packed with Commonwealth Games sport and Birmingham 2022 Festival fringe events, locals are swiftly looking forward to Christmas. And what a show this vibrant region has in store.
From the UK’s largest German Christmas Market to an orchestral reenactment of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, here’s what to put in your West Midlands diary this festive season.
With more than five million visitors descending on the city during its prolonged festive period each year, it’s no wonder that Birmingham’s Christmas Market is officially the largest of its kind outside of Germany and Austria. Dozens of pop-up huts selling traditional Christmas decorations, handcrafted jewellery, wooden toys and cosy knitwear prop up New Street. At its beating heart, Victoria Square, the market comes alive. Expect live music, clinking beer steins and footlong bratwursts aplenty. Come for the glühwein, stay for Chris the Singing Moose.
For those who want to continue the festivities after Christmas and into the New Year, Birmingham’s famous ice rink and big wheel are on hand to help you just do that. Each year the Christmas Market seems to get that little bit bigger. This pair provide proof of that, with stalls and crowds now spreading out past Victoria Square and towards the Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square. Alongside Brum’s biggest ice rink, there’s also a bar serving everything from hot chocolate with marshmallows to mulled wine and cider. Meanwhile, the big wheel – best hopped on just before twilight – offers unrivalled views of the city centre and beyond.
Hot chocolate! (If that means nothing to you, you need to watch the Tom Hanks Polar Express film, stat). Treat the kids (or yourselves, because let’s face it: who doesn’t love this film) to an authentic festive train ride this Christmas. Departing from Birmingham Moor Street Station, the Polar Express train ride will head to Dorridge and back. During the journey, actors reenact some of the most famous elements from the revered 2004 animated film. Dancing chefs will parade through the carriages with hot chocolate and cookies, while Santa will bring each child a silver bell to keep, as seen in the film. This live reenactment on a steam train is not to be missed – kids can get photos with the performers afterwards, too.
Speaking of films… are you a fan of Elf? At Birmingham’s Resorts World Arena this December you can enjoy a live pantomime-style performance of the famed Will Ferrell flick. The experience is complete with huge LED backdrops of movie scenes, audience snowball fights, a mobile stage that travels around all areas of the arena, and an indoor snowstorm. You won’t want to miss this – it’s on for two days only.
Take a step back in time at the Black Country Living Museum. For two nights only this December you’ll be able to sample the history and story of the Black Country – with a festive twist. Here, you’ll be able to immerse yourselves in Christmasses past as you stroll down gaslit canalside streets. You’ll try Christmas snacks from years gone by and reminisce over a pint of mild at its brand new installation for 2022, a recreation of Wolverhampton’s Elephant & Castle pub. Bostin’.
On various dates in the run up to the big day, the creative Cannon Hill Park arts centre will host a wealth of festive events. These include singalong screenings of Frozen and The Muppets Christmas Carol, plus a live stage performance of Raymond Briggs’ classic children’s book, The Bear. See mac’s December listings for more information.
If a trip to the Sea Life Centre has long been on your list – or if the kids love it so much that they’re pestering you to go back – then there’s no time like Christmas to treat them to that visit. Birmingham’s Sea Life Centre is home to the UK’s first rescued sea otters, and more than 2,000 other animals and sea critters including sharks, penguins and turtles. What’s more, during November and December you will be able to add-on a visit to Santa’s Grotto for just £5, with any valid attraction ticket. Each child will receive a free gift; it’s the perfect way to keep the surprises coming this Christmas.
Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is! A Brummie panto is a firm rite of passage for any child (or big kid) growing up. This year the Hippodrome has you spoilt for choice with Dick Whittington, opening on 17 December, starring Marti Pellow, Matt Slack, Dr Ranj and Suzanne Shaw. Christmas classic ballet The Nutcracker is also here from 19 November. Tales from Acorn Wood at Christmas, based on the stories by Julia Donaldson and Axel Schffler, opens on 13 December and is another family-friendly performance suitable for even the littlest in the ranks.
Warwick’s Castle, a medieval fortress dating back a thousand years, is also in on the festivities. This year, the Warwickshire castle gates swing open for a whole host of family-friendly events and activities. Not least, there’s a wintry light trail, an ice skating rink in the majestic castle grounds, and a storytelling event with Santa. If the children have been extra good this year, there are even Christmassy sleepover packages. Booking is required for all events.
Bournville is well worth a visit in December – not least for its majestic village green Christmas tree. Cadbury’s iconic factory will be hosting a plethora of Christmassy-chocolate crossover events in November and December. There will be a pantomime performance of Cinderella, and a stage show featuring the jolly fella’s elves handing out gifts. In the shop, Christmas-themed chocolate and exclusive gifts will also be available to buy.
Head over to Coventry Cathedral on 17 December for a one-day-only orchestral performance of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. This classic children’s animation will be screened behind a live orchestra, while a brand new Shaun the Sheep Christmas film will also be shown on the day. With just three performances on the day, you’ll have to act fast to secure your tickets.
Solihull’s Festive Feast is back and bigger than ever for 2022 – quite literally, as T-rex dinosaurs are making a re-appearance. Across the ten days, you’ll be able to sample some of Solihull’s finest street food vendors. You’ll also enjoy a late night shopping event with live music on 16 December, and entertain the kids at a family fun day on 20 December too.
For a festive day out with a difference, you’ll want to book the West Midland Safari Park’s Santa Safari. Yes, you did read that correctly. Kids will love spotting some of the world’s most majestic creatures on their four-mile winter animal spotting safari before visiting Santa in his grotto for a hot chocolate, mince pie and special gift, which the children can even select themselves. Visitors can also travel to the North Pole in WMSF’s special 4D virtual reality experience. Buckle up!
Whether you fancy a spin on an ice rink, a ride on the Polar Express or a soul-stirring Christmassy show, the folk of Birmingham and the West Midlands are offering Christmas cheer by the bucketload this winter – and they can’t wait to welcome you.
If you're looking for more ideas for your Christmas break explore our list of the best Christmas destinations.
Discover more about the West Midlands and the rest of England with our Rough Guide to England. You might also want to see our list of the best alternative winter breaks in the UK, or our guide to where to travel in the winter. Go on the trip of your dreams with our customisable tailor-made trip itineraries to England.
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This article is brought to you in partnership with West Midlands Growth Company.
Top image: Santa Claus at West Midland Safari Park © Press release