We are updating this post all the time as we get wind of new Sussex Christmas Experiences for 2023.
There is no escaping the fact that the next stop is Christmas! From now on, Sussex starts to get festive, and as the nights get darker and the weather gets colder, it’s time to enjoy twinkling lights, time with family and friends and a little Christmas cheer. With this in mind, here’s our list of some of the best Sussex Christmas experiences, from Sussex ice rinks to festive train rides and magic trails, there is something for everyone here:
Sussex ice rinks and skating
Ice skating is always a great way to get into the spirit of things at Christmas (and justifies the eating of cake). The ice rink at the Royal Pavilions in Brighton opened on the 28th of October 2023 and stays open until the 7th of January 2024. Worthing ice rink in Steyne Gardens is open from the 11th of November 2023 to the 18th of February 2024. Meanwhile, Eastbourne’s Lightning Fibre’s Ice Rink in the Enterprise Centre opens from the 9th to the 31st of December 2023.
Sussex is developing some really special Christmas illumination events which are suitable for children and adults alike. Glow Wild at Wakehurst opens on the 23rd of November 2023 and sees the gardens lit up with beautifully hand-crafted winter lanterns and stunning installations. Leonardslee Illuminated opens on the 24th of November 2023 and takes you on a trail of illuminations, projections and interactive installations. There is also a new lantern-lit parade in Newhaven this year on the 26th of November along West Quay. Bedgebury Forest is in Kent, but it is right up next to the Sussex border and their illuminated trail includes glimpses of Father Christmas along the way, softly-lit doves, reed-like neon structures, sparkling tunnels of light and the Pinetum filled with all the colours of the rainbow. It opens on the 17th of November 2023. And don’t forget the Burning of the Clocks on the 21st of December in Brigthon, a lantern lit procession with fireworks.
Christmas train journeys
There is nothing quite as evocative as a Christmas train journey. At the Bluebell Railway, their SteamLights starts on the 17th of November 2023 and takes you on a train covered in thousands of colourful lights which rushes past a spectacular light show as you travel through the Sussex winter landscape! They also have Santa specials. And over at the Kent and East Sussex Railway, their Christmas train rides start on the 26th of November 2023 and include a meeting with Father Christmas, an on-board magician, a visit to the station’s own Winter Wonderland and free rides on the vintage gallopers at Tenterden.
Pantomime and Sussex Mummers
Almost every large Sussex town hosts a pantomime and this year you can catch Beauty and the Beast at the Horsham Capitol from the 1st of December, Snow White at Chequer Mead in East Grinstead from the 9th of December, The Jungle Book at Chichester Festival Theatre from the 16th of December 2023, Beauty and the Beast at the Devonshire Park Theatre (Eastbourne) from the 8th of December 2023, and Cinderella at the Whiterock Theatre in Hastings from 15th of December 2023.
If it’s a more traditional play you’re after, look out for Sussex Mummers, which are groups of local actors who put on folk plays. Think Morris dancing meets Christmas. We’ll publish dates and venues when they are released.
A National Trust Christmas
The National Trust always do Christmas well and in Sussex, we’re lucky enough to have National Trust properties right across the region. In the west of the county, enigmatic Uppark House and Gardens kick off Christmas on the 18th of November 2023, with their rooms decorated with the scents of the season and in Georgian Christmas style.
On the outskirts of East Grinstead, Standen House Christmas also kicks off on the 18th of November 2023 with their Christmas decorations and they also host an immersive audio family trail on specific dates from the 25th of November 2023 where you can search for Father Christmas in the land of Betwixtmass … think Christmas elves, fairies and puppets! At Nymans, near Haywards Heath, you can enjoy a Nutcracker-inspired Christmas with Christmas trees, a giant sleigh, a garden trail and a sweetie banquet in the house. Again, this starts on the 18th of November 2023.
At Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, you’ll find a festive sleigh, Christmas stories in the castle and a Christmas trail. Their Christmas activities start on the 25th of November 2023.
A Medieval Christmas
Weaving their storytelling magic and exalting the true spirit of Christmas with hauntingly joyous music, the Mediaeval Baebes will be performing at St Mary’s Church in Horsham on the 18th of December 2023 as part of their Procession Tour. Evoking thoughts of the winter festival and its pre-Christian origins, the Mediaeval Baebes will be performing Christmas carol classics and traditional folksongs. Accompanied by a dazzling array of exotic and period instruments, this unique take on early music, traditional culture and the magic of folklore brings a unique opportunity to be uplifted and enchanted in the stunning and graceful medieval church.
Head on over to Ashdown Forest and the Ashdown Manna Cookery School where they have a whole range of Christmas cookery courses, from German Christmas baking to edible Christmas gifts and chocolate making! At the Brighton Cookery School, they have Festive Bakes and Christmas Canape courses. They also do cookery courses for couples, but they sell out fast.
To herald the change of seasons, The Wellderness are hosting a unique Winter Solstice celebration on the 22nd of December 2023, at Furzefield Campsite in Angmering which includes an ancient tale of Jul and a wild hunt over a wild hill. Meanwhile, Brighton marks the shortest day of the year with the Burning the Clocks winter solstice parade on the 21st of December 2023 with the lantern procession, parade and fireworks. While at Brighton’s i360, you can celebrate a special sunrise on the 21st of December 2023 from 138 metres high in the sky.
Photo credit Lee Milner
Carols by candlelight in a 13th century chapel
Mark the start of the festive season with a glorious “Carols by Candlelight” performance in the 13th century chapel at Bailiffscourt, Climping, West Sussex. The acoustics of this beautiful building, filled with candles and sparkle, bring a whole new dimension to Christmas. Create your own family festive tradition and choose from three performance dates in December to get in the mood for Christmas with a fine festive lunch, indulgent afternoon tea, or make an evening of it with a delicious dinner.
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