This time of year can be challenging – especially so for children with an illness or disability – and here at Newlife, we know that disabled children deserve a magical Christmas too. Christmas events can often be very busy, stressful, and sometimes completely inaccessible for children with a disability, no matter how much you plan ahead. Often, events can also be completely overwhelming for those with sensory impairments. This is why we’ve put together a handy list of ideas and attractions suitable for all children so that, as a family, you can soak up the Christmas spirit this December.
The National Memorial Arboretum
The National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire, is holding an illuminated evening experience throughout December. It’s perfect for all ages, is wheelchair accessible and has even pathways from which to view the lights. The route is about 1 mile long and, for children with sensory impairments, there are a number of relaxed sessions on the Wednesday 8th and 15th December, designed to feature less prominent light and sound features.
Tickets for the Relaxed sessions can be booked by calling 01283 245 100.
Dates: Tuesday 7th December to Saturday 18th December. Pre-booking is essential. Disabled ticket prices range from £14 for two. Entry for under 5’s is free. Click here to find out more!
Winter Wonderland – Bendrigg Trust
The outdoor wonderland event, in Cumbria, is specifically designed for children with disabilities and sensory impairments. There is a festive trail across the grounds, Santa’s grotto and plenty of Christmas decorations to explore. Food and drink are available onsite (including mulled wine!) and toilets are fully accessible.
Dates: Thursday 16th – Tuesday 21st December. Booking is Essential. Entry is £9.60 for those who wish to receive a gift. Click here or Call 01539 723766 to find out more.
Winter Wonderland – Across the Country
There are many magical winter wonderland attractions across the country and are the ultimate destination to enjoy all things Christmas themed this December. Many have ice rinks which are accessible for wheelchair users, as well as food, drink and entertainment.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland – London
Winter Fun Land – Birmingham & Manchester
Winter Wonderland – Cardiff
Winter Wonderland – Yorkshire
Wheelchair Accessible Ice Skating
The Natural History Museum’s magical outdoor ice rink is open from the 22nd October – 16th January. This Christmas will be its last due to re-development so now is the chance to wrap up warm and enjoy the ice. Across the country, many indoor and outdoor rinks are fully inclusive and offer times specifically for wheelchair users, the visually impaired, and those with additional needs – is best to check in your local area for more information.
The National Trust – Accessible sessions: Monday 6th December & Thursday 6th January. From £8.40 Per Person. Free entry for two carers. Book here on Ticketmaster.
Cardiff Winter Wonderland Ice Rink – Until 2nd January 2022. Accessible child tickets from £10.84 pp. Booking essential. Click here to find out more!
Ice Skate Birmingham – Until 9th January 2022.
Elfingrove Ice Rink – Scotland – Until 24th December.
Christmas Markets – Across the UK
Christmas markets are a particularly perfect activity this time of year and, although the noise and hustle and bustle won’t suit every child, there are many markets with great wheelchair access, including disabled toilets, access ramps and parking. The Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham has a fully accessible route which avoids steps, whilst Edinburgh Christmas Market also has a fully accessible route, including to the Christmas tree maze. Other markets across the country also have great access options but, as ever, it is best to inquire beforehand.
Other Christmas Markets to choose from include:
Belfast Christmas Market, Bath Christmas Market, Manchester Christmas Market, York Christmas Festival, Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market.Christmas Panto
Many theatres offer relaxed performances of pantomimes during the festive season. These performances are adapted so that the lighting and sound effects are less intense for those with sensory disabilities. As there are year-round, there are also audio description and BSL (British Sign Language) interpreted performances available at many theatres. Many theatres, including Nottingham Playhouse, offer ‘Touch Tours’, which are brilliant for visually impaired children or those with other disabilities, as a way of exploring the stage, costumes, and props before the show. If the whole experience of getting to the theatre is just too much, Panto Live offer virtual pantomime experiences so you can gather as a family and watch from the comfort of your own home.
Where can you find them?
Birmingham Hippodrome: https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/plan-your-visit/access/assistedperformances/
The ATG: https://www.atgtickets.com/access/visual-impairment-services/
Derbyshire Pantomime’s: https://www.derbylive.co.uk/your-visit/access/
Waterfront Hall, Belfast: https://www.waterfront.co.uk/what-s-on/cinderella-christmas-panto-belfast/
Sensory Friendly Santa’s Grotto’s
Santa’s Grotto’s can be a magical experience at Christmas but the lights, sounds, queues and number of people can also be terribly overwhelming for children with disabilities. This year, there are many sensory friendly Santa’s grottos across the country. They are usually quieter and without queues and offer various adaptions such as gentler, or even no lighting and quieter music. Dobbies garden centre’s Quiet Grotto’s also email a photo of the grotto for children to see beforehand.
Where can you find them?
Santa’s Quiet Grotto – Dobbies Garden Centre’s across the UK. https://events.dobbies.com/event-detail/?e=4177&v=0&r=v
Autism Angels Santa’s Grotto – Yorkshire https://stockeldpark.co.uk/events/autism-friendly-santas-grotto/
Holwood Farm Shop & Café – Kent https://holwoodfarm.co.uk/events/caspa-grotto/
Sealife Centre – Birmingham https://www.visitsealife.com/birmingham/explore/events/visit-santa-in-birmingham/