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Devon's top tourist attractions are feeling festive

Celebrate a Crealy Christmas. Photo: Crealy Theme Park and Resort
Celebrate a Crealy Christmas. Photo: Crealy Theme Park and Resort

Devon’s visitor attractions are preparing for the Christmas celebrations. From Santa trains to light-filled gardens, grottos and cuddly piglets, they’re on a mission to make it the best ever festive season for all the family.

Great British Life: Paignton Zoo is hosting its biggest ever festive eventPaignton Zoo is hosting its biggest ever festive event

Legacy in lights

Illuminated jumping frogs and mystical mandrills are set to twinkle alongside light-up stick insects high up in the trees – this is Christmas Paignton Zoo style.

The award-winning attraction is celebrating its centenary this year and the team here is going all-out to finish things off with the biggest festive event the zoo has ever hosted.

GloWild is ‘an immersive light experience’ that starts after dark and includes lasers, fibreoptics, projectors, a silent disco, tunnels and more.

If the kids (and granny) aren’t hyped enough already about the festive season starting, they sure will be after seeing this light-filled legacy.

Because as well as capturing the magic of this time of year, the event has also been organised to mark 100 years since Paignton Zoo’s founder Herbert Whitley first opened the gates to visitors. He had a passion for breeding animals and plants, especially blue ones, apparently, so expect plenty of blue hues in the lights.

GloWild runs from November 17 to January 2.

Glowing gardens

RHS Garden Rosemoor near Torrington is also getting a glow-up this year. Visitors can immerse themselves in festive light and sound as the already pretty spectacular gardens put on an even more colourful display.

Last year’s event was a huge success and organisers say there will be more going on this time around. The trail is longer and includes six ‘uplifting soundscapes’ to guide people through the gardens, woodlands and open spaces.

Magicians, music and fire artists will provide the entertainment and there will be plenty of mulled wine, mince pies, soup and sweet treats to keep you warm.

Visitors can even stay on site. Rosemoor has a selection of holiday apartments. All stays include admission to a Glow evening.

Great British Life: It'll be a cosy Christmas at the Milky Way. Photo: The Milky WayIt'll be a cosy Christmas at the Milky Way. Photo: The Milky Way

Meet the elves

Up in the Milky Way, they’re getting ready to host Buzzlewick the elf and friends. Visitors to the adventure park in Bideford will be able to journey through a magical snowy forest where children will get to meet Buzzelwick and have a go at decorating some gingerbread. They can also write a letter to Santa and make reindeer food. Then the honoured guests will have the chance to see Santa in his cottage and collect a gift.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Families can climb aboard a festive train and enjoy hot chocolate and a special show.

There’s a lot to organise but Tara Stanbury, partner at The Milky Way, says she loves this time of year. ‘We can’t wait for Christmas!’ she says. ‘A couple of years ago Santa and the elves moved to our stunning Old Barn venue within the park. With oak beams and cob walls it really is the perfect setting, helping to create a truly magical experience for our guests.’

The Magic of Christmas is coming to the Milky Way on December 9, 10, 16 and 23.

Great British Life: Celebrate a Crealy Christmas. Photo: Crealy Theme Park and ResortCelebrate a Crealy Christmas. Photo: Crealy Theme Park and Resort

Santa and Sooty

A Crealy Christmas is definitely worth celebrating. The team here at the theme park and resort near Exeter always plan a packed schedule, which this year includes shows, light displays and a meet-and-greet with Santa.

Top of the list is Santa’s Magical Ice Show, with elegant routines, sparkly costumes and lots of laughs.

Crealy is also home to Sooty Land. Everyone is old or young enough to enjoy being entertained by the mischievous little yellow bear and friends, who have been around for generations. Sooty, Sweep and Soo will be taking part in a series of live daily performances.

In a nice little touch, Crealy will also have its own Christmas-themed post office, where children can send off their carefully complied lists directly to the North Pole.

All of these festive celebrations take place on selected dates between December 2 and 23.

Great British Life: Kids and grown-ups will love the Woodlands grotto experience. Photo: Woodlands Family Theme ParkKids and grown-ups will love the Woodlands grotto experience. Photo: Woodlands Family Theme Park

Grotto adventure

The Woodlands grotto experience is said to be its biggest yet. Elf guides will lead visitors to a toy workshop where kids will get a sneak peek into the fun and magic that goes into making gifts.

The grotto has 10 uniquely themed rooms to explore in total before guests ride the Woodlands Express to Santa’s Grotto.

This year, Woodlands is offering daytime grotto tickets, which include theme park entry. And, after a successful trial last year, there will also be six ‘Christmas Grotto Nights’ for people who want to see Santa and the lights (without the theme park rides).

Great British Life: Cuddle a piglet at Pennywell Farm. Photo: Richard AustinCuddle a piglet at Pennywell Farm. Photo: Richard Austin

Christmas at the farm

Cuddle up with a miniature piglet at Pennywell Farm in Buckfastleigh. It’s one of the highlights in the festive package at this much-loved place, recently named Devon’s best family attraction for the second year in a row at the Muddy Stiletto Awards.

Christmas here is a traditional affair with kids, parents and grandparents getting together to experience a Nativity scene in the cosy main barn on site. After that, it’s time for mince pies and biscuits, a tractor and trailer ride and chance to get up close to some of Pennywell’s star animal residents, including the piglets (nobody mention blankets…).

Train and tram spectacular

Typical. You wait for one and then two come at once. Both South Devon Railway and Seaton Tramway are hosting their annual Polar Express events from November.

The South Devon Railway ride will bring scenes from the smash hit Polar Express film to life as singing and dancing chefs arrive to serve cookies and hot chocolate before the story unfolds as the train journey continues.

Over in Seaton, the Polar Express takes to the trams. Families will be taken on a magical ride to the North Pole through the East Devon countryside. Expect singing, sleigh bells and, of course, Santa.


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