Inspired by ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ carol, we’ve come up with our very own 12 great ideas for things to see, do and enjoy around Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate this festive period. Unique Santa experiences, festive fayres, funtastic pantos, coastal adventures with a twist – take a look and make your festive time even more magical!
1. Glittering Royal Harbour
We can’t promise you a partridge in a pear tree, but there are sure to be dazzling Christmas tree masts! Yes, December is time to ‘deck the boats’ in the Royal Harbour Ramsgate where thousands of glittering decorations adorn the vessels. Fun-loving King George IV gave Ramsgate’s harbour its ‘Royal’ tag in thanks for his warm welcome in 1821 – and a famous welcome awaits you today as illuminations bathe the harbour and arch businesses in magic throughout December.
2. Fun-filled Pantomimes to Enjoy – Oh Yes There Are!
In the spirit of panto you’ll be hollering for all you’re worth: “He’s behind you!” and “Oh yes he is!” as they bring out the child in us all!
3. Winter Coast Adventures to try
Never mind 3 French Hens, how about 3 wild adventures for something refreshingly different to do on the coast at this time of year. Thousands of migratory and overwintering birds flock to our local shores right now, making it an ideal time for bird-watching. Join a guided bird walk to get yourself started, spot birds around the former chalk quarry of Monkton Nature Reserve, or watch waders and waterfowl feeding on the saltmarsh of Sandwich & Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve.
For your 2nd adventure, hire a Coastal Explorers backpack – a bit like a Santa’s sack especially for seaside sleuths, it’s full of equipment, games and activities so the whole family can have fun while they learn about our beaches and coastal heritage.
For your 3rd adventure, grab your walking boots and your phone for a digital discovery of some of Thanet’s unique stories, rich history and secrets at key locations around the coastline with our digital discovery plaques
4. Extra Special Places to Meet Father Christmas
Never mind “4 calling birds” in the carol, how many Santa’s will you see? Where better to venture through a magical elf forest to visit Santa for festive tales than at Quex Adventure Farm Park at Birchington, alongside his very own farm. Where else can you embark on a miniature train ride and find Father Christmas waiting with a gift than Crampton Tower Museum in Broadstairs, celebrating designer of locomotives and railways Thomas Crampton! Where else can you head into a subterranean curiosity to see Father Christmas than at Margate Caves, collecting a North Pole penny for the well. Where else does Santa have his grotto in a helicopter than RAF Manston History Museum along with tank and fire engine rides.
5. Golden Beaches and Bays
Okay, we’re playing a little fast and loose with this one (it’s the festive spirit!) because we’ve actually got 16 golden-sand beaches and bays (all the more impressive for your ‘true love’). Why not ‘ring’ the changes and visit them in winter, there’s nothing quite so exhilarating as watching white horses breaking on the shore as you stroll along lovely wide stretches of sand, sea breezes in your hair.
And there’s so much space to play catch-me-if you-can with the kids. Or come for a promenade cycle ride, the perfect antidote to Christmas bustle (and a way to work off those mince pies).
6. Christmas Lights Switch-ons
The countdown begins, the excitement grows and then – whoosh, the lights are switched on and we can all bask in the festive glow. It’s a cracking ooh-and aah experience every year. So check out our dazzling half dozen lights switch-ons: from the celebrity turn-on and instagrammable displays of Westwood Cross, to lights and action (children’s carousel to elves workshops) in Ramsgate Town Centre.
Broadstairs Christmas Fayre and Lights Switch-on at Pierremont Park features goody-filled stalls and a special visitor. Whilst live entertainment will be in full supply at Westgate-on-Sea.
Not one but two trees will be ablaze with colour as the button is pressed in Margate, whereas in Birchington the Grinch may pop by for the big reveal.
7. Great Christmas Carol Occasions
From Silent Night to Ding Dong Merrily on High, The Holly and the Ivy to The 12 Days of Christmas – carolling is at the heart of the festive season.
And we’ve some wonderful events and welcoming services you can join in. Thanet Male Voice Choir sets the tone with a concert at Holy Trinity Church in Broadstairs (10 Dec), whilst Thanet Chamber Choir take to the stage in Broadstairs (9 Dec) and Thanet Festival Choir perform Handel’s wonderful Messiah (16 Dec).
Wrap up warm as the bandstand becomes your stage for Carols in the Park at Ellington Park Ramsgate (17 Dec) or why not help to raise the roof joining the carol service at St George’s Church, Ramsgate (21 Dec)
It may not be a carol but there is sure to be a chorus of ‘merry christmas everybody’ as Slade take to the stage at Dreamland (21 Dec) or even ‘Stay Another Day’ as East 17 switch on the Westwood Cross lights (17 Nov).
8. Christmas Fayres and Markets
With shopping top of the ‘to do’ list right now, we just have to let you in on our festive fayres and markets (in addition of course to our fab independent town shops and Westwood Cross). Full of gifts and goodies, they’re perfect for finding that particular prezzie or stocking fillers, as well as stocking the larder.
Start the shopping early at St Augustine's Westgate (11 & 12 Nov) browsing stalls for that perfect gift or just getting ideas. Gift stalls combined with scrummy festive refreshments help you ‘shop without the drop’ at Ramsgate Christmas Lights (26 Nov) and if there isn’t enough daytime, do some late night shopping in Ramsgate (7 Dec).
Enjoy food, glorious local food and sea views at Cliftonville Christmas Farmers’ Market (17 Dec) and tempting artisan goods made by local crafters at Broadstairs Christmas Fayre (25 Nov) or Margate WI Christmas Fayre (2 Dec).
9. Funtastic Family Activities & Play
You know the scene: Christmas is coming, fidgety kids are fit to burst with excitement – and to cap it all the weather has taken a turn for the worse! Never fear, we’ve at least 8 great indoor activity centres where they can let off steam with their fun-ometer set to max (while you can enjoy a quiet-ish cuppa).
There’s soft play with ball pits, slides and more to burn off some energy at The Jungle. Or let them immerse themselves into an imaginative world of role play from firemen to vets, doctors and bus drivers. You are spoiled for choice with Under 1 Roof, DinkyTown and Little Seaside Town.
10. Escape Rooms to lose yourself in
We’ve found you a super-cool, modern version of ’10 lords a-leaping’ that will get everyone’s pulse racing – 10 very different Escape Room experiences needing leaps of imagination and logic to solve the puzzles. All against time as the clock ticks down (like counting the days to Christmas but a lot, lot faster).
Shop smart and shop fast because there’s plenty of points to be won at Quick E-Mart or take your seats, sit up straight and don't answer back or will it be Detention at Ctrl Alt Esc.
Another 3 challenges at The Escapement put you on the spot, crawling to the centre of the earth, excavating a lost tomb and navigating aboard ship by the stars: in The Pit, Egyptian Exodus and Pirates of Polaris. Your time starts now!
An immersive escape room experience set in an old Victorian bank awaits, where you have the opportunity to rob the bank - but you won't do time for this at The Bank Job or be transported into a wizardy world with potions and spells, go on an underwater adventure aboard a submarine or try and stop a robot from taking over the world at The Escapement Broadstairs.
Captcha Code is an original game that hybrids a treasure hunt and an escape room, exploring the timeless seaside town of Broadstairs.
11. Winter walks to discover
Sometimes enjoying yourself out and about is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. At least it is around the Isle of Thanet! So we’ve picked 11 self-guided walks for you to dip into – they’re all different and you’ll get a real insight into our historic towns and coast as you explore (and a healthy glow from the fresh December air). Download leaflets and maps from our website, or pick them up at Visitor Information Centres.
Here we go for a few highlights:
12. Indoor Attractions for All
Drum roll, please (maybe from the Christmas carol’s 12 drummers drumming?!): we’ve reached the finale for our December dozen great things to do. The Isle of Thanet is well known for its eclectic mix of attractions and many of them stay open through the winter months – cue a rich pick-and-mix of outings to appeal to everyone.
Fancy an unusual, underground adventure? Follow the winding passages of Margate’s Shell Grotto, studded with 4.6 millions shells (make up your own mind about its mysterious origins!). Or tour atmospheric Ramsgate Tunnels, the UK’s largest network of civilian wartime tunnels and hear about the ‘Mad Mayor’ who saved the town.
All very different, all free entry: there’s Turner Contemporary for artistic inspiration; the unique St Augustine and Pugin Shrine and Visitor Centre; the Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum featuring the iconic RAF fighter planes of the Second World War.
Mosey around a heritage centre, savour the centuries-old peace of an abbey or church, rediscover your favourite childhood toys. Take your pick!
Whether you’re visiting friends or family, coming for a holiday or live on the Isle, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas!