Cheltenham celebrates Christmas ∙ 2023
The countdown is on – the most magical time of the year is almost here, and where better to get into the festive spirit than right in the heart of Regency Cheltenham. On Thursday 16 November, the town will come alive with the sights, sounds and smells of the season, with a packed programme of festive family fun, as Christmas in Cheltenham begins.
Cheltenham Christmas Gift Market on the Promenade will be open from 10am, Thursday 16 – Sunday 19 November, stocked with unique gifts for even the hardest to buy for! From 4pm-7pm on Thursday 16th the town will welcome the start of the festive season as thousands of twinkling lights illuminate the streets, choirs fill the air with the sounds of Christmas songs, and friendly roaming characters spread festive cheer as Christmas in Cheltenham is officially launched.
Watch in awe as the spectacular Bristol Figure Skaters wow onlookers with their impressive winter holiday-themed ice-skating routine at the Cheltenham Ice Rink at 5.30pm – 6pm. Then warm up with a mulled wine or hot chocolate at The Garden Bar’s Winter Wonderland café (open evening of Thursday 16 November, then Saturdays throughout the festive period).
The jewel in Cheltenham’s Christmas crown – the large, indoor ice rink in Imperial Gardens – will be open daily (excluding 25th December) from Friday 17 November 2023 to Monday 1 January 2024, from 10am until late. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or have never set foot on ice before, the fun, inclusive and fully wheelchair-accessible ice rink can be enjoyed by all.
And if you don’t feel like skating, but also don’t want to miss out on the fun, there is a free spectator area so you can catch all the action as it happens. Pick up a delicious hot chocolate and flapjack from the refreshment stand and enjoy watching friends and family take to the ice. Show your ice-skating ticket at select venues around the town to enjoy exclusive special offers and discounts.
Relaxed skating sessions for SEND visitors will take place every Wednesday 11am – noon, as well as Monday 11 December at 5.45pm – 6.45pm and Saturday 16 December 10am – 11am. There will also be quieter sessions dedicated to pre-school skaters aged 3 – 5 years (and their accompanying adult) on 22 November, 29 November, 6 December, 13 December and 20 December at 10am – 11am. Schools and groups are encouraged to join in the festive fun with a range of discounts available on the Visit Cheltenham website.
From 16 November – 22 December families can enjoy the free Christmas Elf Trail (created by Cheltenham BID), and have fun spotting 16 cheeky elves hiding in windows around the town centre. Trail-goers can take the first letter of each elf’s name and solve the festive anagram to be in with a chance of winning a £100 Cheltenham BID gift card!
And no festive season is complete without a beloved panto! From 24 November – 7 January, The Everyman Theatre will run hundreds of performances of its new panto, Mother Goose (featuring family-favourite, Tweedy the Clown MBE) and Cheltenham Playhouse will delight fans with a high-flying adventure – Aladdin, from the 15 – 31 December.
The ever-popular GWSR Santa specials will return again this year from 25 November – 23 December. Take a magical ride on a steam train from Cheltenham racecourse station to the North Pole (Winchcombe Station) to see Santa’s Grotto and the singing penguins, meet Santa and receive presents and goodie bags with help from his elves, whilst adults can enjoy warm mince pies and mulled wine.
Or why not combine a visit to Cheltenham’s ice rink with The Christmas Meeting (formerly known as The International) – a popular two-day horse-racing meet at Cheltenham Racecourse – due to take place on 15 – 16 December. Under 18s go free and, new for this year, Saturday will feature a Christmas Extravaganza themed race day, including Santa’s Grotto and Workshop (free entry to all Club/Tattersalls racegoers) and Got2Sing Choir will entertain with cheerful Christmas carols across the weekend.
There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy browsing for Christmas gifts, with leading market operator Cotswold Markets bringing two markets to Cheltenham’s Promenade – the Christmas Gift Market from 16 – 19 November, and a traditional Arts & Crafts Christmas Market from 14 – 23 December. The popular Suffolk’s Christmas Market returns 26 November, featuring Santa and festive carols, plus the Artisan Markets at Pittville Pump Room are returning to the iconic venue from 24 – 26 November.
From ice skating to elf spotting, twinkling lights and bustling market stalls to Christmas carols and panto puns, don’t miss out on making special memories in Cheltenham this festive season.