We are huge fans of the amount of fun and family-friendly activities are hosted in Leicester, and are always excited to see what happens in Christmas.
When Lily was a baby, I worked in the City centre, so we used to love walking through at Christmas when I picked her up from nursery – we’d wander under the lights and always took a ride on the Wheel of Light.
With Covid and moving into the county, we haven’t been as much into the City, however this Christmas we couldn’t wait to take the bus in and check out all the fun festive activities that makes up Christmas in Leicester.
What’s more, there are also so many free Christmas activities helping to make it a much more affordable day out for families in Leicester
Santa in the Square – Green Dragon Square
One of the first free activities we checked out was Santa in the Square – a free Santa experience. It started at 11am, so we were surprised at 12.15pm when we arrived that he had already gone for lunch, and didn’t arrive back until after 2pm.
The guy at the stand kept saying to come back in 15/20mins, meaning there were quite a few confused families, so we we went off to do the Firefly making, but at around 2pm, Santa finally arrived back and we joined the queue to meet him.
The Santa’s grotto had been beautifully set up in a wooden hut in the Square, surrounded by trees, fake snow, a white wooden fence and fairy lights – it really was so pretty, both in the daytime and the evening too.
Despite Santa running a bit late, it was a lovely experience and he was so friendly, taking the time to properly talk to the children.
He was wearing a face mask, which was great to see, and then the elf allowed Lily to choose a book/activity pack before she left, which was a lovely idea.
One of our favourite independent coffee shops, Orso Leicester, is also situated by the Square, so a great place to pick up a hot drink while you’re there!
For children and adults with special needs, you can also check out the fantastic and free Santa’s Inclusive Workshop at Gallowtree Gate for a fully inclusive space where anyone with special requirements can feel comfortable and enjoy the magic of visiting Santa. It really looks stunning! Find out more here.
Firefly making at Leicester Central Library
While awaiting Santa, we visited Leicester Central Library who were running a free firefly making workshop throughout that particular day. It may be worth keeping an eye on Facebook to see if they do it again as it was great fun!
The lady said they had been busy in the morning, but then we were the only one there. Lily had free reign of the craft supplies – a proper treasure haul of amazing craft items – to make her own firefly.
She was given everything she needed, including foil, recycled bottle tops, sticky pads, tape, a little thread of fairy lights and some fun decorations such as pipe cleaners, ribbon and buttons.
Her firefly now takes pride of place on our Christmas tree, but if you don’t get a chance to check out one of their events, you can check out the firefly trail in St Martins – as you look out for fireflies scan the QR code and listen to the illuminating festive stories written by people in Leicester. All fireflies are made out of found objects by the artist Amy Nicholson from Handmade Theatre.
Happy Wheel / Wheel of Light
It was great to see the return of the Wheel of Light, aka the Happy Wheel, this year, as it was always something we did every year together, and Lily asked me around 100 times if we can go on it!
We visited at sunset, such a beautiful time to see the views across the city.
The wheel cost £4.50 for adults and £4 for children, with a family ticket available for £14 and is situated in the Jubilee Square alongside the ice rink.
The wheel moves slowly and goes round 3 times – Lily had a fantastic time and loved the colourful lights on the wheel too.
The Ice Rink
One of Lily’s highlights of the visit was definitely the ice rink – she was in her absolute element.
Although it was more expensive than I thought at £10 per adult and £8 per child, then £3.50 for skate aid hire (which you pay for on site), we had a brilliant session.
We were thankful there was a bag drop (£1), so you can leave your bags without skating with them.
My only worry was the amount of people, as it really was so busy, particularly when you came off the ice to get your shoes, but Lily had an amazing time and keeps asking to go back!
She is only age 6 and this was her first time ice skating, but the seal skate aid was great for her to sit on (while I got my skate legs back too!), then she graduated to standing while pushing it, before even letting go to skate solo! You can also get penguins to push, but she found these quite heavy.
Aside from the amount of people (maybe come off the ice slightly early to avoid this!), it really was a great experience.
Festive lights and decorations
Wandering around Leicester City Centre is always beautiful, from the gorgeous Christmas lights and festive shop windows, through to the giant Christmas tree by the clocktower, and the nativity scenes in the Town Hall Square.
Festive outdoor movie – Green Dragon Square
The weather took a turn for the worst when we were in the city, so we didn’t get to check out the outdoor movie, however these are projected in the Market Square throughout the Christmas period.
There are picnic benches there and a sweet stand selling candies and hot drinks too.
In 2021, you can see:
27 November Christopher Robin
4 December The Polar Express
11 December Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
18 December The Santa Clause
Billy Bates Fun Fair
After the ice skating, we took a walk up to check out the Rhizome light installation by the Curve, however it didn’t seem to be on that day for some reason, so we wandered back by the Billy Bates Fun Fair in Humberstone Gate , where you can find rides for all ages.
Lily’s favourite was definitely the reindeer/Santa sleigh ride – you can pick up tokens for all the rides from the little hut in the middle.
We didn’t manage to check out the activities at the Newarke Houses museum, however throughout Christmas they have a free exhibition and family activities to celebrate the Snowman and the Snowdog – you can find out more here, but I’ll update this if we get to check it out another weekend!
Along the trail, you can also enjoy free a free and interactive family adventure using augmented reality (also known as AR) to bring fictional characters to life in the city centre and in your own home!
The free app can be downloaded on the App Store for Apple devices and on the Google Play store for Android users. Find out more here
If you’re still looking for things to do, you can check out the free activities at Haymarket shopping centre and the lights in Highcross too!
A huge thank you to all the teams in Leicester for making the City look and feel so fantastic again – after another crazy year, we all really needed this, and there really is nothing like wandering under the Christmas lights before warming up with a hot chocolate, to get you feeling festive!