December is the perfect time to make a visit to the North York Moors, from Santa specials on steam trains, to Christmas shopping with a difference. You’re bound to find that special something from one of our talented artists and makers or wonderful foodie treats at one of the farmers' markets on around the North York Moors.
See what's coming up in January too or you can search for events by date here, which includes a list of our free guided walks for the month, or book our events online.
Where to buy your real Christmas Tree
Nothing beats the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree at this time of year too. Is there a better place for getting your real Christmas tree than from one of our many special woods? Head to Duncombe Park, Dalby Forest, Scampston or Newburgh Priory.
Deck the halls...
Head to one of the area's great houses and museums all decked out for the season's festivities. Experience Christmas through the ages at Nunnington Hall from the Georgian era to the war years (weekends only until 15 December) while at Castle Howard, A Christmas Masquerade will have flamboyant displays and installations to surprise and delight daily until 5 January (closed 24-25 December). Burton Agnes Hall opens its doors until 23 December, with festive events running alongside, including Christmas Craft Days every Wednesday and Twilight Weekend (6-8 December).
There's a rare chance to visit Ryedale Folk Museum at Night (4 December) – all ready for Christmas. Free entry with a chance to browse for gifts and stocking fillers in the Museum’s shop. Plus enjoy Christmas through time at the museum (7-8 December), including a visit from Father Christmas, festive crafty fun, Victorian fair games, meet feathered friends from York Birds of Prey Centre, enjoy festive music, delicious mince pies and sausage rolls and more.
Laurence Sterne's 18th century country parsonage in Coxwold is beautifully festive with candles, traditional log fires and decorations ready for Shandy Hall by Candlelight (14, 15, 21, 22 December). Tours begin 4pm and early booking is recommended.
Christmas festivals and events
Kirkleatham Museum's Victorian Christmas (30 November - 1 December) has a free Victorian craft fair, a chance to meet reindeer, carol singing and a chance to visit Santa in his grotto while Whitby's Winterfest (30 November - 1 December) in the Whitby Pavilion features pop-up market stalls, Santa, live music and entertainment and more. Find more Christmas Fairs at Scampston Hall (30 November - 1 December).
Don't forget to pop into the church for the annual Christmas Tree Festival, with 25 beautiful trees individually and creatively decorated themed around ‘Christmas Favourites'. The tree festival continues daily through to 15 December.
Guisborough Christmas Festival (3 December) includes Santa's parade through the town centre with his reindeer, and an entertainment to visit his Grotto at Sunnyfield House (tickets for a grotto visit must be pre-booked).
There's seasonal music to enjoy with Bilsdale Silver Band in the splendid surroundings of Rievaulx Abbey (1 and 8 December) as well as Ampleforth Abbey’s annual Christmas concert performing Handel's Messiah (8 December) and Stape Silver Band Annual Christmas Concert (15 December) at St Peter and St Paul's Church, Pickering. The Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band perform their free Traditional Christmas Carol Concert on 22 December at The James Holt Concert Hall.
Dress up in your best traditional period costume for Robin Hood’s Bay Victorian Weekend (6-8 December) as pirates and bawdy wenches take to the streets along with bell ringers, storytellers telling ghostly tales and carol singers. Christmas decorations, lights, trees and festive wreaths deck the atmospheric smugglers' village.
What's up the Beanstalk in Helmsley as the town celebrates Small Business Saturday (7 December). This year's highlights include a special Beanstalk Window Trail where visitors can look for what's hidden at the top of a number of beanstalks for the chance to win a prize, panto-themed fancy dress, live music, food and drink tastings and more. Not forgetting Helmsley’s fabulous independent and boutique shopping for all your Christmas present needs. Round the day off with a trip to the panto as Jack and the Beanstalk takes to the stage with a new take on this classic tale at Helmsley Arts Centre. Plus all day parking in the long stay car parking is reduced to £1.50 for the day (and free coach parking).
Months in the making, the spectacular Christmas lights switch on at Thornton le Dale is also on 7 December. Enjoy music, seasonal stalls serving mulled wine and more from 4.30pm, Santa will arrive at 5pm with the official switch on at 6pm.
Whitby celebrates the fifth Krampus Run (7 December) when St. Nicholas' and his dark counterpart, The Krampus, parade the streets, teasing and punishing naughty boys and girls.
Malton's fifth Dickensian Festival (7, 20, 21 December) features Victorian Street Theatre and horse and carriage rides at the Malton Christmas Market, Charles Dickens presents A Christmas Carol and enjoy An evening with Miriam Margolyes.
There's panto fun at the Goathland Hut (13 December) and Sutton under Whitestonecliffe (29 December), as touring theatre Northumberland Theatre Company present The Snow Queen with lots of music and plenty of laughs, doors open 6pm.
Wassail in Whitby (14 December) is an annual celebration of winter, including seasonal songs, stories, rituals and traditions associated with Christmas and folk music. Find the festival at Whitby Brewery and features Richard Grainger, fiddle and accordion duo Christine Williamson and Carole Millward, better known as ‘Blind Panic’, and a host of folk singers and musicians, Whitby Brewery ales, mulled wine & Wassail punch.
Finding Father Christmas
For those seeking Santa Claus, be sure to book your place well in advance!
Little ones can visit Father Christmas at Nunnington Hall (1, 7, 8, 14, 15 December) while at Burton Agnes Hall join Father Christmas, Mrs Claus and Jingles the Magic Elf (7 - 22 December).
Bring the family along to North Shire's Enchanted Barn to meet Santa Clause (weekends only until 22 December), make your special festive requests and receive a small gift (£5 per person).
Santa can also be found in his special grotto at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum in Skinningrove (7-8 December).
Christmas steam train magic by day and by night
Nothing beats travelling through the heart of the North York Moors on a steam train and it's even better when you're joined by Santa and his special helpers. Santa Specials run every weekend until 22 December.
Or join the Northern Lights Express, a new experience for 2019. Journey through a twinkling forest, transformed by a multitude of lights and surprises to Levisham Station, where a dazzling light show awaits.
They also run special Whitby Winter Excursions (29 December and 1 January), a winter’s day out with the family, including the dog, and a chance to walk off that Christmas pudding in Whitby. Tickets must be pre-booked.
Other great events and exhibitions
See a flying demonstration of tiny owls by candlelight at one of National Centre for Bird of Prey's Winter Owl Evenings (every Saturday until Christmas, 7-9.45pm), including a 2-course meal and mulled wine. Pre-booking required.
John Freeman, known for his North Yorkshire landscape watercolours, showcases his 50 year career with an exhibition at Whitby's Pannett Art Gallery (until 15 December), which also includes images in oil and line drawings.
Our final exhibition for 2019 at the Inspired by... gallery continues throughout the month and runs until 2 February 2020 (daily until 5 January, then weekends only). See the work of Brigantia's artists and craftmakers showcase the best art, sculpture, textiles, carvings and ceramics.
Explore our solar system, the moon and objects from deep space on one of Hidden Horizon's two-hour Stargazing events (6, 13 December) in Dalby Forest. Booking is essential (Adults: £15; Under 16s: £9 inc. hot chocolate/snacks). These tend to sell out quickly so be sure to book your place early!
Adventures for the Soul provide timeout for you in nature, doing activities that'll make you feel good. On 14 December they're focusing on yoga, mindfulness and night walking. This is a particularly special event as it's lined up to hopefully catch the Geminids meteor shower- let's hope for clear skies!
The Ramblers annual Festival of Winter Walks, held over the Christmas and New Year period, usually includes some walks in the North York Moors area. Check out their events calendar for the most up-to-date information.
For the little ones, head to Dalby Forest to follow the Shaun the Sheep Farmageddon Glow Trail and help Lu-La get home and start an exciting exploration of the forest. Packs are available from the visitor centre for £3.50. Be sure to download the app before you arrive as signal is patchy.
We've got more ideas for you on our winter and walking pages and you'll find a number of fell and road running events in December too.
Year of Green Action
2019 is the Year of Green Action – a 12 month drive to get more people involved in projects to improve the natural world. We've been holding events and activities across the North York Moors to help people connect, protect and enhance nature.
With Christmas fast approaching, our Sutton Bank National Park Centre have plenty of ideas for a greener Christmas:
- Buy locally or give homemade gifts
- Give experiences rather than stuff - we've got some ideas here
- Choose FSC-certified cards and recycle in January.
- Decorate recycled brown paper for wrapping
- Tie gifts with ribbon or string
- Make paper garlands and decorations
- Decorate with greenery
- Buy a tree with roots or FSC-certified
Our National Park Centres at Sutton Bank and Danby are open every day until 23 December with plenty more ideas to be kind to the planet.