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Events in December

Santa Specials on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Credit NYMRSanta Specials on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Credit NYMR

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.

You can search for events by date here 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 ForestGuisborough Forest, Scampston or Newburgh Priory.

  • Dalby Forest - selling trees every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 30 November until 17 December
  • Duncombe Park - open daily from 30 November until 24 December
  • Guisborough Forest - selling trees from 1 December everyday while stocks last
  • Newburgh Priory - selling trees daily from 1-24 December (10am-6pm Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm Sat-Sun)
  • Scampston Estate - tree sales from 1 December - 21 December (10am-4pm).

Deck the Halls...

Head to one of the area's great houses all decked out for the season's festivities. Burton Agnes Hall opens its doors until 23 December, with festive events running alongside, including Christmas Craft Days every Wednesday and Twilight Weekend (7-9 December).

Experience Christmas at Nunnington Hall from the Georgian era to the war years (weekends only until 16 December) while at Castle Howard The Twelve Days of Christmas will have flamboyant displays and installations to surprise and delight daily until 31 December (closed 24-26 December).

If you’d like something a bit different for your Christmas decorations this year, why not create your own festive door decoration at Helmsley Walled Garden (1 or 6 December).

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, 16, 21, 22 December). Tours begin 4pm and early booking is recommended.

Christmas Festivals and Events

Enjoy A Victorian Christmas at Ryedale Folk Museum (1–2 December), including a visit from Father Christmas, festive crafty fun, Victorian fair games, dress-up in the Daylight Photographic Studio, festive music, Victorian dancing, festival storytelling and much more. Free entry all weekend, charges apply to visit Father Christmas.

Kirkleatham Museum's Victorian Christmas (1-2 December) has a free Victorian craft fair, a chance to meet reindeer, carol singing and a chance to visit Santa in his grotto.

Helmsley is going (nut) crackers this year (1 December) with a day of Christmas celebrations from 10am-4pm. This year's highlights include a giant Nutcracker Trail with ten six and a half feet tall wooden nutcrackers all waiting to be found for the chance to win a prize, take a selfie inside the giant inflatable snow globe, Santa's Grotto, live music, food and drink tastings throughout the town and more.  

Visit the popular annual Christmas Tree Festival, themed around ‘The Best of Helmsley' (and runs through daily until 16 December). Thirty beautiful trees will be individually and creatively decorated. 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 Red Riding Hood takes to the stage with a new take on this classic tale at Helmsley Arts Centre (other performances: 2, 4–9 December).  Plus all day parking in the long stay car parking is reduced to £1.50 for the day (and free coach parking).

Pickering's Christmas Lights Switch On on 1 December, sees the Market Place closed from 12noon for a Christmas Market, live music, hot food and mulled wine, a town treasure hunt, plus a visit from Father Christmas and the big switch on at 6pm.

Months in the making, the spectacular Christmas lights switch on at Thornton le Dale is also on 1 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 while Scampston's Christmas Market (2 December) includes a chance to meet Santa too.

Whitby's Winterfest (1-2 December) in Whitby Pavilion features pop-up market stalls, Santa, live music and entertainment and more. There's also the fourth Krampus Run (1 December) when St. Nicholas' and his dark counterpart, The Krampus, parade the streets of Whitby, who teases and punishes naughty boys and girls.

There's seasonal music to enjoy with Bilsdale Silver Band in the splendid surroundings of Rievaulx Abbey (2 and 9 December) as well as Ampleforth Abbey’s annual Christmas concert performing Handel's Messiah (9 December) while the Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band perform their free Traditional Christmas Carol Concert on 23 December (venue tbc).

Dress up in your best traditional period costume for Robin Hood’s Bay 25th Victorian Weekend (7-9 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. Highlights this year also include Baytown Food and Drink Festival at the Victoria Hotel, showcasing local ales and food from in and around the National Park.

Malton's fourth Dickensian Festival (8, 15, 21 December) features Victorian Street Theatre, Charles Dickens presents A Christmas Carol and A Christmas Carol in Concert, both at The Milton Rooms.

Finding Father Christmas

For those seeking Santa Claus, be sure to book your place well in advance!

Santa will be dropping by The Moors National Park Centre in Danby for two weekends over December: 1-2, 15-16. Visit Santa and his friends between 11am - 3:30pm* (*he will be taking a short break at lunch to feed the reindeer). There's no need to book just come along and you'll find Santa sitting comfortably in his grotto.

Little ones can visit Father Christmas at Nunnington Hall (weekends only until 16 December; booking is advisable).  At Burton Agnes Hall join Father Christmas, Mrs Claus and Jingles the Magic Elf on Saturdays (until 22 December).

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 23 December. If you're on the Pickering service, there's a chance to meet baby reindeers too and take your #reindeerselfie! 

Or join them for a special Whitby Winter Excursion (30 December and 1 January) for 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 NCBP Duncombe's Winter Owl Evenings (every Saturday until Christmas, 7-9.45pm), including a 2-course meal and mulled wine. Pre-booking required.

Our final exhibition for 2018 at the Inspired by... gallery continues throughout the month and runs until 20 January 2019 (daily until 6 January, then weekends only). See the work of Brigantia's artists and craftmakers showcase the best art, sculpture, textiles, carvings and ceramics.

Also in Dalby Forest, there's a chance to explore not only our own solar system, the moon and objects from deep space on one of Hidden Horizon's two-hour Stargazing evening events held on various dates throughout winter. Booking is essential (Adults: £12; Under 16s: £8 inc. hot chocolate/snacks). These tend to sell out quickly so be sure to book your place early!

Join Large Outdoors for an end of season walking weekend (29 December - 2 January), this year held in the picturesque market town of Helmsley. Great walks are still on the schedule, including the likes of Rievaulx Abbey and coastal classics taking in Whitby, alongside good food, open fires and country pubs.

Walk off your Christmas dinner on two Winter Welly Walks at Yorkshire Arboretum (26 December and 1 January) perfect for all the family, complete with hot drinks and homemade treats on your return. 

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.