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14 activities to make the most of Christmas in Hertfordshire

PUBLISHED: 11:04 04 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:04 04 December 2019

The Snow Centre in Hemel has a real snow slope so you can pretend you're in the Alps

The Snow Centre in Hemel has a real snow slope so you can pretend you're in the Alps

Archant

Don't get bored over the Christmas period, here are fresh ideas to keep you and the family entertained right up to the new year

ACTIVITIES

- Head to the slopes

If you are hankering after a white Christmas in Herts rather than the usual grey one, then head to The Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead where there's always perfect snowy ski conditions. Christmas activities include sledging on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day or ride the ringo slide (a kind of inflatable toboggan run), suitable for children from age four. Warm up with a hot chocolate or mulled wine in their Schuss Bar. On December 7 covers band, UpTones, will be adding an après ski party atmosphere to Saturday night on the slope. thesnowcentre.com

- Dancing on ice

You may wobble around like a baby gazelle, rather than dance on ice, but skating is a wonderful winter experience. This year Van Hage Garden Centre in Great Amwell is reducing the number of skaters allowed at any one time on its real ice rink, so there's more room to release your inner Torville and Dean. Hire of skates is included and little ones can use a cute penguin skating aid. The rink, open until January 6, is all-weather with a heated marquee for spectators. Head for hot chocolate and other goodies in the Ice Café. vanhage.co.uk

- Christmas break out

We don't mean escaping from the in-laws but from Bishop's Stortford Escape Rooms. Santa's candy making machine is broken and only you and your team of elf engineers can save the day. You have just one hour to break the codes to be set free. The game can be played by up to 10 people - great for the family, especially with teenagers and their friends. knowescape.co.uk

Embrace the thrill and chill of wild swimming at Redricks Lakes, Sawbridgeworth (photo: Finnbarr Webster Editorial/Alamy Stock Photo)Embrace the thrill and chill of wild swimming at Redricks Lakes, Sawbridgeworth (photo: Finnbarr Webster Editorial/Alamy Stock Photo)

- Wild swim

Not for the faint-hearted, each Saturday throughout December Redricks Lakes Swimmers will take to the open water at the Sawbridgeworth lakes, whatever the weather - they have even been known to break the ice. Why do it? Swimming in cold water is known to give a sense of wellbeing. Message via the facebook page, Redricks Open Water Swimming Lakes, for details of how to join in (the group also do it in warmer weather too...).

- Christmas trails

Take the kids on a hunt for 20 hidden elves in Hertford. The Elf Escape around the town centre runs from December 14 to 27. The county town also has a Winter Wonderland Trail from December 28 to January 11 when children can search for knitted characters including Olaf from Frozen, eskimos, penguins and skiiers all made by the fabulous Secret Society of Hertford Crafters. Both free trails are organised by Hertford Town Council and take in shops and attractions, plus there are treats at the end. Pick up maps from Hertford Tourist Information Centre.

Over in Tring, the little'uns (ok, you can go too) can follow Rudolph on a Christmas Trail around the Natural History Museum. On the journey discover lots of species, hidden reindeer and plenty of games to take part in. hertford.gov.uk, nhm.ac.uk

Feed the penguins at Paradise Wildlife Park (photo: PersimmonPictures.com/Alamy Stock Photo)Feed the penguins at Paradise Wildlife Park (photo: PersimmonPictures.com/Alamy Stock Photo)

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ARTS

- Festive film festival

From laughing your Christmas socks off at Elf or welling up watching It's a Wonderful Life, a Christmas movie is a must to get your bells jingling. With this in mind St Albans Museum + Gallery is hosting a Winter Film Festival with matinee and evening showings on December 7 and 8. As well as the two films already mentioned, screenings include Love Actually and Die Hard (yes it is a Christmas movie) and there's food and drinks too. stalbansfilmfestival.com

- Capture a city in a day

An intriguing photography competition to capture 24 subjects in one day in St Albans takes place on December 14. The 24 in 24 organisers will release a list of 24 themes to photograph at 11am at St Albans Museum + Gallery as well as on social media feeds. It's open to all ages and all levels of experience, so whether you fancy getting family and friends together for a fun event with your camera phones or you're a keen photographer with all the high tech gear; it's a great way to be creative and explore the city. The best images will be exhibited in St Albans Museum + Gallery.

Olaf and friends are hidden in Hertford - grab the kids and try and find them (photo: Secret Society of Hertford Crafters)Olaf and friends are hidden in Hertford - grab the kids and try and find them (photo: Secret Society of Hertford Crafters)

- Big cat concert

If you have ever dreamed of Christmas on safari in Africa, you can get a taste of it right here in Herts. Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne is putting on what must be a unique carol concert on December 14, in the viewing area of the white lion enclosure. Visitors can sing to the big cats as they snooze for the evening. Don't worry, there's glass in between, so if you're a bit off key you won't be eaten! Staying in Africa, alternatively head to the penguin experience (they're African penguins). It includes a chat with one of the birds' keepers and a chance to get up close and feed these remarkable animals. pwpark.com

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DINING OUT

- Ditch the turkey baster

If you spent most of last Christmas Day in the kitchen, why not head out and let someone else take the strain? For a festive meal with a twist Veer Dhara in St Albans is open on Christmas Day offering fine regional Indian cuisine, Auberge du Lac on the Brocket Estate near Welwyn has a five course Christmas menu and Thompson in St Albans has a seven course tasting menu. For seafood lovers, Loch Fyne Seafood and Grill, again in St Albans, is offering a Christmas menu with vegetarian options too. On Boxing Day, Beech House in St Albans will be open for brunch. For afternoon tea with carols, head to Tewinbury Farm near Welwyn on either December 10 or 11, with singing by Welwyn Garden City Choir.

Staff from Express Vending volunteering at DENS foodbankStaff from Express Vending volunteering at DENS foodbank

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CHARITY

- Christmas camp out

For a taste of what it's like to be without a roof over your head in winter, join St Albans Sleepout. Raising awareness and funds for homeless and vulnerable people in the county (while having fun), the event at Oaklands College in Smallford near St Albans on December 6 is part of a national charity campaign that encourages us to sleep outside so a homeless person doesn't have to. It goes without saying you'll need warm clothes and a sleeping bag, but also bring cardboard (there's the chance to get creative) and/or a groundsheet; we don't want any soggy bottoms please. hyh.org.uk/sponsoredsleepout

- Give a helping hand

It's a time for giving, and that can be the precious gift of your time. Charity DENS, based in Hemel Hempstead, needs volunteers on Christmas Eve to make up hampers of Christmas food and help deliver them to those in Dacorum who are struggling at Christmas. The charity also needs extra hands in the week before to help with its Christmas appeal donations, including wrapping gifts. You could really make someone's day. dens.org.uk

Boxing Day brunch at Beech House, St AlbansBoxing Day brunch at Beech House, St Albans

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TO DO AT HOME

- Reverse advent calendar

This is a great one to do with the family to enter into the spirit of Christmas. Instead of a normal advent calendar which hides a treat behind each window, you give something instead each day of December up til Christmas. This can be as simple as making a cup of tea for someone, donating to a food bank or giving over the TV remote for the evening.

- Alternative carol singing

Each person is given a line to sing of The Twelve Days of Christmas on a piece of paper. Everyone joins in the introduction and 'five gold rings' but each person must stand up to sing their individual line and then sit down. Not as easy as you think, and great fun as it inevitably ends in chaos.

- Christmas pass the parcel

The festive take on the children's game can be enjoyed by all the family. Each layer of wrapping has a chocolate coin and a challenge. This could be anything from naming all the dwarves in Snow White to singing Away in a Manager or pretending to be a turkey on the run from a farmer.

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