Published on: Monday, 19 November 2018
Last updated: Monday, 19 December 2022
There are many magical Christmas events taking place in East Anglia this year, but after gift and food shopping it can be hard to stretch the budget for a family day out as well!
Thankfully, there are some free festive events taking place on the Greater Anglia network for families to enjoy!
Travel by rail for some additional ‘Polar Express’ style fun, beat the traffic and car park queues and save with our great value fares.
Children travel for just £2 return anywhere on our network anytime – just buy your ticket at the station or on the train, or you can save with a bargain Groupsave ticket.
Booking online or via our mobile app offers the cheapest fares and our online ‘Price Promise’ means that if you find a cheaper deal for the same journey or ticket elsewhere, we’ll match it and refund the difference.
Here’s our pick of the region’s free Christmas days out by rail for 2018.
There’s nothing like London at Christmas so a family trip to discover the lights of Oxford Street or Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is guaranteed to fill you with festive sparkle, and it needn’t break the bank.
Take a tube to Trafalgar Square and join in the carol singing around the enormous Christmas tree, visit Covent Garden’s stunning mistletoe chandeliers, or take in the beauty of twinkling Christmas lights along the Thames as you stroll along the South Bank.
Entry to Winter Wonderland (22 November 2018- 6 January 2019), where you can wander around the Christmas Market and take in the sights, is free but for access to the other festive activities, attractions and themed bars you’ll need to book tickets.
You’ll be transported to a place of wonder as you walk through the city centre’s beautiful Tunnel of Light, made up of 50,000 pulsating LEDs with sequences reflecting the patterns and colours of the Northern Lights.
Then from 7 – 23 December, discover the Christmas Market with its atmospheric wooden chalets while enjoying Christmas music, the delightful myriad of stalls, and delicious scents of mulled wine, hot ginger bread, grilled sausages and roasting chestnuts.
And because our dogs love Christmas too, there’s even a free event for your pooch on Saturday 8 December.
Bring your dressed up pups to meet Santa Woof Woof in his kennel shaped grotto at The Forum and be part of the seasonal silliness. Santa’s little helpers from the RSPCA will be handing out doggie treats and helping you take family pictures.
Santa and his reindeer are making an appearance at the town’s Christmas Market (open every day in December) on 3, 10 and 17 December from 12-2pm.
On Sunday 16 December, Hylands House, just a short bus ride from the station, is holding a free festive open day from 10am-4pm.
There will be carols and free guided tours to discover the secret history of the house, a delightful Christmas Farmers’ & Crafts Market as well as a visit from Father Christmas!
Be transported back to a 19th Century Christmas during Ware’s Dickensian Evening on Friday 7 December.
This unique festive event will include carol singing, street stalls, craft markets, a funfair and entertainment.
Many streets will be closed and traffic diversions will be in place, making public transport a great choice for this event.
Southend’s High Street comes alive with festive fun and Christmas spirit on Saturday 17 November, for the town’s Christmas lights switch on and seafront firework display.
In the town, Heart FM and live bands will entertain the crowds on the main stage at Victoria Circus while, at the other end of the High Street, the Royals Shopping Centre and Royals Square plays host to a wealth of events.
As an extra treat for little ones, the Little Royalty Christmas Club will be offering free face painting, arts and crafts, singing and Christmas themed games. There will also be a polar bear, performance area and footmen at each entrance giving away candy canes and crowns!
And from 1 - 24 December, children can visit Santa for free at SeaLife Adventure on the Eastern Esplanade. Have a letter written ready to give to Santa and check to see if you are on the good list!
Enjoy a seasonal exhibition of all the different festivals of Christmas at Forty Hall – a Grade 1 listed Jacobean Manor House in the town.
From the 6 – 31 December (11am-4pm) step in to the Hall to admire the fine architecture and stunning period rooms. Enjoy learning about the history of Forty Hall Estate through the ages and about the life of original owner Sir Nicholas Rainton.
On 30 November Forty Hall hosts a late night Christmas Fayre when the Hall and Historic Courtyard will be filled with a wide variety of stalls selling wonderful seasonal gifts and other treats to the sound of a gospel choir.
The Fayre continues on 1 and 2 December from 11am-4pm.
Stowmarket, Ipswich and Sudbury
Suffolk really gets into the Christmas spirit with three Christmas Tree Festivals taking place in the county, all easily accessible from the rail station.
Stowmarket’s Festival is believed to be the biggest in the country with over 350 Christmas trees on display from 23 November to 5 January. Locally it has become known as 'Suffolk's Christmas Tree Town' so a trip here is guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit and provide tons of inspiration for your own tree!
The hundreds of beautifully adorned trees can be found at three sites in the town centre - the Church, the Library and Abbot's Hall at the Museum of East Anglian Life – where this year the trees will be decorated in a gold theme to mark the Museum's 50th anniversary.
Ipswich also hosts a Christmas Tree Festival at St Mary-le-Tower Church in Tower Street from 29 November to 5 December and the Sudbury Christmas Tree Festival takes place at St Peter’s Church from 5 - 9 December.
If you’re in Cambridge over the festive period, the world famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge takes place on Christmas Eve afternoon. You’ll have to queue from 7am, with photo ID, to stand a chance of getting an entry ticket to this world famous event, but if you are one of the 500 lucky ones, what better way to start conjure some Christmas spirit than in the stunning surroundings of King’s College Chapel as the angelic choir sings traditional carols?
The event, which includes carols and bible readings, started in 1918, has been broadcast since 1928 to millions around the world.