There’s no denying that magic is in the air during the Waddesdon Christmas event. The Waddesdon Christmas fair twinkles underneath the festoon lights and night sky. The smell of mulled cider and creamy fudge fills the air.
And then of course, there’s the Waddesdon Christmas lights, set in two different sites of Waddesdon Manor. A chance to follow the illuminated trails and to enjoy quirky light installations.
It has all the makings for a perfect Christmas evening, but is it really the best one for young children? No.
Is it lovely? Yes, but if I’m being honest Christmas at Blenheim Palace is much better for little ones.
A Christmas at Waddesdon Manor Review
Christmas at Waddesdon Manor is a ticketed event that often sells out. Held in the sweeping grounds and the inside of this beautiful National Trust property, it’s a chance to get in the festive spirit.
Last year I decided to try a Waddesdon Christmas with my then 2 and 4 year olds, 5 year old nephew and other family. As much as we enjoyed it, we couldn’t help but compare it to the similar Blenheim Palace Christmas event which we’ve been to for the past few years.
We found Waddesdon Manor Christmas with kids hard from the get go. From the car park you have the choice of queuing for the shuttle bus or taking the 15-minute walk up the hill. The steward assured us the walk would be doable and so rather than faff with getting in and out of the buggy again we decided to shun the queue.
I think that steward must have had it in for us because that walk isn’t buggy-friendly. The majority of the track is covered in woodchip, which makes pushing a stroller super hard. We saw one dad carrying his stroller. And midway another steward questioned why we hadn’t opted for the shuttle.
Our 4 year old managed most of the walk, but as it’s mainly uphill and a decent walk (probably more like 20-30minutes with young children) I did end up carrying him for parts.
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Waddesdon Christmas Lights
Waddesdon Manor Christmas lights are spread throughout the venue. Festoon lights decorate the market walkways. Projections dance on the manor building. And the main lights are found in two sites that are at opposite ends. They each create an illuminated light trail if you like. There’s also a small indoor arty light show in the stables.
During our visit the bulk of one trail wasn’t working, which was said to be due to the heavy rain. Whilst I understand things like this can happen there was no steward at the start of the trail to warn us. There was no sign explaining the illuminated trail wasn’t really, well, illuminated.
It just so happened that we started with this trail and so the excited little ones soon started to question where the lights that we’d hyped up were. Thankfully we didn’t have any dramas, but the walk is quite long for little legs, so it was frustrating (especially as those little legs had already been worn out from the car park walk).
The Waddesdon Manor lights on the other trail were working, but didn’t blow me away. Perhaps if you haven’t been to Blenheim Palace or a similar venue you’d be impressed, but all of our party were just a bit meh about them.
There was no music for them to dance in time to or wow factor. Yes, they were nice, but not much more than that.
Unlike Blenheim Palace which is just one big loop walk, you need to plan your visit to ensure you have enough time to try both walks.
Recommended Reading: Blenheim Palace at Christmas
Waddesdon Christmas Market
Waddesdon Manor Christmas market is beautiful. There are two walkways filled with side by side cabins selling Dutch larger, knitted cardis, homemade jams, hipster burgers – you name it, it’s probably there.
We spent an absolute fortune on fudge (£5), brownies (£5), beer from the Netherlands (£5) and a burger (£10). Waddesdon Manor Christmas fair is expensive, but I wouldn’t expect anything else. The prices at markets at similar events have been about the same. And everything we had was delicious and the sellers were very welcoming.
Tips for Christmas at Waddesdon Manor With Children
- Allow 30-minutes to get from the car park to the venue. That will allow for the walk or take into account a queue for the shuttle.
- Plan to see the market whilst it’s still light – allow an hour with little legs, stopping to buy a few bits and sitting to eat them. Alternatively, if your children are good at sleeping on the go do this bit last so you can have a proper look.
- Also try to see the indoor bits while it’s light – so for example, the indoor light shows by the stables.
- Head to the light trails as soon as it’s dark – allow 30-60minutes for each one.
- Use a carrier rather than a buggy if you can.
- Bring snacks for little ones unless you want to spend a lot of money.
- Dress them in a snow/puddle suit to keep warm and dry. I’d also recommend hats and gloves, which can be taken off if needed.
Overall Thoughts on Waddesdon Christmas With Children
I realise this post sounds quite negative, but I genuinely hope it’s helpful in managing expectations. I wanted to experience Christmas at Waddesdon Manor for ages and had only ever read good things. I just think it’s better suited to older children or enjoyed without them.
Yes, it’s doable with young children and yes, we had a nice time, but it was hard work. Once you’re in the grounds it’s buggy-friendly, but the walk from the car park each way felt like an immense work out. And entertaining littles in the massive queue for the small shuttle bus didn’t seem like a good idea.
On a more positive note, the manor house is gorgeous – my 2 year old kept saying it was Belle’s castle – it really is beautiful. And the market looked lovely, but as it’s set on a narrow pathway (rather than an open space) it does get busy (as most do at these sorts of things). It can be tricky with young kids who aren’t tall enough to see the counters or get bumped by other people pushing past.
Tickets and Prices
Christmas at Waddesdon Manor 2020 runs from 14 – 22December 2020, though dates for the lights and other Christmas activities have yet to be confirmed. The event usually runs from November until around 5 January.
Tickets often sell out, so you’ll need to book ahead. They aren’t on sale yet.
In the past, adult tickets for the grounds were around £15 and under 5s were free.
Waddesdon Manor postcode is HP18 0JH. It’s in Aylesbury and is about an hour from Northampton and 1hr 40m from London.
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