There are plenty of ways to get in the Christmas spirit in Chester and Cheshire. Here are some of the highlights and for more ideas go to www.visitcheshire.com/christmas.

Chester cheer
Chester sparkles at Christmas, from its ancient city walls, to its 12th Century Cathedral, and beautiful medieval Rows. Opening the festive season, the spectacular 12 Days of Christmas Parade takes to the streets (24 November), with dancing ladies (top left) among the characters from the carol out on the cobbles.

A more curious cast of marching Roman soldiers and the Lord of Misrule and his mischievous coterie of fire breathers, devils, skeletons and ice queens turn out later in the season for the annual Winter Watch and Saturnalia Parade (15 December).

Shoppers will be even more spoilt for choice this year with the opening of the new multimillion-pound indoor market, featuring a mix of traditional vendors and global street-food outlets. Just outside, the Christmas Market (above left, 18 November-21 December) marks its 10th anniversary with more than 70 yuletide cabins, in which independent and local traders will be selling everything from hand-crafted gifts to mulled wine.

For the first time there will be a Christmas Bazaar on the famous Rows, the historic open first-floor walkways that line the streets at the heart of the city. Meanwhile, festive events include Santa in the Sky, fairground attractions, and a giant Christmas tree at McArthurGlen Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet, just outside Chester.

Storyhouse will stage Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen (10 December-15 January) and Chester Cathedral will flick the switch on its annual Christmas Tree Festival (24 November-8 January) with music from the choir.

And Santa will make appearances in his Enchanted Grotto in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre (25 November-24 December), and on special Santa Cruises on the River Dee (4, 10, 17 December) with Chester Boat. 

Animal magic

The Lanterns at Chester Zoo (above right, 11 November-23 December) returns to transform Britain’s second most-visited paid-for attraction into a wonderland when the sun goes down. This year's journey lit with amazing animal-shaped illuminated sculptures features a Norwegian fairytale land with glowing castle and huge white bear, and a UV Bornean jungle with life-size orangutan puppets. 

Panto pranks

BeWILDerwood Cheshire, near Malpas, will put on its very first Christmas event, BeWILDerwood Presents Christmas – A Sparkly Light & Panto Trail (2-23 December). At dusk in the Wonky Woods, the adventure park’s curious characters will come out to play and even put on their very own pantomime.

Seasonal flavour

Youngsters have voted with their feet to make The Ice Cream Farm, near Tattenhall, one of the UK’s top visitor attractions. At Christmas, there'll be the chance to eat Breakfast with Santa and make Christmas Cookies with Mrs Claus (26 November-24 December), as well as order a cone in the world's largest ice-cream parlour.

Twinkle twinkle

Illuminated trails will light up the skies across Cheshire, at Luminate UK at Walton Hall Gardens in Warrington (24 November-25 December), Christmas at the Magical Woodland at Blakemere Village near Northwich (25 November-1 January), Christmas at Delamere Forest near Chester (25 November-31 December), Christmas at Dunham Massey (top right, 18 November-2 January), and Christmas at Bolesworth near Tattenhall (2-24 December).  

Dress to impress

Macclesfield’s local businesses will compete for best-dressed Christmas window when the curtains open on its annual Advent Window Trail (1-24 December).

Stately style

Tatton Park, in Knutsford, will transport visitors to panto-land with the festive styling of its magnificent state rooms, Once Upon a Pantomime: The Christmas Mansion (22 November-1 January). The sights, sounds and even smells of Christmas past will return to the halls of Lyme, near Disley, which will be festooned in Edwardian decorations for Make Christmas Memories at Lyme (2-24 December).

Deck the Hall at Little Moreton Hall, near Congleton, will celebrate Christmas traditions old and new at the Tudor manor (2-4, 9-11, 16-18 December). Christmas candles and luxury wreaths are the subjects of craft sessions at Capesthorne Hall, near Macclesfield, (26-27 November). And mince pies, mistletoe and mulled wine will all be on sale at the Christmas Farmers Market at Rode Hall, near Congleton, (3 December).

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