The Christmas holidays are nearly here, a time for many families to celebrate, get together with friends and family and enjoy the festivities.Every parent wants their child to have a fun, relaxing holiday. But, worrying about finding accessible Christmas activities that everyone can join in with shouldn’t add to the stress of last-minute Christmas shopping. Fortunately, there are a whole range of local, accessible and festive activities to get you and your family out and about this year – there’s something for everyone, whatever the weather!
Get into nature with at Westonbirt Arboretum Enchanted Christmas trail and Ashton Court Estate
Enter a magical, illuminated light trail of interactive displays and installations amongst the forest at Westonbirt Arboretum. There is also a Christmas village with festive food and drink as well as fairground rides. The trail is on hard, marked paths and is fully accessible for wheelchairs users so you can wander and wonder with ease.
Or for something a little closer to Bristol, you could take a wintery visit to the historic grounds of Ashton Court country park. With 850 acres of nature, why not get a festive drink from the courtyard cafe and take a look at the deer that live in the magical woods and grassland. There are a number of hard paths for wheelchair users. You could even visit Father Christmas in his grotto at the Father Christmas experience at Ashton Court mansion!
Relaxed and assisted theatre performances and cinema screenings
Want to check out the latest Christmas movie or a theatre show over the holidays? Venues like the Watershed and Bristol Old Vic offer relaxed performances of shows for audiences with additional needs who would benefit from things like lower volume, reduced capacity, sensory input and house lights on. Assisted shows and screenings are also offered which include audio described, signed and captioned performances. Check out how to book or enquire about these performances at various Bristol venues here, including Tobacco factory theatres and Bristol Old Vic. Our top picks are Christmas production, Four Seasons, and reimagined classic Oliver Twist! Or if you fancy a Christmas pantomime, get your tickets for Peter Pan now!
Calm sensory activities at the SS Great Britain and Bristol Aquarium
Visit Bristol’s SS Great Britain during one of their openings designed for neurodivergent children and families with a calmer background environment. During these sessions audio, visual and smell effects will be reduced or turned off, and there will be a dedicated quiet room as well as drop in craft or sensory activities. The sessions vary, with some during weekdays in holiday time and some at weekends to make sure there is one to suit everyone. Check their 2024 dates on their website and find out more about their accessibility here.
Bristol Aquarium also offers regular sensory awareness mornings, and the aquarium is fully accessible for wheelchair users. There is a hearing loop system installed, and registered carers get free entry with a Disabled visitor. Explore their winter trail around the aquarium or visit their undersea Christmas grotto whilst you’re there to really get into the festive spirit.
Bristol Zoo Project
Get outdoors and discover the wild with Bristol Zoo Project this Christmas. They offer relaxed sessions as part of their regular programme – these are out-of-hours events for children and families with additional sensory needs to be able to visit in a quieter environment. There will be quiet spaces, no animal talks, reduced noise levels and staff and volunteers who have taken part in Autism Awareness Training so you can feel fully supported. Check their website for dates. Over Christmas, visit their festive and wildlife filled woodland and enjoy some festive fables in a cosy tipi tent too!
The Royal West of England Academy has a dedicated family activity space that is free for everyone and contains art materials, dressing up, a family activity trail and sensory bags containing things like noise cancelling headphones, hand puppets and fidget toys. They also have a quiet room (the Youngwood room) which is a calm, quiet environment with beanbags, comfy chairs, audio for white noise, a dark tent and weighted blanket. It is always available on Fridays and Saturdays 10-12.30pm and at other times if it isn’t booked out. There is level and step free access to the galleries and cafe, and they are running a number of events over the holidays including Happy Families for families with SEND and Disabled children. This is a sensory workshop in a quiet and calm space, led by an artist on a day when the gallery is closed to other visitors. These happen every school holiday, so come and get creative this Christmas!
We wish you a very happy and fun filled holiday from everyone at the Children and Young People department at WECIL. For more information about the services that WECIL and our partners offer have a look at our website here.