10 things to do in Derby this Christmas

Little girl on derby ice rink

Thu 14 Dec 2023

There’s Christmas magic in the air in Derby with lots of activities for all the family to enjoy, from a festive train ride to captivating theatre shows and an engaging reading challenge.

As the weather gets colder and budgets tighter, we’re all looking for ways to keep everyone happy over Christmas, so we’ve included some of favourite free activities too. In addition, the city’s network of Warm Welcome hubs will be open in the run up to Christmas for anyone who needs somewhere warm to go with a hot drink and a meal. For information on location of your nearest Welcome Hub, visit the Community in Action web page.

You can also get support with the cost of living at our online hub, which is packed with advice and support.

  1. Get your skates on!
    The Cathedral Quarter Ice Rink has returned to Derby Market Place for the festive season. A fantastic option for family - fun and also great exercise! Adults and children of all abilities can enjoy whizzing around on the ice in our hourly sessions, with prices including skate hire. New for this year are sit-on skate aids which are free to borrow for those who want extra support on the ice.

    Open until Sunday 31 December, book tickets from £8.50.

  2. Nordic Express
    Get on board the free Nordic Express, as the train takes a scenic route though the Market Place down to the Cornmarket and back. Take in the festive journey and have the best seat to see the city’s lights. Catch the Nordic Express outside the QUAD building in the Market Place.

    Open every weekend in December, Fri 22 Dec and Tue 26 to Fri 29 Dec.

  3.  Winter Mini Reading Challenge
    The Ready, Set, Read! Winter Mini Challenge is back with more free fun activities to keep children busy over the colder months. It’s a great way to encourage youngsters to foster a love of reading, and Derby’s warm and welcoming libraries have a huge range of books to choose from.

    To take part in the Winter Mini Challenge, children simply read three or more books – these can be any book they choose. Every time they finish a book, they add it to their Challenge website profile and leave a short book review.

    Start reading now, and the challenge continues until 19 Feb 2024.

  4.  Panto – Mother Goose
    Coronation Street Todd Boyce stars alongside award-winning Dame Morgan Brind in the Egg-cellent action-packed pantomime Mother Goose, which is guaranteed to have the whole family honking with laughter.

    Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a trip to the panto, so come and see the spectacular sets, breathtaking special effects and egg-squisite costumes, as the mayhem of panto unfolds at Derby Arena! Tickets available until Sunday 31 December, starting from £19 with concessions and family tickets available.

  5.  Naughty Meg and the Christmas Elves
    The Babbling Vagabonds make their festive comeback this Christmas with the uproarious tale of Naughty Meg and The Christmas Elves.

    Born in a storm, Meg has always caused havoc.The naughtiest girl in the world has reduced Mum and Dad to gibbering wrecks, neighbours hide their children from her cruel clutches, even the wasps give this tornado of trouble a wide berth. On one fateful day she upsets the Christmas Elves – and war is declared.

    From Thursday 14 to Thursday 30 December at Derby Museum and Art Gallery, this family fun show will have children, grandparents, siblings, parents and friends in stitches. Ticket prices from £15.

  6.  Enjoy the festive atmosphere in Market Place
    Experience a festive treat at Derby Market Place. Step out of the cold and immerse yourself in the inviting warmth and delightful aromas of the Nordic Bar. Indulge in a variety of hot and cold beverages, delicious food options, and enjoy the entertainment with a line-up of music, theatre, and comedy. Bring your family and friends for an unforgettable experience!

  7.  Follow the trail of our mischievous elves
    Spot the cheeky elves in Derby city festive shop window displays with this fun, free activity to keep little ones amused. Collect clues to solve the puzzle and post your free entry in the Post Box outside the Nordic Bar in the Market Place to enter our special prize draw.

    Download your map.

  8.  Take a walk in the park
    Derby boasts an array of fantastic parks and open spaces right on our doorsteps. Most neighbourhood parks have a small play area for younger children, with swings and see-saws. Meanwhile, our larger city parks cater to all ages, with a wide range of activities and equipment suitable for toddlers through to teenagers, ensuring they can burn off some energy while having a blast.

    For an adrenaline rush, explore the BMX tracks at Alvaston, Osmaston, Chaddesden, or Sinfin Moor Parks. Additionally, discover equipment like outdoor gyms, mazes, zip wires, or sand pits. Don't miss the incredible free play area at Markeaton Park, and while you're there, visit the Craft Village for a unique gift and indulge in delectable treats at the Craft Village and Orangery. Visit the Markeaton Park website for more details, including opening hours.

  9.  Take part in Derby’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Programme
    Derby City Council is working in partnership with Community Action Derby to provide free holiday club places during the holidays, from 2 to 5 January. The scheme offers activities and food to children aged 5 to 16 who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals in Derby. There are over 20 providers offering a range of activities in all wards across the city.

    The holiday clubs will offer the chance to try new and enriching activities including gardening, animation, and music production, as well as sports and physical activities like street dance, circus skills and self-defence. Trips will include visits to the pantomime, ice skating, bowling and laser quest.

    Children will also be provided with a healthy meal and given the opportunity to learn about healthy food and nutrition. Families can find out about all the activities and providers for Derby by visiting the Derby HAF webpage.

  10.  Get on your bike
    If you’ve always fancied trying track cycling, now is the time. Derby Arena offers track cycling taster sessions for anyone aged 9 years and above, these sessions are the perfect chance to give this exciting sport a go!

    There is also balance bike sessions at the Arena on Mondays and Fridays, 12 noon until 1pm. See the Derby Arena website for details and to book your session.

    If you’d rather be out in the fresh air, there are some wonderful cycle routes in Derby for a free family bike ride. Cycle Derby has details of the routes on its website.

    For those new bike owners, Cycle Derby is providing Learn to Ride 50 minute sessions at Markeaton Park on 27 and 28 December, 3 and 4 January. There are 50 minute sessions throughout the day from 10am to 2:30pm, find out more on the Cycle Derby web page.