We were invited along to experience Christmas at Blenheim Palace and let me tell you, the excitement was high having seen the amazing Nutcracker theme on their website! Donning our Christmas jumpers because I love wearing mine and can’t wait for the opportunity to get them out, we set off from Cheltenham straight after school. The journey from here is really easy, less than an hour, Woodstock is the ‘right’ side of Oxford for us so we get to miss all the main traffic and arrived at about 5pm. Which worked perfectly as we wanted to eat before the trail and I knew that there would be food stalls there and also, new to us having only been last year, a huge Christmas market to explore. (We went to the press opening night and received complimentary tickets)
The Christmas Market
Top tip: last year when we visited, there were food stalls only in the courtyard when you first come in, this year, if you carry on through towards the palace itself and the start of the trail, there are far more options and you can sit and watch the lights on the palace. Something I wish we’d done as there were some amazing sounding options and we didn’t get a chance to explore the market fully! There are also some sweet old fashioned fair ground rides which are £2.50 a go. You buy tokens from the main box office stand.
The Illuminated outdoor trail, Christmas at Blenheim Palace
Onto the illuminated trail itself. Wow. Just wow. It was absolutely incredible. Seriously breathtaking! Set to music, there were so many different sections and elements to it that it really will keep everyone gasping in awe and delight all the way through. You can do it as quickly or slowly as you like. I could honestly have spent the entire evening just wandering through. There is a bar along the trail and places to sit and stand around fire pits at various points so you can really make a night of it.
I don’t want to give too much away because I think half the magic is in the surprise of not knowing what’s coming but there were stunningly beautiful quiet areas, like the moon and star lit lake and the fire garden, and then exciting noisy bits, the rock carol laser show from the palace itself and the ‘firework’ trees are good examples of this. I genuinely don’t feel that any photos or videos can do a trail like this justice as there is something about the feeling of the cold crisp air and watching my children’s faces as they experienced it that you just can’t replicate but there are a few of my favourites.
For me my personal highlight was probably the rose garden, especially when it hit the rainbow setting! There was a circular route around and I recommend walking around a bit to find a gap and staying to watch a while. It’s so peaceful and beautiful. The illuminated tunnel was also beautiful. And make sure you look out for Santa! Who looked fabulous. And very traditional, my son said he looked a bit more like Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) which we loved being half Dutch! Do stop for a photo and a chat with him, he’s very friendly!
The Nutcracker themed indoor immersive experience
After the trail, we headed for the second part of the Christmas at Blenheim Palace, the house (the two are separate tickets but you can get a combined one for it all) which has an immersive Nutcracker theme that we were all very excited for. And let me tell you we were not disappointed! I was expecting great things but honestly, the scale of it was just mind blowing. The castle was closed for the week leading up to the opening and I don’t know how many people they had working on it but it was really a triumph. It feels like such an immersive experience, you are really living the story!
As you enter you’re greeted by the most enormous, exquisitely adorned trees. They really do take your breath away, towering up to the highest of ceilings and so artfully decorated. All the decorations complimented the rooms so well, it was just so lovely to see it in a different light. I have been around Blenheim before and found it amazing but this was just something elevated and far more fun for the children too, who often like to rush through historical places!
The trail leads you around the house, telling the famous story of the Nutcracker along the way using story boards and dioramas as well as the themed decorations that perfectly complimented each room. There is so much for children to see and look at that they will be fully absorbed. It was so cleverly thought out and really immersed you into the story.
I won’t ruin the magic but I would struggle to pick a favourite room. Genuinely. I think we could have spent a lot longer in there just marvelling at the skill of the decorators but we were aware that we were the last ones through so didn’t want to dawdle too much. Look out for some surprise live action at the end and a really special beautiful activity in the chapel that was actually incredibly moving for us all. My son said it was making him feel emotional just being in there.
I would recommend Christmas at Blenheim Palace to anyone, whether you have kids or not, it was such a special and fabulous evening for my children, myself and my Mum. I’d love to go back with friends and really make the most of it. I can imagine it would be lovely with a partner, or even on your own.
I do think Christmas at Blenheim is an expensive evening, with parking extra and then any food/drinks on top. But in my opinion, it was worth it. And I think that we could probably have stayed in the area and made 2 nights of it as there was so much to see. You could also bring down the cost by eating before you go, bringing drinks etc. If you’re looking for a really special and magical festive experience, I would highly highly recommend Christmas at Blenheim Palace.
The trail and the house are both separate tickets, (or you can buy both together) and are timed entry. Ticket prices vary but for a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) to both trails and car parking was £150 for a weekday in December. You can make it cheaper by just paying £10 for parking and then exploring the market for free. The illuminated trail tickets seem to be scarce but there are plenty of indoor times available. Find tickets here.
For similar festive events, find out what we thought of the enchanted light trail at the Cotswold Farm Park last year.