York is special at any time of the year but at Christmas it becomes a winter wonderland where the narrow snickleways and cobbled streets are resplendent with decorative lights and colour.
The sound of church bells, choirs and music fills the air. Buskers on street corners sing Christmas songs, the smell of mulled wine wafts across your nose and you can warm your bones with a hot cocoa. Here are some suggestions to whet your appetite.
St Nicholas fair, York
Held until 23 December, St Nicholas Fair is back again this year after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic. Wintry Alpine chalets run along Parliament Street and St Sampson Square. Each chalet is stocked with unique products selling everything from stocking fillers and extra special gifts to tasty treats such as Yorkshire parkin and local cheeses.
You can enjoy a bite to eat or sip on some warming mulled wine in the cheery, buzzing atmosphere.
Head through the famous Shambles to King’s Square and discover the vintage carousel.
Head to York Minster to see their first Christmas tree festival in the cathedral grounds, with trees decorated by local businesses, schools and charities and the winter village – a traditional taste of Christmas.
Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland
Situated on the outskirts of York at the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet, Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland is free to enter, with separate tickets required for skating at The Ice Factor – the north of England’s largest outdoor real ice rink. With a 30 foot high Christmas tree as the centrepiece of the rink it certainly is something different!
There is a vintage funfair too, including the 1937 dodgems and a speedway from 1936. For younger children, Muffin the Mule and Hush the train will be a huge delight. Naturally, Santa will be in his grotto until 23 December before he starts to deliver all those presents.
It’s panto time again: Oh yes it is!
Dick Turpin rides again at the Grand Opera House as panto favourites Berwick Kaler, Martin Barrass, Suzy Cooper, AJ Powell abandon David Leonard appear in a production packed with comedy, dance and a Wagon Wheel or two.
Although Turpin was not born in York, he is buried in St George’s Churchyard on Fishergate.
The panto runs from 11 December to 9 January.
Somewhere to eat: The Ivy
For a special Christmas meal with excellent service, The Ivy on St Helen’s Square is a good choice. It is the ideal place to sit and enjoy the festive menu plus the range of carefully crafted Christmas drinks, including my favourite – the Carousel 75 cocktail. Even the entrance to the restaurant has what appears to be a carousel coming outwardly.
Mains on the festive menu include goose shepherd’s pie, turbot meunière or wild mushroom and truffle linguine. The Christmas pudding I tried was actually set on fire in front of me! If you do not fancy that, there are also warm mince pies, Colston Bassett stilton or a snowball flight – brandy ice cream, white chocolate, gingerbread and cream sauce.
Not something you would eat everyday, nor is The Ivy somewhere you would visit everyday. But for a special occasion such as Christmas it is an indulgent treat.