It’s Christmas time in Dorset – and that means dozens of fab festive events, markets, and more. Perfect for getting yourself into the festive spirit!
Things like festive-themed trails at our scenic country parks, pop-up Christmas markets selling brilliant handmade gifts, and specially illuminated trails to explore after dark.
Not to mention numerous chances to meet Santa, as well as his elves and reindeer. This year, you can even meet live reindeer on a working farm!
I’ve divided this post into three sections. First up is a list of all the Dorset Christmas events which will be running throughout the festive season. The second section is a list of Christmas Lights Switch-On Events in Dorset, while the third is a quick list of all upcoming Christmas Markets (full list in this post).
Use the table of contents to skip ahead, or browse through the post for inspiration. There’s so much on, you’re bound to find something fantastic near you!
If you know of any great Christmas events and markets around Dorset that aren’t listed here, leave a comment at the end of this post or get in touch and I’ll add it in. Merry Christmas…
Update Nov 2023: We’ve made a start updating all the dates for this year’s events – but not all of them have been announced yet. Stay tuned!
- 17 Christmas Events in Dorset
- Christmas Tree Wonderland, Bournemouth
- Poole Christmas Maritime Light Festival
- Christmas at the Russell-Cotes, Bournemouth
- Christmas at Upton Country Park, Poole
- A Dorset Christmas At The Tank Museum, Bovington
- Illuminate at Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens, nr Weymouth
- Nutley Farm Christmas Lights & Reindeer Experience, nr Dorchester
- The Polar Express on Swanage Railway, Swanage
- Living Advent Calendar, Christchurch
- Christmas at Kingston Lacy, Wimborne
- Breakfast with Santa at Moreton Walled Gardens
- Christmas At Corfe Castle, nr Wareham
- Moors Valley Christmas, Ringwood
- Meet “Farmer” Christmas at Farmer Palmer’s, nr Poole
- Santa Visits Shillingstone Station
- Christmas at Spetisbury Station
- Bincombe Bumps Christmas Spectacle, Weymouth
- Christmas Events at Durlston Country Park, Swanage
- Christmas Nativity in Easton Gardens, Portland
- Weymouth Harbour Christmas Day Swim
- Dorset Christmas Lights Switch Ons
- Map of all Dorset Christmas Events
- Dorset Christmas Markets
17 Christmas Events in Dorset
Christmas Tree Wonderland, Bournemouth
2023 Dates: 17th November – 1st January 2024
Location: Lower Gardens and Town Centre
One of the biggest and best-known Christmas events in Dorset is Bournemouth’s annual Christmas Tree Wonderland. It’s a free trail of festive-themed illuminations throughout the Lower Gardens in the town centre.
This year, the lighting features and installations will stretch all the way from the Seafront, through the Square, and up to the Triangle, Beale Place, Horseshoe Common and the Lansdowne roundabout.
Amongst all these magical lights and decorations, there’s also a traditional Christmas market in the Town Square, the fantastic pop-up Alpine Lodge Bar, and an outdoor ice rink (one of two ice rinks heading to Bournemouth this Christmas).
READ MORE: Bournemouth Christmas Markets and Events
Poole Christmas Maritime Light Festival
2023 Dates: 25th November – 2nd January 2024
Location: Poole Town Centre, High Street, and Poole Quay
The Poole Christmas Maritime Light Festival will feature dazzling illuminations that weave through Poole Town Centre from the Lighthouse to Falkland Square, along the High Street and down to Poole Quay.
There’ll also be a Christmas market, festive food and attractions, a spectacular flotilla of lights and much more, so step back in time and celebrate Poole’s maritime history with a modern twist!
Christmas at the Russell-Cotes, Bournemouth
2023 Dates: 21 November 2023 – 2 January 2024
Location: Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, East Cliff Promenade, Bournemouth, BH1 3AA
Step back in time and discover the magic of a traditional Victorian Christmas at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum. The halls of the historic house are stunningly decorated for Christmas in traditional Victorian style.
Follow the Christmas Trail to find out more about Christmas traditions and collection items linked to this magical time of the year. There’s also a special Victorian Christmas Weekend on 2nd-3rd December, a Candlelight Night with special late opening hours on 14th and 21st December, and Father Christmas will visit the Russell-Cotes on the 6th, 9th and 10th December.
Christmas at Upton Country Park, Poole
2023 Dates: See Below
Location: Upton Country Park, Poole Road, Poole BH17 7BJ
There are lots of great Christmas events going on at Upton Country Park in Dorset this year…
- Christmas Craft Fair: 25th-26th November, 10am-4pm
- A fairytale Christmas at Upton Country Park walking trail: 9th-10th and 16th December – 1st Jan (excluding 25th & 26th December)
- Christmas Afternoon Tea in Upton House: 9th-10th December
- Meet Santa Paws: 13th-14th December
- Wreath Making Workshops: 1st Dec 6pm – 8pm and 2nd Dec 1:30pm – 3:30pm, £55pp
A Dorset Christmas At The Tank Museum, Bovington
2023 Dates: 18th – 19th November
Location: The Tank Museum, Bovington, BH20 6JG
Enjoy a Christmassy day out for all ages at Bovington Tank Museum. Watch live entertainment and buy unique presents from local crafters. Plus, children can explore the “Frank on a Tank” elf trail. You can even see Santa arrive in a tank!
Illuminate at Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens, nr Weymouth
2023 Dates: 24th November – 31st December
Location: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Buller’s Way, Abbotsbury, DT3 4LA
Timings: 4:30pm – 7pm
Head to Abbotsbury, a picturesque village near Weymouth, for the return of ILLUMINATE. In the run-up to Christmas, Abbotsbury’s stunning Sub-Tropical Gardens will be illuminated after dark for a truly spectacular experience.
Nutley Farm Christmas Lights & Reindeer Experience, nr Dorchester
2023 Dates: 24th November – 31st December
Location: Nutley Farm, Winfrith Heath, Dorchester DT2 8DT
This brilliant Christmas event at Nutley Farm in Dorset is returning for 2023, and will be raising funds for the Somerset and Dorset Air Ambulance. Enjoy the festive season under the stars with Nutley Farm’s Christmas Lights and Reindeer Experience…
- Meet the farm’s friendly reindeer.
- Wander along the magical illuminated 600m walkway, with glittering archways, twinkling trees and light installations.
- An Elf hunt, have fun finding the Elf’s as you enjoy the illuminated walk.
- Seasonal food, mulled wine & cider, hot chocolate and hot drinks in the festive barn.
- Santa will be visiting the farm on certain dates!
The Polar Express on Swanage Railway, Swanage
2023 Dates: 17th November – 30th December
Location: Swanage Railway, Railway Station Approach, Swanage BH19 1HB
The Polar Express is coming to Swanage Railway! This is a very special, hour-long train journey from Swanage Railway Station with characters from the book and film of THE POLAR EXPRESS™ onboard.
There will be singing, dancing, and interaction! Guests will receive a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie on the journey, as well as a special present on the return journey from the North Pole.
Living Advent Calendar, Christchurch
2023 Dates: 1st – 24th December
Location: Different venue each night
Throughout December you can enjoy the “Living Advent Calendar” in Christchurch. A “door” is opened every evening for a different 30-minute performance at a different venue in the town. There’s a variety of local performers including choirs, singers, bands, dance troupes, and theatre.
Christmas at Kingston Lacy, Wimborne
2023 Dates: 25th November to 1st January 2024
Location: Kingston Lacy, Wimborne BH21 4EA
There are lots of magical Christmas events coming up at Kingston Lacy, one of the most splendid stately homes in Dorset!
Explore the traditionally decorated house, with extravagant Christmas trees, garlanded fireplaces, and a dining room set for a fabulous Christmas feast. On the estate grounds, there’s also a festive Winter Wander Trail to explore the beautiful parkland.
This festive season, you can also take the kids on an adventure to find Santa in his hidden storybook nook for a cosy Christmas tale, an early gift and a photo with the man himself.
Breakfast with Santa at Moreton Walled Gardens
2023 Dates: 18th, 21st, and 22nd December 2023
Location: Moreton Walled Gardens, DT2 8RG
Head to Moreton Walled Gardens for a specially prepared Christmas buffet breakfast of pastries, pancakes, and fruit – plus milk and cookies – with a special visit from The Walled Garden Father Christmas and his Elf helper. Enjoy a special Christmas story reading, and every child receives a gift from Santa.
Christmas At Corfe Castle, nr Wareham
2023 Dates: Various dates throughout December
Location: Corfe Castle
There are lots of festive Christmas events on at Dorset’s iconic Corfe Castle this year…
- Lord of Misrule Story Telling (see website for dates). “Take a step back to the 17th century where our very own Lord of Misrule will take you on an interactive journey through the ruins of the castle and teach you the games, dances, stories and Christmas traditions of days gone by.”
- Discover winter traditions on the family trail (26th November – 6th January 2023). Explore the castle and learn about different winter traditions such as plays, decorations, food, songs and feasting from the Stuart era.
- Marshmallows, Firepits and Festivities (weekends and school holidays in December). Gather around a fire pit with a hot chocolate or a mulled wine and toast some tasty marshmallows.
READ MORE: Best Castles to Visit in Dorset
Moors Valley Christmas, Ringwood
2023 Dates: see below
Location: Horton Rd, Ashley Heath, Ringwood BH24 2ET
There are lots of fantastic festive events at Moors Valley this Christmas, including:
- Christmas Tree Shop: From 25 November 2023, 10am-4pm until sold out
- Christmas Quiz Trail: 24 November 2023 – 1 January 2024, £1.50 per trail sheet
- Festive Breakfast: 1 – 23 December 2023 (pre-booking is essential)
- Robin Hood Panto: 18 December 2023, 6.30pm – 8.30pm, £12pp
- Eco friendly wreath making: 28 November, 5 December 2023, 10.30am – 1.30pm, £30pp
Meet “Farmer” Christmas at Farmer Palmer’s, nr Poole
2023 Dates: 9th, 10th, 16th – 23rd December 2023
Location: Farmer Palmers Farm Park Ltd, Wareham Road, Organford BH16 6EU
Children can enjoy a farm-tastic day out at Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park and experience the wonder and excitement of meeting “the man in red” and all his festive friends in the Magical Christmas Barn. PLUS every child with a ‘Farmer Christmas Experience Ticket’ receives a great gift from the Elves at Ye Olde Toy Shoppe!
There’s also the super special Christmas Twilight Event (16th, 18th, and 20th -23rd December inclusive 4:45pm to 7:30pm). With an enchanted barn, photo opportunities, tasty food and, of course, Farmer Christmas himself!
Santa Visits Shillingstone Station
2023 Dates: 17 December 2023
Location: Shillingstone Station, Station Road, Shillingstone, DT11 0SA
Meet Father Christmas at the historic Shillingstone Station – part of the North Dorset Railway with all proceeds going to support the railway and its restoration projects. Call ahead to book a timeslot on 01258860696 or pop into the station cafe or shop to book in person.
Christmas at Spetisbury Station
2023 Dates: 17 December 2023 (10am until about 2pm)
Location: Spetisbury Station, Spetisbury Close, BH9 3QU
Price: Donation to the Spetisbury Station Project
This historic railway station on the old Somerset & Dorset Railway is hosting a special Christmas party to raise money for the station restoration project. There will be festive treats such as mulled wine, hot dogs, mince pies and savoury snacks – plus entertainment from a local ukulele band. You can also pick up some lastminute Christmas gifts from their selection of second-hand railway books, DVDs and framed prints – as well as the new Spetisbury station fridge magnets.
Bincombe Bumps Christmas Spectacle, Weymouth
2023 Dates: TBC
Location: Bincombe Bumps Events, West Farm, Weymouth, DT3 5PS
Meet Father Christmas, his reindeer, and the mischievous elves in this entertaining immersive experience. Folk young and old will enjoy the magical atmosphere getting creative in the elves’ workshop whilst delighting in festive drinks and nibbles. Children love to perch on the big bales whilst listening to a Yuletide story from Mother Christmas in the snowfall barn.
Meander the decorative tree light trail, spotting the unusual visitors to Bincombe, before you are free to meet nativity animals, and relax in the Christmas courtyard.
Christmas Events at Durlston Country Park, Swanage
2023 Dates: see below
Location: Durlston Country Park, Lighthouse Road, BH19 2JL
There are always lots of fab Christmas events running at Durlston Country Park on Dorset’s Isle of Purbeck. This year they have…
- Glass Engraving – engrave your own glass Christmas card. 17th December.
- Crazy Christmas Trail – Santa needs your help to get Christmas back on track. Follow the map around the park and help save Christmas. 14th – 31st December
- New Year Bottle Rocket Launch – decorate and launch your own bottle rocket. 28h December.
Christmas Nativity in Easton Gardens, Portland
2023 Dates: 24th December
Location: Easton Gardens, Portland, DT5 1EB
An interactive Nativity event hosted in Easton Gardens by Easton Methodist Church. Everyone can come with Nativity outfits on and torches or Christmas sparkly lights and join in. It promises to be a very special time!
Weymouth Harbour Christmas Day Swim
2023 Dates: 25th December
Location: Weymouth Harbour
Every year, the Weymouth & Portland Lions Club host the popular Christmas Day Swim in Weymouth Harbour. That’s right, a pre-Christmas-lunch dip in the chilly waters of Weymouth Harbour to raise money for the Lions Club Charities. Are you brave enough?
Dorset Christmas Lights Switch Ons
Looking for your nearest Christmas Lights Switch-On event in Dorset? There are loads going on across the county, check the list below for dates and locations…
Bournemouth: 17th November, Lower Gardens. It appears there is no specific event planned, but the Christmas Tree Wonderland opens on the 17th.
Poole: 25th November 2023
Brewery Square Dorchester: TBC
Weymouth: 25th November, 5pm, New Bond Street. There’s also an Elf Parade at midday and street entertainment throughout the town center.
Lyme Regis: 25th November, from 5pm, Town Centre. There will be events throughout the day and a lantern making workshop and competition at 2:30pm.
Christchurch: 25th November 2023, 11am-7pm (lights at 5:30pm).
Wimborne: 25th November 2023, 11am to 4:30pm (lights at 4:40pm).
Ringwood: 26th November, Ringwood Market Square. From 11:30am, lights at 6pm.
Swanage: 25th November, town centre, 5pm-7pm.
Corfe Castle: 2nd December 2023, from 4pm, lights at 5pm.
Shaftesbury: 27th November, 4pm – 8pm
Map of all Dorset Christmas Events
Dorset Christmas Markets
Below, you’ll find a quick list of all the Christmas Markets happening around Dorset this year – in date order.
Need to know more? There’s a full list of Dorset Christmas Markets here, which includes more information like location and pricing details. Save both these posts to help plan your 2023 festive season!
- Longthorns Two Day Christmas Market, Wareham 11th – 12th November 2023
- Alpine Market at Bournemouth’s Christmas Tree Wonderland, Bournemouth, 17th Nov 2023 – 1st Jan 2024
- Upton House Christmas Craft Fair at Upton Country Park, 25th-26th November 2023
- Highlands End Christmas Makers’ Market, Bridport, 18th November
- Festive Fair Compton Acres, Poole, 25th November
- Sherborne Festive Shopping Day, Sherborne, 3rd December 10am-4pm
- Littledown Christmas Market, Bournemouth, 26th November
- Mapperton House Christmas Market, Beaminster, 25th-26th November 2023
- Athelhampton Christmas Fair, Puddletown, 25th-26th November
- Shire Hall Christmas Market, Dorchester, 25th-26th November
- Swanage Christmas Market, Swanage, 2nd December
- Cerne Abbas Christmas Street Fayre, Cerne Abbas, 2nd December
- Poundbury Independent Christmas Market, Dorchester, 2nd December
- Nothe Fort Christmas Steampunk Festivities & Market, Weymouth, 2nd December
- Symondsbury Estate Christmas Market, Bridport, 1st-3rd December
- Handmade Wimborne Christmas, Wimborne, 9th-10th December
- Dorchester Christmas Cracker, Dorchester 10th December
- Shaftesbury Christmas Fair, Shaftesbury, 10th December
If I’ve missed any fab Dorset Christmas events from this list, please leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to add it. Have a great Christmas everyone!