Get ready for the festive season with Experience West Sussex

The holiday season is now upon us! If you haven’t already, it’s time to start that present list, plan your Christmas lunch with friends or family and get in the festive spirit at one of West Sussex’s many Christmas markets.

Whether it’s organising your festive feast with all the trimmings or finding the tallest tree for your home, we’ve put together a list to help you get ready for the occasion.

If you’re stuck for gift ideas, delve into Shop Sussex, our online West Sussex emporium. From spa breaks and award-winning sparkling wine to gift vouchers and attraction tickets, it’s packed full of independent retailers based across the county to help you find something unique for your friends and family!

Get in the jolly spirit at a Christmas market

Cowdray Farm Shop at Christmas
Cowdray Farm Shop
Image by Arundel by Candlelight
Image: Arundel by Candlelight

As Christmas stalls and markets pop up all over the county, filling the air with the scent of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts, it’s hard not to feel festive.

Whether it’s shopping for that perfect Christmas gift, stocking up on foodie treats for the big day, or celebrating over a glass of Sussex fizz with friends and family ‘Arundel at Christmas‘ is the perfect month-long, festive event. Highlights include Christmas workshops, markets, trails and illuminations all happening throughout December.

Get ready for Christmas with late-night, relaxed shopping at Cowdray Farm Shop. Get personalised advice for your Christmas dinner from the butchery and deli team as well as plenty of inspiration for gifts and stocking fillers, all while enjoying a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie.

Look out for late night shopping events, local markets and selected free parking in beautiful Chichester. Whether it’s delicious locally sourced food or a unique, artisan gift; there will be plenty to see throughout December. Keep up to date on the festivities here.

Add a bit of sparkle and sample some local delicacies

Wine lover? Join Tinwood Estate for a guided vineyard tour, followed by a wine tasting of each of its three sparkling wines, alongside a platter of afternoon tea treats overlooking the beautiful vineyards. You’ll gain a fascinating insight into how Tinwood grows its vines and makes its wines and you can even stock up with your favourites for Christmas!

Albourne Estate is celebrating the festive season by opening up its tasting rooms in December for the return of our ever-popular Christmas wine-tasting weekends. Throughout these weekends there will be a wide range of bottles open for complimentary wine tastings. Their team of experts will be on hand to offer guidance and advice to help you find the perfect Christmas Day tipple and even some exciting festive gift packs!

Take the little ones to a wintery wonderland

There is nothing better than the magical build-up toward the holiday season, so why not take the kids to Tulleys Christmas Experience in Crawley where they can soak up the excitement with ice skating, gingerbread decorating, bear making workshops, sleigh rides and encounters with elves, a 3D cinema and even a Christmas circus?

Make the most incredible memories and celebrate Fishers Farm Park’s spectacular ‘Festive Fishers’ event. Take a trip to Santa’s grotto, Santa’s toy store, watch a Christmas show and even enjoy an interactive nativity. You can also make a whole day of it with over 40 rides and attractions, indoors and out!

Alternatively, hop aboard Santa’s steam train for a magical journey to Santa’s grotto and back on the South Downs Light Railway near Pulborough. The whole family will enjoy this unique experience, with a special gift for the little ones and a festive drink for the grownups to enjoy.

These magical events are likely to sell out quickly as the holidays approach, so be sure to book early!

Add a bit of sparkle to your evenings

Fill your evenings with colour, joy and a bit of sparkle and head out to one of our atmospheric after-dark illuminations events.

Brighten up the chilly evenings with a ride on Bluebell Railway’s SteamLights, a magical steam train covered in thousands of colourful lights. As you ride illuminated through the dark landscape, you’ll be able to enjoy festive displays, music and narration.

Or how about exploring the beautiful grounds of Leonardslee at night? Each year, they light up their immaculately landscaped Grade I listed gardens with Christmas illuminations and trails through the woods. Enjoy the enchanting light displays, music, theatre and their iconic illuminated moon which floats majestically over the lake.

Back for its eighth year, Wakehurst’s Glow Wild brings the gardens to life with lanterns, projections, soundscapes and torches of fire. You can also see the tallest living Christmas tree adorned with 1,800 lights – this is a great event for all ages!

Find the perfect Christmas tree and unique decorations

As it gets closer to the big event, you’ll want to find the perfect tree to put your gifts underneath and decorate with festive baubles. Luckily, there are plenty of spots in West Sussex to pick your own and take it home.

Sussex Trees at Goddenwick Farm near Haywards Heath have trees up to 14 feet tall, with resident reindeer, pygmy goats, alpacas, ducks and peacocks to spot on your visit, too.

Closer to Horsham, the Furze Firs plantation has vast fields of fir trees, surrounded by local wildlife – plus, here you can even cut your own!

Once you’ve found your ideal tree, you’ll need to decorate it! Check out Shop Sussex for inspiration on where you can find locally made gifts and ornaments that will look right at home, nestled amongst the branches, or pop along to one of the Christmas markets mentioned above to see what treasures you find.

West Sussex is the perfect spot for a wintery trip with loved ones, four-legged friends or even for a solo adventure. Whether exploring some of our beautiful parks, forests and countryside, visiting village fairs or hopping on a steam train to Santa’s Grotto, we’re sure you’ll make plenty of memories during your trip and bring home some unique trinkets to help you feel ready for the holidays! For more inspiration on things to do or what’s on around the county, visit our website.

Don’t forget, you can also sign up to receive our newsletter for all of the best bits of West Sussex straight to your inbox, plus exclusive offers and competitions.