With Christmas fast approaching, it's the time of year for the Santa's Grotto, carol concerts and pantomimes. Portsmouth in Hampshire is no different and as part of the wider area has plenty for adults, children and the undecided this festive time. This look at some of the (predominantly annual) Christmas Events in Portsmouth will hopefully convince some of you to visit the city, whether it's from down the road or in the next county.
Christmas Fates, Fayre and Markets
Most of the "usual" establishments have the standard range of events this year.
In the harbour-front, Portsmouth's Gunwharf Quays shopping outlet has a Christmas Food Fair on the 10th and 11th December. Gunwharf usually has that extra touch when they host and food events also generally bring cooking demonstrations and the like. You will hopefully find me in the front row watching!
On the same Saturday 10th December Port Solent will be hosting its annual Christmas Festival between 10am and 6pm with its equally annual Christmas Carol Concert during the last hour. There are a range of more niche shops in Port Solent offering craft style items all year round.
The Portsmouth Historic Dockyard Victorian Christmas Festival takes place 25th - 27th November. This annual event is always popular and tickets are available online to see the Christmas market, entertainment and what is apparently the world's oldest Christmas pudding
Lastly, Portsmouth Guildhall are having a Boutique Market on Sunday 18th December.
The most plentiful of music this year (of a Christmas theme) is at shopping outlet Gunwharf Quays. Every weekend they will have a range of locally based music, as well as on the outlets two late-night shopping days 14 and 21 December.
There are a few locations in the outlet where they generally do this and highlights include: Ryde School, the Portsmouth Rock Choir, the Royal Legion Brass Band and Portsmouth Players.
For those that are sacred rather than secular, there are two events at Portsmouth Cathedral. The Portsmouth Festival Choir perform on the evening of 10th December and the Chorister's Choir on 17th December.
Portsmouth Guildhall also has a Christmas theme when the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra visits on 20th December, interweaved between rock bands and Jools Holland earlier in the month.
Southsea Castle are hosting their annual Christmas Party on 18th December - Tickets are needed though and recommended as buy in advance.
There are also many restaurants and nightclubs offering Christmas parties for your small business or friends. Gunwharf Quays has many including TigerTiger and Highlights Comedy Clubs; Grosvenor Casino and many more.
The BIG PANTO every year is at the Kings Theatre, Albert Road. This years production is Cinderella and is an almost thoroughly soap opera affair. This years guest castings are:
Coronation Street - Tracy Shaw
Hollyoaks - Marcus Patrick
Emmerdale - Stuart Wade
Emmerdale - Leah Bracknell
Last of the Summer Wine - Tim Owen
Also this year, although not necessarily Christmas themed is Peter Pan, at the Groundlings Theatre close to Gunwharf Quays. This not a production stuffed with stars, so might make a change for the young ones and can include a Christmas dinner as part of your booking.
Please Be Aware that the New Theatre Royal do not have a Panto this year. The theatre is in fact not advertising any shows at all from mid-December to February.
Drop The Children and Do The Shopping
Gunwharf Quays offer an unusual facility for parents during early evening shopping. On some mid-week evenings you can drop off your children at Aspex at the Lighthouse for two hours of Christmas activities or craft workshops while you have a leisurely two hours of retail therapy (or two hours of running around "ordering on behalf of Santa"). There are no other dedicated facilities for keeping children entertained in the retail sites of Portsmouth .
Now the fun part. Santa is a very busy man children, but he is making it to many local venues just for you.
In previous years (alas by word of mouth - my first born is due on Boxing Day) the better Grotto events have been at Debenham's, Commercial Road and Gunwharf Quays. This years Gunwharf Grotto will be a Snow Globe between 09-11 and 16-18 December.
Cascades Shopping Centre, Commercial Road are opening their Grotto on November 18th although they say that some dates in November are already FULLY BOOKED. Debenhams in Commercial Road, Portsmouth and Palmerston Road, Southsea are both offering Grotto's this year as well.
There is a Grotto this year in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard between 25th and 27th Novemeber. This is within the Victorian Festival of Christmas so you will need to be going into the fesitval to enjoy this one.
The good thing about Christmas Events in Portsmouth is that they are being held in a busy, but compact city. Most of the facilities are within 10 minutes drive of each other or the public transport system is plentiful, even on a Sunday. If you travel by train to Portsmouth Harbour or Portsmouth & Southsea, then onward buses are available from first Hampshire and Stagecoach in Portsmouth.