Bolton’s spectacular Christmas attractions open this Saturday, December 7.
Thousands of visitors are expected to flock into town over the coming weeks, helping to boost trade over the festive period.
The Winter Festival programme is organised by Bolton Council with a host of partners, including headline partner Warburtons.
Bolton Council’s Director of Place, Gerry Brough, said: “There is something for everyone to enjoy in our Christmas programme.
“The ice rink and grotto are always popular and there are also plenty of activities on in Crompton Place, the Library and Museum, and Bolton Market.
“The Albert Halls will once again host our Mayor’s fair and our excellent pantomime. People can do their shopping, have a great day out and park for free at evenings and weekends in Bolton.
Executive Director at Warburtons, Brett Warburton, added: “Bolton is laying on a fabulous spread and we are sure this will be a wonderful event for all of the family. We’re really pleased to be supporting our home town and the council with their festive programme.
The town’s annual Winter Festival opens on Saturday - prices and opening times for the attractions vary.
To buy tickets for the rink and grotto, visit www.boltonwinterfestival.com or, from Saturday, pop into the on-site box office in the former BHS shop.
Bolton Winter Festival partners are Warburtons; MBDA System; University of Bolton; Impression Ltd; Greenhalghs, and Bolton FM.
Here is a round-up of the best of the yuletide fun:
Ice skating and cosy Christmas teepee café bar
A giant covered ice rink in Victoria Square, along with a cosy teepee café bar will open on Saturday, December 7 until January 3, 2020.
The rink can hold up to 180 people per ession. Open daily from 10am (closing times vary so customers are advised to check when booking).
Various discounts are available too, including the popular parent and child ‘Penguin Club’ (under-8s), midday madness and happy hour and a half.
Pop into the teepee for a tipple or winter warming hot drink. Sit back, relax and enjoy listening to some great local entertainment, including singer Redd and acoustic performer Luke McColl, on the live music stage.
Stage is open afternoons on December 7 to 8, 12 to 15, and 19 to 24. Performance times vary. Full list of performers here.
A nativity scene will also take pride of place in the square.
Santa and Festive Family Zone at Crompton Place
The former BHS shop, in Crompton Place Shopping Centre, will be turned into a family friendly festival zone.
The zone is free to enter and opens daily from 10am.
An enchanting Santa’s grotto will open from 10am to 6pm, Thursdays to Sundays, until Christmas (plus Monday 23 and Tuesday 24). Tickets cost £4 and everyone will receive a festive book.
Kids can write letters to Santa in the post room before visiting him in the grotto or send their wish list to the main man in a special postbox. After Christmas, come along to post thank you letters.
Free arcade games will also be available - older children can have a go at air hockey and table football arcade games, as well as snow cross and alpine racer computer games.
A free festive pop-up cinema will open on Saturdays. Showings as follows: December 7: 11am - Elf, 2pm - The Grinch; December 14: 11am - The Grinch, 2pm - The Elf, December 28: 11am – The Lion King, 2pm – Toy Story 4, and January 4: 11am - Toy Story 4, 2pm - The Lion King. Doors open 30 minutes before showing, spaces are limited.
Join in a free Christmas party on December 21, with magic shows on the hour from 10am to 2pm from magician Mark Daniel. Have a go at party games, dancing and lots of prizes up for grabs.
Children can also hop on board Santa’s Jingle Bell Bus, outside Barclays Bank, for a ride (cost £1). The attraction is open weekends from 10am to 5pm until December 21.
Meet Rudolph and his friends
Children of all ages will love meeting Rudolph and his friends, on Oxford Street, before their big Christmas Eve flight.
Meet reindeer on December 7, 8, 15, and 22 and donkeys on December 14, and 21 from 11am to 3pm.
Christmas pantomime at The Albert Halls
Aladdin, featuring an all-star cast, is playing Tuesdays to Sundays at The Albert Halls.
Starring in the show is X Factor and Hollyoaks star Ray Quinn. Other cast members include Jon Holling as Abanazar, Paul Tate as Widow Twankey and Graham Edgington as the Emperor of China.
Performances run until December 31. Book tickets online www.quaytickets.com/boltonalberthalls or purchase tickets from the pop-up box office in the former BHS store.
Festive events at the Library and Museum
Get into the festive spirit at Bolton Central Library and Museum with loads to do.
Visit the ‘Christmas in Bolton’ exhibition (on until January 5) - a light-hearted look at how the festival is celebrated by Boltonians. Share your festive images for inclusion by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
On December 6 and 7, 6.30pm to 8pm, join in ‘Christmas Escape from the Museum’. Help to solve the mystery and find Father Christmas. Tickets cost £5. Book online.
On December 14, from 11am to 2pm, come along and join in with some free family friendly panto style story fun with the tale of Cinderella. Book online. Catch a free showing of blockbuster Dumbo, at 2pm, in the Lecture Theatre cinema (no booking required).
On December 21, 10.30am to 3pm, don’t miss the free ‘Christmas Cracker’ extravaganza. There will be a special appearance from The Albert Halls panto cast from 11am to 1pm, free Christmas crafts from 1pm to 3pm, finishing with Christmas stories. The Grinch will also be showing at the Lecture Theatre cinema at 2pm. No booking required.
On Christmas Eve, at 1pm, catch The Muppet Christmas Carol in the Lecture Theatre cinema. No booking required.
Children can also join in free festive arts and crafts activities, from 1pm to 3pm, December 21 to January 4.
For full details and to book, visit www.boltonlams.co.uk or call 01204 332211.
Market festive fun
Visit Santa in the Lifestyle Hall, at Bolton Market every Saturday, as well as December 23 and Christmas Eve, from 10.30am to 1.30pm, and 2pm to 4pm (cost £2, every child receives a gift).
On December 7, a unicorn themed event will take over the market from 11am to 3pm. Meet three beautiful rescue ponies, make your own unicorn fruit cones and get your face painted – all for free.
On December 14, listen to the Tonge with The Haulgh Community Choir from 11.30am to 12.30pm, entertain the kids with free magic shows at 12.30pm and 1.30pm, plus balloon modelling. Browse pop-up artisan food and craft stalls from 9am to 4pm.
On December 21, the kids’ market kitchen will take over the venue from 11am to 3pm with free activities making spiced orange pomander balls and chocolate dipped pretzels.
And don’t forget to pick up all your Christmas dinner ingredients and gifts. The market will open its doors on Monday, December 23 from 9am to 5pm, and on Christmas Eve until 5pm for last minute festive shopping.
The market is closed on Boxing Day, otherwise open as usual (Tue, Thurs, Fri and Sat from 9am to 5pm).
Heaton Fold Garden Centre will also host a special Christmas artisan market on December 22. Stalls, music, street food and fizz will be on offer from 10am to 3pm.
Mayor’s Christmas Fair
Traditional festive fun will come to the Albert Halls this Saturday (December 7) with the Mayor’s Christmas Fair.
Local charities will be raising money for a variety of causes, with loads of bargains, Father Christmas Grotto (fee applies), giant tombola, and other raffles and tombolas - from 10am to 2pm.
Entrance is just 50p for adults, and free for children. There is free entry to the Christmas Fair if you are paying to see Father Christmas.
More information and travel
For more information visit www.boltonwinterfestival.com, @BoltonWinterFestival on Facebook or @BoltonWinterFes on Twitter.
Free parking is in operation weekdays after 3pm at Octagon, Topp Way, and Deane Road NCP multi-storey car parks until Friday, January 3, 2020 and all-day Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays.
Visitors can also use the free Metroshuttle 500 bus to get around the town centre.