Now that the lights have been switched on officially with a bang by the Oracle and The Broad Street Mall, my home town of Reading can now officially say it is in Christmas mode. With one of the largest displays of Christmas street lights in the South of England the lights alone are a reason to visit Reading town centre this year but what else can you do whilst you are here...
1 - Reading Christmas Food and Craft Fair
Food Glorious Foooooood.... I don't know about you but the smell of good wintery food makes me feel ever so Christmassy. For 11 days this Christmas season the streets of Reading will be flooded with the smell of the Christmas Food Market. The Christmas Food Market will be serving a variety of food from around the world in the Town Hall Square, leaving you feeling warm and festive inside. You can stock up on all sorts of cheeses and yummy Christmas cake for this Christmas' ultimate ending to your culinary expertise on the big day. You can enjoy a mulled wine and hot food, I've even heard they have waffles mmmmmm waffles, whilst doing it too... what is not to like? Being so central makes this fair ideal for people working in Reading to get their Christmas mitts on the extras they need this Christmas. Those visiting and taking a break from Christmas shopping can make the most of what the many stalls have to offer too of course... I'd be there every day if I could!
Open every day from 27 November until 7 December, 11am – 8pm (till 5pm on Sunday)
The best part of this food fair is that it is right next door to my next 'Must Visit'...
2 - Make Reading
Make Reading is brought to you by the town's art enthusiasts collectively known as Jelly. For any craft and art enthusiast, or wannabe craft or art enthusiasts, this is for you. An 11-day beautiful festive celebration at Reading's Town Hall where the seasonal spirit will definitely be alive and kicking. With a beautiful gallery pop-up shop offering unique & handmade gifts, themed workshops, activities, a special performance by Berzerk Productions in a creative Santa’s Grotto, and crafty events for all ages, this is going to be an epic family Christmas stop, especially for any bored children and husbands shopping with mum.
- Open from Thursday 27 November - Monday 1 December, 11am -8pm , 3B's Café Bar, Reading Town Hall
- Tuesday 2 December - Sunday 7 December, 11am – 8pm, Soane Function Room, Reading Town Hall
3 - Reading Winter on ice
Ooooooooh WOW, I'm going to throw this out there, this is probably the coolest thing to hit Reading in a long time. From 9th December to 4th January, there is a purpose built 360 m² real ice rink, Reading Winter on Ice, and it will take pride of place beneath the Maiwand Lion in Forbury Gardens. Other pretty awesome activities will include a Santa’s Grotto, some themed Christmas rides for the kids, and big kids too, and including a thrilling 50 metre zip wire (I know where Kyd will be). On top of that madness there will be cute little festive chalets will be selling a range of gifts, oh and there will be daily entertainment which comes from local bands and festive carol singers, to get you in the magical mood of Christmas... sounds perfect to me I can't wait.
- Open from Tuesday 9 December 2014 - 4 January 2015 (closed Christmas Day)
- Times: 10am - 10pm daily.
- Online bookings: www.readingwinteronice.ticketsource.co.uk
4 - The Rotary Club 5k Santa Run
If you're one of those fit types, there will be a chance to get your running shoes on this Christmas too with the Reading 5k Charity Santa Run, organised by The Rotary Club of Reading. It takes place on Sunday 14th December starting at 9am (Running and an early morning?! This one is not for lazy d me!). The town centre route starts and finishes at Forbury Gardens and you'll be able to catch the runners and offer your support on Broad Street, The Oracle shopping centre and Kennetside paths. Good luck to all involved already, if you want to get involved check out their website... www.readingsantarun.co.uk
5 - Black Friday
Obviously shopping plays a huge part in Christmas nowadays and there are loads of independent shops in Reading I could highlight to go into. Take a look down the side streets of the town and you'll find some pretty little things perfect for any gift. Black Friday falls on 28th November this year and although an American tradition, we have, like many other things, adopted it as our own. I thought I'd add in some of the Black Friday events in Reading this year as the savings you make in this one day can often mean more beer money for the office Christmas Party... I am always thinking of you lot see!
- Oracle Shopping Centre - Open late 9am - 9pm, many shops holding flash sales and exclusive Black Friday offers.
- John Lewis - Open until 9pm too and you can never beat a John Lewis Christmas, so it's worth a look, even if it's just for a picture with the Monty the Penguin.
6 - Tamp Culture Coffee Company
Who? What? Where? Well following on from Black Friday I thought I'd spring you a Resident of Reading secret tip... When you are going from John Lewis to the Oracle (and back again) and are getting tired of all the Christmas shopping and need a pick me up, you will quite by chance smell the amazing smell of proper roasted coffee. Tamp Culture is run by two young local lads who believe in Coffee Excellence. Forget those tax dodging super chains who bulk sell pitiful ridiculousness and go independent this Christmas... support the small business and feel a little warmer this Christmas.
7 - Places to Meet Santa
Welllllll what’s Christmas without a visit to the big man in red? Santa/Father Christmas/The Big Man in Red will be visiting Reading in several different places in the build up to Christmas this year, he is really excited to meet everyone again and will be taking notes about the presents you ask for with his magic pen and taking note of who has been naughty or nice... so remember to smile sweetly.
Broad Street Mall - Saturdays from 10am - 3pm... A bit of extra fun at this one too... From 22nd November - 20th December every Saturday you will have a chance to catch Santa and his elves for a super cool selfie. The best selfie will be chosen and announced on Jack FM radio on the 22 December.
John Lewis - 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 & 21st December - To make your shopping experience even more enjoyable John Lewis has invited Father Christmas to visit the store, apparently no Monty the penguin joining him though... sad times.
Reading Winter On Ice – As above - Santa’s Grotto will be open from 9th December and will be very popular so get there early.
Somewhere in between the shopping and the Christmas cheer, your tummy will set to rumble mode and you may need to rest your tired 'serious shopper' legs and warm those cold shopping bag holding hands... no doubt at the end you will deserve a well earned tipple or two too, SO it's only right that I tell you my favourite place to lunch and drink in Reading. Tucked away from the crowds of Christmas shoppers and away from the chain restaurants and dull food places, sits a quaint little building on Merchants Place (the turning next to Nandos on Friar Street, opposite Smelly Alley). This quaint little building is home to Shed Café (8am-5pm) and Milk Bar (4pm-12am). Shed is run by a pretty cool young couple who love to create and serve new and exciting food to their customers, Oh and they have recently won a Pride of Reading award too... get them! Milk is owned and run by friends of the couple who are as cool as them and have awesome beards!... they didn't pay me to say that, I just like beards. Anyway, if you want a bit of peace and some good food in the manic Christmas season, Shed have a variety of tasty treats on offer. With different wintery soups and warming dishes, it is perfect to warm your cockles, as they say up north. Plus with Christmas themed Mash Up Wednesday's and Saucy Friday's you will be pleased you took a break from the norm and made yourself walk past Nandos to get it. Later on if you fancy a drink away from the crowds of youngens, Milk have some brilliant drink offers on too, buy 2 glasses of wine and get the rest of the bottle free, a 1/3rd off the price of their in house Prosecco, selected cocktails at £5, any 4 selected bottles of beers for £12... and for the non drinkers, any 2 non alcoholic cocktails for £5.... What's not to like?!
9 - Cinderella At The Hexagon
Saturday 6th December 2014 - Sunday 4 January 2015 - Cinderella is this year’s festive family pantomime at the Hexagon stars Jon Clegg (Britain’s Got Talent), Anna Wiliamson (Splash, CITV, Toonattik), Dave Myers (Hairy Bikers, Strictly) and Liza Goddard (Grandpa In My Pocket). As usual the Reading pantomime is something not to be missed with the spectacular scenery, costumes, fabulous songs and dance routines and hilarious knock-about comedy, it really does make this one not to be missed and one of the best traditional family pantomimes around.
Book online www.readingarts.com or on 0118 960 6060 or in person at the Hexagon Theatre
10 - It's A Wonderful Life - A Live Radio Play
My last must see in Reading this Christmas is a little play by Out Of The Box Performance with Reading Fringe Festival. Reading Fringe is also a Pride of Reading Award Winner and is the hub of the independent entertainment scene in Reading see www.ReadingFringeFestival.co.uk for more info. This little Radio Play will be recorded live and is offering FREE mulled wine and mince pies before the show and will be a little like watching the Archers, just actors using their voices and no movement... something a bit different this Christmas. It will be played on the radio in the following days and is something pretty cool to say you were involved with.
Thursday 11th December - South Street Arts Centre, South St, Reading - Book via www.readingarts.com
11 - Comedy and Curry
Once a month at Shehnai, London St, they deliver one of the best nights out Reading have seen in a long time. With the reputation of the amazeballs curry's at Shehnai, I should know, I've eaten loads of them and their beautiful venue (which by chance is where I had my wedding...) Shehnai have teamed up with some of the countries loved comedians (as seen on BBC3 and the likes, I'll have you know) to give us Comedy and Curry. I have been going to these since the start and I can personally recommend them. They are perfect for Office Christmas Parties and get togethers and sell out fast due to this. SOOOOOO If you like the look of this get yourself over to their website and book your tickets for the last 2 shows of the year... I might even see you there.
Book tickets on - http://www.readingarts.com/othervenues/whatson be quick about it!!
This is an informative piece. I was not paid for this review and I was not given the product to keep in exchange for my honest opinion of the venues listed and their features. Please see the T&C's at the bottom of the page for more information.
Photo Credits - LondonTown.com, GetReading.com, ReadingSantaRun.co.uk, Standard.co.uk, I-blackfridaydeals.com