13 free things to do in Gloucestershire this Christmas

Christmas celebrations in Gloucestershire don’t have to cost a fortune, thanks to SoGlos’s round up of 13 free things to do in the county over the festive season.

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
Make the most of Christmas this year without spending a penny, with these free things to do in Gloucestershire.
Make the most of Christmas this year without spending a penny, with these free things to do in Gloucestershire.

Gloucestershire is bursting with plenty of free things to do over the festive season, from singing carols and seeing Santa, to going for a chilly swim on Christmas Day! 

SoGlos has rounded up 13 of our favourites – giving you plenty of great inspiration for the month of December and into the new year.

Hear choirs sing Christmas carols at Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral's hugely popular Carols on the Hour event takes place on Saturday 17 December 2022 - and it's free to attend.

Welcoming everyone, regardless of their faith, to enjoy beautiful Christmas music, there are 30-minute performances on the hour, every hour between 11am and 4pm. There's also a brand-new Christmas Story Family Trail to follow; the popular Knitivity to see; and of course, the cathedral's spectacular Christmas tree is sure to get you feeling festive.

Follow the Nutcracker trail around Cheltenham

With colourful nutcrackers dotted all around Cheltenham, families have the chance to win a £100 Cheltenham gift card if they can find them all.

The brand-new trail is in town until Friday 30 December 2022 and it's free to follow, perfect for keeping the kids entertained while you're out and about Christmas shopping. See 19 fun festive things to do in Cheltenham this Christmas for more events taking place in town this festive season. 

Admire Bourton-on-the-Water's famous Christmas tree

Illuminating the pretty Cotswold village from Thursday 1 December 2022, Bourton-on-the-Water's iconic Christmas tree is a must-see. Positioned in the River Windrush so the colourful lights are reflected on the water, it makes for an incredible festive photo opportunity while you explore the Venice of the Cotswolds.

There's plenty more going on in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty too, with SoGlos rounding up 10 festive Cotswold towns and villages to visit this Christmas.

Cheer on the Santa Fun Run in Gloucester

Taking place on Saturday 10 December 2022, Gloucester's Santa Fun Run will see hundreds of Father Christmases taking to the streets to raise money for local charities.

Starting at Kings Square, the 5k fun run travels through the city centre, taking in the gate streets, the Cross, Greyfriars and Gloucester Cathedral, so there are plenty of places to bag a spot and cheer on the runners as they spread Christmas cheer. 

Browse for handmade gifts at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester

New Brewery Arts in Cirencester is hosting its festive shopping event, A Crafted Christmas, right up until Christmas Eve 2022. Visitors can browse handmade gifts from 100 British makers and crafters, with free entry and plenty of gifts available for less than £30, for anyone shopping on a budget.

It's also hosting a late-night shopping event on Thursday 8 December 2022, with drop-in craft activities to try, too. 

Say hello to Christmas donkeys at Trioscape Garden Centre

For some free festive fun, trot over to Trioscape Garden Centre in Newent to meet two adorable donkeys, all dressed up for Christmas – visiting for one weekend only, on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 December 2022.

It's sure to be a super cute activity to get little ones in the Christmas spirit, supporting the important work that donkey rescue charities do. Visitors can also extend their visit by booking to see Father Christmas in his wonderful winter grotto, tucking into a festive lunch in the restaurant and, of course, browsing the garden centre for Christmas gifts and decorations.

Brave the Christmas Day swim in Cheltenham

Get Christmas Day started with a splash at Cheltenham's Sandford Parks Lido with its annual Christmas Day swim.

Starting at 11am on Sunday 25 December 2022, brave souls can swap their Christmas PJs for a cossie and take the plunge, with the chilly waters providing an exhilarating experience that's bound to help you work up an appetite for lunch! 

Take a winter walk in the Forest of Dean

The Forest of Dean is a magical place to visit all year round, but never more so than at Christmas time. Wrap up warm, pack a picnic and a thermos and head out for a winter walk under a canopy of trees at one of Forestry England's six Forest of Dean sites.

Blow away the cobwebs with a hike to the top of Symonds Yat rock to take in the incredible views; make your way around the iconic Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail from Beechenhurst; test out any new bikes Santa may have delivered on the Family Cycle Trail at Cannop Ponds; or walk off your Christmas lunch on the plethora of walking trails throughout the forest. 

Explore Gloucestershire's Christmas markets

With the smell of spiced mulled wine in the air and twinkling lights overhead, nothing feels more Christmassy than taking a stroll through one of Gloucestershire's festive markets.

From the Festive Orchard Street Market at Gloucester Quays taking place every weekend in the run-up to Christmas, to the Christmas market lining Cheltenham's Promenade from Thursday 8 to Friday 23 December 2022, SoGlos has rounded up 13 fabulously festive Christmas markets in Gloucestershire to visit this festive season. 

Soak up some Christmas cheer at Stroud Goodwill Evening

Stroud plays host to a special goodwill evening on Friday 2 December 2022, with free entertainment for all. See the lantern procession take to the streets from 6pm, sip mulled wine, tuck into mince pies, browse the Christmas market at The Sub Rooms and enjoy late-night shopping at the town's independent stores.

It's even free to park at Brunel Mall multi-storey car park from 3pm that day, so you don't need to spend a penny if you don't want to. 

Meet Santa at The Brewery Quarter in Cheltenham

Father Christmas is making some very special visits to The Brewery Quarter in Cheltenham this festive season.

He's popping into Starbucks from 12.30pm to 2pm on Saturday 3 December 2022; then he's back again on Saturday 17 December 2022, when he'll be roaming around the centre with his elves between 12pm and 3pm, before heading back to the North Pole. 

Enter a SoGlos Christmas competition

There's a host of fabulous festive prizes up for grabs this Christmas on SoGlos, including family panto tickets; £100 to spend at the new Dobbies in Tewkesburya festive day out at Gloucester Quaysafternoon tea at Cheltenham's DoubleTree Hilton Hotel; an exclusive after dark experience at Gloucester Cathedralan epic night out with your friends at Cheltenham's Brewery Quarter; and even a Christmas hamper for your dog.

Head to soglos.com/competitions to enter for a chance to win something wonderful this December 2022. 

Kids go free on New Year's Day at Cheltenham Racecourse

While adults do have to pay, under 18s get free entry to New Year's Day racing at Cheltenham Racecourse.

There's a dedicated family fun zone to keep young racegoers entertained, with appearances from Paddington, The Snowman and The Snowdog, as well as the chance to meet a Christmas unicorn, with the family-focussed event providing a fabulous way to get 2023 off to a flying start. 

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