Get us in your inbox


Ten alternative things to do for Christmas

Written by
Rob Martin

Sick of sparkles? Tired of tinsel? Bored of baubles? You’re not alone: the creeping commercialism of Yuletide can be a stressful and very un-magical time if you feel lost in the mindless, flashing Rudolph jumper-wearing masses. Thankfully, Leeds has plenty of rather rock ‘n’ roll activities for those seeking something different this year, with music, alternative markets, beer, and something rather eerie going on at the Town Hall.

500 years of Christmas, Temple Newsam
Dec 13 & Sun Dec 14 
Adult - £4.50/Child - £2.50 (under fives Free)/£3 for Father Christmas visit

Christmas wasn’t always such a materialistic time, as a Temple Newsam exhibition is setting out to prove this year. The imposing Tudor-Jacobean estate and its vast sculpted grounds is the ideal venue to host a weekend of festive family fun. Wrapping historical jollity with British Yuletide tradition into a packed programme, the two-day event promises a Tudor banquet and carol karaoke, Victorian merry-making, singing, Jane Austen’s music, and a secret winter wonderland journey to meet Father Christmas.

Good Cause Cupcakes, Adelphi Pub 
Sun Dec 14
£5 (register online prior to event)

Formerly known as the more aggressive sounding Iron Cupcake: Leeds, Good Cause Cupcakes is a project that aim to raise money for charity, while inviting the city’s most talented bakers to enter their creations into a monthly competition. The December event sees bakers left to let their imaginations run wild on the theme of ‘Festive Favourites’. It’s not complicated: bakers bake 12 identical cupcakes and eaters judge the goodies, but there are some strict rules (see website for details). Top tip: arrive with an empty stomach.

Steampunk Surgical Spirit, Thackray Medical Museum
Dec 7, £3

Leeds’ legendary steampunk market anchors down once again in the city for a Christmas shopping experience with a Victorian twist. Held at the gloriously dark and gory Thackray Medical Museum, traders of technological trinkets, creepy curio and enigmatic ephemera from across the country will be setting up their stalls to cater for lovers of the aesthetically mind-boggling gothic subculture, where the intricacy and frippery of 19th century fashion is mixed with futuristic imagination and post-apocalyptic themes.

Leeds Punk Rock Xmas, Brudenell Social Club
Sat Dec 20, £10

Mosh around the Christmas tree to an eye-catching, ear-splitting line-up of punk bands in a showcase of local talent, headlined by nineties undergrounders, Argy Bargy. Worth looking into for some of the creativity and cheekiness of names alone, these eight groups have teamed up with the determinedly DIY Brudenell Social Club to flip a gnarled middle finger up to soppy department store ads and glitter-encrusted ornaments for a riotous night of up-and-coming trouble. It’s amazing value too, at just a tenner.

Santa Dash, Leeds City Centre
Sun Dec 14, £5 with own Santa suit, £8 without. Children under 12 – free with own outfit, £3 without.
Let’s face it: you’re going to be doing a guilt-inducing amount of eating and drinking over the festive period. So why not get off to a healthy start, while helping to raise money for St Gemma’s Hospice? You’ll feel pretty silly haring around the city centre among hundreds of other red, white and beard-clad 'athletes', but the light-hearted Santa Dash is all in the spirit of fun. A live brass band and choir singing carols will cheer you on, and there’s free food and hot drinks at Little Tokyo once you’ve ho ho ho’d yourself over the finish line.

Christmas Film Screenings, Hyde Park Picture House & Cottage Road Cinema 
Sat Dec 20 & Wed Dec 24, from £4 (HPPH), from £4.50 (Cottage Road)
For some families, decamping en masse to a cinema on Christmas Eve is a treasured tradition deemed essential for feeling festive. Some will head to the local multiplex to catch a big blockbuster, while others will settle for nothing less than the classics. Indie cinemas Hyde Park Picture House and Cottage Road have got you covered. The former is screening a day of seasonal favourites on Saturday December 20, while the latter is hosting an 11am showing of It’s a Wonderful Life on the 24, complete with mince pies and mulled wine.

The Wood Beneath the World, The Crypt, Leeds Town Hall
Now until Wed Dec 17, £8/£6 concessions (over 12s only)
A mysterious forest has been growing beneath Leeds Town Hall, and has burst through the floors and walls. Keeper and tour guide Jack invites visitors to join him on a journey through the trees and solve a number of riddles that lie within. The Crypt has been specially transformed into a world of wonder and intrigue, featuring evening performances and family storytelling sessions. The experience lasts one hour, but can be continued upstairs in the old Victorian cells, where mulled wine, cider, and craft beers will be served.

Sunrise in the Skyspace, Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Sat Dec 6 & Sat Dec 13, £25 adults, £18.00 children (over 12s only)
Nothing beats that feeling of waking up early on a crisp, clear morning and watching the sun comes up to the sound of birdsong. Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Sunrise in the Skyspace events promise to bottle the experience and maximise its beauty in the stunning grounds of Bretton Hall. Guests are invited to observe the many colours and changing light of a dawning day from an 18th century deer shelter, modified by artist James Turrell. The sunrise is followed by a full English breakfast and coffee in the YSP restaurant.

Festive Tipples in Leeds throughout the Christmas period
Christmas: it’s a time for feeling merry in more ways than one. It’s also a great time to be ‘of the legal age’ in Leeds, where countless bars are rolling out tipples designed specifically with Yule in mind. The Adelphi is serving up warming mulled wine and spiced cider; newcomer MeatLiquor has designed a cocktail of bourbon, spiced syrup and a clove-studded orange garnish; Rare is using Blackdown’s treesap-infused gin to add a festive finish to its cocktails of the month; Tapped has stocked its fridge with chintzy crimbo bottles, and there’s plenty more to discover. What’s the Christkindelmarkt again?

Christmas Crafting, The Tetley
Now until – Sat Jan 3 From 11am, free
Since The Tetley factory was regenerated into an art space and eatery, the Art Deco waterfront building has begun developing a reputation as a family-friendly hub of culture and inspiration. The Christmas programme features a busy diary of free, artist-led events for youngsters, including ornament crafting, a masterclass in snow-globes, mask making to celebrate the Roman festival of Saturnalia, and an afternoon constructing a ‘magical Christmas creature’ by recycling wrapping and ribbons. The bar and restaurant has also created festive additions to the menu for post-fun drinks and nibbles.

Click here for more traditional things to do this Christmas

Words: Lauren James

Latest news