Autism-friendly festive attractions to visit in December 2023
The festive period is around the corner, and it’s a great time for families to get together and spend time doing things they enjoy.
Megan, a member of the Ambitious Youth Network, has helped us put together a list of autism-friendly activities that all the family can enjoy over the festive period, including quiet pantomime performances and Christmas trails
Christmas at Bedgebury (Kent)
Christmas at Bedgebury is a magical trail with lights and you’ll even get to see Father Christmas along the way. Discover softly lit doves balanced on branches and sparkling tunnels of light as you travel through the trail. The trail is suitable for all the family.
Christmas at Bedgebury is hosting relaxed sessions for adults and children with additional needs who would love to walk around the trail without a high volume of people. The relaxed sessions will be held at 4.00pm on Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7 December.
Relaxed shopping experiences
Shopping in December can be very overwhelming and busy as everyone rushes to finish their festive shopping. Many shopping centres will offer relaxed opening or quiet hours for autistic people to complete their shopping.
The Friary Centre in Guildford has a quiet shopping morning every Tuesday between 9.00am and 11.00am.
Check your local shopping centre’s website for more information on quiet shopping.
Santa's quiet grotto
Dobbie’s garden centres will be offering children with additional needs a chance to meet Santa. They’ll make sure that the music is off, twinkling lights are switched off and you can choose whether your child or young person’s gift is wrapped or not. They’ll also email a photo of your specific grotto to prepare children for what they will see on the day.
BFI and Odeon relaxed screenings
Want to have the cinema experience in a more relaxed environment? The British Film Institute has introduced relaxed screenings to make the cinema environment more accessible for autistic people and their families. These screenings feature dimmed lights, no trailers, and the ability to move around and make noise if needed. They have a relaxed screening guide so the autistic person can prepare in advance. Odeon is also running relaxed screenings on a Sunday morning once a month, and they have these screenings all over the UK and Ireland.
Relaxed pantomime performances
Many pantomimes across England will be hosting relaxed performances during the festive season. A relaxed show is designed to welcome anyone who might find attending the theatre a bit overwhelming. Relaxed performances usually bring down the volume, keep lighting on at a low level throughout and reduce capacity so people can move in and out of the performance as they please.
Hazlitt Theatre in Kent are offering relaxed performances throughout November and December.
Check your local pantomime’s website for more details on relaxed performances.
Sensory advent calendars
Toy Mania have created a sensory advent calendar with a variety of sensory and fidget toys included.
About the author
Megan is a Youth Advisor at Ambitious about Autism. She enjoys doing Makaton (sign language), supporting Youth Network opportunities and writing on her blog on social media to advocate autism.