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Free things to do in Devon this Christmas 2023

Free things to do in Devon this Christmas 2023

There’s no getting away from the fact that the festive season can be expensive. So, let me point you in the direction of some cheap and, even better, free things to do in Devon this Christmas.

If you want to find Christmas light switch ons with family entertainment, free light trails and opportunities to meet Santa without a hefty price tag, read on!

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Free Christmas events in Devon

Here’s some free to attend festivities I’ve spotted happening around Devon this November and December: 

Lanterns, Lights and Luminations in Brixham

This popular event in South Devon returns in 2023 with a magical lantern parade, a firework display, live music, street entertainment, and a market.

The event will include the Christmas light switch on, the arrival of Santa and fireworks.

This event is free to attend.

Lanterns, Lights and Luminations, Brixham Harbour25 November 2023.

Light Up Axminster parade and light switch on – 25 November 2023

Axminster’s Christmas lights will be lit as part of a lantern procession taking place between 4pm and 7.30pm in South Street.

There will be food stalls, children’s entertainment and live music.

The Christmas lights are due to be lit at 7pm.

Find out more on the Light Up Axminster Facebook page.

Bay of Lights illuminated trail, Torquay, South Devon

Torquay waterfront during Bay of Lights illuminated light trail

The Bay of Lights free light trail is returning to Torbay this winter.

Enjoy a 1.5 mile route along Torquay seafront with glittering and unexpected surprises along the way including a light tunnel, prisms of light and a 12m high Christmas tree.

Here’s a taster of our experience from last year.

Bay of LightsTorquay, 1 December 2023 to 2 January 2024.

Exmouth Winter Festival and light switch on – 2 December 2023

This year’s Exmouth Winter Festival theme is ‘Fire and Ice’. This free event on The Strand starts at 3pm with music theatre on stage and walkabout performers.

The Christmas tree lights will be switched on at 7.30pm followed by late night shopping, a lantern parade and a fire show! 

We really hope you will join us for the start of what is promising to be a very festive season here in Exmouth.

Find out more about the programme for Exmouth Winter Festival.

More free things to do in Devon this Christmas 

Here’s some more ideas for free things to do this Christmas around Devon:

Spot the Train of Lights in South Devon – selected dates from 24 November to 30 December 2023

The Train of Lights run by Dartmouth Steam Railway is a magical experience that you can enjoy in the carriages and alongside the track. We did both last year and it’s the trackside experience that my girls are still talking about.

Here’s some of the best places to see the Train of Lights and where you can find them using What Three Words to pin point the location:

The train sets off from Paignton at 4.45pm 6.45pm and 8.45pm and returns 1.5 hours later. We were on the 4.45pm train and arrived back at Paignton by 6.15pm.

The train runs on selected dates from 24 November to 30 December 2023 excluding 4 to 6 December, 11 December and 24 to 16 December 2023.

It does not run at 8.45pm on 24, 25, 26 and 30 November or 1, 3, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, and 29 December 2023.

Soak up the atmosphere at a Christmas market

snowman toy decoration on christmas market

There’s free to visit Christmas markets with family-friendly entertainment happening across Devon this winter. 

Take a look at my full guide to Devon Christmas markets to discover what’s on and where. 

See Devon’s Christmas lights switched on

Crowds in front of stage at Christmas light switch on in Plymouth city centre
Picture credit: Scott Grenney One Plymouth

Watching Christmas lights being switched on at your nearest town of city is a fun way to start the festive season and the vast majority of events are free to attend.

Take a look at my full guide to where to see Devon’s Christmas lights this year.

Garden Centre Christmas displays in Devon

Otter and Endsleigh Garden Centres have wonderful Christmas displays that are free to browse at this time of year.

Here’s where to find them:

Places in Devon to meet Santa for free 

Santa will be popping up around Devon throughout November and December before heading back to the North Pole for his important Christmas preparations.

Most years there’s opportunities to meet him for free. He’ll be magically making appearances at many Christmas light switch ons (see above).

And here’s a few places children can meet him or visit his grotto for free:

Kingsbridge Celebrates Christmas – South Devon

Take a trip to Kingsbridge for a thoroughly festive day with market stalls selling scrumptious hot food and gifts ranging from metal garden ornaments to Salcombe Gin.

Father Christmas will also make a special appearance and there will be a free grotto.

Kingsbridge Celebrates Christmas, Fore Street, 2 December 2023

Breakfast with Santa at Ikea – Exeter

IKEA Family members can meet Santa at IKEA for free on selected dates in December.

Santa, accompanied by his elves, will be handing out an early Christmas present for every child that attends.

Breakfast and drinks will be available to be purchased in the Ikea restaurant.

Places are limited and signing up is essential to receive the Christmas present.

Breakfast with Santa, Ikea Exeter, selected dates from 2 to 21 December 2023.

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Devon Christmas events for under £10 per family 

Everyone is feeling the pinch right now but not all Christmas activities have to cost a lot. I’ve spotted some seriously cheap Christmas events where you can take your whole family for about £10 or under. 

Obviously, family sizes vary. I’ve based my calculations on a family of four and events that cost about £2.50 per person.

‘Tis the Season at Torquay Museum, South Devon – 2 and 9 December 2023

Visit the museum for Christmassy crafts, live entertainment and to browse stalls selling gifts and stocking fillers.

Tickets cost £3 per adult and £1 per child.

Find out more on the Torquay Museum website.

Clovelly Christmas Lights, near Bideford, North Devon – 3 December 2023

Head to Clovelly from 4pm on 3 December 2023 to see the Christmas Lights switched on. The local brass band will lead a procession down to the harbour where there will be carols, a hog roast and other festive refreshments.

Don’t miss a visit from Father Christmas himself and seeing the entire village and harbour lit up.

The grand finale is a firework display to add even more sparkle to this opening event to the Clovelly Christmas season.

Entrance fee: £10 per car at the Visitor Centre after 2pm. All proceeds to RNLI.

Find out more about Clovelly Christmas Lights.

Toys and Treats Trail at Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary – daily until 8 February 2024

Donkeys in their barn at The Donkey Sanctuary Sidmouth
Picture credit: The Donkey Sanctuary Sidmouth

Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary’s winter trail is themed around Toys and Treats giving visitors the chance to find out about the adoption donkeys’ favourite kind of enrichment.  

The sanctuary’s 200 resident donkeys love to forage for their treats and play with their toys which helps to exercise, excite and entertain them.

Trail sheets cost £5 each and include a prize on completion.

Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary is free to visit and also has a play area, daily talks, engaging hands-on exhibits, a maze to explore and miles of walkways.  

Find out more about the trail on the Donkey sanctuary website.

Christmas activities for under £20

Here’s some more events and activities that have a smaller price tag attached, this time under £20 for a family of four.

Christmas Selfieland in Exeter – East Devon

Devon’s newest Christmas selfie opportunity is offering play sessions for children on Mondays in the run up to Christmas.

Find toys, games and fun activities around 20 festive themed photo booths including a giant gingerbread house, a Kitsch forest and Toy Town. These special sessions are aimed at children aged five and under but there’s plenty for older children to enjoy too.

Tickets cost £5 for children and £4 for adults.

Christmas Selfieland is located in The Prop Factory on Marsh Green Road North. 

Christmas Selfieland, Marsh Mills, every Monday from 13 November to 11 December 2023

Trago Mills – Devon’s cheapest Santa train

Board the North Pole Express at Trago Mills near Newton Abbot for a ride to Santa’s grotto for under £5 per person.

The special Steam Railway service runs from Riverside Station to Santa’s grotto where you and your family will meet Santa and his elves. All the children will receive an early gift from Santa too.

The train will then whisk you away to Trago Central Station where you will alight for the Trago Mills Model Railway.

Adults also receive a complimentary hot drink from our Staplehill Servery.

Tickets cost £3 for adults and £4 for children.

Our Santa Express runs from 18 to 19 November and then 25 November to 23 December 2023.

Tickets can only be bought on the day with the first train leaving at 10am and the queue closing at 4pm.

Find out more about the Santa Specials at Trago Mills.

More Christmas events in Devon

If you have budget for a special treat check out my other guide to Christmas days out in Devon.

Have you spotted any other free things to do in Devon this Christmas? Let me know and I will add them in to help more families save on the expense of the season.

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