We are big fans of festive lights – lantern parades, illuminated gardens and fantastical installations that literally light up your faces and dance to their own seasonal tune. They add a touch magic to the long winter nights. The Bournemouth Christmas Tree Wonderland is one such event.
Family guide to Bournemouth Christmas Tree Wonderland trail
In this post I’m sharing what you can expect when Bournemouth’s Christmas lights return in 2022, including everything you need to know for a magical day out or stay in Bournemouth.
What is the Christmas Tree Wonderland?
More than 100 illuminations and light installations run from the famous pier, through the Victorian Lower Gardens to an Alpine style market in The Square, up to the Triangle, Beale Place, Horseshoe Common and the Lansdowne roundabout.
Along the way there are street stalls and cafes selling bratwurst, hot chocolate, churros and the obligatory seaside ice cream, as well as an ice skating rink.
At the trail’s centre is Bournemouth’s own walk-through Wonderland Tree stands 60ft tall with 30,000 individually programmed lights that perform to music.
There will also be replicas of international Christmas trees, representing cities from across the World. When we visited, the one modelled on Seattle’s tree was my favourite.
Bournemouth Christmas Tree Wonderland map
Pick up a trail map at one of the entrances to Lower Gardens to make sure you don’t miss anything. You can also find the Christmas Tree Festival map online.
Getting to Bournemouth’s Christmas lights
By bus – Bournemouth buses stop near the route of the Christmas Tree trail. Bus stops to aim for are: Bournemouth Pier, Westover Road, Bournemouth Square, Wootton Gardens and Lansdowne.
By train – Bournemouth Train Station is a 10 minute walk from the trail at Lansdowne roundabout. From here you can follow the train towards the seafront.
How long do you need for the Christmas Tree Wonderland trail?
We spent six hours making the most of the whole experience, starting with ice skating when the rink opened at 10.30am and managing to keep our girls (aged six and four-years-old at the time) going long enough to see the lights at dusk.
What time do the lights come on in Bournemouth?
To see the lights at their very best arrive after 4pm when the light and audio shows start. These usually happen every half an hour between 4pm and 9pm.
Bear in mind that the trail will be at its busiest after dark, so might be more difficult with young kids.
There are several routes through or around the gardens and illuminations if you get caught in a crowd.
Is the Christmas Tree Wonderland free?
Yes! It’s FREE to walk through Lower Gardens and see the Christmas Tree Wonderland itself, but you may like to budget for a few extra activities to make it a special Christmas day out.
For an overview take a look at our Christmas Tree Wonderland Bournemouth video:
Please note: the big wheel is not running this Christmas.
More things to do at Christmas in Bournemouth
Here’s some more things to do while you are enjoying a festive day out in Bournemouth:
Bournemouth Christmas Market
Bournemouth Christmas Market is on this year with food and gift stalls in an alpine setting around Bournemouth Square.
There’s also an Alpine Bar and Apres Terrace.
The market is open between 10 November 2022 and 2 January 2023.
Go to a pantomime in Bournemouth
This year’s pantomime at Bournemouth Pavilion, Beauty and the Beast, stars Eastenders’ Emma Barton (Honey Mitchell). She’ll be donning wings and taking on the magical character of Fairy Bon Bon.
Book tickets for Beauty and the Beast.
Skate is a real ice rink at the top of Lower Gardens. It’s a long time since either Mr Tin Box or I have been ice skating and the girls have only had a go on plastic rinks.
It’s safe to say skating was a hit, despite me feeling like a baby giraffe and everyone getting soggy socks.
The rink is outdoors so the rain from the night before had settled on the ice making the surface wet. But that didn’t detract from the skating experience, which was fantastic.
We booked for the 10.30am when the rink was quieter and there were plenty of skating aids. This was the ideal time to go for wobbly me and the kids who took a bit of time to gain confidence on the ice.
Meanwhile, Mr Tin Box quickly regained his skating skills gained as a teen!
After skating it’s good fun to visit the Alpine Bar which is attached to the rink. We can recommend a luxury hot chocolate for helping you warm up. There’s also street food, music and festive booths for chilling in after a skate.
This year the ice rink is open from 17 November 2022 to 3 January 2023.
Check the Skate Bournemouth website for 2022 ice skating prices.
Smugglers Cove adventure golf
This 18 hole adventure golf course was great fun to do after lunch.
The staging is brilliant and there were some super challenging holes that brought out the competitive streak in Mr Tin Box and I, even if the girls were content with whacking the ball around as much as possible.
Check the Smugglers Cove website for the latest opening times and prices.
If you have more time in the area, check out my guide to things to do in Poole and Bournemouth.
Where to eat in Bournemouth
There are street food stalls at the seafront end of Lower Gardens, in the middle of the park and at the market at the top. A hot spot for seeing and being seen is the Alpine Bar.
If you want to sit down for food then the Prom Cafe serves a wide variety of snacks and meals including a festive menu. This is where we stopped for lunch and found there was something for everyone.
The girls tucked into a hot dog, sausage roll and chips, while Mr Tin Box had the haloumi burger and I devoured a delicious Penang curry and rice.
The cafe is really popular, so get there early if you want to bag a window seat with a sea view.
If you choose to head outside Bournemouth town centre for lunch or dinner we can also recommend Urban Reef at Boscombe. We ate dinner there after seeing the Christmas trees.
I loved eating here many years ago with friends and had high hopes that the food was still just as good. We weren’t disappointed.
There’s a wide choice of meals on the main menu as well as specials and a children’s menu. I had mussels with the most incredible charcoal focaccia, and Mr Tin Box had brisket with a root vegetable casserole, mash and dumplings. The girls both opted for a scrummy looking pasta and meatballs.
Of course, we couldn’t resist dessert. The pumpkin pie, cheese cake and chocolate brownies that followed were divine.
This is somewhere to go for a special meal with a sea view during the day and a cosy, intimate atmosphere at night.
Where to stay
If, like us, you are coming from further afield for the Christmas Tree Wonderland in Bournemouth we can recommend staying at Bournemouth Beach Lodges.
These bijou lodges come stylish beach huts accommodate up to six people right on the beach at Boscombe. We stayed for two nights and loved the experience of listening to the waves and having the golden sands within touching distance.
Here’s our Bournemouth Beach Lodges review.
Looking for more things to do near Bournemouth? Take a look at my guide to things to do in Dorset with kids.
Disclosure: we were invited to experience the Christmas Tree Wonderland in Bournemouth as part of an unpaid press trip. Our accommodation, experiences and expenses were covered. All opinions are my own and my family’s.