Your essential guide to festive fun in Bedford this Christmas

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(image: Bedford Borough Council)

The festive season officially kicks off in Bedford and Kempston this weekend (25 and 26 November) when the new Christmas lights will be switched on in Harpur Square and at the Saxon Centre in Kempston.

But that’s just the start of the celebrations. Find out all you need to know about Christmas in Bedford here…

Christmas light switch-on

Saturday 25 November 2023
Harpur Square from midday (light switch on @ 5pm)
Free

(image: Bedford Borough Council)

From midday, head to Bedford town centre and enjoy the family festivities ahead of the Christmas light switch-on. Enjoy a free game of Christmas Crazy Golf on Silver Square and have your group or family photo taken in the Christmas Snow Globe. You might even spot Father Christmas at the Harpur Centre…

The Love Bedford Stage in Harpur Square will be live from noon with local singers, school choirs and dancers entertaining the crowds throughout the day.

At 4pm, Lissie Allsopp will take to the stage to sing festive favourites to get the crowd in the mood for the 5pm light switch-on.

At 5pm Mayor Tom Wootton will press the button to illuminate Bedford and Lissie will lead a sing-a-long to some favourite festive tunes. Afterwards, DJ Tom will spin some classic Christmas anthems to keep the party going.

Refreshments will be available on Harpur Square, plus there will be offers and discounts at cafes and restaurants in Bedford town centre.

The Cinderella Panto characters will be mingling in the crowd and The Corn Exchange Booking Office will stay open until 6.30pm for a special Cinderella Panto discount of £2 off per ticket.

Sunday 26 November 2023
The Saxon Centre, Kempston @ midday (light switch-on @ 5pm)
Free

Head to the Saxon Centre from midday to 6pm as Kempston Town Council hosts the Kempston Christmas Light Switch-On.

There will be Family fun with stalls, food and entertainment. The Christmas tree lights will be switched on at 5pm.

Very Merry Bedford Christmas Market Weekender

Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 December 2023
Harpur Square, Riverside Square and the Harpur Suite
Free

The team behind the ever-popular Bedford Flea, Affordable Art and Local Produce Market have joined forces with Bedford BID and Bedford Borough Council to bring a two-day Christmas celebration to the heart of the town centre.

On Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 December, the Very Merry Christmas Market Weekender takes place in Harpur Square, Riverside Square and the Harpur Suite. Enjoy live music, mouth-watering street food, mulled wine, antiques, vintage items, arts and crafts from some amazing local makers and artists.

The weekender also sees the return of the Love Bedford Express Land Train. Next stop, Christmas shopping!

Bedford Indies shopping map

illustration by Katie Allen

The Bedford Independent’s annual Bedford Indies Christmas Shopping map, in association with The Arc on Howard Street, is now live and you can pick up a copy in any of the participating shops or check it out online here.

There are so many incredible independent shops in Bedford, offering unique gifts and exceptional customer service – you won’t want to go anywhere else.

And with Christmas Eve falling on the last shopping weekend before the big day, we just know that the Bedford Indies will be able to fulfil all your last-minute present needs.

Festive family fun

There will also be a full programme of fantastic family activities during the festive period as part of the Council’s commitment to make Bedford Borough a great place for families.

Bedford Central Library and The Higgins Bedford will be hosting various events, including ‘Write a Letter to Santa,’ Sunday Funday activity days, crafting sessions, ‘Storytime with Santa,’ Christmas games day, and the opportunity to decorate and collect bags of enchanting reindeer dust.

You can find out details of all sessions here.

Wednesday 6 – Sunday 10 December 2023

Bedford Christmas Tree Festival 2023
St Paul’s Church @ Wednesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday noon – 4pm
Entry: £3 (under 16s free)

The ever-popular and much-anticipated Christmas Tree Festival is back and this year’s theme is Kings and Queens. Enjoy over 60 trees decorated by local groups, schools, organisations and businesses, all vying for the coveted ‘best tree’ award.

There are daily festive performances from local choirs and music groups.

From Saturday 25 November – Saturday 3 January 2024

WinterWonderland @ Bedford Park
Bedford Park / parking @ Queen Street car park (two hours free every day/all day every Sunday)
Entry: £2

The Ferris Wheel at this year's WinterWonderland in Bedford Park
The Ferris Wheel at this year’s WinterWonderland in Bedford Park

The biggest real ice rink in the county and a 36m high Ferris wheel are just two of the attractions at Bedford’s Winter Wonderland.

The festive event is taking place in Bedford Park and hopes to attract local visitors as well as families from further afield for a one-stop Christmas day out.

The 600sqm ice rink is the biggest in Bedfordshire and is fully covered, so skaters can enjoy the ice, whatever the British weather throws at us.

In addition, there is a Christmas Tree Maze – featuring 200 festive firs and Santa’s Grotto, plus fairground rides for thrill-seekers and younger children too.

Park at Queen Street Car Park (two hours free every day, free all day every Sunday).

Free parking

Free parking is available at Allhallows Multi-Storey Car Park for up to four hours every day until February 2024. You can also park for two hours for free in Queen Street Car Park every week day.

Park for two hours for free every Saturday in all council-operated car parks in the town centre.

Sundays are extra special with free parking all day.

For full details, including times and dates of events and even more, visit bedford.gov.uk/Christmas.