November is the month for winter carnivals, bonfire nights and Christmas lights. With shorter daylight hours, the temptation may be to stay indoors – but a trip out with the family is a great way to bond and create happy memories together. And all the better for your mood and bank balance, if entry is free.
Here are just some of the free family events happening around the UK this month.
Free firework displays and traditional Guy Fawkes celebrations
Many of the most lavish firework displays are now ticketed events but, thankfully, there are still a few free and impressive firework shows.
3 November, from 7.30pm
Norwich Big Boom fireworks
The prime spot to watch the fifth Big Boom is in front of City Hall, with fireworks launched from Norwich Castle. The display has been designed to bang and sparkle in time with the beat of the music playing.
4 November, from 5pm
As many as 100,000 people turn up each year, so keep your kids close. This is an all-day Guy Fawkes show, with a funfair from midday, food and drink stalls opening at 5pm and the fireworks kicking off at 8pm.
Alternatively, take an evening picnic and head to the nearest hill with amazing views – Hampstead Heath, Greenwich Park or Primrose Hill. (Don’t bring your own fireworks or Chinese lanterns, as these are now banned.)
4 November, 7pm
Caerphilly Fireworks, South Wales
The historic setting of Caerphilly Castle makes the most spectacular backdrop for this free fireworks display.
4 November, 10am – 10pm
Bridgwater Carnival Day, Somerset
During the day, the streets will host jugglers, stilt walkers, street theatre, marching bands and children’s entertainment in the build up to the evening parade. The carnival procession of over 100 different floats will take two hours. The grand finale is the Squibbing display, unique to Bridgwater, in which 150 squibs (large fireworks strapped to a block of wood attached to a pole) are all lit at the same time in two rows down the High Street producing a dramatically long trail of fire.
Flaming Tar Barrels at Ottery St Mary, South Devon
Barrels soaked with tar are lit outside each of the town’s pubs and carried through the crowded streets and alleys in this spectacular custom which originated in the 17th century. One of the biggest bonfires in the South West , at over 10 metres high, is lit on the banks of the River Otter.
5 November, from 4pm
River of Light festival in Liverpool and the Wirral
The fireworks display itself, which is taking place from three barges in the middle of the River Mersey, is scheduled to start at 6:30pm, and over 200,000 spectators are expected. Celebrating the city’s Beatles’ heritage, the fireworks will be set to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Mann Island Atrium is the place to head with families, with lantern making workshops and glitter and UV face painting. There will be performances including drums, pyrotechnics, fire breathers, stilt walkers and acrobatics on The Strand and Princes Parade, followed by a carnival-style lantern parade.
On the Liverpool side, people will have a great view from the waterfront running from Alexandra Tower on Princes Parade to past the Arena and Convention Centre. In Wirral, people can view the show along the promenade right the way from New Brighton through to Seacombe and on to Woodside.
5 November, 5 – 9pm
Enjoy food and drink stalls and a funfair before the explosive free finale at Glasgow Green.
4 & 5 November,
Thrills and spills at Skegness Beach Race, Lincolnshire
The Skegness beach race has grown into one the largest off-road motocross events in the UK since the first race in 2010, making a fun spectator event. The circuit includes impressive mounds, jumps, waves, hoops, chicanes and fast natural sandy straights with kids, quads and sidecar (!) races on Saturday and adult solos on Sunday.
5 November, 6am – 4.30pm
Over 400 vintage cars driving from London to Brighton
For early bird Londoners, the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is an unforgettable scene, especially for kids who are car enthusiasts. Cars congregate at Hyde Park from 6.00am with the first car departing at sunrise (7.02am) and the last car leaving by 8.30am. If that’s a little too early for you, check out other places to see the cavalcade en route. In Brighton the first cars cross the finish line at Madeira Drive on the seafront from 10.02am and the event officially closes at 4.30pm.
The world’s longest running motoring celebration, the Run commemorates the Locomotives on the Highway Act of 1896. It was this Act that raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4 mph to 14mph and abolished the requirement for these vehicles to be preceded by a man on foot carrying a red flag. A red flag is still symbolically destroyed at the beginning of the Run.
7 November, 5pm
Oxford Street Christmas lights blaze on
You know Christmas is coming when Oxford Street is transformed by sparkly, glowing lights. This year, the shopping hub will be home to 1,778 decorations inspired by falling snowflakes. No news yet on which celeb will be pushing the button. Regent Street’s grand stretch will be lit up from 16 November.
Weston Super Mare Carnival, North Somerset
Up to 140 illuminated floats, fancy dress walkers and marching bands wind their way through the town in this annual three-hour celebration. Each float can be 100ft long and lit by over 25,000 bulbs.
11 November, from 9am
The pageantry of the Lord Mayor’s Show in London.
For over 800 years the newly-elected Lord Mayor of London has made his or her way from the City to distant Westminster to swear loyalty to the Crown. The Lord Mayor’s Show is still the oldest and grandest civic procession in the world.
At 8.30 the Lord Mayor travels up the Thames from Westminster in a grand flotilla led by QRB Gloriana (the one the Queen got drenched in during the Jubilee celebrations). At 11.02am, after a two minute silence, the Lord Mayor’s Procession sets off from Mansion House. It pauses at the Royal Courts while the Lord Mayor swears allegiance and then returns by the Victoria Embankment at 1pm. The tail of the procession reaches Mansion House just after 2pm.
The best vantage points and liveliest crowd is from Bank to St Pauls between 11 and 12.30. For a less crowded viewpoint, head between Blackfriars and Mansion House station between 1.15 and 2.30. At 5.15pm there will a magnificent fireworks display over the Thames, between Blackfriars and Waterloo.
Not to be confused with Greater London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Lord Mayor of London is the Mayor of the City of London and head of the Corporation of London and his role is mostly ceremonial and social, not political.
16 – 19 November, 4.30pm – 11 every evening
Lumiere Durham lights the city
The city of Durham is transformed by 29 different giant installations and light sculptures. The event is the largest light festival in the UK and well worth exploring.