May the stars
Red sky at night
Things to do in winter
Getting away over winter is a fun thing to do, whether you're considering just the one night away at the seaside, a two night trip or a three night break so you can really relax. Life in Great Yarmouth takes on a slower pace in the winter months, but there are some superb attractions which remain open all year round, and without the summer crowds, you're free to explore at a more leisurely pace.
If you thrive on fresh sea air, winter is a wonderful time to explore the great outdoors. Within a very short drive of the Imperial Hotel, there are wetlands, a nature reserve with SSI status, beaches where grey seals have their pups from November to January, an English Heritage Roman fort and lots of other walks taking in the coast, countryside and Broads to discover in this area of Norfolk. Or you might fancy a round of golf on our local Classic Links course. Did you know you can tee off on us for free?
As the saying goes, there ain't no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. And when you get back to the Imperial Hotel, you can be sure of a warm welcome and a cosy room.
OPEN ALL YEAR ROUND TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
If you haven't visited Time & Tide Museum of Great Yarmouth Life, then you really should. Set in a former Smoke House, the smell of traditional kippers being smoked high up in the rafters still haunts much of the building. This award-winning museum, with changing exhibition is well worth a visit, and may well take much of your day, depending on how immersed you get in the tales it tells. Great Yarmouth has been a player on the maritime scene for centuries, and this museum tells our story beautifully. It's also got a rather lovely café in the courtyard, perfect for a cup of tea or a spot of lunch. Time & Tide is a 20 minute walk from Imperial Hotel, or there is a car park right outside if the weather is inclemment.
Great Yarmouth's Sea Life Centre, in the middle of the seafront, is another superb place to visit. It's quite unusual because they run a special seahorse breeding programme and these magical creatures are just awe-inspiring. The luminous baby jellyfish are really quite something. It definitely isn't an attraction just for children; if you're interested in breeding and conservation of sea creatures, or finding out how they go about rescuing sick animals, then this is a great visit for adults too. The centre also has sharks and a huge turtle called Ernie and is about 20 minutes walk from the hotel, with parking very nearby.
Also big on conversation is the amazing team at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. You will have to get in your car to drive the 15 minutes over to Thrigby, but you'll love it when you get there. This fabulous zoo focusses completely on Asian mammals, and has all sorts of monkeys, tigers and leopards to see, as well gibbons, and a huge reptile house.
Just along the seafront is Wellington Pier Bowl, a fresh and airy 10 pin bowling alley with floor to ceiling windows looking out over the beach. It's about a 15 minute walk, behind one of several amusement arcades which stay open all year round, and quite near the casino. If you've got the kids with you and they're keen on dinosaurs, very nearby is Jurassic Journey, a really fun attraction. Inside, everyone in your group will become a trainee palaeontologist for the duration of your visit, and you'll undertake a scavenger hunt, and dig for fossils under the guidance of the in-house Professor. And they have real dinosaur poo that you can touch too.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Great Yarmouth is incredibly fortunate to be at the gateway to the Broads, with nearby access to both Norfolk and Suffolk countryside and waterways, sites of special scientific interest and English Heritage locations. The landscape may look different once the winter months are here, but no less beautiful.
If you like walking, then we'd heartily recommend you take a look at Visit Great Yarmouth's walking guide. There are some great walks all over the borough, giving you the chance to explore some of the smaller villages and waterways. If you'd rather have a piece of paper, the Tourist Information Centre has all of the walks printed off and ready to give you. There's a fabulous walk from Gorleston-on-Sea cliff tops right the way along the back of the golf course to Hopton-on-Sea, and back again along the beach, with plenty of options for a hot drink or warming lunch on Gorleston seafront. If you'd like to be more in the wilds, there are some wonderful walks around Fleggburgh, with a super village gastro pub for a drink or lunch. And there's a great walk up at Winterton-on-Sea, through a site of special scientific interest and nature reserve, with seals and baby pups from November to January to watch, and with a great village pub for a drink. Thurne has a wonderful windpump to see, and another great walk and a rather nice pub too.
English Heritage has two sites locally, and we'd strongly recommend going to see the Roman Fort at Burgh Castle, it's really quite astonishing. Free to enter, there is a shorter walk along the river and back, and a much longer circular walk, not for the faint hearted. You can drive to Burgh Castle, or you can walk the 4.5miles there along the Angles Way.
Breydon Water is a bird watcher's haven, with huge numbers of over-wintering birds to see, especially in January when their numbers peak. There is a hide at the east end on the north shore, with no facilites whatsoever, just you and the birds. The RSPB have a reserve at Berney Marshes, at the other end of Breydon Water where up to 64,000 wintering wildfowl flock every year. It's a very remote reserve which you can only access by foot, rail or boat. We'd recommend you take the train from Great Yarmouth to Berney Arms - it's a request-only stop on the Great Yarmouth to Norwich line. The 5.8 mile walk back to Great Yarmouth along the Weavers's Way is beautiful.
The city is a great shopping destination, with two shopping malls, a large swathe of pedestrianised areas, a competely revitalised hip and trendy market, the Lanes where you'll find all sorts of independent shops, a fabulous independent department store, and of course all the usual high street chains. The city also has two cathedrals to visit, a Norman castle with huge musuem and art gallery and two other smaller musuems. Norwich's history of chocolate, mustard and shoes is charted in the Museum of Norwich, and it's unique European relations are explored at Strangers' Hall Museum. Both museums are open all year round, but not every day of the week, so do check before you set off.
In the city centre you'll also find ancient architecture and beauty spots such as Elm Hill and Pulls Ferry near the river, bowling alleys, cinemas, three theatres and huge numbers of restaurants, pubs and bars. It can easily keep you busy all day - just don't miss the last bus or train home!
If you'd like to hire a boat and explore the Broads on the water, you can do so over in Wroxham, also 30 minutes drive away. Boats are available from Monday to Friday during daylight hours in winter, but do wrap up warm. Whilst in Wroxham, carry on through the town a short way to Wroxham Barns. This delightful craft centre has all sorts of little studios with crafts people making jewellery, pottery, stained glass and woodturning to see, and they're famous for their award-wining scones in the tea rooms. Younger visitors and those young at heart rather like Junior Farm, with the chance to cuddle a rabbit or stroke a goat.
WINTER EVENINGS IN GREAT YARMOUTH
If you are planning on going out for the evening whilst on your winter break in Great Yarmouth, there are some fun options to consider.
Great Yarmouth has it's own greyhound racing track, with racing three nights of the week. We'd suggest booking to sit in the restaurant to watch over winter time as it can get a bit nippy outside on the terraces. The track is less than a mile away from the hotel, and is open for racing Saturdays, Mondays and Thursday. If you haven't been before, take it from us, it's great fun. The track also sometimes hosts stock car racing too on Sunday evening.
Wellington Pier Bowling Alley is always open in the evening if you fancy playing a game or two of 10 pin bowling. This beautiful bowling alley was completely rebuilt in 2008 in the style of the former Wellington Pier theatre and has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the beach.
There's a new cinema in nearby Gorleston-on-Sea on the high street. And the newly refurbished Arc Cinema in Great Yarmouth has just opened, with state of the art facilities. St. George's Theatre has a programme worth checking out, do see their website to find out what's on. And if ballroom dancing is your thing, every Saturday and Wednesday in Gorleston-on Sea at Tower Ballroom, there are social dance evenings to enjoy with latin, ballroom and some sequence. You'll find the Tower Ballroom at the Kingfisher Boxing Club on Riverside Road.
If you're a fan of live music, then several pubs have live bands on at the weekend, and it's worth keeping an eye out for the various 'weekender' events at some of the local holiday parks with soul, rock and roll, 70s and 80s music nights regularly scheduled. There are also two casinos if you fancy a flutter, one on the seafront and one in town.
Over the festive season, from 7 December until 5 January, the Hippodrome's Christmas Spectacular has both matinée and evening performances and is well worth a visit if you haven't been before. Christmas is traditionally pantomime season, with Jack and the Beanstalk playing at Gorleston Pavillion from 16 December to 5 January and Beauty and the Beast on at St. George's Theatre in Great Yarmouth from 20 to 30 December.