Where and when to watch your nearest Christmas lights switch-on in Kent in 2023

Looking to get into the festive spirit? There’s no better way than with a Christmas lights switch-on.

While some towns have cancelled their switch-on events this year, there are still plenty of communities in Kent that are coming together to watch their towns become illuminated with sparkling lights. Here’s where you can find them…

Ashford's Carnival of the Baubles will light up the town once again this year
Ashford's Carnival of the Baubles will light up the town once again this year

Ashford

While Ashford isn’t putting on a big event for its switch-on this year, you can still head out to catch the town aglow for the first time this festive season. There’s also the Carnival of the Baubles less than two weeks later, which gives residents a chance to see illuminations take over the town with a lantern parade and projections as well as the hanging Christmas lights.

Details: Light switch on Monday, November 13 and the Carnival of the Baubles takes place on Saturday, November 25 in Ashford town centre

Liberty X will perform at this year’s Westwood Cross switch-on
Liberty X will perform at this year’s Westwood Cross switch-on

Broadstairs

Nineties and noughties popstars are helping to turn on the lights at one of Kent’s biggest shopping centres. Chart-topping group Liberty X and Stay Another Day singers East 17 will be performing their huge hits at Westwood Cross to kick off the festive season alongside a number of tribute bands, all before the big switch on.

Details: Friday, November 17 at Westwood Cross shopping centre in Broadstairs

Canterbury’s Christmas Light Parade will include cast members from the Marlowe Theatre panto. Picture: Matt Wilson
Canterbury’s Christmas Light Parade will include cast members from the Marlowe Theatre panto. Picture: Matt Wilson

Canterbury

This year, the Canterbury Christmas Light Parade will feature more than 100 glowing costumes created by students from local schools. The parade, which is organised by the Canterbury Business Improvement District, will march through the streets as the hanging lights switch on, and it all ends with a huge finale featuring the cast of the Marlowe Theatre’s panto, including former Strictly pro Kevin Clifton, in the Dane John Gardens. It’s also the same day that the Canterbury Christmas Market opens in Whitefriars and the High Street.

Details: Friday, November 10 from Westgate Towers to the Dane John Gardens in Canterbury

EastEnders’ Shona McGarty will switch on the lights in Dartford. Picture: Gala Lights
EastEnders’ Shona McGarty will switch on the lights in Dartford. Picture: Gala Lights

Dartford

The cast of Dartford’s Christmas panto, Beauty and the Beast, will be taking to the stage for the Christmas lights switch-on in the town centre. From 5pm, crowds can gather to watch EastEnders’ Shona McGarty, Britain's Got Talent semi-finalist John Archer and fellow soap actor Harry Reid illuminate the town with music and lots of festive cheer.

Details: Saturday, November 18 in Dartford town centre

Dover

A huge festive market will be setting up shop from 1pm in Dover’s Market Square to kick off the Christmas celebrations early. Visitors can browse stalls selling gifts, crafts, food and drink and, when the sun goes down, they can watch the lights being turned on surrounded by traditional market huts.

Details: Saturday, December 2 at Market Square in Dover

Faversham

It’s the 41st official Christmas lights switch-on in the medieval market town of Faversham, and crowds are expected to gather to celebrate the occasion. There will be free live music and entertainment on the stage, a night-time food and drink market and the family-friendly switch-on event from 4:30pm.

Details: Saturday, November 25 at Market Place in Faversham

Folkestone

Folkestone’s Creative Quarter is set to sparkle and shine this Christmas with its spectacular festive lights. The event is being hosted by Kim-Joy, former Great British Bake Off contestant and author of Turtle Bread, who will also launch the Folkestone Book Festival on the same night. There will also be window decorations at local shops and businesses and extended Christmas shopping hours.

Details: Friday, November 17 at the Old High Street in Folkestone

Gravesham will host an all-day celebration for it’s Christmas lights switch-on. Picture: Cohesion Plus
Gravesham will host an all-day celebration for it’s Christmas lights switch-on. Picture: Cohesion Plus

Gravesend

The town centre in Gravesend will welcome visitors from 2pm for an afternoon of Christmas-themed entertainment and music. The light switch-on will be led by the Mayor of Gravesham and the cast of Snow White, this year’s Woodville panto, and there will be an hour-long set from ‘90s duo MC Luck and DJ Neat.

Details: Saturday, November 18 in Gravesend town centre

Garry and Chelsea from kmfm’s Breakfast Show will switch on the lights again in Maidstone. Picture: Gala Lights
Garry and Chelsea from kmfm’s Breakfast Show will switch on the lights again in Maidstone. Picture: Gala Lights

Maidstone

This year, kmfm presenters Garry and Chelsea will return to Maidstone’s Jubilee Square to help crowds countdown to the big switch-on. The Christmas lights event has drawn in as many as 5,000 people in previous years, and locals are expected to once again clap and cheer along with our Breakfast hosts as they bring in the county town’s festive season.

Details: Thursday, November 16 at Jubilee Square in Maidstone

Margate

For the second year in a row, the seaside town is encouraging residents to gather at Cecil Square for live music, family entertainment and a bustling festive market, all before the giant Christmas tree is illuminated with sparkling lights.

Details: Saturday, November 25 at Cecil Square in Margate

New Romney

This year, New Romney is swapping a light switch-on for a lantern parade. Light Up New Romney will see lots of glowing, glittering lanterns take to the streets, as well as a traditional Christmas market and a post-parade celebration in St Nicholas Church.

Details: Friday, December 8 from Tritton Lane to St Nicholas Church in New Romney

Some towns have cancelled their switch-on events this Christmas due to budget cuts. Picture: Gala Lights
Some towns have cancelled their switch-on events this Christmas due to budget cuts. Picture: Gala Lights

Queenborough

Children can say hello to Santa and meet his friendly reindeer in the afternoon before picking the perfect spot to watch the light parade. The parade takes place from King George’s Park, Castlemere Avenue and Manor Road from 4:30pm and ends in a spectacular fireworks display over Queenborough seafront.

Details: Sunday, November 26 from King George’s Park in Queenborough

Sandwich

Browse Christmas stalls at the indoor market, marvel at the lantern parade and sing and dance to festive music before the big light switch-on at 7pm. There’s also a magical Santa’s Grotto where families can capture special memories together on the night.

Details: Saturday, December 2 in Sandwich town centre

Sevenoaks

The town will be pulling out all the stops for this year’s switch-on. There will be fairground rides for children, stalls selling food and gifts, street entertainment and a grotto where the children can meet Father Christmas. There will also be a stage with live music and performances from the cast of the Stag Theatre panto, Jack and the Beanstalk. The countdown begins at 7.30pm but there’s activities from 6pm.

Details: Friday, November 24 in Sevenoaks town centre

Sittingbourne

A huge number of local businesses will be bringing their pop-up bars, food trucks and gift stalls to Sittingbourne for this year’s Christmas light switch-on. There will also be children’s entertainment, live bands, DJs and singers across two stages before the stunning lights are revealed.

Details: Saturday, November 18 in the High Street in Sittingbourne

Tenterden

Join in with a traditional Christmas carol and prayer outside Tenterden’s Town Hall before the lights turn on. There will be a final blessing of the Christmas tree and a countdown before the tree is lit up in sparkling decorations.

Details: Friday, November 24 at the Plaza outside the Town Hall in Tenterden

The Pantiles switch-on will be the finale of Tunbridge Wells’ Christmas lights. Picture: Gala Lights
The Pantiles switch-on will be the finale of Tunbridge Wells’ Christmas lights. Picture: Gala Lights

Tunbridge Wells

This year there’s not one, not two, but three Christmas light switch-ons in Tunbridge Wells. It all starts with the Upper Town and Camden Road lights on Thursday, followed High Street and Chapel Place on Friday. Then, on Saturday evening, the town’s shopping district The Pantiles will be lit up during the big switch-on finale.

Details: Thursday, November 16 at the Upper Town and Camden Road; Friday, November 17 at the High Street and Chapel Place; and Saturday, November 18 at The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells

West Malling

This year, the organisers behind West Malling’s annual Christmas Festival are teaming up with the Heart of Kent Hospice to raise money for charity. The event will include a fundraising tombola, live music from local artists, fairground rides, food and drink stalls, Santa’s Grotto, as well as twinkling Christmas lights.

Details: Sunday, December 3 at the High Street in West Malling

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