Dickens is as much part of Christmas as mince pies, and Rochester in Kent, his sometime-home, was a continuing inspiration to him.
The town retains its castle, medieval cathedral and Victorian shops and many links with the author (Medway Visitor Information Centre, 95 High Street, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1LX, 01634 843 666). But for a full-on Dickens experience, try Dickens World at Chatham Maritime (pound;12.50 adults, pound;7.50 children, 01634 890 421, www.dickensworld.co.uk), celebrating its first Christmas. The Haunted House has ghosts from A Christmas Carol, as well as an 1832 schoolroom from Dotheboys' Hall. Book an overnight break from pound;99 for a family of four.
Leeds Castle has a medieval frost fair until New Year's Eve, with floodlit evening skating sessions and last-minute Christmas shopping (adults, pound;14, children pound;8.50, pre-booking essential for Santa, pound;8 extra, 001622 767 877, www.leeds-castle.com), while Hever Castle will be decorated for Christmas (pound;5 adults, pound;2 children, 01732 865 224, www.hevercastle.co.uk) and the Kent and East Sussex railway is running steam-driven Santa specials (from pound;14, 087 060 060 74, www.kesr.org.uk) from Tenterden.
Canterbury's Christmas market on Whitefriars and Clocktower Squares runs until December 23, and the Cathedral's carol service is on December 23 at 3pm (01227 762 862, www.canterbury-cathedral.org).
Lapland UK, Santa's snowy British HQ at Bedgebury Forest, is fully booked. You can register for next year (www.laplanduk.co.uk), or join the Boxing Day walk (booking essential, 01580 879 820, 11am).
Where to go
Visit the once-fashionable seaside towns of Folkestone and Margate, which are slowly being regenerated and attracting more of an arty crowd. Pop into the cute Shell Grotto in Margate, and sample the jellied eels on Folkestone seafront.
Canterbury has one of the oldest and most imposing cathedrals in Britain, with its beautiful rose window and gothic crypt. Entry is pound;6.50 or free if you're attending a service, although the lovely carol services before Christmas are now ticketed.
Thomas, Herne Bay
Where to eat
The windswept fishing port of Whitstable is great for seafood. Try Wheelers, or for good honest grub with friendly service, the fish and chip shop on the high street.
Where to stay
The pretty village of Chilham, with its historic castle, is the perfect base for a winter stroll. The Castle Cottage bed and breakfast, tucked away inside the castle walls, fits the bill nicely.