Want a festive celebration for your staff or clients that's a bit different this year? We've discovered a whole host of merrymaking techniques
1 The sporting chance
Take your team or clients to enjoy a sports-themed event while networking over lunch or dinner. This year Alexandra Palace in north London offers hospitality packages for the World Darts Championship, taking place from 15 December to 2 January and featuring top players such as Phil "the Power" Taylor. Guaranteeing an electric atmosphere with chants and banter aplenty, this is the perfect occasion for festive fun. Hospitality tables will be right next to the players' walk-on area giving them the best view of the action. Prices range from £125 to £200 per person and include a champagne reception, a two-course lunch or dinner, exclusive access to the Roman bar and canapés served during each session with complimentary drinks.
For a more genteel experience, the IoD will be hosting its Winter Sporting Lunch on Friday 9 December. Cricket legend Andrew Flintoff and former England, Chelsea and Spurs hero Jimmy Greaves will entertain guests with anecdotes from their lives as professional sportsmen. The ticket price of £170 (plus VAT) includes a champagne reception and three-course lunch with half a bottle of wine.
2 Have catering brought to you
Let someone else take the strain of organising your Christmas event. Edinburgh School of Food & Wine organises an outside catering service for small and large corporate events including dinner parties, champagne breakfasts and lunch. The team will put together a menu based on your requirements and can create an entirely bespoke service, providing tableware, equipment and all the staff required.
3 A winter wonderland
The IoD's impressive premises at 116 Pall Mall will be transformed on 13 December when guests will come together for a shared Christmas celebration. Tickets for the Winter Wonderland party are priced at £147 and include a champagne reception, a three-course dinner, as well as festive entertainment including a DJ and dancing. Guests can admire two beautiful snow-covered trees, which will stand either side of the grand staircase.
The premises will also be available for hire and a range of packages are available including drinks receptions, three-course meals, canapés and entertainment. The hospitality team at the IoD is also available to organise your bespoke Christmas party – whatever the personality of your company. They will come up with a fantastic idea.
4 Christmas on the move
Throughout December Orient Express is laying on Christmas journeys on its day trains, the British Pullman and the Northern Belle. The seasonal journeys include lunch and dinner as well as visits to Christmas markets in Lincoln and Bath, carol concerts at Salisbury Cathedral and shopping trips to London and Edinburgh. Passengers enjoy a sumptuous brunch on the outward journey and a four-course meal with wine and champagne on the return. This year guests can also join Shopping on the Rails – luxury retailers including Harrods, Liberty, Miller Harris perfumes and Cath Kidston will all be displaying products on-board. Christmas shopping at its most glam – and relaxing. Tickets from £210 per person for Christmas lunch on the British Pullman and £300 per person for Shopping on the Rails.
5 The traditional celebration
Treat your team or clients to a good old-fashioned Christmas lunch in a lovely restaurant. Go for a contemporary feel at the Michelin-starred Kent restaurant Chapter One, which has put together a scrumptious set menu, priced at £21.95 per person for lunch and £26.95 for dinner. Groups of more than 20 people can enjoy eating in the private function room.
Malmaison brasserie in Edinburgh has a Christmas menu available from 7 to 24 December and while it includes the traditional turkey and stuffing other classics such as Scottish steak and salmon also make it on to the menu. The £27.50 (per person) price includes three courses, coffee and truffles.
6 Celebrate on a boat
Take to the rivers and lakes for a party. Pleasure boats with full catering and entertainment offerings make for a fun evening out in the company of your team or clients. In London, Thames Leisure is offering several seasonal packages to suit small and large groups celebrating Christmas in style, ranging from a disco with a buffet and drinks service to a luxurious silver-service event.
Another option is YorkBoat's Christmas night cruises, taking place on several dates in December. The ticket price includes a two-course barbecue buffet and a disco during the three-hour cruise. YorkBoat also has vessels available for individual hire for those who want a bigger celebration.
The John Rennie is a luxurious floating restaurant on the canal in Bath. With three different Christmas menus on offer and space for 20 to 56 guests, this is the perfect festive option for those who want to celebrate in style and in a more intimate setting.
7 Cook with the team
Combine Christmas lunch with team-building and head to a cookery school for a fun foodie afternoon. Venturi's Table in London is organising staff parties including private use of one of its kitchens, a hands-on cookery event and a three-course gourmet Italian meal. Finish off with a truffle-making workshop, using a classic family recipe – these make for a nice Christmas gift and you can continue at home. Groups are greeted with prosecco and Italian canapés such as parmesan shortbread with sun-blushed tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. Recipes in the workshops will include Italian winter fare such as home-made ravioli and stuffed fillet of pork, and professional chefs are on hand to help. Once the meal is done the group will sit down and enjoy the food it has created together.
8 A traditional pub party
A Christmas celebration in a pub can be more relaxed and cosy than in a restaurant setting. The award-winning Bull at Broughton pub in Skipton, North Yorkshire, features log fires, has rooms for hire and offers a Christmas menu. The surroundings of Broughton Hall estate are perfect for a brisk walk after lunch. London gastro pub chain Geronimo Inns takes pride in catering to all needs at Christmas. Able to hold parties for two to 200 people, its pubs have special festive menus for many options, from champagne breakfasts to a full dinner. Those who want a little extra with their meal can ask to have a quiz or wine tasting organised for them, too.
9 The stylish nightclub
Put on your dancing shoes and enjoy some well-earned opulence at the Liverpool Hilton's new club – the Playground. This late-night venue, launching in December, is bringing a slice of Las Vegas to Merseyside. Drawing influences from the glittering nightlife of Miami and St Tropez, and the theatrical shows of Vegas, the Playground is the ultimate luxury party venue. The club, which faces Liverpool's Albert Dock, has a stage for live performances, a members-only area and booth tables set around the dance floor, which can be reserved for Christmas parties.
10 The bespoke party
Perhaps you've got a theme in mind for your Christmas party. Or indeed a particular venue you'd like to visit? At £20,000 minimum spend, Quintessentially Events is not cheap but what it does offer are tailor-made options for the perfect celebration. This multi-award winning events company will cater to your exact specifications.
For smaller firms and budgets, Eventa offers bespoke Christmas events in more than 80 locations, a range of special deals, and options for businesses arranging parties on a shoestring. www.quintessentiallyevents.com
11 Bond with the team
For businesses looking for an alternative to the boozy office celebration, there are plenty of options available. Team-building and development company Fresh Tracks arranges a variety of activities including a chocolate challenge for groups of six to 600 people, treasure hunts on foot or in chauffeured vehicles, film-making and winter-themed activities in real or artificial snow. Off Limits Corporate Events also provides bonding activities in the UK and abroad. The events company offers country sports outings, such as archery and clay pigeon shooting, tank driving, sheepdog handling, wine tasting and painting.
12 Christmas in the new year
If your company is too busy to celebrate Christmas in December or budgets are tight, then why not enjoy merriment in January instead? Many venues offer festive packages at discounted rates in the new year and you can beat those inevitable January blues with a party after the holiday season. With 20 years' experience, Hospitality Line arranges a vast range of tailor-made post-Christmas parties for businesses in a variety of venues.