Think of Santa, think of the seaside? Most people don't! But Bournemouth residents (buoyed by the council's ambitious plans) enjoy winter as much as our scorching summer, with tonnes of Christmas fun for kids of all ages.
This will be my fourth Christmas back in town and I'm usually a bit of a Scrooge - but Bournemouth has chipped away at my festive reserve and this year I'm more excited than stressed out, for once.
I love the fact that there are some things that build and build each year - the town centre market, the bustling German bar, the stage shows in the Square, the fantastic pantos at both the Pavillion and the BIC...
But there's also something new each year to help stop the season getting stale and predictable.
Christmas for me starts on Friday with two new things - before the lights are turned on in town, there will be a procession through the town from two starting points - Horseshoe Common or The Triangle, from 5.45pm. The theme is Be Bright, Be Seen with free light-sticks and jewellery for children to press home the more serious message of road safety alongside the fun and anticipation of Christmas.
The second new thing I'll be trying on Friday is the pop-up Christmas bar in the Print Room & Ink Bar - a welcome alternative to the outdoor German Bar, where your fingers will freeze round your mulled wine if you don't dress for the occasion. Both venues will be decorated from top to bottom, with one as a 'White Winter Wonderland' style and the other as a 'Traditional Magic Christmas' theme.
Finally on Friday, I'll explore the Gardens of Light, the award-winning art installations, with their Light Pods, outdoor ice rink and Santa's grotto.
Unfortunately the Coca-Cola Christmas Truck Tour is skipping Bournemouth this year but it does hit Poole on December 18, and exploring the market, gardens and transformed town centre is something I can do daily in the meantime.
And that's before you even get to the beach! Christmas Day starts early on Boscombe pier with the White Xmas Dip for Macmillan - last year, I was one of the thousands who braved hailstorms to kick off Christmas with a swim (in fancy dress). It was more fun than it sounds. The atmosphere is fantastic and me and my website team raised almost £500 for charity.
The White Xmas Dip certainly gives you an appetite and I mostly try and eat out at lunchtime, to save stress. Last year, I went to Urban Beach for a stunning nine-course spectacular; this year, I'm saving my pennies for Arbor, recently crowned Dorset's best restaurant in the WHOLE COUNTY at the Tourism Awards. The menu includes seven courses and the main event sounds mouth-watering - slow-cooked turkey breast, confit leg, Pigs in Blankets, potatoes and sweet parsnips, sloe gin sauce and finally purple sprouts with chestnuts and smoked bacon (they almost sound edible!). It costs £75pp for locals, there are of course overnight packages too.
If the budget doesn't quite stretch to that once the gifts are bought, Aruba on Pier Approach has stunning views across all seven miles of award-winning Bournemouth beaches and a fun and funky menu, including plenty of cocktails! I'd happily have 'official' Christmas dinner any time in December, when two courses start from £15.95.
Of course, I can keep Christmas costs to a minimum as I'm a local but, even if you have to fork out for accommodation in Bournemouth, most of the entertainment in the town centre is free for all. So it's no wonder my town is my kind of town all year round.Suggest a correction