The Christmas lead-up: there’s nothing like markets, Santies and carols galore for sparking that thrill of Christmas anticipation and for helping the kids work off their pre-Santa nervous energy.
GLOW Christmas Festival, Cork, Friday-Sunday from November 28 until December 21, free admission. Information from: www.corkchristmascelebration.ie
Cork’s Christmas Festival includes a Christmas street market on Grand Parade with food, crafts and live music from choirs. As well as the Bishop Lucey Park “Night before Christmas” attraction, it also boasts Ireland’s largest ferris wheel. Don’t forget to drop by the Cork Craft and Design Pod to pick up beautiful locally-made gifts by some of Cork’s finest textile, ceramic and wood workers.
Limerick Milk Market Christmas Markets, Limerick City, Fridays to Sundays in December, also all week from 17th to 24th December. Free admission. Information from:www.milkmarketlimerick.ie
Browse the Capital of Culture’s historic Milk Market in the lead up to Christmas and soak up the bustle and atmosphere of Limerick’s award-winning covered market, where gourmet treats rub shoulders with Bric-a-Brac stalls. Music in the form of buskers and carol singers add to the festive charm. The market also hosts a range of gigs and events throughout December.
Winterval Christmas Festival, Waterford, November 21st to December 23rd, mostly free but some events have a cover charge. Information from: www.winterval.ie
An illusion by Waterford-born Festival Ambassador Keith Barry kicked off the opening ceremony for this year’s Winterval, which is billed as Ireland’s largest Christmas festival, with 60 stalls at their street market. With both ticketed and free events, Winterval has plenty to offer, including free screenings of Frozen at 1pm, 3pm and 5pm every day the festival is running, and a 3D lightshow in Palace Square. Word on the street has it that Winterval’s Santa is absolutely top-notch and almost uncannily in the know about his young penpals...
Imagine at Fota Island Resort, Fota Island, 29th November until 23rd December, €12.50 per adult and €20 per child, children under one free. Booking essential. Tickets from: www.fotaimagine.ie
Imagine at Fota Island Resort aren’t giving much away about their winter event, which transforms the mature woodlands around the resort into a Christmas experience featuring live performers. Although this year’s offering is being kept strictly under wraps, last year 30,000 people visited the attraction, which takes around an hour and a half, and of course includes an appearance from the man himself.
Leahy’s Farm Santa’s Christmas Village, Midleton, Co. Cork, 29th November until Tuesday 23rd December. Tickets: €9 per adult, €19 per child over 2 with a present. Information from: www.leahysopenfarm.ie
Leahy’s Farm hosts an annual Christmas event complete with Douglas the talking Christmas Tree, a wish-granting Christmas Angel and an Elf school, as well as Santa Claus. Although the indoor Christmas experience only takes 45 minutes, the ticket price includes access to all the Leahy’s Farm attractions, including play areas, Digger Park, go karts, the maze and Quad rides, as well as the chance to hold the famous Leahy’s Farm snake, who I imagine must get quite tired during the Christmas season.
Magical Blarney, Blarney Woollen Mills, Blarney, Co Cork, December 3 to December 24, Tickets €20. Information and bookings at: www.magicalblarney.com
Hi-tech elves have developed a magical wristband that can tell if your child has been naughty or nice on their visit to the Santa’s Grotto at Blarney Woollen Mills this year. When you book your tickets you are asked for your child’s age and gender so that they receive a gift tailored to their wants, which may be one of the reasons why Blarney Woollen Mills’ Santa is one of the most popular in the Munster area.