Seven Christmas experiences to take the kids to this festive season

Searching for some inspiration to tire the kids out this winter? Look no further…
Seven Christmas experiences to take the kids to this festive season

Elves are busy getting ready for Santa’s arrival to Winterval. Picture: Patrick Browne

‘It starts earlier and earlier every year’ - or so we like to tell ourselves. But the truth is, it’s never too soon to start booking in your winter wonderland experience, Christmas Panto or a visit to the main man himself.

As much as we all tried to ignore it, there have been whispers of tickets and pre-bookings for Christmas experiences since as early as July but with summer now well and truly behind us, it might be time to start thinking about your options.

Some events are already starting to fill up so if you are looking for some inspiration ahead of planning your Christmas activities, there are plenty to choose from across the country this festive season.

Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo 

Dublin Zoo’s Wild Lights are back and the theme for this year is 'The Magic of Life’.

It wouldn’t be winter without this spectacular night-time experience which will highlight the importance of biodiversity with over one thousand colourful lanterns to reflect the one million species of plants and animals at risk of extinction.

This year, the trail includes some of the world’s pollinators, including giant bees and the caterpillar's beautiful transformation into a butterfly as well as stunning illuminated woodland scenes.

The breathtaking Wild Lights display for 2022 promises to both amaze and educate, showcasing biodiversity.

Wild Lights will open on Friday, October 28 and run until Monday, January 9. All ticket sale funds go into the zoo's day-to-day operations. To book, visit https://www.dublinzoo.ie/wildlights/ 

Winterval 

Sé Smithers (6) Willow Kenny (6), Katelyn Darmody (6) and Róisin Smithers (8) preparing Santa’s sleigh for his arrival to Winterval 
Sé Smithers (6) Willow Kenny (6), Katelyn Darmody (6) and Róisin Smithers (8) preparing Santa’s sleigh for his arrival to Winterval 

Meanwhile in Waterford, preparations are underway for the arrival of Mr Claus himself as Winterval makes a welcome return for 2022.

This year, the Waterford Christmas festival is planning a new and exciting programme in celebration of its 10th birthday including a re-imagined Santa Claus experience as well as the usual firm favourites such as ice skating, the Winterval Cabin Market, Waterford Illuminate, live music and much more.

For 2022, Santa’s Central Station will be setting up shop at Michael Street in the heart of Waterford city, surrounded by a host of family-friendly sights and activities. Elves will guide little ones to visit the main man with the option of capturing the moment with a photo.

Santa will host little guests all the way through the festival – from Friday, November 18 until Friday, December 23.

For further details of the 2022 Winterval Festival programme or to make reservations, www.winterval.ie.

A Cork Panto 

If a Christmas pantomime is more your cup of tea, then this year’s Sleeping Beauty at the Cork Opera House is sure to entertain both little and large. This year’s 2022 Christmas panto tells the tale of Sleeping Beauty and promises to be jam-packed with plenty of beautiful costumes, colour, live music, dancing and of course, those all-important funny moments.

Unlike the star of this year’s show, audience members will be wide-awake and enchanted by this magical musical that all the family will enjoy this festive season.

Created by the panto “dream team”, this year’s show will see Nanny Nellie and friends take on Maleficent in a quest to find our princess, Sleeping Beauty.

Sleeping Beauty at the Cork Opera House takes to the stage on December 1 until January 20. To book, visit https://www.corkoperahouse.ie/ 

The Christmas Experience at Tayto Park 

Back in July, when Christmas was the last thing on our minds, Tayto Park announced the return of its Christmas Experience for winter. Now that the big day is edging a bit closer, this is what you can expect for 2022.

This year’s Christmas Experience at Tayto Park will bring Candy Land, the Reindeer Stables and of course, Santa’s House where Mr Claus himself will be waiting to meet little ones.

The merry elves, led by head elf Jingles, will even guide visitors through Elf Land, where the other elves will be busy making toys and wrapping presents in preparation for December 24.

Tayto Park’s Christmas Experience is open November 25, 26, 27 and December 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 and from December 15-23.

For more information or to book or see https://taytopark.ie/ 

Elf Town Galway 

Santa at Elf Town
Santa at Elf Town

Set across three buildings, this Christmas extravaganza is returning to the Galway Racecourse for 2022. As part of the two-hour experience, excited visitors will get the opportunity to meet Santa, Mrs Claus, the helpful elves and even the reindeer. The magical journey starts at the Castle gates with head elf Glitterpants and ends with a visit to Old Saint Nick.

This year, each child will also receive their golden ticket and a map of Elf Town in the post before their visit. From Jack Frost’s icy wonderland to Rudolph’s puppet experience, there is plenty to explore here.

Elf Town opens on Friday, November 25 and closes on Friday, December 23. For more, see https://elftown.ie/ 

Leahy’s Open Farm 

William Walker meeting Santa at Leahy's Open Farm in 2018. Picture: Denis Minihane.
William Walker meeting Santa at Leahy's Open Farm in 2018. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Get in the festive spirit with the return of Santa in the Barn at Leahy’s Open Farm in Cork this November and December.

The family-run farm is located outside Midleton with the Santa experience taking place Wednesday through Sunday from November 26 until December 23. Before his big journey on Christmas Eve, little visitors to the farm will meet with Santa Claus who will gift them a small present.

Starting off the festivities, children will meet Mrs Claus in her cottage before heading over to see the elves in the workshop and making a decoration of their own with Hoppy the elf.

While at Leahy farm, families can also pay a visit to the Christmas markets as well as some of the farm’s animals. For those with a sweet tooth, there will also be the chance to make your own festive lollipops in the on-site chocolate factory.

For more on Santa in the Barn, see https://leahysopenfarm.ie/santa-in-the-barn/

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