Looking for something festive to do in the coming weeks? These family-friendly outings for kids of all ages will get you all into the Christmas spirit in no time.
For kids ages 1-12
If they’re too small for Santa (let’s face it, before the age of three, they are absolutely going to cry!), forgo the queue for Mr Claus and instead take them to one of the many festive light experiences multiplying across Ireland. Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo has been running now for three seasons, drawing fans from near and far. This year’s theme is Stories, Myths and Legends, and it runs until January 5. Book before time slots are all snapped up. From December 1, it’ll be open seven days a week (excluding Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day). Tickets are €20 for adults and €15 for children (€18 and €12 for annual pass holders). Children under the age of three go free once booked in advance online, www.DublinZoo.ie.
For kids ages 4-8
Yes, it’s finally time to do the proper Santa visit. There are countless ones across the country, so do ask friends for recommendations and depending on your child’s age, see what’s available in your local area. All that said, if you want to push the boat out this year, Santa’s House Express returns to Palmerstown House Estate in Johnstown, Co Kildare until December 23rd, and it is pretty spectacular. This is its sixth year at the five-star manor, and offers special little visitors the chance to hop on a train that will wind its way through the fairy light-lit estate before arriving to Santa’s Magical Kingdom to meet a genie and an elf and then listen to a fireside story read by Mrs Claus. Then, they’ll make their way up the staircase to meet the big man himself. Once the children have shared their Christmas wishes with Santa and received a special gift, they’ll journey back to the lodge by train and head to the stables to make sure Rudolph and his friends get enough carrots ahead of their big trip. Pro tip: Join the free members’ club upon booking, and kids will have access to unlimited complimentary rides at the festival funfair. (And be sure to sample the hot chocolates – loaded up with whipped cream and marshmallows. It is Christmas, after all!) Tickets start at €21 for children and €15.50 for adults and infants, www.santashouseexpress.ie.
For kids ages 6-14
Now that they’re able to stay up a little later (and seated a little longer), a trip into the city to catch the panto is in order. You cannot go wrong with the Gaiety – the 148-year-old theatre has been running an annual pantomime since 1873 and this year’s production of Aladdin is exceptionally good (I’ve personally attended the Gaiety Panto four times now, and every year it surpasses the last – this year’s show has yet another wow-moment you won’t want to miss, and the returning as well as new cast members work together as if they were family). Dates have just been extended to January 19, but hurry – they go fast. Tickets from €19.50 (including booking fee and restoration levy), www.gaietytheatre.ie / www.ticketmaster.ie.
For kids ages 9-16
Love Elf? Who doesn’t? This year, why not make your annual viewing of this Will Ferrell classic extra special by seeing it from the comfort of your own car? No, we’re not suggesting you watch it on your phone… On Thursday, December 19, there will be a drive-in screening in aid of Barretstown at Leopardstown Racecourse from 6pm-8pm. Tickets from €30 for a regular-sized car, https://www.tickettailor.com/events/christmasfmbarretstown/321607/
For kids of all ages (at least those who can stay awake!)
Tonight’s the night, folks… The Late Late Toy Show airs at 9.35pm on RTÉ One, so get the popcorn and hot chocolates ready and don your matching pyjamas… Christmas officially begins now.