At this time of year it is easy to get wrapped up in the shopping and presents instead of spending time with the family and making memories. So every December we plan activites or places to visit with the kids. Our christmas activities usually start the last week of November when we put the Christmas decorations up at home, the kids usually watch a christmas film or two with Trevor while I do it. Then we have visits to see the big man himself and a pantomine or two thrown in. I thought I would share some of the things we do to help get the kids into the christmas spirit (not that they need it) and to stop me from going insane when I hear when is santa coming? or I want that for christmas! everytime a toy advert comes on the television.
I have mentioned before my kids aren’t a fan of the cold so at the time of year they would rather stay at home than go out. I try to plan activities to do at home from baking (m[ok]pok]pthe easier the better for my sake) to coloruing christmas pictures, writing letters to santa and watching christmas films with hot chocolate and treats.
If staying at home to watch films isn’t for you the local cinemas always have christmas films showing which is perfect for a saturday or sunday afternoon. Our local cinema is showing The Grinch, Elf, Home Alone, The Nutcracker and Smallfoot. I’m sure we will have a few visits between now and christmas.
As you know the kids love going to a pantomine or a show espically at the time of year so watch out for a few reviews over the next couple of weeks. The shows can vary in price and budget so there is something to suit everyone.
The Mac theatre is showing The Elves and the Shoemaker from 27th November – 6th January.
The Lyric theatre is showing Alice: the musical from 30th November – 5th January.
The Waterfront is showing Beauty and Beast from 30th November – 6th January.
The Grand Opera House is showing Jand and the Beanstalk from 1st December – 13th January.
There is also plenty to do that wont cost a fortune which is allways a winner with us. The kids love looking a christmas decorations so we take them to some of the local garden centres to see their displays. Its always a bonus if the garden centre has a coffee shop where they can have a little bun and a drink.
Lisburn light festival – Lisburn Light Festival runs every night until 25th January with light shows at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm, each lasting approximately 10 minutes. Perfect for keeping the kids entertained and you can squeeze in a spot of shopping. (More info here).
Santas Post office in Belfast- Join Santa’s elves at his Belfast Post Office on Royal Avenue (opposite Debenhams). The kids can go along write their letters to santa, get them stamped by the elves with their North Pole seal of approval, then post them in Santa’s magical postbox and see the journey they will take from Belfast to the North Pole! I hear Santa send a reply to everyone on the good list! This runs every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday in December until 23rd (excludes Thursday 20th).
The Belfast Christmas Market is another firm favourite in our house though it can get very busy so we tend to go on a Sunday when it first opens or a day after school when its not just so busy. Its has a mix of cuisine from all around the world and hand crafted and bespoke goods so you are sure to pick up a little christmas gift or two that is a little different fro that person who is hard to buy for. opening times are Monday – Wednesday 10am-8pm, Thursday – Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm (Closes 6pm on Saturday 22 December).
St Georges Market- With live performances from local musicians to help get you in the Christmas spirit and children’s activities to help bring a touch of magic to your little one’s Christmas experience there is something for everyone. They have locally grown ingredients to help make the perfect Christmas feast to one-of-a-kind handmade gifts to suit anyone. (More info here.)
St Annes Catherdral gardens- Enjoy a range of family fairground rides including an Observation Wheel, Ship Swing, Carousel and Santa Train in Cathedral Gardens (beside St Anne’s Cathedral) from just £2 or some sweet treats from the fairground chalets. Opening times are Monday – Friday 3pm – 8pm, Saturday 10am – 8pm, Sunday 12noon – 6pm.
Antrim Castle Enchanted Winter Garden- Enchanted Winter Garden returns to Antrim Castle Gardens from Friday 7 December -Tuesday 18 December, create a magical Christmas experience for all the family when the enchanted winter garden returns to Antrin castle Gardens. Take in the views from the Antrim wheel or go on the vintage Wave Swinger , Victorian Helter Skelter walk around the extended Wonderland Wood. From Friday 7 December to Monday 17 December (more info here).
Spirit of Christmas at Ulster Folk & Transport Museum – Friday 7 – Friday 21 December experience a traditional Christmas exploring the candlelit Ballycultra village to experience Christmas from 100 years ago at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum. Visit Santa as he warms his toes by his open fire, tell him of your wishes and receive a small gift before you leave. Booking for Santa is essential. Friday evening opening hours 6pm – 9pm and weekends 1pm – 6pm. Carols by Candlelight Friday evenings, 7 – 21 December at 7.30pm. Nine lessons and Carols, 23 December from 4pm – 5pm.Festive Vintage Afternoon Teas, 16 December1-5pm, £25pp. Early booking is advised to avoid disappointment. To make a booking go to www.nmni.com a or to find out more call 028 9039 5108/5111.
Of course it wouldn’t be christmas without a trip to see Santa. I know most shopping centres and garden centres have a santa to take the kids too but over the years they have had a few firm favourites:
- Victoria Square – Although it can be busy its worth the wait when Santa has a real beard! When the kids questioned it this santa was perfect to visit, they still say he is the real Santa. We make sure we only go near Victoria square with the kids once while he is there so they think he is there for one day only because he is too busy the rest of the time. With all the fantastic decorations around Victoria square its sure to get you in the christmas spirit.
- The Boulevard – Last year we went to visit Santa at The Outlet before it changed to The Boulevard. You can read about our experience here. The kids loved it so much we are going back this year for some shopping and a visit to Santa.
- We have also think the Santa at Bloomfields shopping centre, castle Court and Hillmount garden garden centre are fantastic.
- W5, Titanic Belfast experience and The Polar Express at Slieve Donard are all fantastic for the kids.
Do you go anywhere or do anything exciting in the run up to christmas to help get the kids into the christmas spirit?