Twinkling lights, frosty winter air and festive cheer around every corner – welcome to Christmas in the West.
The most wonderful time of the year? We think so! Think bustling streets filled with festive shoppers, hot drinks enjoyed in front of a roaring turf fire and carol singers belting out your favourite Christmas tunes.
Check out our list of the top things to do in the West this festive season.
Santa with a Twist
1. Santa at the Arigna Mining Experience. Visit Santa underground at the Arigna Mining Experience in Co Roscommon, a world-class attraction using bona fide miners as guides. Given the rocky authenticity of the surroundings, this Santa visit is like no other. Santa will be in his underground grotto where he will meet all the children. There will be daily entertainment which includse face painting, story telling and lots more fun activities for the kids.Until 22 Dec. arignaminingexperience.ie/santa/
2. Winter Wonderland at Westport House. Winter Wonderland at Westport House is a magical family experience brimming with Christmas cheer that will leave the kids starry-eyed and the whole family believing in fairy-tales!
Escape the wintery weather outside for the warmth of our open fires in this stunning historic house. Soak up the twinkling lights, lush green garlands and tinsel trimmings spilling festively from every corner of Westport House as the little ones enjoy a fun-filled Christmas experience that they are sure to remember forever.
Until 23 Dec. Westport House, Westport, Co Mayo. westporthouse.ie/event/winter-wonderland-2/
3. The Christmas Experience at Tullyboy Farm, Boyle, Co Roscommon
Down on Tullyboy Farm in Boyle in Co. Roscommon there is a chill in the air and all the animals are tucked up warmly in their beds awaiting the arrival of baby Jesus. The atmosphere is buzzing with excitement. The pudding is being made, Santa’s bags are being packed and the Elves are eager to bring you through the ten stages of the Tullyboy Farm Christmas Experience.
Parents and children can warm themselves with hot chocolate and marshmallows and mulled juices/mince pies in the Yuletide Kitchen where you can also help out with stirring the pudding and don’t forget to make your wish. Hear the story of Christmas in front of the big fire in the inglenook fireplace, then up the spiral staircase to Santa’s bedroom to see Santa’s old-fashioned bed and the naughty elf.
Visit the Christmas Experience at Tullyboy Farm until 23 December. tullyboyfarm.com/visitorfarms/christmas/
4. Visit Donegal’s Lapland
The longest running and most popular Christmas show in Donegal is back again for 2018 and you do really have to pass the North Pole to get here, we kid you not!
Santa’s Lapland in Donegal includes a live show, with an elf telling the nativity story as it unfolds on stage. Santa arrives down the chimney with a small gift for each child. They move on to Santa’s home, visit the toy factory and sit on his sleigh. There’s a second chance to meet Santa at his home, and have photos taken. See donegalslapland.ie
5. Santa’s Workshop at Ailwee Caves, Co Clare
Santa Claus has been taking up his annual residence at Aillwee Cave in Ballyvaughan especially to meet children and their families since The Millennium. He works very hard as he prepares this unique event.
Along with Mrs. Claus and his team of happy Elves, Santa ensures a very special personalised visit for each child. He arranges lots of exciting entertainment for all the family which continues right throughout each day. There is face painting, a puppet show and lots of carnival entertainment to be enjoyed.
Santa Elves are waiting with their LISTS of the boys and girls visiting every day. They will guide everyone along the cave passageways singing Christmas Carols all the way. Santa Claus with his helper will meet and chat with each child and of course, have a present for everyone. Mrs. Claus is there to greet the grownup with a glass of Hot Punch and a Mince Pie.
Santa’s train is available for rides all day long which will take you to visit the Birds of Prey Centre. There you will enjoy a complimentary visit to meet a Snowy Owl or a Happy Harris Hawk! A visit to Santa’s Workshop at Aillwee really is a unique, thrilling, fun filled day out for every generation of your family.
Until 22 Dec. facebook.com/aillwee
6. Brigit’s Garden, Galway
If you’d like to take the focus away from presents, you might like Brigit’s Garden in Galway. Their “Santa’s Christmas Magic Show” includes music and dancing, followed by the lighting of candles, and then the lighting of the Christmas tree – by magic. There are no individual presents for children (though there is a “symbolic gift” for each family). So if you’re worried about the commercial side of Christmas, this might be the one for you.
Until 23 December. brigitsgarden.ie
Nothing gets people in the Christmas mood more than a colourful market. Eating delicious festive food at markets will get us all warmed up for the Christmas dinner.
7. Galway Continental Christmas Market
Galway Christmas Market
The Galway Continental Christmas Market makes its return to the City Of The Tribes from 6pm on Friday 16th November until Saturday 22nd December 2018.
The Galway Continental Christmas Market received over 350,000 visitors last year and there were more than 50 wooden chalets located Eyre Square along with the Santa’s Grotto, the German Bier Keller numerous other theatrical delights throughout the four week fair.
This year marks the Christmas Market’s ninth year in Galway, with artisan foods and Christmas present ideas from both local and international traders.
Signature amusement rides will be returning, including a 32 metre high Big Wheel, Helter Skelter and traditional Carousel.
Until 22 Dec. facebook.com/ChristmasMarketGalway/
8.The Mistletoe Market and Frosty Salmon Festival in Ballina.
The Frosty Salmon Christmas Festival returns to Ballina from the 6-23rd of December and promises plenty of festive cheer and seasonal celebrations. Ballina Mistletoe Market is a European style Christmas market which will bring Ballina back to its historic market town origins and will boast a range of local, traditional crafts and artisan food while the festival also boasts a host of concerts, carol singing, street performances at various venues and late night shopping for those last minute gifts.
A major addition to this year’s festival is the inclusion of Ballina on the Coca-Cola National Christmas Truck Tour. Stopping at the Military Barracks in Ballina on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 12, the truck will delight families with its the iconic ‘Holidays are Coming’ jingle, made famous in their Christmas TV adverts. Featuring a glittering winter wonderland setting nestled amongst a festival of lights, visitors will be able to enjoy a can of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Diet Coke or Coca-Cola Original Taste while enjoying exclusive photography opportunities and creating magical memories that will last a lifetime. This year, Coke merchandise will be available to purchase with proceeds going to St. Vincent de Paul and each truck tour stop will encourage consumers to recycle their cans, in line with Coca-Cola’s World Without Waste global commitment to collect and recycle a bottle or can for each one sold by the year 2030.
Irish Rail’s Polar Express Christmas Train runs on three dates this year – December 8, 15 and 22. Once again this special hour-long trip to Manulla and back with Santa and Mrs Claus on board promises to be a truly memorable experience for children of all ages. Tickets are now on sale from Ballina Train Station priced at €12.50 per person.
9 Strandhill People’s Market, Sligo Airport, Strandhill
Strandhill People’s Market, now in its fifth year, opened its Christmas market last Friday, 08 December. Based in the unique surrounds of Sligo Airport’s Hangar, the market has become one of the biggest along the Wild Atlantic Way with over 50 stalls to choose from on each date.
The organisers behind the family-friendly venue are constantly looking for new ways to expand its audience and make it an event for everyone to enjoy.
This December, they’ve brought back late-night opening at the market – it’s on every Friday leading up to Christmas.
The market has already proven to have had a significant economic impact on the surrounding area, creating employment, generating visitor spend, and making a substantial contribution to the winter economy in Sligo.
Details: December 2, 9, 14-16, 21-23, strandhillpeoplesmarket.ie
10. Galway Food Tours Christmas Gift Tours
Shopping local has never been as important, and it is the best way of finding that novel and unique gift. So, Galway Food Tours (GFT) have teamed up with Galway institutions including McCambridges, My Shop Granny Likes it, Tigh Neachtains, Pálás Arthouse Cinema and The Tasting Room (America Village Apothecary) to offer the best food tours with the best local produce. More here.