Before I start I just want to say that I’m absolutely not anti-Santa. In fact I love the man in red. Big fan. Think he’s great. However he is absolutely everywhere when December hits. And now that my biggest kid is getting a bit older I don’t want her to see him too often, because I think seeing him too much might take the magic of Santa away a little bit. And I really want to preserve that magic as long as I can.
I still love a good Christmassy activity or day out though and have come across some really fun things to do throughout December. So here are some of my favourite festive activities we’ve done in the past few years. Or things that I’ve noticed and thought I’d really like to do!
There are some free family oriented events on this year, with street performers, Christmas characters, reindeer, festive food, choirs, market stalls and loads more. The man in red will most likely be around, but it won’t be the meeting of Santa so I’m including them in the list!
- 26th Nov, 1-5pm: The Glasgow Style Mile Christmas Carnival An afternoon of festive spectacle, performance and entertainments in and around the Style Mile in Glasgow city centre. Christmas characters will be there to greet you including a larger-than-life Father Christmas and his companion Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, cheeky elves, musical snowmen, dancing snowflakes, a choir performance, street art and scores of other magical items to bring cheer to the City Centre for the day.
- 26th Nov, 12-6pm: Ashton Lane Winter Wonderland The charming West End lane is being transformed into a magical Winter Wonderland, as Santa and his helpers fly in for a visit and Elsa & Olaf heading down to say Merry Christmas to their little friends! Adults can enjoy Christmas choirs, festive food, pop-up bars serving delicious winter warmers as well as grab some presents from the Festive market.
- 2nd – 17th Dec, on weekends: Paisley’s Big Christmas Weekends Free family entertainment on weekends leading up to Christmas. With festive stilt walkers, magicians, jugglers, balloon modellers, face painting, music and lots more.
Go Ice Skating
Ice skating always reminds me of those old timey Christmas movies. Maybe it’s the getting all wrapped up warm, but it just has such a festive feel to it, especially the open air ice rinks. Places you can skate this year are:
- Open air ice rink in George Square at Glasgow Winterfest
- Ice skating in Braehead Arena.
- East Kilbride ice rink in the Olympia Centre.
- The open air ice rink at M&D’s.
- Ice skating at the Time Capsule.
- There’s also an outdoor festive ice rink at Paisley Winterfest.
Run a Santa Dash
We haven’t done a Santa Dash since before the kids came along and every year I think to myself “I really want to do this next year!” They are totally family friendly – lots of people run a bit and walk a bit; there are dogs (dressed up too, obviously), buggies, little kids on scooters, everything!
It’s such a fun event, and probably the most festive thing you can do. I mean, there’s no way you could not be in the Christmas spirit when you’re with thousands of Santa’s running up the road. Or even just watching them! All proceeds go to various charities, so it’s all for a good cause too.
- This year the Glasgow Santa Dash is on December 10th and profits from this year’s event will be split between the Beatson Cancer Charity and the Lord Provost’s Children’s Fund. More info at glasgow.gov.uk.
- St Andrews Hospice are hosting a Santa Dash and 1000ft zip slide on Sunday 13th November in Strathclyde Park. You can find the info here at Santa’s Zippity Doo Dash.
See Some Reindeer
We went to Aviemore a few years ago at the very end of November, and went to see the Cairngorm reindeer herd while we were there. It wasn’t Christmassy at all; there was not an elf nor a sliver of tinsel in sight, but it still felt a little bit festive and was such great fun!
Obviously that’s a pretty long way to go to to see reindeer, but there are usually a few opportunities closer to home.
- This year Santa’s reindeer will be at Paisley Winterfest on the weekends, on Saturday 2nd & Sunday 10th December.
- Other places to see reindeer are at Culzean Country Park (included in NTS passes if you happen to have those) and the Scottish Deer Centre in Fife, which has reindeer plus loads of other types of deer, some other rare Scottish animal species and a few others.
Meet Mrs Claus
Meeting Mrs Claus at Pollok House was always such a sweet activity for little kids. Pollok House is getting a bit of a refurb this year, and so this year it will take place at The Hill House, another NTS property.
At the Mrs Claus events, kids usually do a little treasure hunt (they have to find 5 toy reindeer or snowmen or something along those lines that are hidden around the house) and there’s always some colouring or a craft activity. Then they go in to meet Mrs Claus who has a wee chat with them and they get a gift on leaving. This was one of our favourite Christmas events and a great festive pre-schooler activity.
See all the info on the National Trust Scotland website.
See a Pantomime
There are so many pantos and Christmas shows around it’s hard to know where to start. There are obviously the pantomimes in Glasgow’s biggest theatres. This big ones this year are:
- 2nd Dec – 7th Jan: Snow White at the Kings Theatre
- 28th & 29th Dec: Peter Pan at the OVO Hydro
- 30th Nov – 14th Jan: Treasure Island is on in the Pavilion.
There are a couple of other theatres that are excellent places to see a panto. A few that I think look great this year are:
- 29th Nov – 7th Jan: The Tron Theatre are showing Aganeza Scrooge this year. (Recommended for 7+)
- 5th – 23rd Dec: This year Platform (at The Bridge in Easterhouse – not the one in town) are showing Cinderella. (Recommended for 5+)
- 25th Nov – 30th Dec: Cumbernauld Theatre always put on a fantastic family friendly show and this year are showing UGLY! A Cinderella Story for those age 7+.
See a Christmassy Show
Then there are the Christmas shows that aren’t pantos. They’re shorter in length, all are on during the day and they are aimed at younger kids – up to around age 6 or so. We’ve been to a few over the years and there hasn’t been one we haven’t absolutely loved.
- 4th – 22nd Dec: A ladder to the stars at Cumbernauld Theatre.
- 24th Dec: The McDougalls Big Christmas Show in the Royal Concert Hall
See a Musical Number
One of the most Christmassy things I can think of is seeing some carollers singing, or choirs singing Christmas songs. It just gives me all the warm and fuzzies and truly puts me into the Christmas spirit. A great place to see choirs etc is in Princes Square during December.
There are also some music based shows that are suitable for families. The only one we’ve been to in the past is the Fun Box Christmas show, but I keep saying I’m going to start a new Christmas tradition of going to see The Snowman…
- 23rd Dec: The Snowman Live at The Theatre Royal
- 9th Dec: Children’s Classic Concerts: The Elf Games, by the RSNO
- 24th Dec: The McDougalls Big Christmas Show in the Royal Concert Hall
Do Some Christmas Crafting
A bit of Christmas crafting with your kids is always a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Of course you can do that at home, but there are some lovely pottery painting places you can take the kids as a wee treat. Some places you can paint Christmas themed pottery are:
If I find any more Christmas crafting ops I’ll add them in here!
See the Christmas lights
I’ve never met anybody who has gotten hold of those elusive Christmas Lights Switch On tickets in George Square, but you need those anyway. Make an evening of it and head into town to see the Christmas lights all around Glasgow. Start at George Square, see the beautiful lights inside House of Fraser, and the big Christmas tree in Princes Square. This always gets me in the Christmas spirit!
Head to the Christmas market down at St Enoch Square and have a wee hot chocolate (mulled wine obvs for the adults). I think the helter skelter will be back again – usually skins you a few quid but it is fun.
Watch a Drive-In Movie
Get your cozy blankets, your flasks of hot chocolate, your popcorn and head along to one of the Christmas drive-in movies there are around glasgow this December.
Itison and M&D’s (not announced yet) do drive-in movies at Christmas time. They must be booked in advance though, so make sure you get in early for tickets!
A cheeky cheat (and cheaper) option for this would be making sure your laptop or tablet is charged up, heading to a nice wee spot and setting up your own wee drive-in movie. Pack some sweeties, stick a couple of fairy lights up, bring your blankets and boom: you have your very own drive-in. You could even take a wee colander campfire with you and pop your corn or toast some marshmallows in that!
I would really really need to clean my car out for this (and then do it immediately because a clean car lasts about 6 seconds) so instead I might set a wee tent up in the back garden for the same effect. Or if you don’t fancy it, just watch a Christmas movie from the comfort of your own sofa!
Take a Trip to the Edinburgh Christmas Market
Hop on the train and head through to Edinburgh for a great day out. Mulled wine, Christmas stalls, bratwurst, and down in the bottom of the park there are the little kids rides. We’ve successfully managed to avoid the absolute pelting rain once in the past 9 years, but it still manages to be a lovely festive day out.
Chop Your Own Tree
You can’t beat the smell of a lovely real Christmas tree. If you’re planning on getting a real tree this year anyway, you could make a nice wee family day out of it, do something totally different and cut your own tree down; making a difference to a small business at the same time. We did this last year. And by we, I mean me. I sawed a whole tree down.
Now I don’t mean just head to the park with that axe you’ve got lying around. You can’t go cutting down any old tree – that’s not what I’m suggesting and I doubt it would be legal in most places. But you can go pick your own tree to cut down and take home with you at a few different places near Glasgow.
The nearest place we found where you can cut down your own Christmas tree was at Finlaystone Country Estate in Port Glasgow. You can tag your tree from the 16th November and reserve it until you go to cut it down whenever you’re ready. You can also cut down your own tree at S&J Duff Christmas tree farm in Buchlyvie, on the road out towards Aberfoyle.
Both of these are small local businesses, so you’d be keeping that carbon footprint nice and small and contributing to the local economy. And don’t forget to recycle your Christmas tree after the festivities are done. You can either cut it into bits and pop it in your brown bin, or take it to your local recycling centre to be composted. Alternatively you can take it to one of a handful of parks around Glasgow where it will be mulched and used within the parks. (You might even be able to get some mulch yourself – usually from Pollok Park.)
Head to the Irn Bru Carnival
This is definitely more of a post-Christmas event for us, during that between-Christmas-and-new-year lull, but the Irn Bru Carnival has become an annual tradition for us. The kids absolutely love it.
There are always a good few rides for the wee ones to go on, plus a lot of spinny rides for the big ones. Also a big room of inflatables for younger kids too. A great fun day out.