Festive Family Fun In Glasgow… That Isn’t Meeting Santa!

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!

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. Sadly there aren’t many of those around this year (I don’t think there’s one in Glasgow city centre this year) but there is an open air rink in Paisley, and there are a few other places around you can go ice skating too. Places you can skate this year are:

  • The Elfingrove outdoor ice rink; just outside Kelvingrove Art Gallery with a skate up hot chocolate bar, music & light show.
  • Ice skating in Braehead Arena.
  • East Kilbride ice rink in the Olympia Centre.
  • Ice skating at the Time Capsule.
  • There’s also an outdoor festive roller rink at Paisley Winterfest. (It’s usually an ice rink but they’re doing something a little bit different this year, so everyone who bought themselves skates during lockdown after watching skating tiktoks and haven’t used them yet, this is your moment!)

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!” It’s 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’s events are all virtual online events, where you can join in with your own group, in your own time.

  • This year the Beatson Santa dash is a virtual online event, and runners can take part anytime between December 11th & 18th, in their own wee (socially distanced) groups. More info at beatsoncancercharity.org.
  • Maggies Glasgow are hosting an Elf Family Fun Run on Saturday 27th November, starting at Gartnavel Hospital. You can find the info here at maggies.org.

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 4th & 11th December.
  • (Normally you’d see some reindeer at the Ashton Lane Winter Wonderland, at Princes Square and at East Kilbride shopping centre when Santa arrives, but I can’t find any info on any of these so I’m guessing they aren’t going ahead again this year.)
  • 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 is such a sweet activity, particularly for little kids. It takes place annually throughout December in Pollok House where the rooms are all decorated to the max.

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 is 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:

  • 27th Nov – 2nd Jan: Cinderella at the Kings Theatre
  • 11th – 29th Dec: Aladdin at the SEC Armadillo 
  • 3rd Dec – 8th Jan: Cinderella 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:

  • 3rd – 24th Dec: The Citizens Theatre is one of our faves and they are showing A Christmas Carol this year. Shows will be performed in Tramway. (Recommended for 6+.)
  • 1st – 28th Dec: Cumbernauld Theatre always put on a fantastic family friendly show and this year are showing Robin Hood.

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. This year I want to go to all of them (but obvs can’t!) so I thought I’d share them here for you guys to peruse!

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. You can check out the big dangly tree while you’re there!

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…

Do Some Christmas Crafting

A Christmas Crafternoon Tea at Three Sisters Bake has become one of our favourite annual Christmas traditions. Everyone gets an amazing afternoon tea, and the kids get a selection of crafts to do throughout. Usually the crafts are making a Christmas decoration; they get some icing in piping bags and some sprinkles so they can decorate a gingerbread man or a biscuit; and there’s also some sort of drawing activity.

These used to be on at their cafes in Quarriers Village and in Killearn but the cafes closed last year due to covid, so now they are lovely wee at home kits. You collect everything from either Cake Bar on Great Western Rd or from their premises in Quarriers Village. Instructions for warming the festive food are all there (it’s a couple of minutes in the oven for anything that needs to be heated) and then just sit down and enjoy!

(Christmas afternoon teas must be booked in advance.)

If I find any more Christmas crafting ops I’ll add them in here!

Go Sledging

You can never guarantee a white Christmas in Glasgow, but you can go sledging anyway. Make the most of the real snow in Snow Factor at Xsite Braehead. Wrap up warm, because it feels like winter in there regardless of the time of year.

Definitely cold, but definitely fun!

See the Christmas lights

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). Sadly I don’t think the helter skelter that’s usually in George Square is here this year 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, The Drive-In Cinema 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 4 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 love it – the pair of them are wee thrill seekers and they’re always raging when they can’t go on the bigger rides.

There are always a good few rides for the wee ones to go on though, and the past couple of years it’s been on, the carnival has also had the big room of inflatables for  younger kids too. A great fun day out.

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