Ho ho hoping for a magical Christmas experience for your little helpers this year? Well you don't need a trip to the North Pole to make Christmas a special one for the small people in your life. Set your bells a-jingling and visit Santa who will be making appearances all over Ireland in the run up to the big day. He and Mrs Claus will be turning up at farms, parks, shopping centres, big houses and even caves!
So make a list and check out his busy festive schedule at www.discoverireland.ie
Old MacSanta had a farm
Be away in a magical manger and visit Santa at a festive farm this Christmas. He will be donning his wellies and doing the rounds with Rudolf, the elves and Mrs Claus before he makes that final journey on Christmas Eve.
In the south east you can see Santa at Winter Wonderland at Ardmore Open Farm in Co. Waterford, (November 29th – December 23rd), where Mrs Claus will teach you how to make flying reindeer food and magic snow. The little ones will love the Kia Ora Mini Farm Santa experience in Gorey, Co. Wexford, (weekends from November 23rd and daily from December 9th). The farm will be covered in thousands of lights and decorations, and the kids get to ride the fire engine and dig on real diggers! There is also a live stable and illuminated crib.
Down south have a corker of a Christmas at Santa's Village Experience at Leahys Open Farm near Midleton, (December 1st – 23rd). You begin your journey through the mystical forest where you will find Mrs Claus baking cookies and scones in her little cottage. From there step into a magical land of fairies and elves, where you will be granted a special wish from the Christmas Angel.
At Causey Farm in Co. Meath, (weekends from November 30th and December 5th – 23rd), you can follow the Bethlehem trail with real live cattle a-lowing. Text your little one's name and details to get a letter from Santa before you arrive! At Glendeer Farm in Athlone, Co. Westmeath, (November 29th and daily through December), see Santa's reindeer, toy making elves and a real crib. The nativity stable is the star of the show at Glenroe Farm in Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow, (Every weekend from November 29th), as well as the great gift-bearing Santa himself!
Enjoy a great Big House Santa
Santa will be taking up temporary residence in some splendid Irish country homes in the build up to Christmas – so this is a perfect excuse to meet the man himself and explore some great Irish heritage at the same time. Make merry in Mayo with a stately Santa in Westport House during Winter Wonderland, (every weekend from November 29th and daily Christmas week). Visit Santa in his grotto, pick up a gift and enjoy some storytelling by the festive fireside. There is a special Sensory Santa session on December 5th giving a magical Christmas experience to children with autism and sensory disorders.
For a traditional Victorian Santa, see the Green Santa at Belvedere House on the shores of Lough Ennell in Co. Westmeath, where kids enter, Narnia style, through an enchanted wardrobe door to find Green Santa in his grotto.
Santa is also visiting historic Kilruddery House near Bray in Co. Wicklow, (December 6th, 7th, 13th, 14th, 20th, and 21st), where Mrs. Claus will read Christmas stories and bring you to visit Santa Claus's workshop to make a Christmas angel with the help of the elves. Once you have found the Sleigh you'll know it is nearly time to meet Father Christmas himself!
Visit an underground Santa
For something really special head underground to see Santa in a cave. He is setting up a workshop at Aillwee Cave in Co. Clare, (Friday through Sunday starting November 28th). Explore secret passages, see where the elves make the toys and have your face painted while you wait for your present from Santy! Puppet shows, carnival entertainment and entry to Burren Birds of Prey are included.
You will love the subterranean Santa at Crag Caves in Castleisland, Co. Kerry, (December 1st – 23rd). See Santa's bedroom, meet Mrs Claus and enjoy the Crazy Cave Play area. You won't have to dig deep for Christmas spirit at the Arigna Mining Christmas Experience in Co. Roscommon, (Sunday November 30th and each weekend in December). This is the only place in the country where you will find Santa's log cabin down a mine shaft.
Discover Santa in a Park
Listen to the story teller as he tells tall Christmas tales at Bunratty Folk Park in Co. Clare, (December 1st – 23rd). Visit Santa's grotto, Mrs Claus' kitchen and see a Christmas puppet show, as Mum and Dad sip mulled wine and try to dodge a real life scrooge – just one of the Christmas characters brought to life.
At Castlecomer Discovery Park in Co. Kilkenny, (selected dates starting November 22nd), grown-ups can enjoy a Christmas tipple because someone else will be doing the driving - on the Christmas train through the 80 acre woodland en route to the elves' special tree house and Santa's cosy cabin, complete with gifts to take home!
Make tracks to Santa
All aboard for a festive Christmas train ride this year. The Santa Express from Waterford & Suir Valley Railway Kilmeaden Station, (weekends from November 30th). Enjoy a magical steam powered spin along the banks of the River Suir before returning to the station to visit Santa in his Railway Cottage. Then it's full steam ahead for the Santa Train at Rathwood in Co. Carlow, (daily from November 26th), for a magical mystery tour through the Christmas forest with storytelling, reindeer, a lesson in Elf School and, of course, Santa.
See Santa at your leisure in a hotel
Why not check in for a Santa sleepover and spoil yourselves for a cosy Christmas experience in a hotel? Clanard Court Hotel in Athy, Co. Kildare has a Santa Magical Trail this year, (November 28th –December 22nd). Mrs Claus will guide you through Santa's house before you see the toy workshop and meet Santa. Then there is a magical carriage ride through Rudolph's secret tunnel and a visit to the Christmas farmyard to see how the animals are busy preparing for the festive season! Mount Juliet Estate in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, (December 4th – 23rd), have a Santa village where Santa and his elves take up residence for an hour long theatrical production leaving all the family with Christmas memories that will last a lifetime. Or bring the family to Santa's Village in the Amber Springs Hotel in Gorey, Co. Wexford where you will meet Mrs Claus, write your letter to Santa and sit in his magical sleigh. Then it's all aboard the Santa Train which puffs its way down to Santa Village, making a stop at the live animal crib and the Santa post office before seeing the man himself in his cabin.
Make it a sweet Santa experience
Christmas and chocolate go together so make it a sweet visit to Santa at The Chocolate Warehouse in Dublin, (selected dates from December 4th – 21st). Indulge your senses in its chocolaty wonderland in Walkinstown, where kids can make their own Christmas cracker to take home, before meeting the main man.
So go on, find a special Santa this year at one of these amazing venues and make a little magic of your own for your family, with www.discoverireland.ie to guide you.