Categories: things to do

Christmas at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens - from 3 December - 2 January 2022 (except 6, 7 and 25 December)

This is a brand new after dark illuminated trail though the festive gardens at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.  Twinkling lights and seasonal sounds make for the perfect festive chilly walk around the magical gardens.  Tunnels of light, giant baubles and trees festooned with lights as well as illuminations and flickering flames in the fire garden are not to be missed this festive season.  Hot drinks and toasted marshmallows are available to warm up during your walk.  Advance booking required.

Also available to explore this winter at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens is The Imaginary Menagerie Play Trail, an animal inspired trail throughout the gardens.  Set off on an adventure celebrating the animals and wildlife that make Hillsborough their home, including tropical fish, robins, kingfishers and otters.  Book a gardens only ticket.

Enchanted Winter Garden at Antrim Castle Gardens (until 21 December)

Pay a visit to Antrim Castle Gardens and be enchanted by Wonderland Wood, a magical riverside wood where fairies, elves and pixies sprinkle fairy dust and turn the woods into their Christmas home.  While you’re there check out the stunning light installation, big wheel and street theatre.  More information can be found here.

Galgorm Castle Fairy Trail 

Self-guided non character trail - midweek in December

Begin your quest at Toadstool Cottage and find out how the fairies first came to Galgorm Castle.  Follow the map, solve puzzles, and answer questions along your way on the trail. Dress for the weather and allow 1-2 hours to complete.  Book tickets here.

Festive character trails- weekends in December

Navigate your way around the trail and meet the Christmas fairy, Olaf the Snowman, the Grinch and of course Santa and Mrs Claus.  If you’ve been extra good this year, you will even receive a present!  Booking required, more information can be found here.

Belfast One Christmas Trail (until 23 December)

There is lots to enjoy in Belfast city centre this festive period and the Belfast One Wish Upon a Christmas Star trail is a free, fun activity for all the family.  Navigate your way around the city centre collecting fairy tale based clues along the way, to be in with a chance of winning a gift card.  Find the special post boxes at CastleCourt or Victoria Square to post your letters to Santa.  More information can be found here.

Also in Belfast you will find the mesmerising Bright Lights Botanic (until 9 January 2022) where the magical winter trail will light up the evening skies.  Enjoy walking the trail at your own pace and follow BOBO the gnome’s journey through Botanic Gardens.  Take in the starry lanterns, large illuminated characters, and tree lighting all while enjoying a hot chocolate and some tasty treats along the way.

And at Colin Glen, just outside the city on the edge of the Belfast Hills, you can visit the official Gruffalo Trail where you will enjoy a Christmas themed family walk (until 23 December).  This outdoor walk has you visiting your favourite characters from the Gruffalo and a festive special guest, Santa Claus himself.  Highlights of a visit include your very own storyteller telling the Gruffalo tale, your own arts and crafts to take home, a book, certificate and sticker, goodies including a selection box and of course meeting the big man, Santa himself.  Don’t forget to wrap up warm.

The Giant’s Lair at Slieve Gullion  

The Giant’s Lair at Slieve Gullion is perfect for girls, boys, fairies, and elves. Flynn the cheeky fairy has been given an important job – to stop anyone waking Slieve Gullion (a sleeping giant disguised as a mountain!). Follow in his footsteps – take a seat at the Giant’s table, check out the Ladybird House and spy on a local witchy trickster. This interactive trail is sure to fill the little ones full of mystery and wonder, all set in magical surroundings. 

Children’s Christmas Castle Trail at Enniskillen Castle (4, 11 and 18 December)

Pull on your Christmas jumper and make your way around the museum galleries to find a hidden message for Santa Claus – once you crack the clues, its your job to deliver the message to him where you’ll hear a Christmas story and get a picture with the main man.  More information and booking details can be found here.  

Percy the Park Keeper’s Winter wander trail at Florence Court (various dates from 4 December)

Wrap up warm in outdoor clothing and collect your trail from the Visitor Centre, where you will start your journey.  Join in the fun with Percy and his friends from the animal world on this winter wander trail and give nature a helping hand.  More information can be found here.

Elf Escape Trail at the Marble Arch Caves (until 21 December)

Also in Fermanagh, take a trip to Marble Arch Caves this festive period and take part in the Elf Escape Trail.  Santa needs your help to track down the elves that have escaped from his grotto, deep with the Marble Arch Caves.  Dress up warm in your favourite Christmas jumper and coat and get your Elf Escape Trail map and puzzles to complete.  Book your visit here.

More things to do this festive period...

Experience Christmas in the country at Ulster American Folk Park (various dates until 3 January)

Enjoy a festive journey through time, travelling from the Old World to the New World and enjoy the magic of a traditional Christmas.  Wander around the winter landscape, learn more about the origins of certain customs and enjoy listening to stories told by the guides.

More information and book tickets here.

Ice Skating at the Share Discovery Village (until 19 December)

In a first for Fermanagh, come along to the Share Discovery Village, just outside Lisnaskea, and unleash your inner skater at their indoor ice rink.  Suitable for all ages and abilities.  Set under a canopy of twinkling lights, this is the perfect fun for all the family to enjoy.  For more information and details on how to book click here.

Christmas at W5

Take a trip to the reimagined W5 for a calendar of festive celebrations.  Visit Santa in his new home at W5, challenge yourself to the Crimbo Climbit and enjoy the festive interactive live show, Aardman Animate It LIVE! at Christmas.  More information and details on how to book your festive day out can be found here.

Light up, light up at the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium this Christmas  

The Armagh Observatory and Planetarium have some family events running this festive season including Look Up, A Winter Night Sky Tour (until 23 December) which is a seasonal tour around the night sky.  Let yourself be guided through the beautiful objects and constellations in the sky at this time of year.  More information and booking details can be found here.

Christmas at Ulster Transport Museum (weekends in December)

Come along and experience some festive fun at the museum amongst the rail, road, sea and sky collections.  Enjoy children's Christmas activities including a winter trail and a magic show.

For more information and to book click here.

Please see the latest guidelines from NI Direct, which includes guidance on travelling to outdoor spaces. 

Enjoying a walk in our forests or beauty spots? Please make sure you dispose of your litter in the bins or if they are full please take it home with you. 

Look out for festive goings-on all over Northern Ireland this Christmas. Be sure to share your festive cheer on social media and tag us #EmbraceaGiantAdventure