Categories: things to do

Christmas at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, 1 December - 1 January 2023 (except 5, 6, & 25 December)

This after dark illuminated trail though the festive gardens at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens is perfect for a winter's evening.  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 (26 November - 20 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.

A Fairy Magical Christmas at Galgorm Castle Fairy Trail (10th & 11th and 17th & 18th December) 

Navigate your way around the trail and meet Snowflake the Christmas Fairy, Olaf the Snowman, the Grumpy Grinch and of course Santa and Mrs Claus.  Enjoy a walk through the enchanted, music filled winter woodland and make reindeer food.  If you’ve been extra good this year, you will even receive a present from Santa in his woodland cottage!  Lots of fun to be had at Toadstool Cottage including a funhouse and carousel rides.  Booking required, more information can be found here.

Gruffalo and Santa Guided Walk at Colin Glen (various dates until 23 December)

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 (various dates 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 and certificate, goodies including a selection box and of course meeting the big man, Santa himself.  Don’t forget to wrap up warm.  Booking required - more information can be found here.

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. 

Elf Escape Trail at the Marble Arch Caves (various dates until 20 December)

Elf Escape at Marble Arch Caves

In Fermanagh, take a trip to Marble Arch Caves this festive period because Santa needs help and needs good children to take part in the Elf Escape Trail.  He needs 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...

Lisburn Light Festival (17-23 December)

Enjoy the beautiful and captivating light installations across various locations in the city, including the Light Canopy on Bow Street and the Enchanting Christmas Tree and the Christmas Garden Light Trail in Castle Gardens.

Experience Christmas in the country at Ulster American Folk Park (various dates until 2 January 2023)

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.

For more information and to book tickets click here.

Ice Skating at the Share Discovery Village (until 3 January 2023)

Come along to the Share Discovery Village, just outside Lisnaskea in County Fermanagh, 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.

Ice Skating at Glenpark Estate (8 December-15 January)

Or in County Tyrone, at Glenpark Estate enjoy an hour skating on the ice rink.  Get your skates on from 8 December-15 January.  Tickets are £10 per person (plus booking fee) which includes skate hire.  Spectators go free.  Suitable for age 3 and above and all children under 12 must be supervised.  Book your tickets here.

Christmas at W5 (various dates 26 November- 23 December)

Take a trip to a magical new kingdom at W5 this winter.  Dander through the tunnel into Santa Square where twinkling fairy lights, merry window displays and charming shopfronts are waiting.  And to meet Santa himself, book your visit 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 Mission Santa (until 23 December) which is a real out of this world adventure to help save Santa inside mission control.  More information and booking details can be found here.

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.  To check out more of our events click here.

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens
Historic House / Palace
Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

Hillsborough Castle is one of the most beautiful, and interesting historic properties in Northern Ireland, and the official residence of the Royal Family when they are in Northern Ireland.

Christmas at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens
Christmas Events
Christmas at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens

Wrap up warm, get your Christmas sparkle on, and be surrounded by over a million twinkling lights, colourful trees and amazing illuminated installations, transforming Hillsborough’s majestic gardens into a winter wonderland.

Enchanted Winter Garden
Christmas Events
Enchanted Winter Garden

As the winter sun sets over Lough Neagh, Antrim Castle Gardens comes alive with lights and magic for the perfect Christmas experience suitable for everyone. Visit the fairies in Wonderland Wood, drop in and see Santa and meet the sprites in Pixieland who will help fill you with the Christmas spirit. There will also be a Festive Fayre catered for all tastes with local food and drink to be enjoyed. Visit the Enchanted Winter Garden this festive season for an unforgettable evening to start your Christmas celebrations in style!

Galgorm Castle Fairy Trail
Nature Trail
Galgorm Castle Fairy Trail

The enchanting outdoor fairy trail is the newest & most popular family attraction to come to the Ballymena/Galgorm area.

Gruffalo & Stickman Guided Walk
Forest Parks
Gruffalo & Stickman Trail - Colin Glen, River Entrance

It’s Ireland’s only official Gruffalo Trail; a Julia Donaldson-endorsed walk. Step into the glorious world of the Gruffalo. Enter the deep, dark wood, meet the clever little mouse, the fox, the owl, the snake, before stumbling upon those knobbly knees and turned out toes and that poisonous wart on the end of his nose: The Gruffalo!

Slieve Gullion Forest Park, Adventure Playpark and Fionn's Giant Adventure
Nature and Wildlife
Children playing around a giant book in Slieve Gullion Forest Park

Slieve Gullion is Ireland's Mountain of Mystery. The Forest Park offers walking trails, a scenic drive, an Adventure Playpark, Giant's Lair children's story trail and Courtyard with coffee shop.

Marble Arch Caves
Guided Tour
Guided Cave Tour

The show cave will be closed from Monday 12 September to early January 2023. Guided Cave tours will not be available during the closure period. This closure is to facilitate the installation of a new cave lighting system. A range of above ground experiences and events will be running for visitors to enjoy during this period. The Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre and car park will remain open.

Elf Escape
Christmas Events
Elf Escape Marble Arch Caves

Santa needs your help! A bunch of little elves have escaped from Santa's Grotto deep within the Marble Arch Caves. There have been reports of elf activity in the local woodland close to the caves and Santa has asked for your help to track them down and to decide which elves are being 'good' and which are being 'bad'. Come join the fun and adventure as Cladagh Glen is taken over by lots of little mischievous elves at play!

Ulster American Folk Park
Visitor Centres & Museums
Ulster American Folk Park

Journey back in time at the Ulster American Folk Park, from the Old World of Ulster to the New World of America.

Christmas in the Country at Ulster American Folk Park
Christmas Events
Christmas at Ulster American Folk Park

Enjoy a traditional Christmas at Ulster American Folk Park

Share Discovery Village
Activity Centre
Share Discovery Village

Established in 1981, Share Discovery Village is the largest residential activity centre in Ireland and welcomes over 10,000 visitors annually.

Glenpark Estate & Open Farm
Open Farm
view of lake and historic tower

Explore the grounds & meet the farm animals. Come and take a walk through history as you explore our beautiful grounds, replica historic buildings and meet the rare breeds in our open farm. We also have a farm shop, children's play area, soft play centre, bar and restaurant on site!

W5
Science Centre
W5

W5 is an award-winning science and discovery centre, located in the Odyssey complex at the gateway to Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.

Armagh Observatory and Planetarium
Observatory / Planetarium
Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

Armagh Observatory and Planetarium is “the place for space”. Watch an amazing Full Dome Theatre show and explore the Universe. Immerse yourself in the latest scientific research in our exhibition area, and take a relaxing walk through our Astropark.