Pantos, grottos and great places to see Santa

Things to do and shows to see with children over the Christmas holidays


Kids and Christmas go together and nowhere with more gusto than at the Panto. Oh yes they do! What’s more, laugh for laugh, no entertainment offers better value for money as a Christmas treat.

The good news is that there are loads to choose from. Little Red Riding Hood is in residence at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre, oh yes she (okay I’ll stop). It runs until January 10th so you’ve no excuse to be a big bad wolf and miss it but to squeeze the most seasonal spirit possible out of it you’ll surely want to go at least before the new year. Tickets priced from €19.50,

Panto magic

Over at the Olympia, the city’s best-named panto gets under way from December 18th. Freezin’ – The Story of the Snow Queen, stars Dame Al Porter and is directed by Simon Delaney, tickets from €25,

Jack and the Beanstalk is already fee-fi-fo-fumming away at the Helix Theatre in DCU, starring Bray native Niall Sheehy who now hails straight from London’s West End. Set in the town of Ballybrutal, “the script is so funny even the cast can’t stop laughing,” says Sheehy. Tickets €22-€26.

This year’s Cheerios Panto at the Tivoli Theatre is Beauty and the Beast, starring TV3’s Alan Hughes, starting December 9th and promising both great fun and great value. Tickets from €15,

Outside of Dublin, Sleeping Beauty provides the panto of your dreams at the University Concert Hall in Limerick, from December 16th, starring Keith Duffy and Hilda Fay, tickets from €10.

In a really nice move, the production offers a sensory-friendly performance on Wednesday, December 23rd, at 2pm. With lower music, brighter lights and an absence of sudden noise or banging, it is designed to make this performance more accessible for children with special needs. See for more.

Goldilocks the Circus Panto takes place at the Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick, from December 27th to January 3rd, with children’s TV presenter Emma O’Driscoll in the starring role. Tickets €10 at

There’s more magic beans in Waterford where Jack and the Beanstalk has them laughing in the aisles at the Theatre Royal,

See a show

If it’s musical theatre you’re after you’ll want to book your tickets for Mary Poppins at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s multiaward-winning musical comes to Ireland for the first time, running until January 9th, tickets from €25.

The Snowman provides the true soundtrack of Christmas and you can see a flurry of productions this year, including one at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on December 14th to 20th. Raymond Brigg’s film, accompanied by Howard Blake’s score played live by the Irish Philharmonic Orchestra – with plenty of other Christmas songs thrown in – is a great family day out, kids tickets from €13.

The Snowman cometh to the National Concert Hall too, narrated by Simon Delaney – busy guy – and with special guest singer Eimear Quinn, on December 18th and 19th. Children’s tickets €17,

In Cork, catch up with The Snowman at a “Magical Christmas Matinee” at Cork City Hall on December 12th, tickets €10, see

Just after Christmas, but still during the holiday season, Festival Productions’ Oliver! The Musical gives us more musical theatre at the National Concert Hall, from December 27th, with children’s matinee tickets from €25,

Child’s plays

For children’s theatre, catch a performance of Little Light, a winter treat for over-fives. Inspired by Nordic mythology, Monkeyshine Theatre’s production shows the adventures of one little girl in the darkest days of the year. Catch shows at the Glór theatre in Ennis on December 6th, tickets from €8,, or at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght on December 11th,

In Cork, those with very young children can enjoy an interactive show at the Triskel Arts Centre about a boy called TimTom who is sightless and whose biggest wish is to feel Christmas for the first time. The audience helps him do just this through sounds, movement and music. It Sounds Like Christmas: Interactive Show, tickets €6 per child, adults free, on December 14th,

Christmas on film

You’ll have Christmas movies coming out your ears at home so why not make a special event of it and see a seasonal classic on a big screen?

Dublin’s Smock Alley Christmas Fayre, December 5th and 6th, a market, is having a day of screening movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.

In Cork, the Triskel Arts Centre is showing It’s a Wonderful Life, The Muppet Christmas Carol and Gremlins,

Where to see Santa

At Elf Land, via Offaly, at Birr Christmas Wonderland there is a Christmas Trail, market, carols, crib and fairy lights galore. And not only will they meet the main man in his magical grotto, but Mrs Claus and the Head Elf too. Children’s tickets €25, grown-ups, whether naughty or nice, €5.

For Dubs, Clerys may be gone but the spirit of Christmas past lives on and its iconic Santa has relocated to the I Believe Christmas Tree and Village at the Custom House Quarter in Dublin (above) . Here little ones meet Santa in groups of up to 30, for 30 minutes of singing, stories and letter writing, family tickets €55,

All aboard for the Waterford and Suir Valley Railway’s Santa Express, in Kilmeaden, for a steam train ride to see the man in red, Children’s tickets €16.

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