12 great things to do between now and Christmas

From movies and music to markets and mystery, there’s lots to do in the run-up to December 25th

The run-up to Christmas is a good time to start – or keep – a family tradition, whether it’s going to Grafton Street to see the lights, or window shopping with a visit to a restaurant, or visiting the relatives. It might be a visit to Dublin Zoo or Airfield Park or Fota Wildlife Park, or a festive train ride in Waterford or seeing Santa. We’ve got some suggestions of 12 fun things to do with the family.

All aboard the Santa bus

Get in the Christmas spirit by taking the a panto tour of Dublin – on a bus. The folks behind Hidden Dublin Walks will be inviting people to come aboard their special Santa bus for a trip around the city solving the mystery of the bus that stole Christmas. Assist the elves in solving the clues – if you manage to solve all the festive clues, the passengers will automatically get their names down on the ‘nice list’.

The tour, which takes about 45 minutes, will operate six times a day from December 3rd to December 24th, tickets are €15 and you can buy them on hiddendublinwalks.com.

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An Ice time in Mayo

Santa will be arriving by boat in Mayo when he sails down the River Moy on December 10th. He will host Sunday lunch in the Ice House Hotel at 1pm, where there will be lots of activities for the little people, with storytelling, face-painting and cookie-decorating. Santa will meet children in his special grotto where he will have presents for everyone. Three-course family lunch costs from €27.50 for adults and €18.50 for children,icehousehotel.ie; 096-23500.

Ghan to the fair

Ghan House is the perfect setting for the Carlingford Christmas Fair on December 10th. There will be live festive music, wine and ale-tasting, cake and biscuit decorating and a visit from Santa Claus. Local businesses, crafts people and artisan food and drink suppliers will be on hand and Ghan House will be offering homemade jams, chutneys and breads. Wines Direct will be doing a wine-tasting and Carlingford Brewing Company will share locally brewed ales. Visitors from Northern Ireland can use the new Carlingford ferry service from Greencastle to Greenore. Ghan House, 042-937 3682, noon-5pm. carlingfordferry.com, fares £15.30 return.

Christmas evenings in Limerick

The Mustard Seed in Co Limerick is hosting a number of Christmas evenings this year. The Victorian house will be decorated with a Christmas tree and bejewelled garlands on the mantelpieces. The evening starts with bubbles and canapés around the fireside in the Library or Conservatory, followed by a four-course dinner in the restaurant. Music will be provided by the resident pianist and will be a selection of festive tunes. Dinner costs €60 and overnight rate for B&B is €55pps, The evenings take place on December, 7th, 14th and 21st. See irelandsbluebook.com or contact 069 68508.

Catch a movie in Antrim

The Bushmills Inn in Co Antrim has its own screening room and will be showing Christmas movies until December 20th on various dates. They include Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, White Christmas, The Holiday and It's a Wonderful Life. Make the evening special by arriving for a festive four-course Christmas banquet followed by a movie and popcorn, from £42.50 (€47.70). More details from bushmillsinn.com and 048-2073 3000.

Music of note

Christ Church Cathedral will host a number of musical events through December. There will be the cathedral's own choir singing by candlelight, the Baroque Orchestra, Handel's Messiah, New Dublin Voices, carols by the Goodbody choir and the traditional Christmas carols on Sunday December 10th. On December 5th and 7th, there will be shoppers' carols at 1.30pm to give a respite from the busy season. Some events are free and some require tickets, more details on christchurchtickets.com.

Let it snow

The National Concert Hall will present The Snowman Ball on December 15th, 16th and 17th. The show will feature the Snowman movie, the heart-melting Raymond Briggs story, which will be presented by actor Simon Delaney and his musical helpers, the Nualas and the Orchestra of the NCH. There will be fun and lots of jokes, a great Christmasy show for all the family. Tickets from €19 -€25, various times, book early, it is starting to sell well. nch.ie.

A Victorian Christmas

Ardtara Country House in Derry will have a Victorian-themed Christmas dinner on Thursday, December 14th. There will be a live choir and pianist to provide the music and it will be a family friendly event. As well as dinner, there will be festive treats like mulled wine, mince pies, gingerbread men and cinnamon coffee. This family night out costs £39.95(€45) for adults and £24.95(€28) for children. ardtara.com; 0044-2873644490.

Go wild at the zoo

Wild Lights is a special festive experience at Dublin Zoo. An enchanted trail has been designed to discover an array of beautifully crafted lanterns inspired by the residents of the zoo and animal sculptures. The display of lanterns includes a pride of lions, orangutans, tigers, giraffes, monkeys and much more. There is a 16-metre porcelain elephant tower and a 30-metre Chinese dragon. Expect to be wowed by the Chinese performers and the Chinese craft market, which has warm food and drinks. It runs until January 7th, 2018. Entry for adults is €20 and children €15, discounts for annual pass-holders, it runs from 5pm- 9pm each evening. dublinzoo.ie

Recipe for success

Take the weight of the Christmas dinner off your shoulders with a cookery course at The Ivy Cookery School in Blakestown, Rathangan, Co Kildare. It will take all the worry out of producing the biggest meal of the year and help you enjoy the big day and feel proud of your efforts. Courses are available throughout December. Christmas Dinner made Easy costs €55. 087 310 5373.

Waterford wonderland

The city of Waterford transforms itself into an amazing winter wonderland each year, with ice-skating, vintage train ride, a ferris wheel, food from all over the county, bands and music for all tastes. There's a craft fair and workshops, a Christmas Fair, secret Santa and a crib. Check out the events at winterval.ie.

To market in Galway

The Christmas market in Galway’s Eyre Square mirrors the markets you will see around Europe. The wooden huts sell of all type of arts, crafts and food gifts. The atmosphere is lovely, helped no doubt by the traditional gluhwein and baked goodies on sale. There’s Santa’s Grotto and a German Bierkeller, as well as a 32m big wheel, a helter skelter and carousel, choirs, story-telling , music and lots more. The market is open from 12pm to 8pm Monday to Wednesday and 10 am to 10pm Thursday to Sunday until Friday, December 22nd.