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8 magical places to catch up with friends this Christmas

Step into Christmas.

CHRISTMAS IS A time for catch-ups with mates.

It’s the most social season of them all – people are back from abroad, the lucky among us get some time off work, and there’s general merriment in the air.

In order to make sure you get the most out of these events as possible, why not think outside the box? Whether you want to catch up over lunch, or fancy something more active, we’ve got a great line up of magical ways for you to spend some time with friends and family.

Let’s check them out…

1. Thin ice

Ice skating – where do we even start? Is there any more wintry craic to be had than seeing your mates struggle to get around the rink on their Bambi-like legs? Lots of places around Ireland pop up during the festive season, and they’re ideal if you need a good laugh (although try not to slip yourself or else the slagging’ll be on the other foot, so to speak).

If you’re feeling chilly, you can pick up a decadent hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows there to warm you up. You might want to finish it before you get on the ice though… You can find ice-skating rinks in Dublin and Cork.

Prices: Adults €13, children €12

Oldskulowe figurówki po Mamie gosz gosz

2. Going underground

For the guts of 20 years, Santa has been delighting kids and their parents alike with his presence in the stunning environs of Ballyvaughn’s Aillwee Cave. Christmas carols, personalised visits, and presents for everyone, of course. You can even have Santa’s elves make up a festive hamper of delicious treats to take home with you. If you want magical, you’ve found it.

Prices: from €16 per person

Aillwee Cave / YouTube

3. Who is in the house?

It’s only Santa in the house – or rather, Santa House Express in Kildare. This place looks absolutely gas, with the Claus clan taking up residence in a manor house in Johnstown, along with a motley crew that includes Mrs Claus and elves, headed up by the Chief Elf. A stunning setting, with all the manor house entails, and a bit of craic and storytelling to boot.

After you’ve taken the Santa Express train around the manor gardens, visited Mrs Claus and received your Santa gift, why not finish off the day with a delicious lunch or dinner  at the lodge?

Prices: Adults €14, children €12

Richie Hayes / YouTube

4. Beats a selection box

Got a chocolate-mad mate? Make their dreams come true at this fun-filled chocolate elf workshop put on by the masters of indulgence, the Chocolate Garden of Ireland. Tucked away in south-west Wicklow, between Tullow and Shillelagh. Ideal for an afternoon’s catch-up with a group of mates, with something edible and delicious to show for it.

Of course, if you want to grab a present or sweet treat to nibble on while you’re there, there are plenty of gifts available to grab at the gift shop.

Prices: Adults €8, children €12.50

FirmThinking / YouTube

5. Retro revival

This one is exciting for any of us who used to dream about that  drive-in movie night in Grease. A real retro movie night in Cherrywood – featuring all your favourite Christmas movies. You can also purchase retro sweets, ice cream, hot dogs and popcorn (of course) on site to tuck into as you watch. Heaven.

Price: €26-€30 per car (5-7 seaters)

John TravoltaFans / YouTube

6. Lost in the forest

The sunny/snowy South-East’s largest indoor Christmas event – Santa’s Magical Forest of Dreams. It’s all under a big top, where you can meet a whole host of Christmassy characters and enjoy a giant ice slide. You can grab a delicious hot chocolate to keep you warm while the kids visit Santa and there’s free car parking as well, if you’re planning a trip from further afield down to lovely Wexford.

Prices: Adults free, children €20

SantasMagicalForest / YouTube

7. A winter wonderland

If you’re looking for somewhere to catch up that has loads of stuff to do for people of all ages and tastes, look no further than the Winter Funderland. With ice skating, a Christmas market, new rides such as the Eclipse and Discovery as well as the Funderland Loop, Ireland’s only looping rollercoaster, you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied all day – including tasty eats to grab.

Price: Admission only from €3

8. Christmas lunch – without the cooking

If you like your catch-ups a little more… civilised, then treat yourself to a delicious Christmas lunch at the Killarney Royal Hotel which is available all the way up to Christmas Eve. With a delicious three-course menu with options such as ham hock terrine with pistachios or traditional butter-basted turkey, you can have all the magic of Christmas without lifting a finger.

Price: €28 per person

Have we missed any magical Christmas events or festive fun? Share the joy in the comments section. ‘Tis the season…

No matter where you and your friends decide to get together this festive season, use Visa contactless – the faster, easier way to pay for purchases up to €30. Spend less time at the till and more time having plenty of Christmassy craic. Find out more here.

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