Christmas for Kids

There are lots of ways to make this festive season magical for the small people in your life. Scotland is dotted with light shows, funfairs, literal winter wonderlands and an almost inconceivable number of opportunities to meet Santa Claus

Article by Rosamund West | 27 Nov 2023
  • Santa at Edinburgh's Christmas

In Edinburgh, Christmas at the Botanics kicks things off on 16 November and runs until 30 December. Their sound and light show transforms the gardens with giant glowing crocuses, floating seeds and even an appearance from Santa Claus (first of many). Castle of Light (various dates, 24 Nov-3 Jan) transforms the medieval walls of Edinburgh Castle with brand new projections designed around the theme of Magic and Mystery. Down in Jedburgh, the all new Monteviot Lights show (30 Nov-10 Dec) is the first of its kind in the Borders, and promises an enchanting walk through illuminated woodland. Near Linlithgow, Beecraigs Festive Forest (1-23 Dec) is an altogether more all-encompassing affair, with an illuminated trail, funfair, festive street food, choirs, street performers and even, would you know, Santa Claus himself. 

Santa will also be appearing a lot in the nearby South Queensferry area, with residencies at both Conifox (Fri-Sun, 1-24 Dec) and Craigie’s Farm (Saturdays and Sundays, 9-23 Dec), who’ve diversified from their summer fruit picking offer to create a winter wonderland adventure entered through the North Pole passport control. Conifox also offers trips to the North Pole, as well as reindeer flying lessons, storytime with Mrs Claus and a build-a-teddy workshop.

In Edinburgh, you’ll find Santa in his Grotto in St Andrew’s Square, part of Edinburgh’s Christmas, as well as in various shopping centres and Dobbies Garden Centres for some reason. Glasgow similarly has a lot of shopping centre Santa appearances, notably Braehead and St Enoch, as well as, again, Dobbie’s. 

Venturing back out of the cities, the New Lanark Christmas (Fri-Sun, 24 Nov-24 Dec) promises singing elves, an ice rink alongside the Falls of Clyde, a visit to a Victorian mill and workers’ accommodation, and, yes, Santa!

There are funfairs aplenty popping up across the country too. In Glasgow, Winterfest arrives in George Square and St Enoch (10 Nov-7 Jan) with attractions including an ice rink, silent disco, and a load of rides. If that’s not intense enough for you, the Irn Bru Carnival (22 Dec-14 Jan) is a seasonal stalwart, bringing Europe’s largest indoor funfair to the SEC – truly an experience like no other.

Edinburgh’s Christmas (18 Nov-6 Jan) is taking over multiple spaces in the city centre, with the rainbow Big Wheel already erected next to the Scott Monument, an ice rink on George St and a Festive Family Funfair in West Princes St Gardens.

Glasgow’s Christmas kicks up a gear with the Style Mile Christmas Carnival (26 Nov, 1-5pm) with street entertainments along Buchanan Street, and in St Enoch, Buchanan Galleries and Argyle Arcade, ft. elves, Rudolph, dancing snowflakes and, of course, Santa himself. For more child-friendly shows, venture to East Lothian’s Archerfield Walled Garden, and The Christmas Tipi (15-17, 22, 23 Dec) an hour-long show featuring dance and beatboxing in the Victorian walled garden under twinkling fairy lights, with a Christmas soundtrack.

RSNO’s The Elf Games (Usher Hall, 3 Dec, Glasgow Concert Halls, 9 Dec) offers a conceptually-intriguing format whereby the Royal Scottish National Orchestra compete in games such as The Christmas Wrapping Relay, The Fairy Light-a-thon, the Bauble-and-Spoon Race, all while presumably dressed as elves, before an audience of children invade the stage for a snowball fight.

In Glasgow’s Tramway, Tortoise in a Nutshell present Ginger (6-16 Dec), an interactive play for ages three to seven following the adventures of a biscuity hero as he inspires a perfect kitchen to descend into chaos. In Edinburgh, Unicorn Dance Party (4-24 Dec) arrives in The Studio, as a pair of glittering unicorns present dance and Christmas classic songs aimed at four to seven year olds.