December … it’s that time of year when school holidays are long and plenty of annual leave to be cleared. Friends and family would brave through holiday traffic be it on the roads or shopping malls to get together. But for a unique celebration, Christmas magic if you would, check out these destinations perfect for all.
Sydney Harbour is the place to be comes New Year’s eve.
No matter where you’re from, a trip to the Land Down Under will always be unforgettable. Sydney is simply a magical place to spend this Christmas season. Rosehill Gardens Racecourse plays host to the city’s most festive celebration between 7 and 27 December. Since snow doesn’t fall in Australia in December, the organisers brought one of the country’s largest portable ice skating rinks, shipped from Italy for that winter wonderland feel. Other highlights include a vintage double-decker carousel, a toboggan slide, live performances, Santa’s Enchanted Forest with live snowfall, Christmas cookie-decorating workshops, reindeer ride-on training stables, interactive costume characters, fairy reading-times, live carolling and Santa meet-and-greets, among others.
Add more to the trip by heading to the rolling vineyards of Pokolbin in Hunter Valley for the Christmas Lights Spectacular, where over two million lights are set at amazing gardens alongside fun activities for everyone. The foreshores of Central Coast promise colourful parades and carols to visitors. Expect the annual Carols by Candlelight on Christmas Eve at The Entrance and Santa may even drop by before the fireworks display at 9pm. For a spectacular time in the nature, take a 90-minute trip to Blue Mountains that offers dramatic scenes over the deep valley troughs gouged out over millions of years. This is also the place where the Phoenix Choir perform classical favourites.
Children, spoiler ahead! Last year, Turkish archaeologists uncovered a tomb underneath Saint Nicholas Church outside the Turkish capital, in the district of Demre in the country’s south-west province Antalya. They believe the tomb belongs to the original Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, who was thought to have lived in the fourth century. Since it’s a Muslim majority country, Christmas hype may not be as big in Istanbul, but visitors can still find Christmas trees, snow-covered streets decorated with lights and even an occasional Santa Claus in Beyoglu. Not only all the historical landmarks open, most attractions are fairly calm with short queues — a Christmas miracle.
Snow may not fall here, but come December, everything in Thai capital like buildings, trees, bridges, lamp poles, tuk-tuks and even food stalls are adorned with twinkling lights for that Christmas wonderland look. Like any major holidays, this is the time to eat, drink and be merry. When in Bangkok, you will be spoilt for choice from local fares to Christmas specials. Most international hotels would host Christmas gala buffet dinners and for a simpler celebration, there are plenty of restaurants serving traditional Christmas spread. Visitors will also find ‘pop-up’ beer gardens throughout this season.
For those who want to experience the cold temperatures and snow, make your way to Dreamworld about 40 kilometres away from the city. Among the amazing list of attractions, the amusement park’s Snow Town offers an ‘Arctic atmosphere’ where the temperatures never rise above -8°C. Feel how it’s like to live in an igloo and enjoy the numerous slides and winter rides the town has to offer! If things start to feel too cold, remember it’s always sunny outside the town with heaps of fun rides to get on.
No matter the time of year, Bali will always be a slice of paradise. Be it travelling solo, with friends or family, the Indonesian ‘Island of the Gods’ is perfect for all occasion – to relax, explore or party till dawn. Its endless stretch of golden beaches, picturesque mountains and volcanoes as well as historical landmarks allows plenty of exploration for visitors of all ages. Once you’ve had your fair share of lounging by the hotel pool and on the beach, Bali also has family-friendly activities including nature exploration, thrilling safaris, water parks, rafting up in the valleys and water sports down by the coastline. Parents with children aged over seven can try their hands at white water rafting in Ayung River while kids who wants to learn about surfing can head to Rip Curl School of Surf. For a bit of culture, you can head to Uluwatu for the ‘Kecak Dance’ or Taman Nusa Bali that offers a glimpse into Indonesia’s ethnic groups. Nothing says Christmas holiday than a fun adventure on a tropical island!
London has always been an interesting destination to visit all year round. However, it gets a lot more festive as Christmas nears with spectacular seasonal shows of lights and decorations, ice skating and of course, the classic afternoon tea. The Royal Botanic Gardens feature over a million bulbs, illuminating trees and buildings for a mile long!
Christmas markets are aplenty so while the children can meet with Santa and his elves over toasted marshmallows, the adults can search for last-minute presents. For shopaholics, hunt for rock-bottom sales throughout the English capital on Boxing Day.
While football fans throng stadiums or even catch a few live matches before the big holiday, Harry Potter fans should tour Warner Studios, which among the attractions include Hogwart’s Great Hall as well as Gryffindor common room. With a bit of Christmas magic, who knows a little flick of the wand and food will appear in front of you!
6. Cape Town
If you want to skip the freezing temperatures, take a flight to South Africa for a magical, sunny Christmas. Instead of trying avoid slipping on ice, you can lounge on the sun-drenched Clifton beach or even hike up Table Mountain. Festive lights illuminate Adderley Street throughout December while carolling performances are hosted by Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, where visitors can have a picnic on the lawns and enjoy the wonderful show on stage.
Another unique attraction is the Galileo Open Air Cinema that plays classic Christmas films. Like the name suggests, you can enjoy the film out in the open. Instead of just popcorn, visitors can enjoy other offerings like craft beers, ciders, nachos, burritos, pizza, burgers and boerewors rolls (South Africa’s answer to hot dogs) as well as halal and vegetarian meal options. It is believed that Santa and his helpers may give visitors a surprise visit during the screenings!
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