Here’s where to have festive fun in the capital

They say it’s the most wonderful time of the year. We just think it’s a great excuse to be jolly every day, spend even more time with friends and family and frolic in fake snow…

We know, we know: it’s still nearly 30 degrees, December has only just begun and Jack Frost isn’t anywhere near nipping at our noses just yet.

But despite the less-than-frosty climes, celebrating the holidays in the desert has a magic of its own, and the spirit of the season is no different.

So from gingerbread house-making classes to reindeer games, seasonal shopping and more, we have your guide to feeling merry and bright in the capital all wrapped up.

Santa’s little helpers

It’s a bumper celebration as Hallabolou, Lana’s Partiperfect and Bright Beginnings Nursery team up for a party on 14th December. Kids can enjoy making Christmas crafts, decorate an edible tree and take part in reindeer games. AED 175 for one child and two adults, AED 75 supplement per additional child. Bright Beginnings Nursery, Al Mushrif. 10am–3pm. Contact: 054 458 5745,

It’s all about festive flavours at Emirates Palace as children can join the gingerbread house workshop on 15th December. AED 245. Corniche West. 2pm-5pm. Contact: 02  90 9000,

Until 24th December, artisan bakery and bistro whEAT will transform into a winter wonderland. Kids under 12 can get stuck into decorating gingerbread houses while parents enjoy a spot of afternoon tea. AED 50 for kids, AED 99 for parents. Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi, Fatima bint Mubarak Street. Daily 7am-7pm. Contact: 02 674 2020,

Festive families

From 6th December to 5th January, enjoy the flavours of the season in miniature at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort with its festive afternoon tea, featuring gingerbread loaf, Yule log, pastries and more. From AED 195. Saadiyat Island. Daily 2pm-6pm. Contact: 02 498 8888,

As Buddy the Elf said: The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. On that note, join the annual Carols in the Desert event on 7th December for some tunes in the dunes by candlelight. First, bring some food for the barbecue and fill your belly, then get ready to sing your heart out – and you can even camp out if you wish. Free. GPS coordinates: 24.40759N, 54.96457E. From 4pm. Contact:

Do you want to build a snowman? You can at Yas Winter Carnival, where five days of festive feeling await from 11th to 15th December. Visit the funfair with carnival rides, enjoy snowfall every hour, shop the market and enjoy live entertainment daily. Free, but extra supplement for activities may be required. Gateway Park South, Yas Island. Daily from 4pm. Visit:

Learn how to create a thoughtful gift at the Hand Crafted Chocolate Making Workshop from ChangeWorks AD, where you’ll get to create three delicious bars of the stuff. 13th Dec. AED 200. Ages 14 and up. As Saman Building, corner of Sultan Bin Zayed the First and Hamdan Streets. 7pm-10pm. Contact: 02 628 1811,

Explore a huge snow globe, try your hand at cookie decorating and meet Disney princesses at The Galleria’s annual celebrations between 13th and 26th December. With daily performances, ballet shows, a festive market and more, you’re sure to get into the spirit here. Free, but extra supplement for activities may be required. Al Maryah Island. 4pm-10pm. Visit:

Catch a festive flick on 15th December as Miracle on 34th Street screens at Manarat Al Saadiyat. This 1947 classic follows Kris Kringle, who is hired by a department store to play Santa. When he tells people that he actually is the real deal, he’s declared insane and put on trial, putting everyone’s faith to the test. Free, but register prior to attending. Saadiyat Island. From 4pm. Visit:

Bring your sweet tooth for Festive Candy Land at Yas Marina on 21st and 22nd December, where you can snap some family memories, eat tasty treats and enjoy festive entertainment. Free. Yas Island. 1pm-7pm. Visit:

Grab a rubber ring for Yas Waterworld’s Cinema Under the Stars on 27th December, where you can catch the inimitable festive fun of a small boy just trying to save his home from bungling burglars in Home Alone. From AED 55. Yas Island. From 6pm. Visit:

Making merry

Head to The Sportsman’s Arms on 7th December for some holiday cheer courtesy of Jack’s Christmas Weekend. Enjoy an al fresco brunch alongside live seasonal tunes from local band Border Run. International Tennis Centre, Zayed Sports City, Saif Ghubash Street. 1pm-4pm and 7pm-10pm. Contact: 02 447 1066,

Sequins? Flashing lights? Jingle bells? Check. Check. And check. It can only be the ugly festive jumper brunch at Jazz @ Pizza Express. With editions on 7th, 14th and 21st December, you can feast on hearty Italian grub – just don’t forget to don your most obnoxious seasonal sweater for a chance to win prizes. From AED 135. The Hub, The Mall at World Trade Center, Khalifa Street. From noon. Contact: 02 444 7752,

Don’t put your sweater away just yet – McGettigan’s is set to host its annual Christmas jumper party on 12th December. Enjoy an evening brunch, plus live music and a DJ playing some floor-filling tunes. If your sweater is the wackiest, you might even get a discount on your food. Free to enter, AED 229 for the brunch. Al Raha Beach Hotel and Resort. From 6pm. Contact: 02 652 4333,

Seasonal shopping

Head to La Loupe’s Al Wahda City Street Festival on 6th and 7th December where you’ll find a collection of the city’s best handmade goods from local artisans and crafters.
Free. Next to Grand Millennium Al Wahda, Hazza Bin Zayed Street. From 3pm. Visit:

Enjoy the holidays the European way at the annual Swiss Christmas Market, hosted at the Beach Rotana. Running until 8th December, this popular event features snow-topped chalets showcasing crafts, bakes and more plus a live band playing seasonal tunes. Free. Next to Abu Dhabi Mall, Al Zahiyah. 4pm-10pm. Visit:

Pick up some pre-loved gifts at Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort’s Christmas Flea Market on 8th December, where you’ll find everything from clothes to homeware. It’s all for a good cause – a percentage of sales proceeds will be donated to Al Jalila Foundation, while all funds from table rental will support treatment of childhood cancer in the UAE. Free, AED 285 to rent a table. Corniche East. 9am-5pm. Contact: 02 677 3333,

On 8th December, head to Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa for the Festive Market and Santa Chase, where the hotel’s lawn will be taken over by a market,
petting zoo, fun activities and music from a DJ, plus performances from local dance schools. Not done buying gifts yet? Head back on 9th December for the Christmas Shopping Soiree, where you’ll find even more handcrafted pressies. Free. Sas Al Nakhl.
Noon-7pm. Contact: 02 616 9999,

Santa sightings 

Santa Claus is coming to town – and here’s where you can find him…

You’d better bring your Christmas list to The Galleria from 6th to 24th December, where old Saint Nick will be in his grotto taking a few requests before the big day. Free. Al Maryah Island. Daily 3pm-10pm. Visit:

Santa’s on the run on 15th December at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, and kids can chase him down for a prize. Adults who still believe can take part in the 5km chase – we hear the old guy can really motor. Don’t miss the market or festive tunes from the DJ, either. AED 50 for adults, free for children. Saadiyat Island. Noon-7pm. To register for Santa Chase, visit:

Little elves up to four years of age can meet the big man and claim their gift on 17th December at Music Monkeys’ festive party. AED 70 for members, AED 80 for non-members. Booking required. KidzVenture, Mangrove Village, Abu Dhabi Gate City. 9am-10am for ages two to four, 10.30am-11.30am for children under two. Contact:

WORDS Camille Hogg

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