FREE and Cheap Christmas Events for Children, Individuals, and Families in Scotland 2018
November 14, 2018
Amidst the flurry of social gatherings, last minute shopping, and getting in the supplies for hosting the big Christmas dinner, the festive season can end up being extremely expensive. While we all want to enjoy this time of year, it is important not to let your budget run away with you.
If you are wondering about how you can entertain the family while still keeping a close eye over the purse strings, you are in the right place. Here is a selection of our favourite festive activities taking place throughout Scotland this Christmas.
When and Where: George Street (18 November, 3.00pm)
Hosted by Forth Radio’s Arlene Stuart, the Edinburgh Christmas lights switch on is likely to see over 20,000 people flock to the city centre to celebrate the start of the Christmas season. Featuring a performance by Saskia Eng, star of The Voice, plus a dazzling fireworks display, this is an event not to be missed.
24 Doors of Advent
When and Where: Various locations across the city, 1 – 24 December 2017
Even if you know Edinburgh well, 24 Doors of Advent may give you the chance to explore buildings and monuments you may never have thought to visit. Every day throughout December a new location will be opened up to the public giving you access to what lays inside. From the Robert Burns Monument, Lauriston Castle, Murrayfield, through to the Anatomical Museum, there is sure to be a location for everyone in the family.
When and Where: East Princes Street Gardens (17 November – 5 January)
You know it’s nearly Christmas when the markets make their appearance in the City. Whether you are there to shop, browse, or enjoy a glass or two of mulled wine, a visit to the Christmas markets is the perfect way of getting into the festive spirit.
When and Where: East Princes Street Gardens (17 November – 5 January)
Cost: Dependant on attraction
Designed to cater for children of all ages, Santa Land is the perfect way to spend an afternoon this Christmas season with your little ones. There are family-friendly rides including bumper cars and a carousel, a Christmas tree maze, and even a rollercoaster for the more daring. Prices vary depending on attraction and age restrictions do apply to some rides.
When and Where: Across the city (17 November – 26 December)
Wrap up warm and take a winter stroll from St Giles to Newhaven to admire the beautiful stained glass windows, all of which have been designed by pupils from Edinburgh’s schools. An annual tradition, this year’s Winter Windows theme is ‘kindness.’
When and Where: St Andrew’s Square (16 November – 5 January)
Cost: From £5
Don your skates (hire is included in the price) and take a spin on St Andrew’s Square. The oval shaped ice rink surrounds the Melville Monument allowing you to take in beautiful views of the City. This activity is suitable for children, although those under 11 must be accompanied on the ice by an adult.
When and Where: George Street (19 November – 1 January)
Cost: From £4.50 (Free for children under 2)
A brand new event, Silent Light lets you enjoy a performance of 60,000 lights synchronised to music which can only be heard only through the supplied headphones. Each show lasts 20 minutes and is the perfect way for the whole family to get into the festive spirit. Plus with 50p from every ticket sold going to charity, you can do a good deed in the process.
Nativity Carol Concert
When and Where: St Andrew’s Square (2 December, 3.00pm)
Mark the start of advent with a traditional carol singing service conducted around the nativity scene. The event in St Andrew’s Square is free to attend and is the perfect way to remember the true meaning of Christmas.
When and Where: George Square & St Enoch Square (9 November – 31 December)
For traditional handmade gifts or a warming glass of Glühwein, there are fewer better places to visit during the festive season than a Christmas markets, and residents of Glasgow will be pleased to know that they are returning to the City once again. Spread across two locations on George Square and St Enoch Square, each market offers a wide range of gastronomic treats and authentic German bars. The St Enoch Christmas Market opens 9th November and runs until 23rd December, while the George Square market will remain open until New Year’s Eve.
Blessing of the Crib
When and Where: George Square (5 December, 6.30pm)
The Blessing of the Crib is a Glasgow tradition, and this moving service once again takes place in George Square. Join the Lord Provost of Glasgow and a choir to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas under the festive lights.
When and Where: George Square (9 December)
Cost: £15 to run; free to watch
Now in its twelfth year, the annual 5k Santa Dash will see 8,000 runners take to the city centre dressed up as Santa all to raise money for a good cause. Huge fun for participants and spectators alike, the Santa Dash is the perfect start to enjoying a festive day out in the City.
Baby’s First Christmas
When and Where: Glasgow City Chambers (8 December)
This annual occasion sees 1,000 of Glasgow’s newborns invited to celebrate their first festive season at this special event. The first 250 babies registered for the event will be able to have their picture taken with the Lord Provost and will be given a keepsake silver charm as a way to remember the moment for years to come. This is an invitation-only event and registration is necessary.
The Irn-Bru Carnival
When and Where: SEC (20 December – 13 January)
Cost: £13 online with discounts for children; under 3’s free
There truly is something for all the family at the ever-popular Irn-Bru Carnival. At what is Europe’s largest indoor funfair there is a soft play for under 1’s, inflatable play for children of all ages, plus larger rides for the thrill-seekers in the family. Add to this a climbing wall, traditional stall games, plus a huge array of rides suitable for children and families; this really is a huge event in Glasgow’s social calendar.
Helensburgh Winter Festival
When and Where: Colquhoun Square, Helensburgh (1 – 2 December)
The Helensburgh Winter Festival is a weekend of festive fun for all the family. Complete with a Christmas market and with an array of street food on offer, the Helensburgh festival is always popular with families. Santa will be taking up residence for the weekend and will be joined by his reindeer!
Mrs Claus at Pollok House
When and Where: Pollok House (1 – 24 December)
Cost: From £5 per child
From the start of December, Pollok House will be given the Christmas treatment. View the amazing Christmas decorations adorning the 18th century country house, before taking your little one to visit Mrs Claus where they will be given a Christmas gift.
Aberdeen Christmas Village
When and Where: City Centre (22 November – 31 December)
Cost: Free (prices for activities vary)
Aberdeen’s Christmas Village is designed with the whole family in mind. Indulge in some hearty European food and try a tipple of warming Glühwein before taking a twirl around the open air ice rink or enjoying a spin on the fairground rides. Santa will be in his grotto and ready to meet the littlest members of your family and give them an early Christmas gift.
Christmas Tree Switch On
When and Where: Castlegate (22 November)
Always an exciting time of year, the switching on of the Christmas tree really signals the start of the festive season. The tree, donated by Aberdeen’s twin town Stavenger in Norway, will be turned on by the Lord Provost who will be joined by the Deputy Mayor of Stavenger. Guests from Norway will be welcomed by the people of Aberdeen who will be treated to musical entertainment during the service.
Christmas Lights Switch On
When and Where: Union Street (25 November)
Following on from the lighting of the Christmas tree, the City’s Christmas lights will be switched on on November 25th. A fire and ice themed procession will work its way down Union Street, which will see reindeers on segways alongside local groups and musical entertainment. Wrap up warm and bring the family along to enjoy this free event.
Santa at Crathes Castle
When and Where: Crathes Castle (15 – 23 December)
Be sure to take your little ones to meet Santa when he makes his visit to Crathes Castle this December. Santa and his elves will take up residence in the 16th Century castle’s Great Hall, promising a magical experience for the youngest members of your family.
Twelve Days of Christmas Trail
When and Where: Various locations across the City (1 – 24 December)
Twelve wooden totem poles will be erected across the city, each one depicting one of the twelve days of Christmas. Participants are encouraged to join in on social media and share their progress with other totem pole hunters!
Christmas Carol Concert
When and Where: David Welch Winter Gardens (15 December, 11am and 2pm)
The Bon Accord Silver Band will help you get in the festive spirit by playing your favourite Christmas carols. The event is free for all to enjoy although food bank donations will be greatly received by those who are able to give on the day.
When and Where: City Square (2 December)
Cost: Starts from free for under 3’s
Join the expected 1,000 “Santas” on a festive dash around the City! Walk or run depending on how energetic you feel on the day. The 2km route starts on City Square and takes you around the city. Don’t worry about a costume, Santa suits (or hats for the under 15s) will be provided on the day, and with money raised going to charity this is an event which is not only fun, but also benefits children across Aberdeen.
When and Where: City Square (17 November)
With various events happening from 4pm, Dundee’s light night will include a torchlight procession, the Christmas tree lights switch on, and will finish with a ceilidh in City Square. This free event is a great way of kicking off the festive season.
Meet Santa and the Animals
When and Where: Camperdown Wildlife Centre (every weekend in December until Christmas)
Get back to nature and visit Santa at the Camperdown Wildlife Centre. You can also be introduced to the animals including bears, owls, and lemurs. With face painting and activities suitable for the whole family, this really is a fun day out for all.
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