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5 Family-Friendly Places to Spend Christmas

Christmas lights

Christmas is a time we usually associate with staying at home. (How else will we catch the Gavin & Stacey Special?) But what if one year you wanted to shake things up and take the kids overseas to experience the festivities? Here are our top 5 family-friendly destinations that are perfect for spending Christmas, if you’d like to create some new traditions.

Vienna Christmas Markets - Image: Jayne Gorman

Vienna Christmas Markets

Image: Jayne Gorman

Vienna, Austria

There are so many fantastic Christmas markets across Europe that it can be hard to decide which one to head to for your festive family break. Vienna, Austria stands out for a couple of reasons – and quite a few of them involve sugar!

The elegant architecture of this fairy tale-like city is bought to life by twinkly chandelier Christmas lights and over 20 traditional Advent Markets, which pop up in front of palaces, museums and cathedrals. At the Viennese Dream Christmas Market in front of City Hall, there is an area dedicated to children where they can learn how to make Christmas cookies or candles.

Elsewhere in the city, Glühwein-scented market stalls are interspersed with Viennese Coffee Houses that have hundreds of years of history. Head to Café Central, a vaulted ceiling institution where the likes of Sigmund Freud have dined, for hot chocolate piled high with cream and a slice of apple strudel. Then head to Café Sacher to sample the original Sacher Torte, a rich chocolate cake that was invented for a Prince in Vienna in 1832.

New York at Christmas

New York at Christmas

New York, USA

Surely it’s every child’s dream to visit New York at Christmas? It was high on my wish list and I was lucky enough to live out that dream. (Although it did take until my 21st birthday!)

New York at Christmas is just like in the movies, with elaborate displays in shop windows and ice rinks in parks and squares across the city. Pretend you’re in a cheesy romantic comedy while you skate beneath the giant tree outside the Rockefeller Centre, visit Santa at iconic department store Macys like the little girl in Miracle on 34th Street, or just order all the desserts off the room service menu at The Plaza like Kevin McCalister in Home Alone 2.

For the ultimate family Christmas experience in New York City, snap up tickets to the Radio City Hall Christmas Spectacular starring the high-kicking Radio City Rockettes.

Disneyland Florida

Disneyland Florida

Florida, USA

Fancy spending Christmas with Mickey and friends? You can rely on Disney to bring the magic at Christmas time and at Walt Disney World in Florida, there are enough festive events to keep the children entertained for hours and hours.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party takes place in the Magic Kingdom throughout the festive season and features a parade of marching toy soldiers, dancing reindeer and beloved Disney characters, plus snowfall on Main Street and unlimited cookies and hot chocolate. Minnie also gets in on the action with a firework spectacular set to Christmas songs, while Cinderella’s Castle gets a Frozen make over with Elsa turning it into a glistening ice palace.

In fact, all Walt Disney World Resorts are full of festive fun, with character meet and greets and Christmas-themed character meals. Epcot takes a global approach with their International Festival of the Holidays, which features different seasonal snacks and story-telling Santas from around the world. Elsewhere, there are candlelight processions, carols and gospel singers, Christmas-themed stage shows and a Merry Menagerie of wintry puppets in Animal Kingdom.

Daytime temperatures in Orlando at Christmas are a comfortable 23 degrees but can drop considerably in the evening, so don’t forget your matching Christmas jumpers for all the family.

Christmas in Sydney

Christmas in Sydney

Sydney, Australia

Christmas in the sun is twice as fun – or so the Aussies will have you believe. While living in Australia I experienced several Aussie Christmases and they are not too different from our own. We still cooked up a turkey and all the trimmings for Christmas lunch, but the afternoon was spent enjoying leftovers on the beach or walks in the park instead of sitting on the sofa! Sydney beaches fill up with visitors and locals enjoying the sunshine (have you seen those crowded scenes on Bondi Rescue?) but for a more laid-back experience you can enjoy Christmas Dinner on the waterfront at a number of family-friendly restaurants in Darling Harbour.

Of course, if you’ve come all the way to Sydney for Christmas make sure you stay for New Year’s too. The world’s most stunning harbour sparkles on New Year’s Eve with an incredible firework show that you can watch for free (or fairly cheaply) in various parks dotted around the harbour. If you have little ones that can’t stay awake until midnight, they’ll enjoy the family firework show at 9pm, as well as roving performers, aircraft flyovers and boat parades that happen throughout the event.

Jewel, Changi Airport, Singapore - Image: Jayne Gorman

Jewel, Changi Airport, Singapore

Image: Jayne Gorman

Singapore

Singapore is the perfect destination for a tropical Christmas with just enough home comforts. (Seriously, you can buy Marks and Spencer and Waitrose produce there!) It’s a super family-friendly destination with many attractions and restaurants well-catered for little ones and is perfectly placed for a stopover if you do decide to head to Sydney for New Year’s celebrations.

Can’t miss attractions include Gardens By The Bay, a futuristic horticultural park featuring award-winning conservatories, a giant man-made waterfall and a Supertree Grove, which comes to life with a light and sound show every evening. Christmas Wonderland comes to Gardens By The Bay over the festive period, offering light sculptures, carnival rides, Santa’s workshop and a Christmas Parade.

Children will also love Universal Studios, which gets a dusting of ‘snow’ at Christmas, and the giant tanks at S.E.A. Aquarium, both of which are found on Sentosa Island.

But before you fly out, make sure you check out Jewel at Changi Airport, an incredible retail and dining complex with the world’s largest indoor waterfall as its centrepiece.

Written by Jayne Gorman

Jayne is a latte-loving travel and lifestyle blogger who has travelled to more than 60 countries and spent the last 10 years writing about it.  She’s called London, Sydney, Melbourne and (very briefly) New York home – but don’t ask her to rank them. Often found brunching or scoping out boutique hotels – now with a mini explorer in tow.

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