Sunday 21 December 2014

Where's the best place to go this year to visit the man in the red suit?

Visiting Santa gets you a lot more bang for your buck than in previous years, writes Aideen Sheehan

Grotto fabulous: Sarah and Tom Kelly and their children Emma and Liam

For children, Christmas would not be complete without a visit to Santa. But for parents it can be difficult to choose from the vast range of options when it comes to the man in red.

The days when Santa was only available at a couple of department stores with queues out the door are long gone, and venues are now going all out to offer the best visiting experience, with online booking becoming the norm.

Smart Consumer took a look at the options and selected some for which we've heard personal recommendations.

Powerscourt Avoca, Co Wicklow

Very popular Santa in a lovely setting and Avoca has now introduced prebooking to prevent lengthy queues. However, even if they're not visiting the big man, kids can inspect farm animals free of charge in Powerscourt Stables.

Ailwee Caves, Co Clare

At €33 for a child and €15 per adult, this is far from cheap, but fans rave about the experience which can last a full day. As well as entering the caves to meet Santa and visit his post office, there's free face painting, puppet shows, a mini funfair and Christmas market and a Birds of Prey centre.

Rathwood, Co Carlow

Santa visits only started at this garden centre and lifestyle store on the Carlow/Wicklow border four years ago, but they've become so popular it's vital to book early in September if you want a sought-after weekend spot, with virtually all December dates now sold out.

It costs €15 per child including the gift and hot chocolate, and €10 per adult.

Arnotts Christmas Grotto, Dublin

Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Rathfarnham

Many devotees have made a visit to the lovely DSPCA headquarters in the hills of Dublin part of their Christmas ritual that also benefits animals. The costs are adult €5, child €15. Bookable online.

Irish Independent

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