10 things to do in Northern Ireland

1.       Winter-Circus Belfast, 13 December – 1 January. Winter Circus is back again for its fourth year with The Winter Circus Show. The ever-popular show will be hosted in the fantastic, central location of Writer’s Square, Belfast. The Winter Circus Show will be an all human, all skill and all thrill event. Expect modern, high skilled acts, including acrobats, aerialists and jugglers in this one hour of hammer smashing Belfast inspired circus.

2.       Visit-Santa-at-the-Ulster-American-Folk-Park Omagh, 6December – 5 January. Visit Santa at the Ulster American Folk Park and take the family back in time to experience the magic of a traditional Christmas this festive season. Gather around the warmth of a turf fire and enjoy readings from The Night Before Christmas, singalong with the Christmas Mummers, taste seasonal treats and meet Santa and Mrs Claus in their workshop.

3.       The-Old-Inns-Glitter-Ball-Boogie Bangor, 13 December. Old world charm, meets the glitz and glam that only a party night in the dazzling Verina Suite can offer. Enjoy your red carpet entrance and your very own Onyx Champagne Bar at The Old Inn this season. Your glitz and glam party evening begins with a three course menu, then dance the night away with party favourites hosted by DJ Derek West until midnight.

4.       The-Snowman-and-other-Christmas-Favourites Derry~Londonderry, 15 December. Join Derry’s new symphony orchestra as they celebrate Christmas with their friends from the Allegri ladies and Allegri kids choirs and present The Snowman. Allegri’s singers will join forces with a live orchestra for the first time to celebrate the spirit of Christmas through song. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy this family favourite, as well as a wonderful selection of other festive music.

5.       Traditional-Irish-Bread-making-with-a-Christmas-twist Newtownards, 12 December. Join Tracey in her home, where you’ll be welcomed with the aroma of freshly made griddle breads, soda and wheaten, and a table laden with homemade treats. Learn how to make local Irish breads in a traditional thatched cottage on the shores of Strangford lough. If you’re looking for something off the beaten track and you’re keen to meet the locals and dine in a traditional home, then this is the perfect experience for you.

6.       Christmas-Cracker-at-Rowallane-Garden Ballynahinch, 7 – 24 December. Visit Rowallane Garden for their Yuletide Market from 7 – 8 December where you will find locally produced gifts from one of the specialist stall holders in the Stableyard. Discover a range of artisan foods and hand-crafted curiosities. You’re sure to find something to share with your loved ones this Christmas. From 14-24 December you will also be able to decorate your very own Gingerbread man.

7.       12-Days-of-Christmas-with-David-Lyttle Hillsborough, 14 December. David Lyttle continues to mentor and introduce new talent with his dynamic Christmas concert at Hillsborough Castle which will feature three of Ireland’s most promising young jazz musicians: Derry guitarist Joseph Leighton and twin brothers Michael and Conor Murray, saxophone and double bass, from Donegal. His celebrated collaborations with a long list of music legends brings jazz to new audiences in unusual venues.

8.       Wildlife-Wonderland-at-Belfast-Zoo Newtownabbey 14 – 15 December. Wrap presents for the animals and see Santa deliver these around the 55-acre site. You can also take part in Christmas crafts, win prizes with a reindeer trail, meet a selection of animals, and pose for photos with Santa and Mrs Claus. Wildlife Wonderland is suitable for both families and adults and does not include a Grotto experience. Normal admission price applies.

9.       Lost-Childhood-Exhibition Derry~Londonderry, 1 December – 31 January. Beginning this December, the award-winning Museum of Free Derry will host one of their most poignant exhibitions to date entitled ‘Lost Childhood’.

10.   Adam-Kay-Twas-the-Nightshift-Before-Christmas Belfast, 11 December. Join Adam Kay for his brand new festive show ‘Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas’ at the Ulster Hall for two incredible shows this December. Following the million-selling success of This Is Going To Hurt, Adam Kay delves back into his diaries for a hilarious peek behind the blue curtain at Christmas time. This brand new live show mixes highlights from the book with his award winning stand-up comedy and exclusive new content.

For more information on these events or to plan a short break in Northern Ireland, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com


LASTING memories are the ultimate present and Hastings Hotels is encouraging people to gift their partner an experience to remember…together.

The leading collection of hotels has a fabulous array of gift experiences for couples to enjoy and has put together ideas to help provide some festive inspiration:

  • Treat that special someone to a romantic overnight stay in one of the fabulous 7 Hastings Hotels from as little as £75pps. Enjoy a pampering spa break at the Slieve Donard Resort & spa or Culloden Estate & Spa; a city break in Belfast to take in a night at the theatre or the bustling nightlife and stay at Europa Hotel, Grand Central Hotel or Stormont Hotel; spend the afternoon exploring the Walled City and stay at the Everglades Hotel in Derry-Londonderry; or get cosy and enjoy a break along the scenic Antrim coast at Ballygally Castle.
  • After Christmas, there is no better way to relax and enjoy some quality time together than an afternoon being pampered. The Spa at Slieve Donard and The Spa at Culloden are an oasis of tranquillity with relaxing facilities including heat experiences, swimming pool and an extensive selection of ESPA treatment starting from £85pp including an Enzyme Facial, an ESPA Eye Lift, an Ocean and Earth Body Wrap, Men’s Deep Cleanse Facial and Golfer’s Tonic massage.
  • Enjoy a date night with indulgent dining from only £25pp. The hotels provide the perfect location to enjoy a romantic meal for two and each menu is carefully designed using the very best of local, seasonal produce.
  • Treating your loved one to Afternoon Tea is a decadent way to have special time together. Starting from just £20pp, enjoy cups of the finest steaming tea or coffee, finger sandwiches and an array of delectable treats!  For the most exquisite Afternoon Tea experience, visit the Observatory on the 23rd floor of the Grand Central Hotel where you can enjoy the best views of Belfast and beyond. 
  • And if that special person in your life likes to choose their own present – a Hastings Hotels Gift Card is ideal! It can be used in the 7 hotels, the two magnificent spas and any of the group’s restaurants or bars. Every budget is catered for, with cards available from £20 to much, much more!

For further information go towww.hastingshotels.com/Christmasgifts or call 028 9047 1066.

Children’s Theatre Favourite Penguins Returns To Belfast

Two male penguins from New York’s Central Park Zoo will come to life this month in a magical show for children at the Lyric Theatre.

Starring performers Olivia Van Niekerk (Surrey), Dom Coffey (Manchester) and Osian Meilir (Pentre’r Bryn, Wales), Penguins is the true story of Roy and Silo – two male Chinstrap penguins who discover a heart-warming adventure into parenthood.

Created and produced by Cahoots NI, Northern Ireland’s leading children’s theatre company, Penguins is an engaging show for young audiences exploring friendship, fun, identity and the ever-changing meaning of family.

Creator and director of Penguins is Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney, one of the founders and Artistic Director of Cahoots NI.

He said: “Just like other penguins pairs at Central Park Zoo Roy and Silo walk, play, swim and dance together.

“But when they decide to try and hatch a rock in place of an egg, they find themselves on an adventure that could mean raising a chick for real.

“Penguins is a really heart-warming and uplifting story and very visual piece of theatre with beautiful music and some wonderful magic for young audiences and their families. 

“At the heart of the show is a message about love and what family means and I hope it will leave a lasting impression.”

Performers Dom Coffey, Olivia Van Niekerk & Osian Meilir.

Running at The Lyric from December 18-22 Penguins is a beautiful non-verbal show bringing the art of dance, magic and creative expression to the stage. 

Aimed at families, schools and community group audiences of age 3+ the show is running daytime performances at 11am and 1pm each day with an evening show on Thursday December 19 at 6pm.

Paul added: “Whilst the show is suitable for ages 3+ we’ve found all ages enjoy the story. At Cahoots NI we are committed to producing high quality, bold, innovative productions for children and their families which, like Penguins, combine dance, magic, illusion, physical theatre and original music.

“The show is currently running in Birmingham Repertory Theatre until December 14 and then after the Lyric Theatre we’ll embark on a US tour in 2020.”

The Penguins team also includes choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra (Gran Canaria), Ballycastle composer Garth McConaghie, set and costume designer Sabine Dargent (France), lighting designer Simon Bond (London).

This project is supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Arts Development Officer for Drama and Dance, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “The multi award-winning, internationally acclaimed, Cahoots NI, continue to offer audiences world-class children’s theatre with their show, Penguins, at the Lyric Theatre this December. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support this terrific production which will be enjoyed by many, helping to bring great art to everyone.” 

Tickets for Penguins at The Lyric Theatre are £8-£12 and available from lyrictheatre.co.uk/event/penguins

For more information go to cahootsni.com or follow Cahoots NI on social media. #PenguinsTour #CahootsNI

Offers of the Week


Northern Ireland boasts a wonderful collection of places to stay including beautiful B&Bs, luxurious spa hotels and great value self-catering properties. Discover NI has selected the best offers of the week to help you plan a short break.

·         Winter on the Coast, two night stay at the Fullerton Arms, Ballintoy from £99 per room

Stay in the idyllic village of Ballintoy and in the heart of the Causeway Coastal route for two nights, bed and breakfast for two people. The Fullerton Arms is a perfect base to explore the Giants Causeway, Bushmills distillery, Carrick a rede rope bridge and Game of Thrones® locations. The cosy bar serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and hosts live music at the weekends. Offer is available Sunday to Friday and subject to availability. There is an additional cost when booking a Saturday. To book call 028 2076 9613. Offer available until 31st March 2020.

·         Winter warmer, two night stay at Shelleven Guest House, Bangor from £131.25 per room

Enjoy two nights at Shellevan Guest House, a Victorian townhouse with great charm, providing luxurious accommodation in a warm relaxed atmosphere. This unique guest house is the perfect place to relax with several rooms offering stunning views of Bangor Bay, the Irish Sea and beyond. Book a 2 night stay at the Shellevan Guest House in November or December (excluding Christmas dates) and receive 25% off your second night’s stay, when 2 people share. Offer includes full hot and cold breakfast, cooked to order. To book call 02891271777. Offer available until 20 December 2019.

·         Faldo Getaway Experience at Lough Erne Resort, Enniskillen from £97.50 per person sharing

Enjoy an overnight stay at the multi-award winning Lough Erne Resort which offers spectacular views of the Fermanagh Lakelands and the Faldo Course. Stay in a luxury guest room and enjoy a round of golf on the championship Faldo Course. Awake to an indulgent breakfast and use of the infinity pool. Offer is subject to availability and excludes holiday and peak periods. To book call 028 6632 3230. Offer available until 23 December 2019.

Jacqueline shares her pick of what’s on this week across NI


This Saturday 14th December Dromore is hosting a “Christmas Barket”.  A special Christmas themed market with gifts and treats for all your furry friends and family.  Shop for all-natural dog treats, unique pet gifts and dog beds and accessories. 


Naturally North Coast and Glens will celebrate Christmas in Ballycastle with a sensational Christmas Market in the Marine Hotel, Ballycastle on Sunday 15th December.  The market will be festooned with artisan treats galore, quirky gift  ideas, sumptuous hand crafted treats,  and  much more!  


The Santa Special is a return journey of festive fun by steam train, with an on-board visit from Santa and presents for children from Portadown to Lisburn. The round trip lasts around 2 hours. Get a photograph with the man in red beside the train. Sunday 15th December 12.00pm to 4.00pm.


This Saturday evening, friends once again gather at the hearth at HomePlace Bellaghy for an evening of music, poetry and banter. Expect some songs, readings and recitations and some memories of Christmas – including songs from Anthony Toner, piano from Rod McVey, cello and uilleann pipe music from Neil Martin and readings from acclaimed author Glenn Patterson.


Visit Santa in his Grotto on Sunday 15th December at Share Discovery Village.  This Christmas Cheer event is running for the public from 2.00pm to 4.00pm on Sunday 15th December.  £8 per child and £2 per accompanying adult including an individual visit to Santa Claus, making Christmas crafts and play games, write your Santa letter, feast on hot chocolate and cookies,  balloon modelling and face painting.


Santa is making his journey from the North Pole to Peatlands Park Dungannon on 14th and 15th December from 12.00 – 3.00pm.   Hop aboard the Santa Express train through the woods to Santa’s secret grotto. Meet Father Christmas who will deliver a present to all children. Take a selfie with Santa. Hop back on the express train tto the Peatlands Visitor Centre to write a letter to Santa which will be placed in the North Pole Letterbox.  


Join Belvoir Players for their annual Christmas Charity Concert in aid of NI Chest Heart and Stroke  on Saturday 14th December.  Enjoy music from the season performed by students & professionals alongside dramatic readings taken from C.S. Lewis’ Narnia.  Tickets include mulled wine and mince pies at the interval.

For further details on these events and to add your events free go to whatsonni.com. Follow us on twitter @whatsonNI and on facebook at fb.com/www.whatsonni for news, competitions and what’s on near you.

Christmas Country Cracker Show at Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre

Five top performers from the world of Country music are coming together for a Christmas Country Cracker Show at Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre on Friday 20th December.

Featuring the hilarious Gary Gamble with his surreal impressions of Daniel O’Donnell, rising star Owen Mac, truckers’ favourite Boxcar Brian and local singer Joe Moore, the night will include hit song performances with a festive feel in the company of the superb Country Harmony.

If you are a Country music fan then this is the show for you! And there may be a few Christmas special guests making an appearance as well.

The show opens at 8pm and will finish at 10.30pm Tickets cost £20 and are available now from www.roevalleyarts.com or call 028 7776 0650.

This is a guest hire event brought to you by JMG Music Group.

Tumble Circus Big Top Arrives In Writer’s Square

Winter Circus is back again for its fourth year with The Winter Circus Show.

The ever-popular show will be hosted in the fantastic, central location of Writer’s Square, Belfast. Never ones to conform, the Tumble Circus troop will treat you and your family and friends to a Winter extravaganza unlike anything else on offer in Belfast! The Winter Circus shows will run between December 13 and January 2 and will take place at Writers Square in Belfast; look out for the fully heated Tumble Circus big top tent.

The Winter Circus Show will be all human, all skill and all thrill event. Expect modern, high skilled acts, including acrobats, aerialists and jugglers in this one hour of hammer smashing Belfast inspired circus. The Winter Circus Shows will be spectacular with an inspiring modern soundtrack, international circus artists and comedy characters that both young and old can enjoy.

Forget what you think about circus and experience world-class acrobats, aerialists, jugglers and the unique humour that has made Tumble Circus an international award winning modern circus company.
Winter Circus is kindly supported by Department for Communities, Arts Council of N Ireland, Belfast City Council and Cathedral Quarter BID.

Gareth Neill, CQ BID Manager said: “Tumble Circus is a must see event in the city centre; it has grown successfully year on year bringing something very special, unique and  a good dose of hilarity to the cultural calendar of Cathedral Quarter. Here at Destination CQ Business Improvement District we are delighted to help support this fab event.”

Winter Circus Show
Doors open 15min prior to show time
Friday 13th Dec           –   6pm (preview performance)                  
Saturday 14th Dec       –  2pm & 5pm  
Sunday 15th Dec         –  2pm & 5pm
Tuesday 17th Dec        –  3pm & 6pm (Relaxed shows)
Wednesday 18th Dec    –   6pm
Thursday 19th Dec        –  6pm
Friday 20th Dec            –  5pm
Saturday 21st Dec        –  2pm, 5pm
Sunday 22nd Dec         –   2pm, 5pm
Monday 23rd Dec        –   2pm & 5pm
Tuesday 24th Dec.      –   2pm
Thursday 26th Dec      –    3pm
Friday 27th Dec           –   2pm & 5pm
Saturday 28th Dec       –   2pm & 5pm
Sunday 29th Dec         –    2pm & 5pm
Monday 30th Dec         –    2pm & 5pm
Tuesday 31st Dec        –   3pm
Wednesday 01st Jan . –   3pm
Thursday 02nd Jan      –   3pm

Relaxed performances are specifically designed to welcome people with a learning disability, Down’s Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Condition or sensory and communication disorders. There is a relaxed attitude to noise and movement and some small changes made to the light and sound effects.

TICKET COSTS (excluding booking fee);

£8.50 Children – 12 and under  

£12 Full Price

£35 Family of Four

Children 2 and under go free

For Tickets Visit: https://www.wegottickets.com/fbtswgt/event/485590
For More Info Visit: https://www.tumblecircus.com

Power NI Enchanted Winter Garden to host dedicated evening for children with specific needs

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council to host an ‘Evening of Inclusive Enchantment’ at Antrim Castle Gardens

Press Eye Northern Ireland Friday 29th November 2019 Picture by Darren KIdd / Press Eye Northern Ireland’s Premier Christmas Experience, the Power NI Enchanted Winter Garden, will host a special ‘Evening of Inclusive Enchantment’ for children and adults with specific needs. Sponsors of the event, Castle Mall Shopping Centre, will host the evening of Inclusive Enchantment at Antrim Castle Gardens on Wednesday 18th December (4pm – 9pm) for adults and children with specific needs, including those who are sensitive to noise, lights and crowds. Attractions and rides will be slowed down, music levels lowered, and strobe lighting and other strong lighting will not be used on the evening. Pictured standing L-R: Mark Cully, Ald John Smyth, Mayor of Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, Ellen Boyd, Customer Accessibility Officer, Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council and Pamela Minford, Centre Manager, Castle Mall Seated L-R: Luke Mullan and Sam McBride ENDS

Northern Ireland’s Premier Christmas Experience, the Power NI Enchanted Winter Garden, will host a special ‘Evening of Inclusive Enchantment’ for children and adults with specific needs. 

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, sponsored by Castle Mall Shopping Centre, will host the evening of Inclusive Enchantment at Antrim Castle Gardens on Wednesday 18th December (4pm – 9pm) for adults and children with specific needs, including those who are sensitive to noise, lights and crowds.

Attractions and rides will be slowed down, music levels lowered, and strobe lighting and other strong lighting will not be used on the evening.

The Power NI Enchanted Winter Garden sees Antrim’s award-winning gardens transformed into a magical illuminated outdoor experience for all the family, capturing the joy and wonder of traditional festive celebrations.

It will feature an array of dazzling attractions including the the brightly lit 35-metre-high Ferris Wheel, the handsome Victorian Helter Skelter, the traditional fairground Carousel and the breath-taking Wave Swinger.

Visitors can follow the dazzling light installation of the tree-lined winter wonderland walk, where they will meet hidden creatures, street artist performers, fire jugglers, fairies and a magical reindeer.

Children will also get the chance to visit Santa’s workshop as they ride the Enchanted Express Mini Train through the grounds and catch a glimpse of Father Christmas and his busy elves preparing for the festive season.

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Alderman John Smyth said: “We are delighted to once again host the hugely successful ‘Evening of Inclusive Enchantment’ at the Power NI Enchanted Winter Garden for children and adults with specific needs. 

“Delivered in partnership with Castle Mall Shopping Centre this inclusive event offers those who are sensitive to noise, light and large crowds the opportunity to come along and enjoy this magical experience without the usual hustle and bustle.”

Pamela Minford, Centre Manager at Castle Mall commented “We are delighted to be sponsoring an evening of Inclusive Enchantment at the Power NI Enchanted Winter Gardens, one of Northern Ireland’s most spectacular Christmas events.

“Castle Mall is a shopping centre based in the heart of Antrim Town, established for over 30 years with many well-known retailers. The shopping centre will turn off their music on Wednesday 18 December to allow adults and children with specific needs who are visiting the Gardens, the chance to visit the shopping centre. We hope that everyone will pop in and say hello.”

Tickets for the ‘Evening of Inclusive Enchantment’ on Wednesday 18th December (4.30pm – 9.30pm) are available at www.enchantedwintergarden.com or in person at Clotworthy House / The Old Courthouse or by telephone 028 9448 1338.

Tickets are priced at £4 for an adult, £2 for a child (under two’s go free) and £10 for a family ticket, with tokens purchased separately for rides and attractions.

Free Car parking available at Central Car Park at Castle Mall and other Town Centre car parks.

The Power NI Enchanted Winter Garden will run from Friday 6December through to Sunday 22 December.

Jacqueline shares her pick of what’s on this weekend across NI


Enjoy a magical evening of festive fun with a visit from Santa this Saturday 7th December in Dromore at the Christmas Lights Switch on event.  This year take the opportunity to find that special gift or food treat at a Mini Twilight Market.  3.00pm to 7.00pm, admission is free.


Special Olympics Ulster is calling upon people from Portrush and beyond to accept the challenge and plunge into the sea at East Strand this Sunday to raise funds for local Special Olympics athletes.  ‘Get freezin’ for a reason’ in support of athletes with an learning disability.  Families, sports clubs, businesses and individuals are invited to brave the icy waters at 1.00pm.  Those who think they are brave enough to make a splash and take the Polar Plunge can register at  Registration costs just £20.


This Christmas check out the stunning Live Manger at Tannaghmore Animal Farm – a truly magical experience for all the family to enjoy!  You will find Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the three Kings in a remake of that world famous stable complete with donkey, sheep, cows and other animals. 8th to 29th December.


A wintry Saturday in December is a fantastic time to watch a film in the warmth of the Roe Valley auditorium Limavady.  So whether you have seen Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas or not enjoy with and friends a festive favourite. This Saturday at 2.00pm.  Admission £3, family of 4 £10.


Caritas Sing their hearts out to Fermanagh, in St Macartin’s Cathedral this Sunday 8th December.  There will be a voluntary collection for Mental Health in Fermanagh. (Aisling Centre).


Santa is making his journey from the North Pole for two weekends in Peatlands Park, Dungannon on 7th, 8th, 14th and 15th December from 12 – 3pm.  This promises to be a magical experience not to be missed for all the family.


This wonderful Snowman movie is now a festive family tradition, creating special memories for young and old. Join the Ulster Orchestra and young guest soloists for magic and adventure in this big-screen, classic tale of a boy whose snowman comes to life. Saturday 7th December.

For further details on these events and to add your events free go to whatsonni.com. Follow us on twitter @whatsonNI and on facebook at fb.com/www.whatsonni for news, competitions and what’s on near you.