"It's the most wonderful time of the year..." Andy Williams' 1963 holiday song sums up the festive mood as December rolls in. The popular track is all about "Parties for hosting/ Marshmallows for toasting/ And carolling out in the snow." While we can't hope for a "let it snow..." in the UAE, we can certainly boat with Santa, taste some mulled wine, sing carols, and get in snow fights all around the country.
Here is a list of Christmas markets where visitors can begin their festive celebrations, savour delightful treats, and enjoy activities with friends and families.
Winter Garden at Habtoor Palace, Dubai
Habtoor Palace's annual Winter Garden is your ticket to a world of wonder, and it's open to all, including your four-legged friends who can stroll by your side. A perfect place to kickstart your Christmas celebrations, the venue features pop-up shops and many activities. The Winter Garden, situated in front of the iconic Habtoor Palace Dubai, boasts an array of food stalls that will tantalise your taste buds until January 31.
The little ones can run free in the specially designed kid's play area. And what's more — Santa visits the market every day. Meet and greet with Santa will not cost you a fil.
Madinat Jumeirah Festive Market, Dubai
Remember boat with Santa, mulled wine, snow fights and carol singing - it's all here at the Madinat Jumeirah Festive Market. Spread across 1750 sqm, the market features a 36ft Christmas tree, and activities include the North Pole Train, a four-lane bungee and a Venetian carousel. Children will also have the chance to take Abra rides with Santa and decorate their gingerbread houses. Delicious festive food and drinks will be available while a live band plays seasonal favourites. Entry to the market is free of cost.
Time: December 15 – January 7. Monday to Thursday, 3pm – Late and Friday to Sunday, 12:00 – Late
Winter District at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Dubai
Downtown Dubai's first-ever Winter District is a spectacular addition to this year's Festive season. Set against the Museum of the Future backdrop, this market promises the ultimate destination for those searching for a joyous holiday experience.
This festive experience includes a forest of Christmas trees, wondering shopping time for handmade crafts and artisanal gifts from home-grown brands. There's a carousel ride and snowball fight spaces for everyone young at heart. Visitors can enjoy live music, great food and drink, and a chocolate bar.
Dates: December 14 - January 4
Times: 2pm to 2am.
Ski Dubai winter festivities
Embrace the festive spirit this December at Ski Dubai, the snowy destination at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. Dive into a winter wonderland within this popular venue from December 1 to 25. Visitors have the chance to meet Santa in his grotto. Snow Park rides and hot chocolate in an Alpine-themed cafe will be available to visitors. Book your tickets on Ski Dubai website.
Winter City at Expo City
From December 15 to January 7 2024, Al Wasl Plaza will transform into a magical Winter City, featuring Santa’s sustainable house, Mrs Claus’ bakery, an eco-friendly toy factory and Frosty’s farmhouse. Highlights at Al Wasl Plaza will also include the lighting up of the magnificent 52-foot tree. Carols by Candlelight will run from December 20-24 – with a range of food and beverage packages available to sweeten the offering – together with nightly projection shows and whimsical snowfall sessions.
Festive favourites of hot chocolate, mince pies, and gingerbread will help to capture the spirit of sharing, ensuring a great community experience for all visitors.
Winter City will open from 3pm-11pm daily, with entry priced from Dh20 for adults and free for ages 12 and under and Carols by Candlelight ticketholders. Additional charges are applicable for some activities and workshops.
Jumeirah Golf Estates Golf & Country Club
Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year at Jumeirah Golf Estates Golf & Country Club for festive fun for the entire family (including the dog!) taking place from December 16. The market will be a one-stop-shop for all of your holiday needs. From treats and accessories for dogs to unique gifts for people. Get your festive groove on with live DJ and band at the festival. Entry to the event is free.
For Dh95, children can meet the Santa in his Grotto and experience the magic of Christmas. The grotto is a wonderful photo opportunity that will create lasting memories (available between 2pm-7pm). Get ready to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit with snowfall every hour. The snow is 100% non-toxic, making it safe for everyone to enjoy. (2pm - 4pm and 6pm - 9pm).
Dubai Festival City Mall wonderland
Begin your festive at Festival City mall through charming kiosks hosted by legendary characters like Gingerbread Man and Frosty the Snowman. Encounter Winnie the Pooh and Rudolf the Reindeer on their evening strolls. Explore the Valley of Light Trees and reach Santa's log cabin to share wishes and capture memories with a photo. Join Santa's Magical Workshops and navigate the enchanting Ice Maze where the Snow Queen awaits. Don't miss the magical reindeer stables and toys parade. Experience the Holiday Extravaganza with heartwarming Winter Stars shows. Food enthusiasts can delight in Eats Square's festive treats and create new traditions with family and friends.
Christmas tree lighting: December 7 at 7pm
December 8 – 28: Meet Santa, free goodies, IMAGINE shows, festive carols, Winnie the Pooh forest, ice maze.
Yas Winter Fest, Abu Dhabi
Yas Winter Fest is ready to usher you into a five-day winter wonderland from December 6 to 10. The festive fun will feature an (artificial) snow park, a daily tree lighting ceremony and a line-up of festive stage shows.
Thrilling carnival rides, a snowball fight zone and snow slides will keep the energy soaring. There will be non-stop entertainment, including mini-musicals, sing-alongs, magicians, Christmas choirs and more. Kids can keep busy in the mega kids' zone and Santa's Workshop, while adults can enjoy shopping and savour classic winter treats.
Tickets: Ages 3 and below go free. Ages 4 to 12, child ticket required and ages 13 and above, standard ticket required. Child ticket: Dh15, Standard ticket, Dh25.
Snow Abu Dhabi at Reem Mall
Snow Abu Dhabi is guaranteed to be your family’s favourite winter destination in the Capital. It is among the world’s largest indoor snow Parks with 20 rides and attractions, including the Crystal Carousel, Polar Express Train, Flight of the Snowy Owl, Snowflake Garden, and Enchanted Tree. It offers year-round snow adventures for friends and families.
Step into a winter wonderland, meet Santa, drink hot cocoa, go down some slides and get a special gift made by elves.
Time: From December 1. Ticket: Dh150 per person (meet Santa package). Dh295 per person (snow park & meet Santa package)
More free Santa meet & greet
Meet Santa every day at Ibn Battuta Mall from December 12 to 26. Santa’s Grotto at India Court, open from Sunday to Wednesday from 3pm to 8pm, and Thursday to Saturday from 3pm to 9pm.
Meet Santa and his Elves at Town Square winter wonder and Christmas market. Get ready for Tree lighting ceremony, children's workshop, roaming entertainment and parades and fabulous food and drinks options. Every Friday in December (8, 15, 22 and 29) Timing: 5pm to 8pm , Town Square Dubai Park.
Let the glow of Winter light up your festive at Times Square Centre. Santa's Grotto: Meet & greet Santa and his Elves from December 9, 10, 15 to 24. Timings: 2 to 3.30pm, 4.15 to 6pm and 6.45 to 8pm.
The kids will love Santa at Winter Garden at Habtoor Palace.
Head over to Wafi City for a cosy time with Santa Claus in the festive wonderland. Kids can explore the enchanting world of sweet celebrations. Dates: December 7: 10am to 9:30. December 8 to 24: 8.30am to 9.30pm.