May you never be too grown up to search the skies on Christmas Eve.” Unknown

The festive season is upon us once more and like everything in 2020 it will be a little different this year. There may not be any Carols in the Desert or hotel tree lightings but there are still plenty of ways to get into the Christmas spirit. Here’s my top tips for some festive activities to get the best out of Christmas in the capital this year.

Christmas Shopping

The Galleria Winter Wonderland – Celebrate all things festive at The Galleria from 6th to 26th December as the mall transforms into a spectacular Winter Wonderland. A nine-metre Christmas tree will take centre stage in the Winter Village along with Santa and his reindeer amid seasonal décor, sparkling lights, giant baubles throughout the mall.

Younger family members can enjoy a socially distanced visit with Santa at the Winter Village (located in front of Debenhams). Slots will be available from Saturday to Wednesday from 10am to 9pm and Thursday & Friday from 10am to 11pm. This activity must be booked online prior to your visit www.santaatthegalleria.com Festive photos will be taken and sent by email.

Post a letter to Santa in the North Pole via the boxes located in the Winter Village or Central Kitchens (Level 3). Ten letters will be selected at random weekly and those children’s wishes will come true. All the family can visit the festive sensory rooms on Level 2 that are decorated with candy canes, gingerbread, and cinnamon sticks. Shop till you drop at The Galleria’s Winter Sale in conjunction with Retail Abu Dhabi’s ‘Abu Dhabi Shopping Season’. Shopping promotions are available from 10th December with unbeatable sales and promotions and a chance to win some amazing prizes – www.thegalleria.ae/magazine/winterwonderland/

Fancy a new festive frock or need help with gift buying? Debenhams in The Galleria offers a complimentary personal shopper service. The dedicated one-to-one appointment-based service provides customers with an easy shopping experience. Book your free appointment in-store or email vipdebenhams.galleria-uae@alshaya.com 

If you haven’t already picked up a real Christmas tree for that special pine aroma visit ACE Hardware, the store has trees (real and artificial) of all shapes and sizes but be warned they are selling fast (top tip – if going to Yas branch ask to go to the outside storeroom to choose your own tree). They also have all manner of Christmas paraphernalia including a great assortment of lights, ornaments and decorations. Spinneys/Waitrose also stock real trees, Christmas blooms, cakes and confectionary (highly recommend their iced Christmas cake bites). 

Head to Marks & Spencer branches throughout the capital for your traditional iced Christmas cake and puds, mince pies, crackers and other British favourites. IKEA also has a fab selection of candles, baubles, wrapping paper and Swedish inspired decorations (they also had some real trees). Daiso is a one-stop shop for all things budget Christmas from trees to decorations, baubles, nutcracker statues and festive themed accessories. Party nails are a must too so pop by any branch of Tips and Toes in the capital for some Christmas and New Year sparkle and some festive nail art.

Festive Activities

Treat yourself to stay and spa experiences at The Abu Dhabi EDITION. Experience the Spa Gold Face Lift at the EDITION Spa and stay overnight with The Festive Overnighter – for more information and to book visit deals.marriott.com/edition/ 

Take friends and family for a day out at Warner Bros. WorldTM Abu Dhabi with the buy 4 and pay for 3 family & friends ticket offer. The park’s Winter Spectacular is on until 2nd January so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the family-friendly rides and attractions as well as dining and shopping options. If your group is bigger than four people, you can buy extra park entry tickets with a 25% discount on regular ticket prices (offer is valid for UAE residents only). There’s also free admission for children 3 years old and below. Gift vouchers can also make a great Christmas present with vouchers available from AED100. For more park and ticket information visit www.wbworldabudhabi.com/en/offers/family-and-friends

Festive Food

The Abu Dhabi EDITION is offering the perfect start to the season with Festive Tea On The Terrazza at Alba Terrace served daily throughout December from 1pm – 6pm. The Mediterranean inspired tea concept includes golden peaked charcoal meringue croissants, chocolate pecan choux and prosciutto with grilled peach accompanied by Avancha teas and free flowing bubbles. AED 120 per person including coffee, tea and soft beverages or a bubbly tea for AED 168 per person.

The Festive Alba Eats limitless menu is available on 24th, 25th & 26th December from 12pm – 7pm. A festive feast with a Mediterranean menu and free-flowing bubbles. AED 95 per person or AED 198 per person including bubbles. Visit www.albaterrace.com/festiveoffers for more information and to book.

Other festive dining offers at The Abu Dhabi EDITION include Christmas Eve Brunch at ANNEX, Christmas Day Brunch at Oak Room – see all offers HERE

COYA Abu Dhabi are offering a Festive Set Menu from 14th to 30th December. COYA favourites such as beef ribs,wagyu T-bone, butterfly chicken, crispy kale and a trio of desserts are joined by seasonal treats for a festive feast fit for all the family to enjoy (minimum of two guests). COYA are also offering a Peruvian Christmas Day brunch with plenty of ceviche and pisco sours. Visit www.coyarestaurant.com/abu-dhabi/ for more information and to book.

Four Seasons Abu Dhabi – Indulge in a festive inspired afternoon tea at Al Meylas in the hotel lobby daily from 3pm – 7pm from AED 250 for two people. Chicago inspired steakhouse Butcher & Still is kicking off celebrations on Christmas Eve with a festive a al carte and beverage menu available from 6pm – 11:45pm. Christmas Day brunch will be served at Crust from 12:30pm – 4pm with a visit for Santa for the younger members of the family – click HERE for all the festive season dining options at the Four Seasons Abu Dhabi or telephone 02 333 2444

The Westin Abu Dhabi is offering a festive themed afternoon tea served with gourmet sandwiches, warm scones and seasonal delicacies. Available until 31st December the afternoon tea, which is served in the Lobby Lounge, is AED 149 for two or an additional AED 69 for two glasses of bubbly. For more information visit www.marriott.com/hotels/

The Scene Abu Dhabi is serving a traditional British festive menu to remember on Christmas Day. Three hours of free-flowing beverages and a five-course set menu with a choice of starters such as prawn cocktail or brie croquetas, celeriac & leek soup, roast turkey and all the trimmings (or a choice of salmon or vegan loaf), festive desserts and a cheese board to finish. Packages start from AED 280 – for more information and to book visit www.thescenebysimmonrimmer.com/abu-dhabi

Stars ‘N’ Bars are offering a casual approach to festive celebrations from 1st to 26th December. There’s a Nibbles package from AED 99 per person and an a la carte festive option or roast for just AED 99 – visit starsnbars.ae for all the festive information, For all the Yas Marina festive dining options click HERE

Turkey Takeaways

With number of diners per table restricted, we, like many people are forgoing our traditional hotel Christmas Brunch this year and cooking at home. Those looking to take some of the hassle out of cooking can order roast turkey with all the trimmings from local restaurants and hotels who offer this service.

We have ordered our festive bird from Jones The Grocer. There are several packages available from your basic turkey with stuffing and gravy to the whole Christmas dinner, festive baked goods and cheeseboard plus vegetarian and vegan options. Book fast as slots were running out – click HERE to see the full festive catalogue.

This year IKEA is offering a whole roast turkey (6-7kg) with stuffing for takeaway from 1st – 31st December. Prices, which includes the roast pan, are AED 345 or AED 275 if you are an IKEA Family member – click HERE for all the information.

W Abu Dhabi Yas Island is offering their W2GO takeaways with roast turkey, roast beef with peppercorn and thyme or a celeriac baked in herbs and salt crust for the vegetarians. Prices start from AED 400 – click HERE to order.

Enjoy delicious Four Seasons cuisine at home with their takeaway roast turkey (AED 300 per kg) and roast beef (AED 400 per kg) options accompanied by a range of sides and festive sweet treats – visit www.fourseasons.com/abudhabi/festive/ or telephone 02 333 2222 for more information and to book.

Anantara Eastern Mangroves are offering roast turkey available for takeaway with sides of  roast potatoes, mixed vegetables, brussels sprouts and cranberry sauce. Prices start from AED 550 for a small turkey (5-6 Kg). For more information and to order telephone 056 503 5121 or email emdining@anantara.com

This is my personal guide and a mere snapshot into the festive activities that are going on in Abu Dhabi during December. Information and photos provided from the respective venues.  All views are my own © Jo Brett 2020. All rights reserved. Additional photos used with courtesy of the respective venues.