Visit the Arrowtown Christmas Market
This is one of the first Christmas-themed celebrations to reach Queenstown’s surrounds. For those unfamiliar with Arrowtown, it is a former gold mining village just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown – its proximity has made it quite a good place for a day trip. Every year Arrowtown Plunket hosts a Christmas Market fundraiser, with stalls filled with handcrafted items of all sorts – from clothes and jewellery to homewares and acessories. The market will be held on Nov 19 2017 – a gold coin donation is all that’s asked for admission.
Watch The Shotover Jet Christmas Show
If you’re looking for something local, this family-friendly, community-driven extravaganza will be one of the first to welcome the silly season. Two shows, featuring various performances from local singers, dancers, and actors alike, is set to dazzle the crowds who enter the Queenstown Events Centre on Dec 3. Ticket prices range between NZ$5-$35, with free admission for kids under five. Head to the show’s official Facebook page for more information.
Passing through Wanaka? Check out Santa’s Grotto
Wanaka is another must-visit for those wanting to venture outside of Queenstown for a day or two. For the past three years, the community has hosted a charitable Santa’s Grotto event that encourages everyone to unleash their inner child. Market stalls, Santa appearances plus a number of fun-filled family events are some of the key highlights of this celebration. Santa’s Grotto will be open for the first weeks of December and tickets are around NZ$5 per person.
(By the way, if you’re looking for something similar close to town, Queenstown’s Minus 5º Ice Bar has been hosting their own Santa’s Grotto fundraiser over the last five years. No dates for 2017 have been announced at this point, so keep an eye on their Facebook page to find out if/when the next event will be happening)
Have a Christmas feast at the Skyline Gondola
The Skyline Gondola’s Stratosfare Restaurant will host a special lunch and dinner on Christmas Day and New Years’ Eve. For the former, expect plenty of live music, a delectable traditional buffet, plus a scenic Gondola ride, two luge sessions and a visit from Santa himself. Prices are NZ$158 for adults and NZ$72 for children. Advanced bookings are essential.
Alternatively, have a lavish Christmas meal at the Hilton
If you’re wanting to splash out on some festive fine dining, the Hilton is the place to go. In 2017, the luxurious venue will bring its patrons a two-hour Christmas BBQ lunch or a three-course meal at the hotel’s Wakatipu Grill, plus five-course dinner offerings on both Christmas and New Years’ eve. Again, reservations are an absolute must to avoid disappointment.
Go on a Christmas adventure
Queenstown is one of the few places in New Zealand that doesn’t fully ‘shut down’ on Christmas Day. Many of the popular thrill-seeking attractions will still be operating, albeit for a limited time. It’s also worth noting that some bars and restaurants will remain open too – just keep in mind that you may get hit with a holiday surcharge on your orders. But for the adventure seekers, this is the time to get a summer adrenaline rush – activities to put on your to-do list include kayaking, jet boating and rafting through the Skippers Canyon rapids.
Have a picnic by the lakeside
Why not celebrate Christmas in a low-key Kiwi style? Stock up on food supplies before Christmas Day and head over to the lakeside for a scenic picnic. Queenstown is surrounded by the glistening Lake Wakatipu waters, so you won’t be short of options of places for an outdoorsy feast. If you want to head further afield, there are some great picnicking places en route to Glenorchy too.