Word on the street is that people are keen to make this Christmas extra special, considering how this year has panned out. Here in New Zealand we’re lucky to be able to travel, whether it’s to see the sights or to gather with loved ones.
In Rotorua, it’s so easy to host family and friends. Plus, having such an incredible natural environment and lots of fun activities means nobody gets bored, even on Christmas Day.
Leading up to Christmas (and through to 8 January), be sure to stop by Santa’s Wonderland at Rotorua i-SITE Visitor information Centre on Fenton Street. It’s chokka full of traditional and not-so-traditional Christmas trees (we see you, All Blacks themed tree!) and a whole lot more. Plus, children can have their photo taken with Santa (check Rotorua i-SITE’s Facebook page
for his hours), and take part in and arts and crafts. Open daily 10 am - 4pm, except on Christmas Day when Santa’s busy loading up his sleigh for his main gig. Entry is free.
Here’s a guide – by no means comprehensive – on what to do, where to dine, and some ideas on how to work off the excess calories if you’ve had too much pav.
Where to dine on Christmas Day
Many of the city’s hotels put on great holiday menus and buffets, offering everything from high tea with champagne, to special five-course Christmas feasts. Some require bookings, and we recommend calling in advance to check capacity and reserve a spot if you’re keen.
Amazing Thai Restaurant
Atlas Café & Restaurant at Novotel Rotorua
Chapmans Restaurant at Holiday Inn
Family House Restaurant, 11am-11pm
Lakeland Queen Lunch Cruise (bookings essential)
Millennium Hotel Rotorua
Oppies Fish & Chips, 11.30am-9pm
Prince’s Gate (bookings essential)
The Regent Room (bookings essential)
Sichuan Style Rotorua, 11am-2.30pm and 5-10pm
Spring Festival Dumpling, 11am-9pm
Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar at Skyline (includes a visit from Santa with a gift for all children aged 3-14)
Supreme Gourmet House, 11am-2pm and 5-8pm
Who’s open on Christmas Day
If you’ve got friends and family coming to visit, there’s still lots of fun to be had in Rotorua. Here’s a list of places to check out.
3D Trick Art Gallery, 10am-5pm
Fancy Meow Cat Café, 9.30am-4.30pm
Heritage Farm, 10am-5pm
Paradise Valley Springs, 8am-5pm
Polynesian Spa, 9am-10pm
Skyline Rotorua, 9.30am-5pm
Volcanic Air (bookings essential)
Waitomo Glowworm Caves, 9am-3.45pm
Too much Christmas pudd?
If you’ve overindulged a bit (let’s be honest, who hasn’t?), here are some easy – and free – ways to feel better after all that delicious food.
Walk through some of the Whakarewarewa Forest trails
Grab the pup and his lead, and head for the 5.5km walk around Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake)
Take the kids to the playground at Boyes Beach, Lake Ōkareka
Enjoy a swim, kayak or SUP on Lake Tarawera
Engage in a friendly game of touch rugby at Government Gardens
Take a walk in Kuirau Park, soak your feet in the geothermal foot bath, and play in the park
Load up your mountain bike and ride dirt gold – there are trails for everyone, no matter your level of fitness or experience