Christmas in Adelaide

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It’s Christmas time in Adelaide, and that means it’s time to get festive! Here are some of the best things to do in the city this holiday season. From markets and carols to Christmas lights and more, there’s plenty to enjoy. So grab a cup of mulled wine and let’s get started on Christmas in Adelaide!

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Christmas Pageant

Photo credit: South Australian Tourism Commission

The annual Christmas Pageant in Adelaide is a major event in the city’s festive calendar, and takes place on the second Saturday of November.

This marks the start of the Christmas season, and is often when stores and families put up their decorations. I know my kids liked to watch the pageant in the morning and put the tree up in the afternoon.

The event attracts tens of thousands of spectators, who line the streets to watch as over 300 floats and performers make their way through the city centre.

The Pageant has been held annually since 1933, when it was first organised by the Adelaide City Council as a way to bring some Christmas cheer to the city during the Great Depression.

Since then, it has grown to become one of the largest and most popular events on the Adelaide calendar, with over 80 years of history.

The Pageant typically starts at 9:30am and makes its way through a 3.5 kilometre route from South Terrace through to King William Street and then up to North Terrace.

The final float is always Father Christmas coming to town, where he will reside in the Magic Cave until the big day. The event usually lasts for around two hours, although this can vary depending on the weather and other factors.

If you’re visiting Adelaide during November, come and join me and spend the second Saturday doing what the locals do, welcoming Santa to Adelaide!

Look out too for other Christmas pageants across the city and state. The 2023 dates are:

  • Glenelg – 26th November
  • Woodside – 14th December
  • Norwood – 18th November
  • Christies Beach – 19th November
  • Port Augusta – 1st December
  • Tanunda – 1st December
  • Mount Gambier – 18th November
  • Tailem Bend – 9th December
  • Port Adelaide – 12th November
  • Robe – 17th December

The Magic Cave

This has been an Adelaide institution even before the Christmas Pageant began, with it first opening in the basement of the John Martins department store in 1896. John Martins closed in 1998, but now you can find The Magic Cave at David Jones.

This is where Santa meets all the kids and listens to what they want for Christmas so that he can write his list, and generations of South Australians have left hoping they are on the “nice” list and get what they asked for.

It’s free to enter, but if you want a photo with Santa, it’s best to book a time in advance. While waiting for your turn, there are lots of Christmas displays and a small carousel to keep the kids amused.

Not to be outdone, Myer has also created a version of the Magic Cave too. You can also visit Santaland in the Myer Centre too.

Lobethal Lights

The Lobethal Lights festival is a community event held every year in the small town of Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia.

It is a magical time of year when the whole town is decorated with hundreds of thousands of lights, and visitors come from all over to see them.

The festival started in 1993, when a group of local residents got together to try and bring some Christmas cheer to the town after several years of drought.

They decided to decorate their houses with Christmas lights, and it quickly grew from there. Now, over 25 years later, the festival is bigger and more popular than ever.

Every year, the festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors from all over Australia and even overseas. It has become one of Adelaide’s most loved Christmas traditions. This year it will be held from 9th – 23rd December.

If you’re visiting Adelaide during the festive season, make sure you put the Lobethal Xmas Lights on your list!

Steamranger Christmas Illuminate Train

The Steamranger Heritage Railway will be running the Christmas Illuminate Train on selected evenings in the week before Christmas. These evening trains are a must for anyone who wants to enjoy a unique and festive Adelaide Hills experience.

The Christmas Illuminate Train is a five-hour return journey departing from Goolwa station. Bookings are essential so don’t miss out! See the details here.

In 2023 there is also an event called Christmas Where the Angas Flows on the 15th of December. Click through to see the details here.

Christmas Riverbank Lights

Each year, the Torrens riverbank near the former West End Brewery in Thebarton, is transformed into a spectacular display of Christmas lights.

The lights started back in 1959 when the staff at the brewery decided to tidy up the area by creating some nice gardens, and then, as Christmas came around, they added Father Christmas on his sleigh for some community cheer.

The West End Brewery is no longer there, but the Christmas decorations continue on along Adam Street.

The area comes alive with festive decorations, music, food, and entertainment for the whole family to enjoy for about three weeks before Christmas – commencing on November 26th 2023.

Victoria Square Christmas Tree

The beautiful Christmas Tree in Victoria Square/Tarndanyangga is a much-loved Adelaide landmark and the centrepiece of the city’s Christmas celebration each year.

The tree is over 20 metres tall and is decorated with more than 10,000 LED lights that use far less energy than traditional Christmas lights, making them more environmentally friendly.

The lights change colours, putting on a looped display that lasts around fifteen minutes.

The tree lighting ceremony will be held on November 17th 2023 and is attended by hundreds of people. There is live entertainment, carol singing and a special visit from Santa Claus himself!

Christmas @ the State Library of South Australia

For the next few weeks (into the beginning of January) the beautiful Mortlock Library has become Christmas central. Pop in the see the huge Christmas tree and the library all decked out.

Kids will love to visit and listen to the Christmas stories, make their own Christmas bauble or listen to the Christmas carols.

There is also a display of cherished Christmas gifts from times past – no Playstations or mobile phones here! See the website for more details

Christmas Markets

The Christmas markets in Adelaide are a must-go for anyone who loves the festive season. There are markets all over the city, with something for everyone.

You can find traditional German markets, Australian-themed markets, and everything in between.

If you’re looking for a market that’s a little different, check out the East End Christmas Market. This market has a focus on local and handmade products, so you can find unique gifts that you won’t find anywhere else.

No matter what kind of market you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in Adelaide during the Christmas season!

I will update this with details of specific markets as I come across them.

  • Gathered Christmas Market Hahndorf – 8th – 10th December
  • Hahndorf Christkindlmarkt – 15th-17th December
  • Salisbury Christmas Parade Markets – 2nd December
  • Mawson Centre Christmas Markets – 26th November
  • Barossa Regional Gallery Adornment Artisan Christmas Market – 25th November
  • Barossa Co-op Christmas Market –
  • Mount Pleasant Farmers Market Christmas Twilight Market – 21st December 5-9 pm

Christmas Tree Farms

There’s nothing quite like a real Christmas tree to help get you into the festive spirit! Visit a Christmas tree farm in the Adelaide area, so you can choose your perfect pin Christmas tree.

Christmas Lights

Looking for somewhere to see Christmas lights in Adelaide? Here are some of the best places to check out:

  • Victoria Park/Botanic Gardens: Victoria Park and the Botanic Gardens are always popular spots for Christmas lights, and there are plenty to see this year.
  • Morialta Conservation Park: string lights have been set up along one of the walking trails in Morialta Conservation Park, making for a festive and magical evening walk.
  • Adelaide Hills: several towns in the Adelaide Hills have put up some impressive light displays, so take a drive out there to check them out.
  • Glenelg is always a popular spot for Christmas lights, and this year is no exception. Head down to Glenelg beach to see the amazing display.

Santa’s Wonderland

Each year, Santa’s Wonderland transforms the Adelaide Showgrounds into a magical Christmas experience for the whole family. With carnival rides, live shows, carollers and Santa’s Grotto, it’s the perfect way to get into the festive spirit.

This year Santa’s Wonderland will run from December 1st to 24th, 2023. it’s going to be even bigger and better than previous years, with over 8000 square metres of Christmas-y fun.

There are three zones, Candyland, Ice Wonderland and Traditional Family Christmas, filled with all the usual rides and side shows as well as ice skating, tobogganing, and a Christmas Activity Trail.

Book in to get your family Christmas photos done here too.

Tickets should be purchased in advance for three-hour time slots and they cover all activities (food, drinks and some other items are extra). Tickets can also be purchased at the gate, but they will be cheaper if bought in advance.

Carols by Candlelight

Carols by Candlelight is a popular annual event held in Elder Park, on the banks of the River Torrens in Adelaide, South Australia. The event is run by the City of Adelaide and attracts around 40,000 people each year.

The event began in 1933 as a small community sing-along around a Christmas tree. It has grown significantly over the years and now features live entertainment, food stalls and a visit from Santa Claus.

The highlight of the event is the sing-along of Christmas carols, led by a live band. Carols by Candlelight will be held on the 9th of December 2023 from 2 pm until 11 pm.

This is not the only Carols by Candlelight held in Adelaide though. In fact, many council areas or community organisations also hold them at various times during December. Here are just a few, but look out for others too:

  • Gawler Christmas Carols – 9th December
  • Civic Park Tea Tree Gully Carols – 17th December
  • Salisbury Community Christmas Carols & Fireworks – 9th December
  • Mount Barker Carols & Fireworks – 2nd December
  • Burnside Carols in the Park – 8th December

Rundle Mall Decorations

The Rundle Mall Christmas decorations are a beloved Adelaide tradition. Each year, the mall is transformed with towering Christmas decorations, twinkling lights and grand displays. It’s the perfect place to enjoy some festive cheer.

If you’re visiting Adelaide during the Christmas season, be sure to head to Rundle Mall to see the decorations for yourself. You can also enjoy some shopping, as many of the stores in the mall offer special seasonal deals.

South Australian Advent Calendars

It’s not just the kids that get to enjoy opening those little cardboard doors on the lead-up to Christmas, but the big kids too can enjoy some festive cheer.

Lots of great South Australian businesses have put together their own advent calendars to enjoy. Which one of these will you choose?

Christmas Cooking Class

Why not take some Christmas skills home with you and spend some time learning to bake some Christmas goodies at Cooks Plus? This year the classes include some really fancy Christmas cakes, cookies and cupcakes. There are advanced classes and also classes for beginners and kids.

Foodies should also look out for Christmas-themed activities and demonstrations of the Adelaide Central Markets.

Looking for more things to do around Adelaide in December? These posts could help.
Things to do in South Australia in Summer
100 Adelaide Experiences
Things to do in Glenelg

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About the author

Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred, living here for her whole life. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.