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Home for the holidays: Things to do in Hong Kong this December

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Planning a Lantau staycation this Christmas? Ray Robertson outlines a few of the options on offer for families who are choosing to stay home and play.

While many Lantauers head overseas during the Christmas break, whether to visit family and friends ‘back home’ or simply to chase some sun (or snow), there’s always the possibility of staying put and enjoying the festivities right here.

What with Citygate decked out like a Christmas tree, plenty of carol services to enjoy at the local churches and poinsettias brightening up every flower shop, it’s surprisingly easy to enjoy a traditional celebration in Lantau. You can pick up presents at the school fairs as well as at the mall, and you’ll find everything you need to deck your halls at Inside in Mui Wo.

When it comes to making merry, we’re equally well catered to in Lantau. Order online at Value Vigilantes, and you can have crates of wine (and a litre of port for Santa) delivered right to your door. Local eateries all over the island are big on festive dining, notably A Tavola Bar & Grill, Resto and My Thai all in Tung Chung. Or, if you prefer to cook Xmas lunch yourself, pop over to Epic Foods in DB (previously Chef’s Choice), which is brim-full of hams, turkeys… and all the trimmings.

Home away from home

If you’ve got visitors in town or want to treat yourself to a super staycation, you can go all out by booking a luxury hotel stay at the Marriott, Regal or Novotel. Note too that all these hotels put on specially themed events in the lead-up to Christmas, notably caroling at the Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Hotel lobby on December 24 (6pm to 6.30pm and 7pm to 7.30pm).

But maybe it’s finally time to check out the Tai O Heritage Hotel? The former Old Tai O Police Station built in 1902 was restored by the Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation in 2009 and listed as a Grade II historic building by the Antiquities Advisory Board in 2010.

“Tai O Heritage hotel has been meticulously restored and refurbished to maintain its late 19th century character and historical details such as the cannons, searchlight, corner turrets, dry goods store and cells distinctive to the former police station. We hope guests will be able to visualise the beautiful colonial architecture of the olden days and at the same time experience elements of the still thriving fishing village,” says manager Karl Law.

Since the glass-roofed restaurant, Tai O Lookout, hosts about 60 people, guests at the hotel over Christmas season can expect a good-sized crowd for a warm celebration. “A Christmas package will be available,” says Karl. “Tai O Lookout will be serving a festive tea set and desserts made with local ingredients, as well as a festive set lunch and dinner featuring roast turkey served with special local stuffing. The edifice of the hotel will be decked with Christmas ornaments inspired by the traditions and culture of Tai O.”

Getting out and about

Keeping everyone entertained over the holidays is also a no-brainer for those who choose to keep it local. The beaches beckon in the cooler weather, providing you with ample opportunity to take a bracing walk and feel the wind in your hair. Cheung Sha, Pui O and Mui Wo beaches are all great destinations on a wild winter’s day, but for something more remote, head to Shui Hau Wan on the Lantau Trail – you may well have it to yourself during the week as there are no facilities save for a rough camping area.

The holidays are a time to take it easy but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to some lazy sightseeing or active hiking… or both. For a day out that’s a little off the beaten track, hop aboard an early Kai-to from Mui Wo to Chi Ma Wan, where, if you’re ready to stretch your legs, you can disembark for an excellent three-hour hike back to the pier. Pak Fu Tin campsite makes for a good refuelling stop along the route, so pack some mince pies.

Pokémon may be out of favour, but Geocaching is still a huge hit with families when it comes to deploying their screens for good. This real-life treasure hunt game uses your phone’s GPS to guide you to a location where a geocache, or container is hidden. Played all over the world, Lantau is chock-full of geocache locations to explore. This is a fun, physical and free day out that will burn off any pent-up energy and ensure early nights all round.

Speaking of which, you may want to enrol the kids in a winter camp over the holidays. There’s plenty on offer across Lantau, from ballet to basketball, for every age and interest – turn to page 27 for our top picks.

Alternatively, head over to Discovery Bay and let the family loose at EpicLand in DB North Plaza. What’s great about this 14,000-square-foot indoor playground is that there really is something for everyone, from soft play and ballistics to laser tag and rock climbing. There’s also the chance to escape reality through a series of thrilling virtual-reality rides and games.

Fun for kids at the airport

Still overwhelmed by the prospect of keeping the kids entertained this Christmas? Don’t be! Lantau offers up plenty of fun activities to keep boredom at bay, and you don’t have to splash out at Hong Kong Disneyland to find them.

A trip to the airport provides a surprisingly fun-packed family day out. Located at Terminal Two, Dream Come True Education Park gives kids a family-friendly taster of real-world jobs, including police office, doctor, chef and, of course, pilot. Split into morning or afternoon sessions, there’s something for kids from three to 16 years to enjoy .

Next up, make your way to the UA IMAX theatre in the ground-side departures area to catch a movie. The vast screen of this 350-seat cinema shows a regular programme of both 2D and 3D family films alongside made-for-IMAX shows, so grab your popcorn and settle in for the afternoon. Top Christmas movies showing this year include Aquaman, SpiderMan: Into the Spider-Verse and Ralph Breaks the Internet.

After your film, head next door to the Aviation Discovery Centre, a small but surprisingly fascinating exhibit, detailing Hong Kong’s development into a major international travel hub. Be sure to buy a couple of SkyDeck passes, so that you can wander up to the huge viewing area on the roof. From here you can watch planes take off and land at close quarters, something that’s a huge hit with kids of all ages.

Finally, if your family love to hit the fairway, but the weather’s not playing ball, GreenLive AIR offers nine and 18-hole golf-simulation games. As it’s right next door to the IMAX, you get to round-off your day of fun with a hole in one.

Stuff to do with the kids

Hotels to check into

Something for foodies

Photos by Andrew Spires and courtesy of www.wikimedia.org

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