I'm a working mum writing about life in Edinburgh (and anywhere else we go) with two curious, adventurous, and imaginative children. Visit my blog at www.linzertortes.blogspot.co.uk. Follow me on Twitter: @LinzerLaw
Santa will be jealous of this Winter Wonderland
East Princes St. Gardens is all blocked off with boarding, and it rings with the sounds of hammers, sawing, and the clang of metal. A large rectangle takes shape next to an old tree, and a skeletal metal frame snakes its way around the grass. Children, accompanying their parents on early Christmas shopping trips on Princes Street, gaze wistfully at the sleeping Big Wheel, and the signs proclaiming "Crepes", "German Sausages", and "Hot Chocolate".
It looks a little bit gloomy and imposing now, but soon it'll be lit brightly for Christmas.
It can only mean one thing. The Winter Wonderland, German Market, and Highland Village Market have returned, and will soon be open to the delight of children, and the dismay of parents' pockets.
There is so much to see and do in the Gardens at Christmas. For little ones there's the Helter Skelter and the old-fashioned carousel. Pick a horse with a name you like and imagine you're in Mary Poppins on the carousel race course. Feeling brave? Then take a trip on the Edinburgh Wheel and enjoy the sights of Edinburgh's rooftops, and on a clear day all the way to Fife over the Firth of Forth, And for the energetic there's the ice rink. You can hire skates or bring your own and whiz around the ice.
Josie, enjoying a go on the Carousel with her chosen horse, Guy. Copyright: Lindsay Law, 2012
There's plenty of other rides: a mini rollercoaster, an ice maze, a snow dome, waltzers, and more. Most of the rides are paid for with tokens, which you can buy in a central point.
In the market there are all sorts of delicious treats, wood and paper crafts, and clothes to buy. Your senses will be assaulted by amazing smells. Try the German sausages, they're always delicious, or how about a hot toddy in your own Edinburgh cup you can take home afterwards? The stalls sell lots of stocking-filler type presents like pick n' mix European chocolates, or Polish mead and honey, or hand-made wooden toys and dolls. I enjoy shopping in the Markets, because I always find something a little bit unusual for a family gift, or the children's stockings. When it's close to Christmas and you still have shopping to do it can be a great inspiration to wander round and take in all the sights and smells of the stalls.
The Carousel is always popular with the children. Copyright: Lindsay Law, 2012
If the Markets and Wonderland start to get a little crowded, and they do, then pop over the road for another popular activity. Find Santa's reindeer in St. Andrews Square or climb into the snow globe and take some family pictures.
A small word of warning for those trying to economise this Christmas: it can soon add up to be an expensive day out, but my children love it, and always clamour to go every year. I set myself a budget and then involve the children with working out how many tokens they have and what they can spend it on.
My final Edinburgh Christmas tip: make sure you wrap up warm with gloves, hats and scarves, because it gets cold very quickly, especially if you're ice skating. This year's new indoor event is perfect if you do start to feel a chill: a 3D cinema showing Rocket the Reindeer. It's a great idea for the littlest ones who can't yet enjoy all of the rides or the hustle and bustle of the Market. Tickets can be booked in advance here.
All of the attractions around Princes St. can be found on Edinburgh's Christmas website. They do have varying dates and times of opening, so be sure to check before you go.