Need some help getting into the festive spirit this holiday season? Rebecca Kamm has the lowdown on the twinkliest and sparkliest spots around town.
No matter what Christmas means to you and yours, most of us can appreciate a set of sparkly lights. Especially when they make for a romantic, festive atmosphere and blink "statutory holidays" into the balmy night. And kids always revel in the chance to hang with Santa.
Accordingly, as time marches on towards December 25, Auckland has its fair share of pretty sights and festive fancies. So gather up your friends and family and head along for a look.
Christmas decorations in the CBD
First off, take a look around the central city area for some Christmas cheer.
They're decorating the KZ1 boat at Eastern Viaduct; lighting up trees in Freyberg Square on the corner of Vulcan Lane and High St; and potting green light-drenched nikau palms on Durham Lane, High St, K Rd, Elliott St, Queen St and the Customs St/Quay St areas. Queen St will also boast red spiral decorations, High St colourful paper chains, and doves with colourful lights have been strung down the length of Durham Lane.
And don't forget to visit the 30,000 lights spanning Federal St in magical waves that stretch 3km in total.
At the Gantry on Wynyard Quarter is the City Mission Angels installation; pay $2 and hang up a pair of wings.
And the Telecom Christmas Tree - decorated with 375,000 twinkling lights - can be spotted at Te Wero Island at Wynyard Quarter. It'll be up until Boxing Day, hosting a light show every night from dusk till dawn.
Festive fun in Aotea Square
Over at Aotea Square you'll find three giant shiny baubles, as well as Santa's Post Box. Posting a letter via the post box is free - so there's no need for a stamp. Just make sure your letter is in an envelope and includes your name and address on the back, so Father Christmas can send a special letter in return.
The Aotea Square Christmas Markets take place every evening from 10am to 6pm, and until 8pm on Dec 22-23. Expect stalls specialising in artisan foods, Christmas wreaths, baking, preserves, gifts, decorations and Christmas trees.
Every night from 9pm you can catch a stunning Christmas light display that pays tribute to the family Christmas tree, involving eight moving searchlights forming patterns across the night sky. Complemented by a specially selected soundtrack, everyone's invited to lie back on one of the specially-allotted deckchairs for a viewing.
Christmas at SkyCity
Children can visit Santa in the Sky Tower Grotto - the highest in New Zealand - situated on the Sky Deck, 220m above ground. It will be open daily from Dec 17-24. Children can also post their letters to Santa in the highest post box in Auckland and have their photo taken with him, too.
Franklin Rd Christmas lights
Franklin Rd, Ponsonby. Every night until Dec 24. 6.30pm-11pm.
Inner city-wise, Franklin Rd residents' annual efforts have become the gold standard when it comes to neighbourhood Christmas aesthetics. Draping their homes in thousands of lights, decorations and animatronics, the street transforms into a glittering Christmas haven come dusk. It's a tradition that has been going for 19 years now, with each year seeming to outdo the next. Watch out for Santa and his elves, who will be walking the street, doling out free lollies to kids.
Honeysuckle Lane Christmas Lights
Every night until Dec 30, 7pm-10pm. Honeysuckle Lane, Mairangi Bay.
If you live in a more northerly direction, have a look at this residential street in Mairangi Bay for a similar deal to Franklin Rd as residents get creative with vast light displays for the public's enjoyment.
Suburban light displays
There's plenty of lit-up yuletide magic to be seen in other necks of the woods, too. For a complete list of individual homes in East Auckland that go all out for festive passers-by, see Localist and for West Auckland see here.
Mairangi Bay Christmas Extravaganza
20 Hastings Rd, Mairangi Bay, Dec 18-20, 10am-7pm. Tickets to view the display $2, family pass $5. Free activities and market entry. Ph (09) 478 2237.
This event will feature a beautiful display of Christmas trees, sponsored and decorated by a variety of community groups and local businesses. The outside of the Mairangi Arts Centre will be decorated with Christmas lights, and a night market for last-minute gift purchases is on this evening.
Christmas at Auckland Zoo
Until Dec 18. Motions Rd, Western Springs. Ph (09) 360 3805.
Head along to the zoo for Christmas-themed animal encounters, the chance to say hello to some zookeepers, and to get your Christmas family photo from QuikPix. Santa will be on site too.
Santa's Snow Cave, Howick
Picton St, Howick Village, until Dec 31, 8pm-11pm.
Santa's Snow Cave is a yearly favourite with locals. The impressive display has everything from inflatable Santas and a green Christmas tree of lights to a magic snow cave toy grotto. Kids can also post a letter to Father Christmas, and - if they include a stamped, self-addressed envelope - receive a reply.
Remuera Christmas Grotto
If the the potential queues at Smith & Caughey's don't sound like much fun, there's a Santa Grotto in Remuera Village.The kids can have their photo with Santa from 11am-1pm on Dec 19-23.
Waiuku Christmas Display
Waiuku Memorial Town Hall, until Dec 24. Thu-Fri 2pm-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-8pm. Ph 027 493 7546.
For just $2, check out Santa's Wonderland, which is a magical, unique-sounding showcase of Christmas lights, snow, train sets, a "mystical fibre optic entrance", singing, and collectable animated Santas from around the world who tell stories, dance on the toilet, climb ladders, belly dance and more. For a real treat, travel there with the kids from the Glenbrook Vintage Railway. Tomorrow is Santa Day, which means kids accompanied by an adult travel free. Go to railfan.org.nz or phone (09) 636 9361.By Rebecca Kamm