The city comes alive with bright sparkling lights, pop up ice-rinks and Christmas markets – there are plenty of attractions and activities to keep your little ones entertained this festive season. From Santa visits and sleigh rides to magical fairgrounds, London really has got it covered this Winter. Here’s The Urban Monkey Guide’s top picks on what to do with kids this Christmas…
Santa and Husky Sleigh at London Wetland Centre
With free husky and donkey rides for all kids, plus a magical Santa’s grotto, the London Wetland Centre is going to town this Christmas. Kids can also help Santa’s elves prepare for the Big Day in the Elves Workshop and help them make festive decorations or small Christmas gifts to take home. Meanwhile, the Stonz Wellie Throwing Competition can win you prizes on the day!
London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, London SW13 9WT 3-4 December, £6 with normal admission
Santa at Battersea Zoo and Park
We’re big fans of this little zoo with a big heart. Not only can you get up close to a whole host of animals such as meerkats, monkeys and lemurs, but the large playground is perfect to keep little ones entertained for hours. Add to this, the magic of Santa Claus, who will be greeting children in his grotto. Visitors will receive a sticker, small gift, drink and Christmas treat.
Battersea Park, Chelsea Embankment, London, SW11 4NJ Until Christmas Eve; Tickets £6 with normal admission
Christmas at Kew
Kew Gardens is always worth a visit and during Christmas is no exception… Enjoy a unique night-time experience with Kew’s famous light experience. Guided by snowflakes, you follow a one-mile glittering trail as it winds its way through the world-famous botanic gardens where you’ll find giant light sculptures, the Tunnel of Lights, Mistletoe Moments and much more. Santa’s Snowflake Grotto returns and there’ll be a vintage carousel, Christmas gifts and traditional festive nibbles and drinks (including mulled wine).
Kew Gardens Richmond, TW9, Until 1 January 2017; Adults £15.00; Children 4-16 £10; Under 4’s Free
Southbank’s Winter Festival
I love the Southbank during the festive period. It’s always a pleasure walking along the river and enjoying the skyline over London. At Christmas, the Winter Festival sees little wooden huts spring up along the Thames Path and the Christmas markets entice Londoners and tourists with their delicious goods. fun pop-ups and activities. No Fit State will be bringing contemporary circus to the stage with ‘Bianco’ performed above, behind and around the audience (Nov 23- Jan 22), plus Christmas will get a rock ‘n’ roll makeover thanks to the ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ musical packed with tunes by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis (Dec 17-Jan 2). Meanwhile, the Bump Roller Disco will be offering family-friendly skating and club nights.
Southbank Centre Belvedere Rd, Waterloo, SE1, Until 15 January 2017
The Enchanted Christmas House
Not only are there several playzones in the ‘Garden of Winter Wonder’ and activities including decorating gingerbread and making presents with elves, but Mrs Claus and Santa’s Magical Friends host an interactive musical while families enjoy a festive picnic. The event is the brainchild of child psychologist and children’s author Dr Margot Sunderland with sets created by theatrical designer and children’s book illustrator Nicky Armstrong.
The Enchanted Christmas House 2-18 Britannia Row, Islington, London, N1 8PA; Until Christmas Eve; Family tickets from £129 and includes three hours of activity, a guided tour, a personalised visit to Santa Claus and refreshments
Hogwarts in the Snow
Harry Potter World at the Warner Bros Studio Tour is a magical place to visit whatever time of the year – as we discovered recently. But, imagine The Great Hall decked out with Christmas trees, garlands, holly and wreaths – as well as sprinkle of festivities and seasonal props which can only be seen at this time of year? Meanwhile, the Hogwarts model is transformed into a snowy castle. Visitors will even be able to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light like ice.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden WD25 7LR Until 29 January 2017; Tickets : Adults £37; Kids £27; Family Ticket £118
Best of the rest:
You know Christmas is on its way when Hyde Park is transformed into a Winter Wonderland. From its Magical Ice Kingdom and Zippos Circus acts, to its huge expanse of Christmas markets and the big observation wheel dominating the sky, Winter Wonderland offers it all and is great fun for the whole family. We took Monkey here last year and we purposely chose to go early, which was a good move as the crowds do get heavy. There is a lot on offer, and plenty of suitable fairground rides to entertain little ones. It’s free to enter, but tokens have to be purchased for the rides and main attractions.
Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, W2 2UH Until 1 January 2017; Entrance free, but some some activities and attractions do charge
Winterville at Victoria Park
Nestled in the heart of East London is a huge festival which offers horse-drawn carriage rides, an ice rink, roller disco and lots of festive treats – and entrance is free! Once the sun goes down Winterville is a magnet for all the young, trendy crowds looking for a good time but have no fear, there is plenty for the whole family to enjoy during daylight hours. Not only is there a dedicated Kids’ Corner, which includes a daily pantomime and a House of Fairy Tales, there are fantastic rides at the fairground, or why not watch in awe at The Wall of Death?
Winterville Victoria Park, Until 23 December 2016; Entrance is free, but some activities and events do charge