Not feeling in the festive spirit yet? Or want to get the kids even more excited than ever about Santa Claus’ imminent arrival? There are plenty of places to visit in and around the capital that will make you feel Christmassy and, if you haven’t yet booked your tickets to go and visit Santa’s grotto, or had a chance to glide across the ice in the plethora of skating rinks that have popped up at London’s famous landmarks, there is still plenty of time to go and visit the multitude of attractions and events that will help you celebrate yuletide – before and after Christmas Day.
Here’s The Urban Monkey Guide’s top picks on what to do with kids this Christmas…
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 3 January 2016; Entrance free, but some some activities and attractions do charge
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 new experience. Guided by snowflakes, you follow a new 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. With Christmas trees, festive treats and music along the way, this magical activity is sure to get you in the mood for Christmas.
Kew Gardens Richmond, TW9, Until 2 January 2016; 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 and, whatever the season, there is always something going on. 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. The twinkly fairy lights line the Southbank making it a magical place to wander and, even if you’re not tempted by the mulled wine or sizzling sausages, there are plenty of family friendly shows (bookable in advance), a Christmas Tree Maze and even a miniature train! Hop on at Hungerford Bridge and enjoy a ride along the river to Festival Pier and back.
Southbank Centre Belvedere Rd, Waterloo, SE1, Until 17 January 2016
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
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 2015; Entrance is free, but some activities and events do charge
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens Tree Maze
A first for Ice Skate Vauxhall, lose yourself in the one of a kind, London’s largest Christmas Tree Maze. With over 500 Nordmann fir Christmas trees sparkling with twinkly lights, covering almost a 500 square metres of the Pleasure Gardens, work your way through this urban magical Christmas tree maze and take your picture in the photo wall at the heart of the maze! If you manage to find your way out, then take a turn around the rink.
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens Kennington Lane, London SE11 5HY, Until 4 January 2016; Adults from £10.80; Children £7.64
Father Christmas at the Hall
Enjoy a truly festive experience that reaches back in time to the era that created Christmas as we know it. Journey through the Hall on an exclusive children’s tour of this iconic London building. There are also card and decoration workshops, and the best thing of all? Meeting Father Christmas in his grotto filled with gifts!
Father Christmas at the Hall Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AP Until Christmas Eve; Tickets £26.50; Adults Free
Best of the rest:
Geffrye Museum, Shoreditch
Go back into Christmas’ past at the Geffrye Museum, as 11 period living rooms are transformed with authentic festive decorations, lighting, music and greenery to give visitors a magical glimpse into how Christmas has been celebrated in English middle-class homes over the past 400 years. There are also several other Christmas events such as carol singing and workshops, plus you’ll be able to explore the stunning herb and period gardens in all their winter glory.
Geffrye Museum Kingsland Road, London, E2 8EA, Admission to the museum is free, but see prices for exhibitions
The Snowman Live
A family favourite, The Snowman has been brought to life in a colourful production at The Peacock Theatre. With Ruari Murchison’s enchanting design and Tim Mitchell’s spectacular lighting this show will delight young and old alike with its captivating mix of dance, music, storytelling, spectacle and magic.
The Peacock Theatre Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, Holborn, WC2A 2HT; Until 3 January 2016; Tickets from £20
Disney in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall
Experience Tim Burton’s Academy Award-winning 2010 fantasy film Alice in Wonderland on the big screen in the glorious surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall, with Danny Elfman’s magical score being performed simultaneously by a live orchestra and choir.
Royal Albert Hall Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AP; On 12 December 2015; Tickets from £28