If on every day of Advent you did a different Christmas event with the kids in London, you still wouldn’t experience all the city has to offer. There is just so much going on for children this December from Christmas shows and pantomimes to make-believe grottos and festive fairs and winter wonderlands. As the countdown to Christmas approaches, get out and about and into festive gear with our selection of the best Christmas events for children across the city...
Ahead of the big day, the man in red with the big white beard is coming to town and visiting grotto’s galore to check if your little one has been naughty or nice. Many of the grottos are already booked up (including Harrods and the Duke of York Square in Chelsea) so make sure you get in early. The big festive emporiums – Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, Winterville in Hackney and Adventure to Santa’s Grotto at the Westfield Shopping Centre (complete with a 4D cinematic sleigh ride) are likely to have available slots as well as plenty of other festive distractions if Santa is otherwise engaged.
Winterville Backyard Cinema and winter night garden
For a meet and greet with a wildlife twist, at ZSL London Zoo you can experience a VIP Meet Santa experience ahead of the zoo opening and meet his reindeers too. Kick the day off with a yummy breakfast at the Terrace Restaurant, followed by feeding Santa’s reindeers their breakfast, the kids can then get all crafty with Christmas arts and crafts fun and then of course, its grotto time where Santa and a gift awaits.
Father Christmas will also be getting in touch with his musical side at The Royal Albert Hall, where he plays the leading role in a special Christmas themed children’s tour. As well as a tour of the hall and a Christmas card and decoration making workshop, the star himself will be ready with a ‘ho ho ho’ in his magical grotto of gifts.
Kew Gardens is also getting a scattering of festive spirit, and although you can’t meet Santa this year, he will be performing with his elves during the after dark festive revelry. The gardens are given a glittering makeover and as well as the mile long sparkling path of illuminated trees, there are vintage fairground rides and festive treats and tipples for the little ones and grown ups too.
Every evening at 5pm lights come on and light up Kew Gardens
For a one-stop Christmas destination, The Southbank is not short on all things merry and bright and comes complete with all the trimmings. Ok, so it is not quite Lapland, but with its Winter at South Bank Centre season, a festive wonderland including riverside markets, a free sing-a-long screening of Frozen (21st December), the London premiere and interactive workshop of We Are The Monsters, a retro roller disco and Slava’s Snowshow at the Royal Festival Hall (a theatrical Christmas extravaganza), it is a good second best.
Shrek’s Adventure! London Christmas Experience, a walk and ride ogre-ish adventure, at the Southbank’s Riverside Building at County Hall will also keep the little ones entertained and smiling from ear to ear. Even a trip to Oxford Street, Regent Street or New Bond Street will have little eyes gazing in awe, as the Christmas lights in London are nothing short of spectacular. Covent Garden is another magical wonderland, decorated and ‘Christmassed’ to the max and this year enjoys a mistletoe theme with 50 light arrangements bedecking the piazza’s streets and stalls.
Slavas Snowshow © A Lopez
You may have read Julia Donaldson’s books time and again and know them word for word, well now you can sit back and listen for a change, as stage adaptations of some of her best selling stories are showing in London this festive season - The Gruffalo at the Vaudeville Theatre, Stick Man at the Leicester Square Theatre and Room on the Broom at the Lyric Theatre.
Ben Forster as Buddy (centre) and the cast in Elf © Alastair Muir
In fact, there are festive adventures galore lighting up London’s stages this Christmas, so if you want to brighten up a chilly and dull December afternoon, take your pick from some of our favourites, A Christmas Carol at the Noel Coward Theatre in Covent Garden featuring Jim Broadbent, The Lorax at The Old Vic, an adaptation of David Greig’s Dr Seuss’ story, Christmas adventure, I Want My Hat Back at the Temporary Theatre at The National and the floating puppet-show Mr. Rabbit meets Brer Santa at Puppet Theatre Barge in Maida Vale. Perhaps the biggest and best of them all has to be Elf the Musical at the Dominion Theatre featuring Kimberley Walsh.
It also wouldn’t be Christmas in London without a pantomime, so for some good old ‘he’s behind you’ fun, treat the family to a matinee performance of Cinderella at the Richmond Theatre or Lyric Hammersmith, Peter Pan at the New Wimbledon Theatre, Snow White at Winterville or Jack and the Beanstalk at the Hackney Empire.
Once the Christmas blues strike on December 26th, do not fret, the Nutcracker on Ice returns to London, this year at the Royal Albert Hall from December 28th. That should give you and the little ones something to look forward to once the presents have been opened and the crackers pulled.