If you’re planning a family day out in London in December, there’s a wealth of fab things to see and do there, many of which are free of charge. Each month I publish a round-up of some of the most interesting, unusual, quirky and fun things to do in the city with kids – here’s my December selection.
Greenwich Wintertime Festival
This new winter festival is running for the whole of December, and it sounds splendid – I’m looking forward to experiencing it. Set in the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, with the River Thames as a backdrop, Greenwich Wintertime Festival has loads going on, including ice skating, Christmas markets, street performers, live music and, wait for it…a silent disco!
Cost: Adult from £15, child from £8.
Snow Kingdom, Backyard Cinema
This sounds like a unique cinema experience – Borough’s Backyard Cinema has had a wintry makeover, and is now the Snow Kingdom (until 21st January, 2018). The audience can watch classic family favourites such as Elf and Home Alone from the comfort of giant beanbags. Tickets must be booked in advance online.
Cost: From £17 per person.
Carols at Trafalgar Square
There are groups of carol singers performing at Trafalgar Square each afternoon from 11th to 22nd December (apart from 12th and 16th). The singers perform beside the square’s giant Christmas tree, which is donated by Norway to Britain every year, as thanks for our country’s support during WWII.
Cost: Free (although donations are appreciated as the singers are usually raising money for charity).
London International Horse Show
The annual London International Horse Show is at Olympia from 12th to 18th December. The spectacular equestrian event hosts World Cup competitions in Dressage, Show Jumping and Driving. There’s also a shopping village and many different places to eat.
Cost: From £20 per person.
Harlequins Big Game 10
This is a great event for rugby fans – Harlequins Big Game 10 takes place at Twickenham Stadium on 30th December. Besides the rugby (Harlequins v Northampton Saints) there’s entertainment from pop rock band, Scouting For Girls.
Cost: Child from £14, adult from £24.
New Year’s Eve fireworks
The New Year’s Eve fireworks display at the London Eye is a spectacular event. You can watch the fireworks on TV or you can buy tickets in advance to actually go and see them. This event is always extremely crowded and so it probably isn’t suitable for very small children.
Cost: £10 per person.
Christmas at Kew
The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew are lit up after dark with more than one million lights for Christmas at Kew, until January 1st, 2018. There’s a mile-long trail of twinkly lights through the famous gardens and there’s also North Pole Village, where kids may spot Father Christmas and his elves.
Cost: Adult from £16, child from £10, under-fours free.
Every winter a large area of Hyde Park becomes Winter Wonderland. The attraction offers live shows, a large outdoor ice rink, fairground rides and a Christmas market. There’s no charge to enter Winter Wonderland – you only pay for the activities which you try. It’s best to book ahead for things such as ice-skating and the live shows. Until January 1st, 2018.
Cost: Free to enter, pay according to activity.
Southbank Centre’s Wintertime Festival
The Southbank Centre’s Wintertime Festival has a full and interesting schedule of entertainment for all the family until 4th January 2018. Highlights include live shows, a winter market, and ABBA sing-alongs.
Cost: Depends on event.
Christmas in Leicester Square
Christmas in Leicester Square offers a range of entertainment as well as a Christmas market, Santa’s Grotto and Winter Windows, an exhibition of stained glass windows designed by local schools. Monski Mouse’s Christmas Baby Disco Dancehall is there on certain dates. Until January 7th, 2018.
Cost: Free entry. Grotto from £9.50, Monski Mouse from £8.50.
Hogwarts in the Snow
Once again some of the sets from the popular Harry Potter films at the Warner Bros Studio Tour are transformed for the festive season. We loved our New Year’s Eve visit to see Hogwarts in the Snow – here’s my review: Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter. Hogwarts in the Snow is running until 28th January 2018.
Cost: From £37 per adult, from £29 per child, free under-fives.
Each December there are beautiful Christmas light displays across London. Some of the best are on Oxford Street, Regent Street, Covent Garden and Carnaby Street. There are some excellent Christmas shop window displays along these streets too.
Wherever you are in London this month, you’re sure to be near an ice rink. Each winter a scattering of outdoor ice rinks pops up across the city. Some of the best ice rinks are at the Natural History Museum, Somerset House (my new favourite place to skate), the Tower of London (my second favourite place to skate), Hampton Court, Winter Wonderland and Canary Wharf. Book in advance so that you can skate at your preferred time. Ice skate hire is included in the ticket price.
December is pantomime season (oh, yes it is!) and there are shows running at theatres up and down the country. Pantomime is a marvellous tradition which developed from the sixteenth century Italian street theatre of the Commedia dell’arte, and it’s a perfect way to introduce children to theatre. This year in London there’s Dick Whittington at the London Palladium, a spectacular production of Peter Pan at the O2, Aladdin at the Richmond Theatre, as well as many others.
Cost: Varies according to show.
Besides pantomimes, there’s a wealth of other festive shows on offer which are great for families. Some of the best are The Snowman at the Peacock Theatre for its 20th consecutive year, Slava’s Snowshoe at the Southbank Centre and The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House.
Cost: Varies according to show.
Over to you
Do you have any tips to share for great things to see or do in London this month or any other month? Do share so that I can include your recommendations. Check back each month for the latest round-up, or else subscribe to have posts sent automatically to you by email.