If you’re planning a festive day out in London with your kids, here’s a round-up of some of the best family activities on offer in the capital this Christmas. (I’ve also published a December London round-up – you can read that post here).
Returning to Clapham Common for 2018, Winterville bills itself as an alternative Christmas experience. With ice skating, festive films, tasty street food, fun fair rides and live music as well as Mexican wrestling, Plonk Golf and roller skating it’s a great place for a fun festive trip. Winterville is open until December 23rd, 2018.
Cost: Varies according to activity. If you book tickets in advance, entry is free.
The Southbank Centre’s Wintertime Festival has a busy schedule of festive entertainment for all the family from 9th November 2018 to 6th January 2019. Highlights include live shows, a winter market, and global street food.
Cost: Depends on event – access to the market is free.
Christmas in Leicester Square
Christmas in Leicester Square is running from November 9th 2018 to 6th January 2019, and offers range of entertainment as well as a Christmas market and Santa’s Grotto. Highlights include Monski Mouse’s Christmas Baby Disco Dancehall, Brat Kids Carnival and The Showstoppers’ Christmas Kids Show!
Cost: Free entry, Grotto from £11.50, tickets for performances vary according to event.
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 from 17th November, 2018 to 27th January, 2019.
Cost: From £43 per adult, from £35 per child, free under-fives.
Each winter a chunk of Hyde Park is transformed into 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. From 22nd November, 2018 to January 6th, 2019.
Cost: Free to enter, pay according to activity.
Christmas at Kew
The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew are lit up after dark with more than a million lights and thousands of laser beams for Christmas at Kew, from November 22nd, 2018 to January 5th, 2019. Besides the winter trail with twinkly lights through the famous gardens, there’s a fire garden and water projections. There are also some vintage fairground rides, and kids may spot Father Christmas and his elves.
Cost: Adult from £16.50, child from £10, under-fours free.
Westfield London is home to Santa’s Snowflake Grotto from 22nd November to 24th December, 2018. Visitors can see the Snow Factory where Santa’s elves make snow, and children can create their own snowflake, as well as meeting Santa.
Cost: From £7.50 per person.
Sail with Santa
On selected dates from December 1st to 23rd, you can take to the water with Santa on an hour-long cruise along the River Thames. There’s a cafe/ bar on board, each child is given a gift, a soft drink and a cookie while adults receive a glass of mulled wine or a hot drink and a mince pie. These trips are offered by City Cruises.
Cost: Adults £28, children £16.
Carols at Trafalgar Square
There are groups of carol singers performing at Trafalgar Square each afternoon from 10th to 21st December (apart from 15th). The singers perform next to the square’s giant Christmas tree, which is donated by Norway to Britain each 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).
From the end of November onwards there are beautiful Christmas lights on display across London. Some of the best displays are in Oxford Street, Regent Street, Covent Garden, New Bond Street and Carnaby Street. There are some gorgeous Christmas shop window displays to see along these streets too.
December and January are pantomime season (oh yes, they are!) 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 Peter Pan at the the Richmond Theatre, Aladdin at the New Wimbledon Theatre, Snow White at the London Palladium, 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 21st consecutive year, a musical performance of A Christmas Carol at the Lyceum Theatre and The Nutcrackerat The Royal Opera House.
Cost: Varies according to show.
There are temporary outdoor ice rinks in iconic locations across London each year during the Christmas period. Some of the best ice rinks are at the Natural History Museum, Somerset House (my favourite place to skate), the Tower of London (my second favourite place to skate), Hampton Court, Winter Wonderland and Canary Wharf. Fellow blogger Cathy Winston enjoyed skating at Hampton Court with her daughter and wrote a review of their experience – you can read her post here: Ice skating at Hampton Court Palace, London. Ice skate hire is included in the ticket price, and it’s best to book online in advance as sessions do get booked up.
More on London
If you’d like a moneysaving sightseeing pass for your trip to the city, The London Pass includes a one-day hop-on hop-off bus tour, as well as free entry to more than 80 attractions, tours and museums, such as the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and The View from The Shard. The pass also gives you fast-track entry at some of the most popular attractions, so that you don’t have to waste time queueing.
If you’d like a London guide book, I recommend both the Lonely Planet London Travel Guide and the London Marco Polo Travel Guide. If you need accommodation, check out my post about family-friendly places to stay in the capital.
Check back each month for my latest London round-up – or you can subscribe to my blog (by entering your email address in the box on the right – where it says ‘YOU’D LIKE MY POSTS BY EMAIL?’) and it will be emailed to you automatically.
Where to stay in London
If you need accommodation, check out my post about family-friendly places to stay in the capital, or you can read about what we thought about staying at the Amba Hotel Marble Arch here, the Hilton London Metropole here, Go Native Apartments here and the Royal Garden Hotel here. There are more reviews in the Where to stay category.
Here’s a video which my daughter and I made in London just before Christmas one year:
Over to you
Do you have any suggestions to add for things to do in London with kids at Christmas, or for my January roundup? Do let me know, as it’s great to have different recommendations!
Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links, which means that if you clicked through and booked I may receive a small commission. All opinions, images, video and words are my own, as ever.