The clocks have changed, it’s starting to feel chilly, but London’s still a great place for a family trip, as it always is. Each month I pick my top things to see and do in the capital, from world-class exhibitions, to local festivals, to outdoor activities and everything in between. Here’s my selection for November 2019, including some tips from Mums do travel readers.
Regent Street Motor Show
The UK’s largest free motor show comes to London’s West End on Saturday 2nd November, 2018. On the day, Regent Street is pedestrianised from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus With displays of hundreds of vintage and futuristic motor vehicles, live music and dance performances and motorbike stunt shows, the Regent Street Motor Show is a great annual event.
Cost: Free – although there’s a charge for some activities.
Museums at Night
The Museums at Night festival sees an array of the country’s major museums, heritage sites and historic properties open their doors after dark. The festival has events taking place across London from 31st October to 2nd November, 2019. There’s a range of free and ticketed night-time activities on offer, including live performances and tours by torchlight.
Cost: Varies according to event.
Diwali is celebrated around the world by Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist and Jain communities, and is also known as the Festival of Lights. There’s an annual Diwali celebration in Trafalgar Square which attracts thousands of people. This year’s programme includes live music and dance performances as well as food stalls and a range of family-friendly activities. Diwali coincides with the new moon (the darkest night of the month) in October or November, so the date changes each year. In 2019, the Diwali Trafalgar Square celebration takes place on Sunday November 3rd.
Bonfire Night, which is also known as Fireworks Night and Guy Fawkes Night, takes place each year on 5th November, which is the anniversary of the foiling of Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up London’s Houses of Parliament in 1605. On and around this date, there are firework displays all over the city (as well as all over the country) from Blackheath to Brent to Alexandra Palace, and many of them are free of charge. There’s a list of the top 14 London firework displays over at the official Visit London website.
Cost: Varies according to event.
Southbank Centre’s Wintertime Festival
The Southbank Centre’s Wintertime Festival has a busy schedule of entertainment for all the family from 8th November 2019 to 5th January 2020. 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 8th 2019 to 5th January 2020, and offers range of entertainment as well as a Christmas market and Santa’s Grotto. Highlights include Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure for Kids, Kids of the West End and The Showstoppers’ Christmas Kids Show!.
Cost: Free entry, Grotto from £11.50, tickets for performances vary according to event.
Lord Mayor’s Show
In 1215 King John allowed Londoners to elect a mayor. Every year since, the Lord Mayor of London travels from the City of London to Westminster to pledge their loyalty to the King or Queen. This has evolved into the Lord Mayor’s Show, a vibrant procession across London which features the Lord Mayor’s splendid coach, marching bands, dancing and live performances and which attracts around half a million people annually. This year’s show is on Saturday November 9th. (The Lord Mayor of London is now a ceremonial post, and is separate from the Mayor of London, which is an elected post).
Each year on November 11th there are events across the city to remember those who lost their lives in both world wars and in combat since. This day is also known as Armistice Day, when World War I ended on 11th November 1918. At 11am on that date every year many people observe a two-minute silence of remembrance, including in Trafalgar Square at a special Silence in the Square event. Remembrance Sunday is on the nearest Sunday to Remembrance Day (in 2019 it’s on Sunday November 10th), and sees church services, parades and events, including at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, which is attended by the Queen.
Music For Youth Proms
@ParentsTeensSEL tweeted to recommend the annual Music For Youth Proms, which take place at the Royal Albert Hall this year on November 12th – 13th. The event showcases some of the UK’s most talented and innovative young musicians. Each night 1,000 musicians perform in a concert featuring a wide range of music.
Cost: From £6.00.
EFG London Jazz Festival
The EFG London Jazz Festival, now in its 27th year, is running from November 15th – 24th. Amongst over 350 shows on the bill, this year’s programme includes a special performance on November 16th from storytelling company jazz-A-nory. Jazz-A-nory aims to introduce the world of jazz to new ears, and there’s a child-led creative process behind each concert: every melody heard has been written by a child.
Cost: Varies, some shows are free.
Each winter a large chunk of Hyde Park becomes Winter Wonderland. From 21st November 2019 – 5th January 2020 the popular attraction offers live shows, a huge outdoor ice rink, fairground rides and a Christmas market. This year’s highlights include Paddington on Ice, Zippo’s Christmas Circus and ice-sculpting workshops. There’s no charge to enter Winter Wonderland – you just pay for the activities which you do. It’s a good idea to book ahead for things like ice-skating and the live shows.
Cost: Free to enter, pay according to what you do there.
The Foundling Museum is running a free family workshop on November 30th. At the Spectacular Special Effects workshop with artist Anna Harild, you can learn how the Georgians created special effects using shadows, sounds and mirrors, and you can try out these techniques yourself. The workshop is suitable for five year-olds and above.
Cost: Admission to the museum is free for under-21s, and from £12 for over-21s. The workshop is free.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
There’s a production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears running from 30th November to 24th December at Jacksons Lane arts centre in North London. Aimed at children aged 3 to 7, the show is told from the perspective of the bear family, who live in a home made from upcycled rubbish which they have found in the woods.
Cost: From £10.
Pop-up ice rinks
This month there are ice rinks popping up all over London for the winter. I try out a different ice rink each winter – my favourites so far are those at Somerset House, the Tower of London and the Natural History Museum. I’ve written a post comparing the best places to ice-skate in the capital – you can read it here:
Wherever you are in London this winter, there’s bound to be an ice rink nearby, but it’s best to book in advance as they can get busy, especially at peak times.
Cost: Depends on venue.
Royal Opera House
Live at Lunch is a series of free lunchtime performances inspired by the Royal Opera House’s heritage and its operas and ballets. Artists from the ROH as well as guest artists perform from 1pm on specific dates until 28th February, 2020. Performances take place in newly opened-up spaces of the Royal Opera House.
Somerset House 24/7
Somerset House’s major winter exhibition 24/7 explores our inability to switch off from our 24/7 culture. The exhibition features a host of immersive works which explore the unrelenting pressure to consume and produce. One of the works allows you to be wrapped in a copper blanket, to block any electro-magnetic signal getting to you, and you can also learn about the experience of an artist who went for six months with no internet access. From October 31st 2019 to 23rd February 2020.
Cost: Adults £14, students £11.00 under-12s free.
Sculpture in the City
Sculpture in the City is an annual event featuring contemporary works by internationally renowned artists. The works are displayed in public areas in the City of London. The art works from the 9th edition of the event are in place until April 2020. You can find out more about the pieces on display here.
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 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.
You can read my December round-up of top things to do in the city here:
Here’s a post with loads of ideas for fantastic free stuff to do in London for families with a teen in tow:
Over to you
Do you have any tips to share for great things to do in London? Do let me know so that I can include your recommendations.