If you’re planning a family day out in London, you have a huge array of activities to choose from, whatever the time of year. Each month I publish a round-up of some of the best things on offer in the capital for families with kids. Here’s my selection for January 2020.
New Year’s Day Parade
Each year on January 1st thousands of performers take part in a spectacular parade through the streets of London’s West End. Highlights include Pearly Kings and Queens, classic cars, marching bands and cheerleaders. The parade starts from Piccadilly at midday.
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, until January 5th, 2020. 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 £18.00, child from £11, under-fours free.
Southbank Centre’s Wintertime Festival
The Southbank Centre’s Wintertime Festival has a busy schedule of entertainment for all the family until 5th January 2020. Highlights include a five-star retelling of the classic story Black Beauty, turn-of-the-century circus at Circus 1903, a winter market, and global street food stalls.
Cost: Depends on event – access to the market is free.
Christmas in Leicester Square
Christmas in Leicester Square is running until 5th January 2020, and offers range of entertainment as well as a Christmas market and Santa’s Grotto. Highlights include the Showstoppers’ Christmas Kids Show, Fun Kids Epic Roadshow Adventure and Santa’s Grotto.
Cost: Free entry, Grotto from £11.50, tickets for performances vary according to event.
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 5th, 2020.
Cost: Free to enter, pay according to activity.
London International Mime Festival
The London International Mime Festival showcases the best contemporary visual theatre, including cutting edge circus-theatre, animation and puppetry, mask, physical and object theatre. The festival runs from 7th January until 2nd February 2020, and there are performances at various venues across the city. Artists from around the world and some of Britain’s emerging talents are taking part, as well as established names.
Cost: Varies according to performance.
Some of London’s seasonal ice rinks are still open this month. The Somerset House ice rink (my favourite) is open until 12th January. The ice rink at the Natural History Museum is also open until January 12th and the one at the Tower of London is open until January 5th. There are also excellent year-round ice rinks at Alexandra Palace and at Streatham Ice Arena. Read my post on the Best places to ice skate in London for full details.
Cost: Varies according to location.
Chiswick House and Gardens is hosting Lightopia, a new immersive lantern and light trail, from January 22nd to March 1st 2020 from Wednesday to Sunday. The spectacle includes acrobats, musicians and three-storey high lanterns, and has previously been staged in Manchester and Edinburgh.
Cost: Adult from £20, child from £13, if booked online in advance.
Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year celebrations in London are the biggest outside of Asia. The Year of the Rat starts on January 25th, 2020, and the London events to mark the occasion take place on Sunday January 26th in Chinatown, Trafalgar Square and across the West End, from 10am until 6pm. The celebrations begin with a lion dance parade which sets off from Trafalgar Square at 10am. If you’re going along, be sure to wear something red, to bring you luck in the New Year (according to Chinese tradition).
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 26th January, 2020.
Cost: From £47 per adult, from £38 per child, free for under-fives.
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. Until 23rd February 2020.
Cost: Adults £14, students £11.00 under-12s free.
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.
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.
Pantomime season starts in December and continues into January (oh yes, it does!) 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 Cinderella at the Lyric Hammersmith, Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the London Palladium, Sleeping Beauty at the Greenwich Theatre, as well as many others.
Cost: Varies according to show.
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.
Each month I publish a round-up of great things to do in London, so do pop back to see it, 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 February 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 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.
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