As Christmas waves its enchanting wand over London, the city pirouettes into a bewitching winter canvas for kids. Is there any place as magical as London during Christmas? I promise you some merry, a large spoonful of nostalgia and not a mince of boring. Here are my top 18 Family Christmas things to do in London 2018. Get your sparkle on, and let’s get this holiday season in London unwrapped!
My Top 5
Christmas at London Zoo
London Zoo has a new one-mile after-dark light trail which I reckon will give Kew Gardens a good run for its money. There’s an old-fashioned carousel, singing trees, dancing fountains in our favourite Lubetkin penguin pool, 100,000 lights, a Christmas Grotto and as always, the elves won’t be very far away. Tip toe past the sleeping animals to marvel at glittering flying flamingos and towering giraffe sculptures before peering from behind the paws of a giant glowing lion into the twinkling night sky. If you have deep pockets, you can rent yourself a cabin and stay the night. 22 November to 1 January 2019. Book here.
Sleepover at the Horniman Museum
You won’t be getting much sleep during the Horniman’s very first sleepover. Once Mr Walrus is tucked up in bed explore the Horniman by night. Roll out your sleeping bag and camp out in the galleries, next to a dodo, or even a tiger. The evening will be full of fun activities and exciting exploration such as storytelling, crafts and trails. 8 December only. Book here.
Visit Santa at Hamleys
Forget Harrods and Selfridges. I’ve done them all, and this one wins hands down. Book here.
It’s near impossible to get tickets for this but try. Step back in time to the house that time forgot and experience Christmas as it was in the early 18th century. Book here.
Christmas at the Charles Dickens Museum
Head over to the Dickens Museum and follow in the author’s footsteps as you savour the sights, sounds and smells of the rooms where he lived and worked. The Victorian house is fully decked and prepped for Christmas, and it’s a joy to walk around. It can get very busy though, and I don’t recommend this for kids under the age of ten (they might be a tad bored).
Museums for Kids this Christmas in London
Visit one of the capital’s National Trust properties and experience festive cheer across the ages. Tour a candlelit Ham House and visit the Christmas Grotto, or meet Father Christmas at Sutton House and Breaker’s Yard, experiencing the festive period through the eyes of the Tudors, the Georgians, the Victorians, and even 1980s Londoners.
Royal Observatory Greenwich
Space cowboys will love this after dark experience at the Royal Observatory Greenwich with a show in London’s only public planetarium. Look through the gigantic Great Equatorial Telescope and spend time on the Greenwich Meridian with a hot drink, an amazing view and astronomers on hand to answer all your space-related questions. Various dates throughout December and January.
Victorian Christmas and Skate at the Tower of London
Discover how our modern impressions of Christmas and the Tower were shaped in the era of Dickens and Queen Victoria in the Tower of London. Follow with a skate around one of London’s most dramatic ice rinks. Book here.
Theatre, Ballet and Panto for Kids this Christmas in London
Circus 1903 at Southbank
The show includes sensational life-sized elephants stunningly created by puppeteers from War Horse, putting elephants back in the ring as never before. The circus boasts a huge cast of jaw-dropping and dangerous acts from all corners of the globe. Featuring acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, trapeze and high wire performers, this show transports audiences of all ages to the mesmerising Golden Age of circus. 19 December to 5 January 2019. Book here.
Brothers Grimm at Unicorn Theatre
A selection of Philip Pullman’s favourite tales by the Brothers Grimm, re-told and re-worked for Christmas. Enter a world of powerful witches, enchanted forest creatures, careless parents and fearless children as they embark on adventures full of magic, gore, friendship, and bravery. To 6 Jan 2019. Book here.
The Box of Delights at Wilton’s Music Hall
The Box of Delights is back at London’s oldest music hall. Based on the much–loved and critically acclaimed festive children’s classic, you can now experience the enthralling wonder of this magical world for yourself, from flying cars to fiery phoenixes.
Princess and the Pantomime at Windsor Castle (and see Meghan’s wedding dress)
This Christmas treat your family to an exceptionally special after hours event inside the glittering State Apartments. Beneath the breathtaking Christmas tree in St George’s Hall, travel with a storyteller on a captivating journey through Christmas past at Windsor Castle. You are then invited to step onto Aladdin’s magic carpet for an exhilarating pop-up pantomime in the Waterloo Chamber, exactly where The Queen performed wartime pantomimes when a princess. Various dates in December. Wander over and check out Meghan and Harry’s wedding frocks, on display at Windsor Castle throughout the Christmas season.
Snow White at the London Palladium
Dawn French makes her panto debut in this much-loved production, also starring Julian Clary and Nigel Havers. Tickets will sell out fast, so be quick! Book here.
Royal Opera House Live Screenings
I’m a huge fan of the ROH live screenings. They’re perfect for introducing the kids to ballet and opera without all the expense of a hefty ticket price. Plus, they get to munch popcorn and dash to the loo when required! You can catch The Nutcracker on several dates throughout December.
And if you want to introduce the young ones to the Royal Opera House, you could take them to Christmas Carols on the 9 December, performed in the stunning Paul Hamlyn Hall. It will be a fa-la-la afternoon with mince pies and mulled wine for mums and dads.
Rumpelstiltskin at Southbank
See the UK premiere of this retelling of a beloved family fairy tale, reimagined with lashings of magical mayhem, rocking music and supreme silliness. Book here.
Outdoor Events for Kids this Christmas in London
Follow the charming trail, explore the enchanted garden and lose yourself in a captivating maze of light at Eltham Palace. Discover secrets hidden in the woodland, including a talking tree, and gaze upon striking projections on the palace walls. Try your luck at the fairground stalls and rides including children’s swing chairs and rocking boats.
Alice in Winterland
There’s a new lantern festival in town and it’s in Southwark Park. Immerse yourself in the enchanting fantasy world of Alice in Winterland in this fairytale adventure through thousands of lights and a trail with over 160 giant lanterns. There’s a five-metre-tall Alice, a life-sized Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and 29 interactive and immersive scenes. Slide down the Rabbit hole, meet the Red Queen and find Santa Claus.
Don’t forget, the Trafalgar Christmas Tree comes to light on Thursday 6 December at 6pm. Naughty or nice, make sure you come and join in the festive fun!
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