Christmas Family Activities In London

By Londonist Last edited 34 months ago
Christmas Family Activities In London

If you've got kids to entertain in London this Christmas there's plenty to do — from walks to galleries, and grottos to children's Christmas shows. We've picked some of the best.

Family Fun

See Hogwarts in the snow at Warner Bros Studio Tour

GREAT CHRISTMAS PUDDING RACE: Who doesn't want to watch people in fancy dress running an assault course in Covent Garden? This charity event raises money for Cancer Research. Best for over 5s. West Piazza, Covent Garden Market, London WC2E 8RF. 6 December
Nearby: You're in Covent Garden so why not explore the shops or visit the London Transport Museum (kids go free).

HARRY POTTER: One for the Muggles, Warner Bros Studio Tour offers Hogwarts in the Snow over winter. The set of the Great Hall will be decorated and the models will get a sprinkling of snow. Suitable for all ages but best for over 5s. Warner Bros Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden WD25 7LR. 14 November-1 February 2015

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN HOUSE: The annual Christmas party is a fun family event with crafts, singing and treats — 18th century style. Suitable for 5-11 year olds. Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, London WC2N 5NF. 13 December
Nearby: Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden are a few minutes away.

KENWOOD HOUSE: Play on Hampstead Heath and enjoy Christmas at Kenwood House with family activities as well as the Christmas shop and cafe. Suitable for over 3s. Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, London NW3 7JR. 20-21 December and 27-28 December

GREENWICH LANTERN PARADE: The local schoolchildren's handmade lantern procession starts at 4pm in front of the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre at the Old Royal Naval College and winds its way round to the Market. The Christmas lights there will be switched on at 4.45pm with Sarah Jane Honeywell from CBeebies. Suitable for all ages. Discover Greenwich, 2 Cutty Sark Gardens, Old Royal Naval College, London SE10 9LW. 26 November
Nearby: You're spoiled for choice in Greenwich as there are lots of well-priced cafes and restaurants. You could make a day of it by exploring the Cutty Sark and playing at the All Hands on Deck children's gallery at the National Maritime Museum.

Christmas Lights

Oxford Street lights are already enchanting crowds of all ages. Photo: Artee62

Christmas lights have started being switched on across central London already and the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square lights up on 4 December. So why not, get upstairs on a double decker bus for one of the best views of the lights. The 139 route is good from Selfridges to Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and over Waterloo Bridge. Suitable for all ages. Best after 4 December

Ice Skating

The Winter Wonderland Ice Rink in Hyde Park is perfect for letting your little ones practice their skating.

SOMERSET HOUSE: If you do try the 139 bus route you can get off at Aldwych and go ice skating at the iconic Somerset House Ice Rink. Suitable from age 3-4 years (shoe size 25). Babies/children in arms are not allowed onto the ice rink. Adults must accompany under 8s and there's a child ticket price for under 12s. 11 November-11 January 2015. If you have an early riser there are Skate School lessons for over 8s (under 8s is already sold out). Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA. Saturdays 15, 22 and 29 November or Sundays 16, 23 and 30 November; 8.45-9.45am.
Nearby: You don't need to leave the area for good eating and drinking as the Skate Lounge has hot chocolate and the Fortnum's Lodge has tea and scones.

SKATING AIDS: Of course, there are other great ice rinks in London including the Natural History Museum Ice Rink, (until 4 January 2015) which also has penguin skating aids, while the London Eye Ice Rink (15 November-4 January 2015) has orange plastic seals.

See the full list of ice-skating possibilities in London.

WINTER WONDERLAND: At Hyde Park Winter Wonderland there is the largest ice rink in London and much more. The Magical Ice Kingdom and Zippos Circus are good for all ages, and there are little kid and big kid rides too, as well as the Christmas Market. Suitable for all ages. Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London W2 2UH. 21 November-4 January 2015

An east London alternative this year is Winterville at Victoria Park.

Shopping

Southbank Centre Christmas Market

GALLERY NIGHT: The William Morris Gallery Christmas Shopping Night is good for older children looking for less ordinary gifts (21 November) or you can try the Winter Warmer event when the whole family is welcome. William Morris Gallery, Lloyd Park House, 531 Forest Rd, London E17 5EH.
Nearby: Lloyd Park just behind the gallery is great for running around. And if the cafe is busy in the gallery and the park, Bygga Bo (8 Chingford Road, E17 4PJ) is a swish Swedish cafe with acclaimed cinnamon buns. Or you could take the kids to The Bell pub (617 Forest Rd, E17 4NE) as it seems everyone else in Walthamstow does.

CHRISTMAS MARKET: The Southbank Christmas Market gives you a nice Christmassy feeling but it can get crowded so be prepared. Suitable for all ages but better for older kids. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX — Riverside Walk. 11 November-4 January 2015
Nearby: Head into Southbank Centre to warm up, grab a drink and use clean loos. If you're there in the daytime, the playground in Jubilee Gardens (in front of the London Eye) is a good place to use up some energy safely.

CHRISTMAS FAIR: For a more quirky Christmas market, the Christmas Fair at the Finnish Church in Rotherhithe is where you can meet Santa and Moomintroll. Suitable for all ages. 33 Albion Street, London SE16 7HZ. 19-23 November
Nearby: The Brunel Museum (Railway Ave, SE16 4LF) is a few minutes away and The Mayflower pub (117 Rotherhithe Street, SE16 4NF) is ok if you have older children. Younger ones will enjoy the Thames Path and you can walk to Tower Bridge in half an hour.

Christmas Shows

Show them the magic of Nutcracker

NUTCRACKER: Ballet may not normally be your thing but The Nutcracker by the English National Ballet is always magical. Suitable for over 5s. There is a family-friendly performance suitable for under 5s on 4 January 2015. Up to two children under 16 can go free with each full paying adult. London Coliseum, St. Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4ES. 11 December-4 January 2015.
Nearby: The cafe in the Crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields is good for lunch and you're close to Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden.

MOTHER GOOSE: The panto to see this season will be Mother Goose at Hackney Empire as Clive Rowe is back in the starring role (the kids will know him from the Tracy Beaker TV series). Suitable for over 3s (or when loud bangs don't cause hysterics). There are plenty of matinee performances available. Hackney Empire, 291 Mare Street, London E8 1EJ. 22 November-4 January 2015
Nearby: Hackney Library is almost next door so you can have some calm reading before the show. There's also a small free museum there. Or jump on a bus down Mare Street and you could spend the morning at the V&A Museum of Childhood.

PETER PAN: Peter Pan is a perennial favourite for all the family and it's on at The Polka Theatre this Christmas. Suitable for over 6s. Polka Theatre, 240 The Broadway, Wimbledon SW19 1SB. 21 November-14 February 2015
Nearby: The Polka Cafe is open when the theatre is open and has a child-friendly menu. And if you need a runabout, Haydons Road Recreation Ground (Haydons Rd, SW19) has a large green space as well as a playground.

SANTA SCIENCE: For young science lovers, The Santa Claus Science Experiment at Bloomsbury Theatre brings together Santa's elves and genuine scientists to save Christmas. Oh yeah, and it's funny too. Suitable for over 6s. Bloomsbury Theatre, 15 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AH. 15-21 December
Nearby: The cafe at The Wellcome Collection (183 Euston Rd, NW1 2BE) is good and the permanent collection is worth exploring. The Grant Museum of Zoology (Rockefeller Building, University College London, 21 University Street, WC1E 6DE) and the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology (Malet Place, WC1E 6BT) are also close.

See our full children's Christmas theatre guide.

Grottos

Christmas Wonderland in Enfield gives them a chance to see Santa

Tickets for the Harrods Grotto sold out back in September but there are still other good places to see Santa this season.

SAILOR TOWN: There's a grotto at the Museum of London's Victorian Walk and at Sailortown at the Museum of London Docklands. Suitable for all ages. Museum of London: 150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN/Museum of London Docklands: No.1 Warehouse, West India Quay, E14 4AL. 6-23 December
Nearby: MoL is close to St Paul's Cathedral and the City of London Visitor Centre to pick up free trails. MoLD is close to Canary Wharf for shopping and traffic free outdoor space.

CHELSEA: Duke of York Square in Chelsea has a grotto (must book minimum two days in advance). Suitable for all ages. Until 23 December

WINTER WEEKEND: WWT London Wetland Centre's winter weekend has Santa, his reindeer and husky sledge rides and more. Suitable for over 5s. London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth's Walk, Barnes, SW13 9WT. 6-7 December

SANTA EXPRESS: Head out to Enfield and you'll find Springtime Nurseries at Crews Hill with possibly the largest grotto in Europe. There's a Santa's Express ride with 20 different Christmas scenes to journey by. (See our review of Crews Hill.) Springtime Nurseries, Cattlegate Road, Crews Hill, Enfield, Middlesex EN2 9EE. From 12 November

Trails

Celebrity designed bears for the NSPCC Paddington Trail are launched at Tower Bridge, London, Britain on 3 Nov 2014

By Jon Furniss
07710219616
Photo: Jon Furniss/STUDIOCANAL

PADDINGTON: There are 50 Paddington statues across London for the Paddington Trail (which ties in with a new film about the marmalade sandwich muncher, released on 28 November). The trail is suitable for all ages. Until 30 December

BUSES: The Year of the Bus Sculpture Trail gives you a choice of trails to follow to find specially-designed bus sculptures. Suitable for all ages. Open now

KEW: The Kew Gardens Christmas Trail has a night-time one mile illuminated walk. Suitable for over 5s. 26 November-3 January 2015

SYON PARK: Syon Park's Woodland Walk sees the trees lit up in many a colour, creating a mile long woodland walk suitable for all ages. Two years and under go free. Fridays-Sundays, 21 November-7 December

Dickensian London

Take a costumed Dickens Christmas walk

SHADOW PUPPETS: Younger children will enjoy the shadow puppetry at the Charles Dickens Museum. Best for under 10s. 19 and 30 December. Older children and adults might prefer the Costumed Christmas Walks organised by the Charles Dickens Museum. Best for over 8s. Saturdays, and Sunday 21 December, and Christmas Eve. And there are more Christmas Dickensian Walks too in The City. Best for over 8s. 48 Doughty Street, WC1N 2LX. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout December
Nearby: Coram's Fields (93 Guilford Street, WC1N 1DN) has the best central London play area where adults can only enter when accompanied by a child. There's a petting zoo, a huge sand pit and a nice cafe.

STEP OUTSIDE GUIDES: Book four in this series of child-led trails is Christmas in London. It makes a great day out and includes where you can find gold, frankincense and myrrh in London. Best for over 5s. If Statues Could Talk is book five and is a real bargain as it includes a family ticket for up to two adults and four children to Westminster Abbey where you can see the popular nativity scene in St George's Chapel in December. Best for over 5s.

GEFFRYE MUSEUM: The period rooms have their Christmas decorations for the annual Christmas Past exhibition. Suitable for all ages. 25 November-4 January 2015. You can see the exhibition by candlelight at the Georgian Christmas open evening where there'll also be festive music and a decoration-making workshop for the kids. Suitable for all ages. 4 December. If you'd like to have a sing song then visit for the Christmas Carols performed by The Toots. Suitable for all ages. 6 December, 2pm and 3pm

This list is by no means all that's going on in London for families this Christmas so if you know of an event to recommend please do add it to the comments below.

Find out more about Christmas in London.

Last Updated 11 November 2014