London is often misguidedly dubbed an adult-focused city. In many ways, this can be true – part of its charm are the wealth of museums, the nightlife and the top-class restaurants and skyscraper bars like The Aviary London, which are not always on the top of your kids’ priority list. However, London can also be a fantastic, exciting destination for children, and a perfect choice for the Christmas holidays…provided you know where to go and when to go to avoid an excessive number of people, which can be pretty overwhelming.
Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is the Christmas-holiday holy grail of kid-friendly activities because there is just so much going on, meaning you can make it a full-day outing rather than having to plot a schedule to keep the little ones entertained throughout the day. No matter what their fun-park preferences is, whether it is a ride on a rollercoaster or a sickly-sweet hot chocolate with a side of candy floss (provided you can handle the sugar rush), it is a fun-filled, festive experience for the whole family. It will have you humming carols and looking at the world with snow-dusting glasses for the rest of your holiday. Importantly, it is also central London and so easy to get to no matter which hotel you are staying in, even if it is a Montcalm property over by the Barbican. You would hardly believe that what was once a natural hub for trees and open space is now the glittering sensation that is Winter Wonderland. Your kids will leave London entirely entranced with it as a destination, all that is left to do is take them along to this yuletide paradise.
The V&A Museum of Childhood
Sat a short distance from Bethnal Green tube station, an easy ride from Montcalm Royal London on the Central Line is the V&A Museum of Childhood – the younger sibling of the V&A on Exhibition Road in South Kensington. The museum is focused on both an adult and child-friendly approach, meaning it is the perfect day out for the whole family this Christmas, who can enjoy different elements for different reasons. There are a number of activities for children to participate in, as well as toys through the ages on display which tell a fascinating story of children and their role in society throughout the years and around the world. Maybe it’ll give them a good idea of what they plan on asking Santa for?
On top of that – it wouldn’t be the museum of childhood if there wasn’t some acknowledgement of Christmas, given how pivotal toys and childhood is to a big portion of the holiday. On 26 November, there is a Christmas Designer Market being hosted here, where you can peruse the stalls while munching on delicious mince-pies. Sing-A-Long-Saturdays will also be taking place on 2, 9 and 16 December, where you can belt out your favourite Christmas tunes. There are a few other events on, so it is worth heading over to the website and picking what best suits you and your kids.
Hamley’s Regent’s Street
London-for-adults seems simple – mix shopping on Regent’s Street with some treat-yourself Montcalm spa deals and you have a recipe for celebration. However, this recipe is not all that far off for kids if you know where to shop. In short: Hamley’s is where to shop. Hamley’s is the world’s oldest and largest toy shops, on one of the world’s most iconic shopping streets in London’s shopping district of Soho. Even just being in the store is enough of a treat, nevermind the prospect of a Christmas present being found! Of course, they have kitted the entire place out for Christmas, so it is going to be busy but really exciting for the kids with several exhibitions of toys all around the store in their usual style.
On the river Thames, across the road from and with a startling view of the Houses of Parliament, you will find the peculiar but delightful Shrek’s Adventure – and at Christmas-time, there’s a Christmas-grotto that makes the journey to far-far away all the more magical. Based on the Dreamworks widely appreciated and successful film, Shrek, an adventure has been set into motion and your children are needed to solve the mystery. Shrek is missing, and it’s up to your child to find him with the help of all the Shrek characters, like Donkey, Puss in Boots and some witches with a bit of magic. Throw in a guest appearance from Santa Clause and you have yourself a day-out for the record books, that your child will probably be talking about from the moment you leave all the way back to your spot at one of our Montcalm Hotels.
The West End of London is sometimes referred to as Theatreland. Just because theatre can often be associated with a night out on the town, does not mean there isn’t a child-appropriate version. Almost every show in London will have matinee performances, meaning that you don’t have to keep them up past their bedtime to get their theatre fix. Here are some of the best shows on currently for children, as well as a couple of Christmas-themed ones that will make the season seem truly jolly.
The Lion King
This will be almost as nostalgic and exciting for the parents as it is delightful and thrilling for the kids. Disney’s The Lion King, at the Lyceum Theatre just off the Strand, is an absolute show-stopper of note. Meet Simba, Timone and Pumba again, like so many children have done before since the original Disney film in 1994. Do everyone a favour and book tickets ASAP.
Another Disney Classic is on the stage in Prince Edward Theatre on Old Compton Street – Aladdin. Between the Disney original from 1992 with Robin Williams as the genie, and will smith in the new live-action one, the standards are pretty high but the performance does not disappoint.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a Christmas classic and fable, is on at New Wimbledon Theatre and has been adapted into a musical – can it get any more who-tastic? You will also find The Snowman come to life on the West End at the Peacock Theatre on Portugal Street – so right at the heart of the theatrical West End, too. Of course, a big element of the season is the good, old-fashioned Christmas pantomime, with the most anticipated being The Christmas Family Panto, taking place in Dulwich and Beckenham.
Singing carols are an important aspect of the season in the UK and around the world, so it is the perfect opportunity for the whole family to get involved and do a bit of singing to their favourite Christmas tracks. Royal Albert Hall – a beautiful and iconic landmark in itself – should be an unmissable stop on your list when visiting London. However, a lot of the time, the only options here are orchestral, which doesn’t always excite the little ones. The carols that are hosted there annually, however, are bound to be a success.
Another great shout when it comes to carols are the Christmas carols that take place in Trafalgar Square from 10 – 21 December. Though this is more of a performance than a sing-along, they will be singing all of your favourites so there is no stopping you getting involved for a round of Silent Night.
Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios
When visiting London with kids, a Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios tour is always high up on the list of activities to prioritise. At Christmas, however, this is amplified – if that is even possible! The Hogwarts In the Snow exhibition is so spectacular that it is even worth going to visit if you have already been on the tour previously, out of season. The kids – and you too, probably – will gawk in wonder at the magical majesty of it all and see how the entire studio tours are Christmas-themed. Think snow-covered Christmas trees in the Great Hall, and the Hogwarts Castle snow-dusted. Other than the aesthetic appeal of it all, there is also the incredibly interesting element of how they show you how they made the Christmas props and scenes that were often such special parts of the films. Not to mention, Ron and Harry’s “R” and “H” knitted jumpers will be on display to really spark the nostalgia and joy from the moment you arrive. Top it off with a butterbeer and you will feel like your family was transported into Hogsmead from London, Watford.
Ice skating at Christmas-time in London is really special, and the kind of bucket-list activity that you will be talking about to everyone who will listen. All of the ice skating rinks around the city – and there are a fair few – are child-friendly, though the timing is important and usually the daytime is best for family outings. There is a rink at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, making it a bit of a double-whammy as a choice for a kid-friendly Christmas in London. Then there is a rink at the Tower of London, as well as one at Somerset House. Another top choice is the rink at The Natural History Museum, which is set to the backdrop of this iconic museum.
If your kids are at that precious age where they still want to meet Father Christmas, then these are the places to visit to get the meet-Santa experience. Firstly, there is Santa Land at Winter Wonderland – if Winter Wonderland isn’t coming in high on your list by now, something has been misunderstood along the line. Secondly, there is Meet Father Christmas at Hamley’s, which can be added onto your to-do list whilst visiting this iconic store of merriment and childhood joy. Thirdly, you could try out Santa’s Grotto in Leicester Square, which is where the festive Christmas Market takes place. These Father Christmas experiences will ensure your kids skip home with a spring in their step knowing they have met the big man himself!
The Santa Run is a 5k run for Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice in Victoria Park. This is a great way to get active with your kids, raise money for an excellent cause, and have a bit of fun in the Santa suit that comes included in the ticket price. Tickets vary in prices based on age (and Santa suit), so check the details online and figure out which set-up best suits the dynamics of your family.
So, take the kids along with you to London this Christmas and rest easy knowing how much there is for them to do and get involved in.
(Bonus: If you stay at one of The Montcalm properties, you’ll have plenty of room for the whole family, too!)
Your little ones will always think fondly of their Christmas in London if any of these activities feature on their holiday-schedule. Lastly, a final top tip before you head to any of these sorts of attractions, especially at such a busy time of year: Always find out when the attraction starts, and make sure you get there as close to that time as possible. This is not just important with regards to making the most of your day, but it also means you are able to avoid a lot of the crowds and floods of people who start to fill attractions from midday. Be as organised as possible and avoid disappointment.