Christmas is almost upon us and with this extra magic in the air, Santa’s visit on the cards and the school holidays fast approaching the kids are understandably buzzing with excitement. Luckily, there’s an abundance of fantastic things for kids to do this December, whether it’s stepping into a bewitching new world, meeting a jolly man with a red suit and a twinkle in his eye or getting their happiness fix at a dopamine-boosting museum, you can cram their days with festive fun and adventure. We’ve pulled together a few ideas to get you started…
Feeling a case of the winter blues? Why not round up the rugrats and escape into the joyful world of Dopamine Land. Located on Old Brompton Road this magical multisensory museum delivers a dose of happiness to anyone who strolls through the doors. The kids will be in their element scoffing popcorn in the (aptly-named) popcorn room, clambering onto tree stumps in the forest room and, for any teen Instagram fiends, snapping selfies in the stunning infinity light room. It’s not just the little ones who will emerge with giddy grins, there are decompression zones for you to unwind, including a stunning ‘Fire Lantern’ room where animal and water sounds will help soothe the soul. What’s more, over the Christmas holiday fortnight (December 19–30), Dopamine Land will have extended opening hours, giving families ample time for a visit.
Any dino-lovers dream, Jurassic World: The Exhibition brings the film franchise to life in a big way. A combination of fascinating animatronics, immersive set design and striking special effects draw you in and will make any child feel like they have stepped through the screen into a prehistoric wilderness. They’ll not only get to meet familiar favourites like the Brachiosaurus and T-Rex, but they can have a pic with cute baby dinosaurs and channel their inner palaeontologist sifting through sand to unearth fossils. Be warned, there be jump scares here, and a gift shop packed with merch (sorry in advance to your wallets).
3. Pay Santa a visit at his grotto
Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa and no doubt your kids have got a long list of wishes to pass on to the big man himself. Luckily, while there’s only one bearded man in the red suit, there’s plenty of Santas Grottos dotted around the city where he will show his rosy-cheeked face. This includes Alexandra Palace, Royal Albert Hall and, if you’re looking to celebrate an Afro-Caribbean-inspired Christmas, Crooked Billet Yard in Shoreditch, where Noir Kringle, Mrs Kringle and their elves ‘spread diverse Christmas cheer for all to hear’.
If you’re looking to stray from the beaten path of festive events overrun with Christmas crowds, then Stranger Things: The Experience could be just the ticket. Although, it is recommended for ages over 13, with ages 5 and under not permitted, so this is best for older kids if you want to avoid any nightmares; especially when you consider the mind-bending special effects and tension-building acting that makes it all so eerily real. Like stumbling through a rift into the show’s 80’s world, you can expect a dramatic adventure evading Demogorgons (and shady scientists) in Hawkins Lab, themed food and drink – ice cream from Scoops Ahoy anyone? – and some irresistible photo ops.
5. Glide (or shuffle) around an ice rink
There is no shortage of ice skating rinks scattered around London during Christmas. There’s something about gliding around on the ice (or clutching those handy penguins for support) that gets us feeling the festive spirit. Not to mention, it’s perfect if you’re hoping to burn off some of that seemingly-bottomless pit of energy children seem to have. Whether it’s a fun first-time experience or a much-loved tradition, kids of all ages are ensured a magical time whizzing around under the twinkling lights at ice rinks located at the likes of Somerset House, Alexandra Palace, Canary Wharf and more.
If your kids have a thirst for adventure, a competitive streak and a knack for problem-solving then this is just the place to take them. Phantom Peak is an immersive open-world experience found in Canada Waters, where you are invited to explore a fully-realised town complete with its own waterfall, lake and residents. This season, it has been dusted with snow and turned the page on a new wintery chapter where you can solve intriguing mysteries, explore a traditional Winter’s Grotto, sip on hot chocolate and discover the recently-unearthed delights of Old Town, secreted away in the mountains. It is like stumbling into a video game, except this time you are the hero of the story and the power is entirely in your hands.
7. Take them Christmas shopping at Hamleys
Like seeing your kids’ eyes fill with wonder and excitement? Hamleys promises that with jingle bells on. This toy heaven is an ever-popular choice, especially if you’re at a loss for what to get them for a gift, you can just see what their little faces light up at as you wander around the store. It may be a giant unicorn plush, a science kit or a lego car, whatever the case you can cross off some Christmas shopping while giving the kids a special day to remember.
8. See the spellbinding flurries of snow in Covent Garden
Don’t want to take the gamble on whether it will or won’t snow? If your kids are gazing out the window, adorned in woolly hats and looking at the high heavens with expectant eyes you might get the feeling they’re waiting for something and we doubt it’s rain. Well, you might wanna take a trip to Covent Garden. With 115,000 twinkling lights, a traditionally-decorated sleigh and London’s largest hand-picked Christmas tree, the piazza has already embraced the Christmas spirit but still steps things up another notch with its very own snow showers. The magical snow flurries take place hourly every day and are sure to enchant the kids.
There are few things more spellbinding than twinkling lights piercing the dark night sky and Christmas At Kenwood promises that and then some. If you want to treat the kids to a magical night then wrap up, grab the camera and head over to the iconic grounds of Kenwood. The spectacular light trail includes wondrous light displays and installations that illuminate the flora and fauna with a spectrum of colour. It is sure to captivate the kids and there’s even festive food to fuel your journey (and a warming cocktail to keep the adults in good spirits).
10. Get lost in the magical story of a West End Show
Yes, pantos may be the classic Christmas show we typically go for but the chorus of “He’s behind you” has a tendency to haunt a parent’s dreams. One way to skip the sleepless nights will be to direct your attention to a Christmas West End show. There’s a handful of fantastic festive shows gracing the city this winter, including The Snowman, Elf! The Musical and Frozen The Musical, not to mention some timeless classics like Matilda The Musical and Mary Poppins. Sounds supercalifragilisticexpialidocious if you ask me. Grab your tickets via Seat Plan here.