We have not yet had the Halloween celebrations and I am already planning our Christmas-season itinerary! There is a very good reason for this…loads of cool things are already fully booked! Last year I wanted to take my littluns to see Father Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall but missed out – I have just checked availability and, already, the good December dates are gone…gee wizz! And who wants to see Father Christmas in November – not me! Note to self: must try harder next year!!
We love a good pre-Crimbo build up! Over the last few years we have enjoyed quite a few experiences with the kids – some I would recommend, some not.
Lights and Illuminations
Now in its 6th year, Christmas at Kew has become a Crimbo staple. There are still some good dates/times left (as of 13/10/18) and, although it can be a bit pricey, it really is a magical evening for all the family. Adult tickets from £16.50, £10 for children – a couple of quid off for members. Make sure you have some cash with you as you pay extra for the fairground rides, Victorian carousel and food and drink. Make a night of it and soak up the festive atmosphere – it really is a treat!
Last year we added a new light trail experience to our festive calendar and went to Enchanted Eltham at Eltham Palace – a similar idea to Kew but on a smaller scale and less than half the price for English Heritage members. For little kids it was perfect! Magical, enchanting and atmospheric with surprises around each corner and lots to explore. Look out for the sword in the stone and try to pull it out. Illuminated outdoor walks are clearly a festive thing now and there are loads of them! Syon Park’s Enchanted Woodland looks good too.
Last year we also went to the Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House and Gardens but it looks like they are not doing it this year in favour of their new After Dark experience. I’m sure the Magical Lantern Festival will pop up in a different location and, if you can get the £5 tickets, it is well worth it!
We try not to overdo it with visits to Father Christmas, as trying to explain to curious and observant littluns why Santa Claus looks different each time can prove tricky. We tend to pick one main Santa trip as close to Christmas Eve as possible…and we’ve seen some great ones!
Harrods was a festive staple for a good few years- until last year when we got a bit fed up with it- and this year is an invite-only affair for valued customers! No chance there then but hey-ho, it was good for a while, but there are much better Father Christmas experiences (and equally good FC impersonators) to be had.
Last year we saw Saint Nick on board a vintage steam engine on our Day Out With Thomas and Meet Father Christmas. It’s limited as it only runs on weekends in December and is £16 each (adults and children). Book early to avoid disappointment – for littluns who like Thomas (and dads who like steam trains) it was a wonderful experience and the look on their little faces… #heartmelt. It’s an afternoon of interactive fun with the engines, Thomas characters milling about and entertaining the children, a ride on Thomas and a Father Christmas visit and present. There’s a little cafe for hot chocolate on a wintry afternoon and the kids were given balloon animals and swords. Deffo recommend this one!
Looking back I can now see why I was broke by New Year! We also went to the Santa Spectacular at Willows Activity Farm. Now, this was a bit of a tough one to explain to the OH as it cost just under £100 for 2 adults and 2 small children but it is an all inclusive full day out! We went on loads of rides, met Peter Rabbit and stuffed our own soft toy to take home. There is a full schedule to keep the kids entertained all day. Father Christmas is great and the kids get a key to the present room to choose whatever they want.
Kick-start your festive season with a trip to see Father Christmas at the London Wetland Centre from 8th December 2018. Normal admission applies plus £6 (in cash) to see Father Christmas. We did this a few years ago and I remember that the Father Christmas was much better than expected for £6- but the queue was mega! You can’t pre-book so you just have to stand in-line…for ages!! In the end, we left the dads in the queue and the mums and kids went off and kept in radio contact! It’s only on for a couple of weekends and tickets are on sale from 1st November.
We tend to steer clear of the grottoes offered by the likes of Westfield, Winter Wonderland and, God forbid, Lapland UK, preferring instead to enjoy a more traditional, authentic and mildly less commercial experience! This year we will visit Père Noël and explore Christmas Past at the 500-year-old Sutton House. This is cheap as chips for National Trust members at £2 a pop!
We also plan to experience ‘A Christmas Carol’ themed traditional Christmas at Hever Castle and, if time allows, we’ll take the littluns to the Winter’s Tail at Chessington. We did this a couple of years ago with friends and the Father Christmas and grotto at Chessington is fantastic!
We always take the littluns to a pantomime or play – this year we are going to see a (very) modern version of Sleeping Beauty at Stratford East . I’m also thinking about Stick Man at Leicester Square Theatre or Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas at the Lyric, Hammersmith. Both are perfect for littluns at 55 and 60 minutes long and £10-15 each.
December is exciting and expensive, exhilarating and exhausting, but it is full of fun, family and making memories. And now I can’t wait!
Whatever you and yours do, Enjoy! Amy x