The Kid-Centric Winter Break Guide
Weather is often the deciding factor when planning winter break activities, which is why save for a few select outdoor options, the holiday-themed happening and cultural events listed here are predominantly indoors, and appeal just as much to kids as they do to the accompanying adults. The best part: a good chunk of these won’t cost you a dime.
Dennis Severs House18 Folgate St., Spitalfields | +44.20.7247.4013
Dennis Severs was a quirky American collector who lived in the UK from the 60's through to his passing in the 90's. During his time in London, he not only acquired a beautiful Grade II listed Georgian townhouse, but also all the antiques to fill it. He made up a fictional family that lived in the house during the 18th- and 19th-century and proceeded to acquire antique furniture, books, ceramics and many, many doo-dads to create the illusion of their having lived there—there are layers upon layers of history in each jam-packed room. In that sense the house is more of a story book than a house museum. It's open year round, but it feels like the perfect dose of Victoriana fantasy right around Christmastime.
Battersea Go Ape & Mini GolfChelsea Bridge Gate., Battersea | +44.20.8871.7537
This zip-line obstacle course in the trees at Battersea Park is among the most challenging of the courses made by Go Ape—a tree top adventure company that's widespread in the UK—which makes it only for the bravest little ones. Perhaps the greatest thing is that the course is made for kids and adults alike, and has trained professionals to shepherd kids through, which means their faint-hearted parents can hang out below and have a pizza at the café. After swinging, crawling, and zip-lining through the trees back on earth there's a nicely manicured mini-golf course and a super kid-friendly café. Battersea is one of London's most beautiful parks and this makes for a great day out (even if it's a little chilly).
The Lorax103 The Cut., Southwark | +44.844.871.7628
With a somewhat positive ending to the COP21 in Paris, the eco-musical adaptation of this Dr. Seuss classic feels totally relevant, and most of all plain fun. The Lorax is the first children's musical that the Old Vic's new director Matthew Warchus has brought on, and having produced the hit show Matilda, we think he can spy a hit. Besides the touching story adapted by the man behind the hit Charlie & the Chocolate Factory musical, and the score—composed by Noah & the Whale frontman Charlie Fink—it's the skilled puppeteering of the Lorax and his Hummingfish and Swomee pals that makes the show. December 4th through January 16th. Ages 5+
A Christmas Carol85-88 St Martin's Ln., Covent Garden | +44.870.950.0920
The theatrical bells and whistles that went into staging this classic Dickens play are enough to lure the crowds, but it's actor Jim Broadbent's stellar performance as Scrooge that takes this production to the next level. He's just as crotchety and misanthropic as you want a Scrooge to be but with a sympathetic side. This, plus the way the characters, puppets, and sets seem to literally pop up from the pages of an old book, make this much more appetizing than watching one of the countless screen interpretations at home on TV. The recommended age is 10+ as, true to the tale, there are some dark, scary moments.
Alexander Calder: Performing SculptureTate Modern, Bankside | +44.20.7887.8888
There are many great museum shows worth taking the kids to, but this one seems particularly appropriate, not only for Calder's famous kinetic mobiles, but for his early, more figurative works in wire, especially his Circus. Before diving into abstraction, he spent many years making hundreds of animal wire sculptures and figurines which he then created and filmed a mini Circus puppet show around. Print out a kids packat home after visiting: This is a show that will surely inspire a mobile and puppet-making session at home. Through April 3rd.
Ice Skating at the Natural History MuseumNatural History Museum, Cromwell Rd. | +44.20.7942.5000
There are countless outdoor ice skating rinks open in London around the holidays, but the Swarowski rink at the Natural History Museum tops our list for its spaciousness, festive lighting, and proximity to food and other child-friendly activities. And, kids who might not be ready yet to slip on a pair of skates can have a twirl on the beautiful merry-go-round next door. After skating, head into the museum, across the street to the V&A or down the road for a pastry at Pâtisserie des Rêves.
Kew Gardens After DarkKew, Richmond, Surrey | +44.20.8332.5655
This being home of one of the very first Christmas trees ever decorated in the UK in the 18th-century, to Royal Botanic Gardens and Kew certainly know how to do Christmas. Their mile-long night time trail walk through the property sparkles in streams of light in every color and lavishly decorated pine Christmas trees. The "Holly Bush" Choir treats visitors to carols along the way, there's mulled wine for the adults, and sleigh rides with Santa for the littlest visitors. In its third year, this is one of the most popular holiday activities in London so be sure to book a timed entry.
Winter WonderlandHyde Park
Each year Winter Wonderland descends upon Hyde Park, swallowing some serious acreage on the south side of the park with rides for all ages, its iconic ferris wheel, Cirque Beserk performances, an ice rink, cotton candy, hot chocolate, German sausage hot dogs, a Tyrolean Christmas market, and everything else a kid could possibly desire out of a Christmas-themed park. It's a kid's dream come true and quite possibly every parent's worst nightmare all in one, but so worth it for the joy it brings the kids.
Biscuiteers School of Icing194 Kensington Park Rd., Kensington | +44.87.0458.8358
Biscuiteers are the masters of the iced cookie as evidenced by their sweet Notting Hill shop where you can find a cookie—or biscuit as the Brits call it—for just about any occasion. Inside the Boutique there's also a year-round School of Icing for kids and adults, offering two hour classes for all ages. With the Holidays being icing's prime-time, this seems like a perfect activity whether you book a class at the boutique or an at-home party for your kids. Pre-teens to adults will love it here (and have the patience to make it through two hours, snacks included).
The NutcrackerBow St. | +18.104.22.168.12.00
Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is a must when the holiday season rolls in, especially for parents with young children. Every year, the Royal Ballet pulls out all the stops at the Royal Opera House with totally dreamlike, glittery sets, costumes, and choreography—in a nutshell, a child's total fantasy. From December 8 to January 14. Photo: Jason Bell