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Christmas activities: 12 festive things to do with the kids in London

Never bored: there is much for kids to do in London this Christmas (will stanley creative)
Never bored: there is much for kids to do in London this Christmas (will stanley creative)

Like Santa, London always delivers at this time of year. When it comes to serving up magical days out for families, the capital has plenty to offer.

From steam train rides with Santa to festive afternoon teas to panto giggles, here’s our guide to the best family-friendly events and activities.

Escape to an indoor festive wonderland at Kingdom of Winter

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Whisk the family over to Excel London, newly transformed into an enormous winter-themed wonderland. Kingdom of Winter promises indoor fun for children of all ages, including an ice rink, fairground rides and a Victorian carousel. You’ll need to wrap up warm for the ice adventure trail (pictured) and don’t miss the festive circus created by the renowned Circus Cortex. There are two food and drink villages for refuelling, a chalet-style bar for grown-ups plus an Alpine-inspired Christmas market to stock up on gifts. On-site parking ensures a stress-free experience for those with younger kids too.

From December 8 - January 7, ExCel London, E16 1XL, kingdomofwinter.com

All aboard the Santa Steam Express

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Is there a better way to get into the spirit of the season than a nostalgic journey on a classic steam train around the capital? Fans of Harry Potter or the classic Christmas movie The Polar Express will love jumping aboard the Santa Steam Express, on which voyagers are taken on a ninety-minute ride on a classic 1940s locomotive. Kids can take in the sights and get to work on themed activity sheets and a Christmas snack box, while grown-ups can indulge in mince pies and mulled wine. Santa, Mrs Claus and the elves will also make an appearance with presents in hand. This merry train departs from London Victoria on December 15, 18 and 21 at multiple intervals throughout the day, with three classes of tickets to pick from.

December 15, 18 and 21, London Victoria, SW1V 1JU, santa-express.steamdreams.co.uk

Delight in a classic tale with a modern twist at Chickenshed

Head over to north London’s iconic Chickenshed theatre to catch The Toymaker’s Child, a modern adaptation of Pinocchio. Expect a perfect blend of laughter and drama as a talented cast of over 200 perform this two-hour show. The story follows a toymaker worried about his only child, one who often plays alone and rarely brings friends home from school. Employing a magic 3D printer, the toymaker creates an AI companion, bearing the serial number PIN:0Cch10. The plot takes an unexpected turn when the toymaker’s world is thrown into mayhem. Suitable for ages five and over.

December 7 until January 13, Chickenshed, N14 4PE, chickenshed.org.uk

Get immersed in a festive world at Wishmas

This theatrical experience, complete with festive entertainment, whimsical sets, and beloved characters, invites guests to explore the heart-warming story of how wishes make their way to Santa. Created by the people behind Secret Cinema and located under Waterloo Station, the 75-minute performance has a similar set up to Shrek’s Adventure and Lapland UK, where you walk through themed, interactive rooms and play your part in the story. Little ones get to board the Christmas train and meet elves, robins and Santa along the way.

Until January 7, the Old Bauble Factory, SE1 7AD, wishmas.co.uk

Savour festive-themed treats

 (Press Handout)
(Press Handout)

There’s nothing like family bonding over a festive afternoon tea. Inspired by Frances Hodgston Burnett’s classic children’s tale The Secret Garden, this afternoon tea features beautifully-designed pastries and savoury creations crafted by chefs Mayank and Dharma, who recently appeared on Channel 4's Bake Off: The Professionals. Indulge on Christmas tree shaped brownies and cinnamon scones at the five-star Taj 51 Buckingham Gate (until January 2).

Those with younger children – aged 11 and under – may prefer The Langham London’s Children’s Afternoon Tea. Set in the dazzling Palm Court, kids can tuck into jigsaw-shaped sandwiches, gingerbread men and Valrhona hot chocolate, while the new festive afternoon tea in partnership with Liberty London, featuring show-stopping treats like jewelled-egg bauble filled with turkey and cranberries, is ideal for grown-ups (until December 31).

51 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AF, taj51buckinghamgate.co.uk, and Sheraton Grand, W1J 7BX, The Langham, W1B 1JA, marriott.com, palm-court.co.uk

Have a paw-some afternoon at Bluey’s Big Play

 (Credit Madison Square Garden)
(Credit Madison Square Garden)

Little ones who are fans of CBeebies’ animated hit Bluey will enjoy its UK stage premiere. Puppies Bluey and Bingo unleash a flurry of antics to wake dad up from his afternoon nap. Get ready for giggles, wiggles and a whole lot of fun during this 50-minute performance. Showing at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, this adaptation comes from the Windmill Theatre Co. with new music by Bluey composer Joff Bush and an original story by creator Joe Brumm.

December 20 – January 7, Southbank Centre, SE1 8XX, southbankcentre.co.uk

Get creative with Christmas crafts at Shepherds Bush Market

Immerse kids into the Christmas spirit by booking into one of the free craft sessions at Shepherds Bush Market, taking place every Saturday throughout December. Pick from Christmas pottery workshops guided by experienced ceramists, create your own wreath, decorate your own baubles and design personalised Santa sacks ready to be filled. Don’t miss the glorious West End Gospel Choir, who will be spreading festive cheer with their rendition of some seasonal ditties, including pop classics.

Until December 24, W12 8DF, shepherdsbushmarket.org

Watch Elf in epic surroundings

 (Pres Handout)
(Pres Handout)

Christmas doesn’t feel the same without watching Will Ferrell’s madcap comedy. Elf superfans however now have the chance to take their traditional rewatch to another level, as the heart-warming story of Buddy gets the Films in Concert treatment at the Royal Albert Hall. Watch the modern classic on the big screen while John Debney’s wonderful score is played live to the picture by the talented Philharmonic Orchestra, led by conductor Benjamin Pope.

December 9, Royal Albert Hall, SW7 2AP, royalalberthall.com

Have a giggle at a Christmas panto

 (Press Handout)
(Press Handout)

You can always rely on a panto to make the holiday season even merrier. Travel to Neverland with national treasures Julian Clary and Jennifer Saunders, who headline J.M. Barrie's beloved tale of Peter Pan at the London Palladium (from December 9 to January 14). Expect special effects, outrageous costumes, sing-a-longs and plenty of silliness for audiences of all ages. The Lyric Hammersmith, meanwhile, present their cheeky take of Cinderella, who is reimagined as a market stall owner in Shepherds Bush. She encounters famous royal Prince Henry who is trying to escape the paparazzi. It’s ideal for ages six and over (until January 6).

Throughout December, palladiumpantomime.com

Get your skates on for Disney on Ice

Grab your mouse ears and take a trip down memory lane with Mickey, Minnie and a host of other Disney favourites as they relive some cherished tales. Expect singing, world-class skating and spectacular stunts at Disney on Ice Presents 100 Years of Wonder, a two-hour extravaganza at the O2 Arena.

December 21-31, London O2, SE10 0DX, disneyonice.com

Learn about caring and sharing with ‘Elfmas’ at KidZania

 (Kidzania)
(Kidzania)

Teach children the importance of giving back with a charitable event. KidZania is the indoor mini-city in which four to 14 year-olds can get their first taste of independence through immersive role-play. This Christmas, families are invited to embrace the spirit of the season with Elfmas, a creative experience centred around caring and sharing.

December 2 – January 7, Kidzania, W12 7GA, kidzania.co.uk

Swing and skate at Battersea Power Station

 (Joshua Atkins)
(Joshua Atkins)

Grinchy teens looking for something a little less sparkly should make their way to Birdies for a round of crazy golf. Located beneath the arches of Battersea Power Station, this nine-hole obstacle course tests your putting speed and accuracy through various Instagrammable holes which include pressure pads, vivid lighting and various ramps, twists and tunnels. Food and drink includes Christmas turkey burgers, pigs-in-blankets plus mulled wine and gingerbread espresso martinis for grown-ups. Carry on the fun at Glide where you can skate around the spectacular 30ft Christmas tree with views of the towering arches.

Until January 7, Battersea, SW11 8BJ, playbirdies.com, glidebatterseapowerstation.co.uk