Best London Christmas activities for children

Make the season even more magical for your little ones at these great Christmas events for children

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Covent Garden Christmas

The cobbled piazza and market buildings are aglow with fairy lights and giant baubles once more, turning Covent Garden's traditional shopping arcades into a winter wonderland for the festive season. A huge Christmas tree glows with red and white lights on the west side of the square, and a rather magnificent silver reindeer stands majestically on a pile of gifts on the east side. Joining him every Saturday afternoon from noon until 4pm will be some live reindeer which visitors can help to feed and take photos with.

Every Saturday until Dec 20

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Christmas at Kew Gardens

Kew's annual seasonal makeover is back. For 2014, a glittery, mile-long trail, guided by snowflakes, will wind its way through the landscape. French studio design team TILT are creating 27 botanically inspired light installations, which will be dotted along the route. The large-scale pieces (the biggest is 12 by 12 metres), designed to give the appearance of fireworks frozen in time, include giant luminous lily-of-the-valleys and light-up thistles.

Wed Nov 26 - Sat Jan 3

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Victorian Santa's Grotto

Father Christmas has settled into a secret grotto on an atmospheric Victorian street, and has luckily stowed plenty of presents in there with him. Young visitors can tell him all their special Christmas wishes and can have their photo taken with the magical man himself. Each child will receive a gift, but photographs cost extra.

Sat Dec 6 - Tue Dec 23

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Vauxhall Christmas Tree Maze

Hundreds of locally sourced, fairy light-decked Nordmann Firs have been carefully arranged to create this festive maze, which covers nearly a square kilometre of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Visitors who work their way to the middle will get to meet a very special Christmassy guest. The maze is neighboured by an outdoor ice rink, street food stalls, a cabin bar and a craft market. Booking recommended.

Fri Nov 21 - Sun Jan 4

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The Snowman

Birmingham Repertory Theatre's stage show for all the family based on Raymond Briggs's modern classic is back for another Christmas season. A delight for kids, using dance, music and storytelling to summon up the feeling of walking in the air, with choreography by Robert North and featuring a full live orchestra. This show is one of our top family-friendly Christmas shows.

Wed Nov 26 - Sun Jan 4

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Hyde Park's Santa Land

Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is the perfect setting for a magical Christmas grotto. It’s free to see Father Christmas and every tot will walk away with a trinket and a photo memory. Last year the Big Man gave away 50,000 gifts. And no need to worry about the queue, as Santa’s little elves will be on hand to entertain your kids. The Grotto is located in Santa Land, which also has rides, a toy-making workshop and a little train.

Fri Nov 21 - Sun Jan 4

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The Whippersnappers Winter Wonderland Experience

We never knew Father Christmas was so fond of Dulwich, but judging by the huge team of magical helpers he's brought with him for this festive experience in a Victorian park-keepers' lodge he must think it pretty special. Families will be welcomed to the grotto by elves bearing mulled wine, hot chocolate and mince pies, and a whole sackful of fun activities await once you're inside; children will help out in the toy workshop, decorate gingerbread decorations in Mrs Claus' Christmas Kitchen, work on crafts with the Christmas Tree Fairy, sing seasonal songs and meet the big man with the bag who'll be giving out enchanting presents. The whole experience lasts an hour, and profits will help fund Whippersnappers' work delivering activities for children with disabilities.

Sat Dec 6 - Wed Dec 24

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Christmas Light Trail at Hampton Court

Wander through the beautiful palace gardens and its famous maze after dark with the help of an interactive light trail which reacts to your route and actions. The illuminations on a trail through the gardens will bring the trees and plants to life as you pass, and the East Front of the palace itself will be lit with colours that change according to audience movement. Seasonal food and drink will be available for those you exhaust themselves while jumping about in the light sensors.

Fri Dec 12 - Tue Dec 23

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Southbank Centre Winter Festival

Alongside its array of festive shows and performances the Southbank Centre will be celebrating the coldest season with a fistful of fun pop-ups and activities. Little ones can explore the Christmas Tree Maze, ride on the Southbank Express, visit some giant illuminated rabbits and drink hot chocolate under a huge wooden Christmas tree.

Until Sun Jan 11

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Winterville

East London will gain a festive village this December, within which will be a whole kids quarter packed with family-friendly activities. Visit the House of Fairytales for immersive craft sessions and storytelling, trot around the park in a horse-drawn carriage, take a spin on the fairground rides and even meet Father Christmas himself. Other family-friendly attractions include the covered ice rink and the roller disco.

Find out more about Winterville

Tue Dec 2 - Thurs Jan 1

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December is never more exciting than when you're littler than Santa's elves. They've been waiting for this all year; help to make their festive dreams come true at these great Christmas events for kids. And there's lots more wintery fun to be had at London's ice rinks, Santa's grottos, Xmas lights and Christmas theatre shows.

More festive fun for your young ones

Outdoor ice rinks

Get your skates on: London's outdoor ice rinks Popular events this week Lord Mayor's Show and Fireworks 2013 The flamboyant procession involves thousands of people from a huge variety of London organisations and hundreds of horses, along with marching bands and floats. Starting from Mansion House at 11am, it winds its way through the historic streets of the Square Mile to the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. At 11.45am the State Coach leaves Guildhall and travels to Mansion House to pick up the new Lord Mayor, joining the procession near the back. Going out, the parade travels past St Paul’s Cathedral, where the Lord Mayor will pause to receive a blessing. On the way back, between 1pm and 2.30pm, the route goes via Embankment. It’s not Boris who’s the centre of attention on this occasion. The new mayor being celebrated is the annually elected ambassador of the City of London. In 2013 the incumbent is leading lawyer Fiona Woolf, only the second woman ever to hold the post (the first, Mary Donaldson, served from 1983 to 1984). What began as a reassuringly public way for the Lord Mayor to swear an oath of loyalty to King John had become a popular pageant by the sixteenth century. It featured in Pepys’s diaries and in works by Canaletto and Hogarth. Originally, the mayor travelled by river; later he rode on horseback – until 1711, when Sir Gilbert Heathcote fell off and broke his leg. The magnificent State Coach subsequently commissioned from

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Santa's grottos

Christmas in London Discover all the festive activities to be enjoyed in London this Christmas, including markets, Christmas lights, pantomimes and carols. What could make Christmas more magical than an encounter with Father Christmas himself? Find out where to meet the man in red this winter with Time Out's guide to Santa's Christmas grottos in London. Santa's grottos in London The London Zoo Christmas Journey What sets this grotto apart from the rest is that your little ones can actually meet Santa’s reindeer – adding that extra touch of magic and wonder. In the daily keeper’s talk, you’ll find out why the critters all have to be of the female persuasion. Of course they’ll also meet Father Christmas, and carousel rides and other animal demonstrations complete the experience. Make sure to book your tickets in advance. Harrods Christmas Grotto Christmas shopping while dragging grumbling children behind is hardly going to put you in the festive spirit. Luckily, Harrods Christmas Grotto is back this season to give your little ones magical memories – and give your shopping schedule a little breathing room as you take a break with your kiddies. New this year is the 'Pre-School Experience', specifically for tots under four: just like the 'Classic Experience' for the bigger kids, the sessions give toddlers a chance to meet Father Christmas and take home a Harrods book, badge and Christmas chocolate (Mon-Fri 10am-11:30am, throughout November). You ca

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Christmas theatre for kids

Help make Christmas even more magical while they're still gullible with a festive theatre show created especially with small people in mind. Christmas in London Discover all the festive activities to be enjoyed in London this Christmas, including markets, Christmas lights, pantomimes and carols. See our guide to Christmas in London Christmas shows for kids (5-8 years) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland When she falls down the rabbit hole, Alice discovers a strange fantasy world, with Cheshire cats and mad march hares. Simon Reade's thrilling adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic features original songs. Ages 6+. Cinderella: A Fairytale Travelling Light and the Bristol Tobacco Factory's fiesty take on the story of Cinderella gave the St James Theatre an enchanting 2012 Christmas show, which was nominated for an Olivier Award. Lisa Kerr was wonderful as Ella, a young girl who takes solace in her woodland bird friends after her father remarries. She's not named in the current publiicty, so presumably a cast change is likely, though the fact she performed here earlier this year in Complicite's 'Lionboy' gives us some hope. Ages 6+. Christmas Claytime Encourage your kids to make up theatre of their own by taking them to this show from Indefinite Articles. Sally Brown and Steve Tiplady perform this Christmas treat which is created with the help of audience members who share their ideas. Ages 7 and under. Dickens Abridged This fast-paced musical comedy sprints through Charles Dicken

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Christmas lights in London

We're still hearing which 'celebrities' and pop 'artists' will be flicking the switch to light up London's high streets this Christmas and when they'll do it, and will continue to add to this page as we receive news. In the meantime, satisfy your festive decoration cravings with our gallery of lights from Christmases past. Christmas in London Discover all the festive activities to be enjoyed in London this Christmas, including markets, Christmas lights, pantomimes and carols. See our guide to Christmas in London More festive features Ice skating in London With the advent of winter, atmospheric ice rinks pop up all over London. Get your skates on!Read more Christmas shows and pantos Pantomimes, family shows and something a little more alternative for theatrical delights this DecemberRead more London's Christmas lights See London at its dazzling best as it reveals its decorations for the festive periodRead more Christmas markets and fairs Wrap up your festive shopping with London's Christmas markets and fairsRead more Santa's grottos What could make Christmas more magical than an encounter with Father Christmas himself?Read more Christmas carol concerts Get into the seasonal spirit with a rousing chorus or two at one of these festive carol concertsRead more Christmas party venues London venues that are ready and waiting to help you have a good time this winterRead more Where to buy a Christmas tree Will you be going for real fir? Here's our guide to getting the perfect tree

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