17 Great Things To Book For Children This Christmas

England might be in a second lockdown, but that doesn’t mean December – and all its family-friendly traditions – is totally off the cards. From socially distanced children’s shows to winter lights trails, here are the Christmas activities that are ready to go and worth booking ahead.

LONDON

Santa’s Grotto at Hamleys
The Santa’s Grotto at Hamleys toy shop on Regent Street is hosting a special experience for children to take part in seasonal activities at the North Pole, spend time with Santa and receive a gift bag to take home. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, this year’s grotto sessions will only allow one bubble/family to enter at a time.
 
188-196 Regent Street, West End, W1B 5BT; early December-24th December
 
Visit Hamleys.com
 
The Nutcracker at Royal Opera House
Peter Wright's production of The Nutcracker has been enchanting children and adults alike since its first performance by the Royal Ballet in 1984. Drawing on Tchaikovsky's iconic score and designs by Julia Trevelyan Oman, this magical production aims to open in December for a reworked, Covid-safe version of the festive favourite. If all else fails, we predict a live screening, similar to those shown on the Royal Opera House’s website during the first lockdown.
 
Bow Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 9DD; 5th December-3rd January 
 
Visit ROH.org.uk

My Christmas Orchestral Adventure at Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall hopes to open its doors this December with a programme of festive favourites, welcoming a live audience for a much-needed celebration of Christmas. The season will feature essentials from the hall’s Christmas traditions, including Christmas carols, Guy Barker’s Big Band Christmas and the family show, My Christmas Orchestral Adventure. Covid-19 secure measures include socially distanced seating, e-tickets, deep cleaning, staggered entry times, temperature checks, a face-covering policy, and sanitising stations throughout the venue.
 
Kensington Gore, South Kensington, SW7 2AP; various dates throughout December
 
Visit RoyalAlbertHall.com
 
The Gruffalo’s Child at Alexandra Palace
Internationally acclaimed theatre company Tall Stories is planning to bring its celebrated production of The Gruffalo’s Child to the Alexandra Palace Theatre for a limited Christmas season. Join the Gruffalo’s Child on her adventurous mission in this magical musical stage adaptation of the much-loved picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Suitable for children aged three and over, the performance will last 55 minutes, without an interval.
 
Alexandra Palace Way, Wood Green, N22 7AY; 5th December-3rd January
 
Visit AlexandraPalace.com
 
Festive Lights at Kew Gardens
Returning for its eighth year, Kew’s winter trail is set to return with old favourites and new light installations. Visitors can expect bursts of colour and enchanting optics as they explore Kew Gardens’ Unesco World Heritage landscape after dark. New for this year, visitors can wander through a tunnel covered with a canopy of glowing, colour-changing stars. Further along the trail, a returning favourite – the Cathedral of Light – will twinkle with thousands of fairy lights for that all-important Instagram moment. 
 
Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AE; until 3rd January
 
Visit Kew.org
 

Magic Goes Wrong at Vaudeville Theatre
Magic Goes Wrong is the box-office hit created by Mischief Theatre with Las Vegas legends Penn & Teller. Set to return for a limited run at the Vaudeville Theatre from 10th December, it sees the Mischief company play a hapless gang of magicians presenting a charity event. As the accidents spiral out of control, so does their fundraising target. In the auditorium, capacity has been reduced to ensure social distancing. In addition to hand sanitation, face coverings and track and trace, measures will include contactless tickets, temperature testing and the deep clean and sanitation of the theatre. 
 
404 Strand, Covent Garden, WC2R 0NH; 10th December-31st January 
 
Visit MagicGoesWrong.com
 
Pantoland at The Palladium
This Christmas, the home of pantomime will welcome back stage favourites Julian Clary, Elaine Paige, Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers and Gary Wilmot as well as Ashley Banjo & Diversity and Charlie Stemp. Celebrating the very best of pantomime, with comedy in abundance and big show-stopping numbers, this star-filled extravaganza is due to play to a socially distanced audience for three weeks only. Look out for West End stars Beverley Knight and Jac Yarrow making their Palladium panto debuts.
 
8 Argyll Street, Soho, W1F 7TF; 12th December-3rd January
 
Visit LWTheatres.co.uk

AROUND THE UK

Ice Skating at Beaverbrook
Beaverbrook has prepared a programme of festivities including a new ice-skating rink in its grounds, which are surrounded by the Surrey Hills. Guests will be able to glide on the ice while listening to yuletide melodies, and trying hot chocolate and sugared waffles from the rink-side cabin. ‘Beaverbrook on Ice’ will be available to day visitors and hotel guests staying for overnighters, spa days or dining experiences at one of the hotel’s restaurants. 
 
Reigate Road, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 8QX; 4th December-31st January
 
Visit Beaverbrook.co.uk
 
Virtual Santa’s Grotto
Boo Productions’ virtual grotto is now open for public bookings. Each personalised experience will feature a pre-recorded mini-show by the ‘Toy Maker Elves’ before each family, one at a time, is Zoomed into the grotto for a live chat with Santa. Bookings run every 30 minutes, during which time four families will get to see Santa and watch the elf show.
 
Visit BooProductions.com

A Winter Walk at The Newt
Encouraging families to get out in the fresh air, The Newt’s gardens, woodland and deer park will be open every day except Christmas Day. Visitors over the festive period can enjoya mapped Tree Trail celebrating the estate’s ancient trees. For the first time, the team across the estate – chefs, butchers, bakers and cyder makers – have created a range of fresh and pantry products for festive feasting and gifting. Spiced preserves, fine cyder, infused chocolate, Christmas puddings, fresh groceries and luxury hampers – covering your entire Christmas Day menu – can now be delivered to locals and across the country.
 
Bruton, Somerset, BA7 7NG; year round
 
Visit TheNewtInSomerset.com

Digital Santa Claus
Digital Wonder Emporium has launched a selection of festive events. For children, we most like the sound of ‘Meet Santa Claus’. For £20, the experience will include a personalised digital invitation, a 20-minute meet-and-greet with Santa Claus, and a handwritten letter from the North Pole encouraging your child to be good.
 
Visit DigitalWonderEmporium.com
 
Father Christmas in Kent
This year, Father Christmas will be visiting children at their front doors, along with his trusted elf and a sack of presents. Available in Kent, there will be ten visits per day, with each offering a 15 to 20-minute private visit from Father Christmas. Each child will be given an age-appropriate gift by an elf – who’ll be wearing PPE – and Santa will know each child’s name in advance.
 
Visit FatherChristmasInKent.co.uk

Hogwarts in the Snow at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
The annual Hogwarts in the Snow feature is set to return to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London this December. New for 2020, the cobbled stones and shop fronts of Diagon Alley will be given a festive makeover, draped in layers of filmmaking snow. Though Diagon Alley was not seen in the snow in the films, the same set was used for parts of Hogsmeade during the wintery scenes that see Harry make use of his invisibility cloak to join the school trip without permission. A fan favourite, the Hogwarts castle model returns this year, and will also be transformed with a dusting of snow.
 
Leavesden, Watford, WD25 7LR; from 3rd December
 
Visit WBStudioTour.co.uk
 
Ice Skating at Hampton Court
It’s all about atmosphere at Hampton Court Palace’s ice rink, which will open to the public for its annual run in December. In the gardens of Henry VIII’s historic home, this open-air rink offers visitors the chance to skate in the surrounds of a Tudor palace, with plenty of space for both novices and experts.
 
East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AS; from 3rd December
 
Visit HamptonCourtPalaceIceRink.co.uk
 
Panto at Cadbury World
Children can enjoy a chocolate-filled day at Cadbury World this December. Tickets cover entry to the pantomime (arranged in a socially distanced format) and a Santa experience including gifts that elves will hand out to visiting children. 
 
Birmingham, B30 1JR; from 3rd December
 
Visit CadburyWorld.co.uk
 
Light Show at Thursford
Thursford’s award-winning ‘Enchanted Journey of Light’ will open to the public on 3rd December. For over 40 years, the tiny Norfolk village of Thursford has entertained more than 6m visitors. This year, the experience will include a new indoor Wonderland Trail covering a maze of steam engines, fairy-tale characters and an immersive experience involving one of the UK’s biggest kinetic light displays. The trail will lead through to a four-acre Lantern Light Extravaganza, a beautiful outdoor installation of luminous sculptures from a fantasy forest of jungle animals to the wilds of the North Pole. 
 
Fakenham, Norfolk, NR21 0AS; from 3rd December
 
Visit Thursford.com
 
Virtual Sleigh Ride
This Christmas, Santa can be beamed live into your home. The interactive experience – this one from Wonder Adventures – will include stories, songs, a virtual sleigh ride and a personalised shoutout for each child participating. Make sure to book in advance.
 
Visit WonderAdventures.co.uk

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