The Book of Dust
Eighteen years after his ground-breaking production of His Dark Materials at the National Theatre, Nicholas Hytner returns to Philip Pullman’s parallel universe to direct a gripping adaptation by Bryony Lavery. Pullman sets The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage 12 years before his epic His Dark Materials trilogy. Two young people and their dæmons, with everything at stake, find themselves at the centre of a terrifying manhunt. In their care is a tiny child called Lyra Belacqua, and in that child lies the fate of the future. And as the waters rise around them, powerful adversaries conspire for mastery of Dust: salvation to some, the source of infinite corruption to others. A great show for older children.
3 Potters Fields Park, London Bridge, SE1 2SG; until 26th February
Skate At Somerset House
The Christmas holidays don’t start until you’ve hit the ice rink at Somerset House. This year, older children can skate day or night as Radio 1 DJs set the vibe with fun music. Little ones (or those who need a helping hand) can take lessons at the Skate School with National Ice Skating Association instructors. There’s also a pop-up from Hotel Chocolat, where you can buy sweet treats from the ‘Chocmobile’ or book chocolate workshops, as well as a pop-up chalet up from Jimmy Garcia where adults can buy après ski-style dishes while children hit the ice. Ice-skating tickets start from £11.
Strand, Covent Garden, WC2R 1LA; until 16th January
Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!
Matthew Bourne’s Christmas extravaganza this year is Nutcracker! With plenty of the master choreographer’s trademark wit, pathos and magical fantasy, Nutcracker! follows Clara’s bittersweet journey from a darkly comic Christmas Eve at Dr Dross’s Orphanage, through an ice-skating winter wonderland to the candy kingdom of Sweetieland. Tchaikovsky’s famous score and Anthony Ward’s sets and costumes will combine with Bourne’s choreography to create a fresh and irreverent interpretation of a traditional Christmas favourite, influenced by the lavish Hollywood musicals of the 1930s.
Rosebery Avenue, Islington, EC1R 4TN; until 30th January
Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever
Celebrating its tenth season in the West End, this beloved live show is running at Theatre Royal Haymarket until 2nd January. Peppa Pig is excited for a special day out with George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig – she thinks it’s going to be her best day ever. Get ready for a road-trip full of fun adventures: from castles to caves, dragons to dinosaurs and ice-creams to muddy puddles – there’s something for the whole family to enjoy, including Miss Rabbit, Mr Bull, Suzy Sheep, Gerald Giraffe and more.
Haymarket, St James’s, SW1Y 4HT; until 2nd January
The Storm Whale
Benji Davies’s award-winning children’s book is being brought to life at Little Angel Studios. This charming adaptation tells the story of Noi, who lives with his dad and their six cats by the sea. One winter, Noi rescues a little whale that washes up on the beach during a storm. The whale has to return to the water to live with his family, but when Noi’s dad goes out fishing the following winter, another huge storm strikes and Noi longs to see his whale friend again. A heart-warming tale about friendship, love and courage. Tickets start from £12.
132 Sebbon Street, Islington, N1 2EH; until 30th January
After entertaining families with two shows, Billionaire Boy and Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain Part Five, Birmingham Stage Company returns to London this Christmas with its Olivier Award-nominated production of David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny. When Friday night comes along, Ben knows it only means one thing – staying with Granny. There will be cabbage soup, cabbage pie and cabbage cake and Ben knows one thing for sure – it’s going to be so boring. What he doesn’t know is that Granny has a secret, and Friday nights are about to get a lot more exciting than he could ever imagine.
5 Gordon Street, West End, WC1H 0AH; until 9th January
Selfridges Christmas Market
If you’re taking the children to the West End for the day, stop off at Selfridges to visit its Christmas market on Edward Mews. There’s a selection of pop-up stalls, food vendors and fairground rides for the whole family. While the kids slide down the helter skelter and ride the carousel, adults can pick up a Christmas tree from Moyses Stevens, shop for decorations and accessories at the stalls, and stop off for hot buttered rum, warm apple cider or hot chocolate at the mulled wine bar. The street food stalls have something for everyone, from decadent pasta by Cheese Wheel to Tramshed Project burgers.
Edwards Mews, West End, W1U 1QZ; until 3rd January
Glow Live at Wakehurst
The sister site to Kew Gardens, Wakehurst’s winter lantern trail is back for its eighth year. As darkness falls, the gardens are brought to life with glowing lanterns, projections, immersive soundscapes and the UK’s tallest living Christmas tree, topped with 1,800 lights. This year's ‘Glow Wild’ trail reflects on the beauty of nature that has blossomed during the pause of the past year. The Carriage Ring food and drink stalls will be serving hot chocolate, sweet treats and roasted chestnuts, and a range of hot dishes will be available in the Stables Kitchen. The team also offers a limited number of 'quiet session' tickets, suitable for visitors with disabilities to make for a more comfortable visit while still experiencing the sensory benefits of the installation.
Haywards Heath, Sussex, RH17 6TN; until 2nd January
Hogwarts In The Snow
Potterheads will love this spellbinding experience at Warner Bros. Studios. The annual Hogwarts in the Snow experience sees the famous studios – where the Harry Potter movie franchise was filmed – turned into a winter grotto where children can see the sets in the snow. This year, the trees and woodland in the Forbidden Forest has been given a festive makeover with layers of snow, while the cobbled stones and magical shopfronts of Diagon Alley, Hagrid’s Hut and the Hogwarts castle model have also been given a festive touch. Don’t miss the enchanting Great Hall which has been dressed for the occasion with wreaths, flaming puddings, garlands and trees topped with witches on miniature broomsticks.
Warner Drive, Leavesden, Hertfordshire, WD25 7LP; until 16th January
Red Riding Hood
When it comes to panto, Theatre Royal Stratford is known for turning classic stories on their head. This year’s festive treat comes in the form of Red Riding Hood. Suitable for grandchildren of all ages – from little ones to teenagers – expect plenty of witty new songs, hilarious gags, and impressive sets and costumes that take you deep into the dark wood. As the story goes, Red Riding Hood has been sent to deliver her granny some treats, but when she’s stopped by a terrible wolf, havoc ensues.
Gerry Raffles Square, Stratford, E15 1BN; until 31st December
From the sound of the orchestra tuning up to the final bows and cheers, the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum is an essential Christmas treat for older children. This year, more than 100 dancers and musicians will bring The Nutcracker to life with world-class dancing, beautiful sets and – of course – Tchaikovsky’s ever-popular score. On a sparkling Christmas Eve in a frost-dusted Edwardian London, Clara and her enchanted Nutcracker doll discover a magical world, where she battles with the Mouse King and meets a handsome stranger. As the air grows colder, Clara and her valiant Nutcracker take a hot-air balloon ride across London to the glistening Land of Snow where her adventure really begins.
St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, WC2N 4ES; until 8th January
Frozen The Musical
Disney’s cinematic sensation has hit the West End. At Theatre Royal Drury Lane, little ones can see Elsa and Anna’s story on the stage for the first time in this new production. With special effects, impressive scenery and all the songs you know and love from the original film, rest assured the winter kingdom will look just as magical on stage as it does on screen. Suitable for the whole family. Tickets start from £20.
Catherine Street, Covent Garden, WC2B 5JF; until 28th February
Disney On Ice
Everyone’s favourite characters come to life though Disney On Ice, a live ice-skating show coming to The O2 this month. Now in its 40th year, the event is hosted by Micky, Minnie, Goofy and Donald Duck and features award-winning music, amazing costumes and state-of-the-art special effects. Guests will experience Moana and Maui’s journey to return the heart of Te Fiti; watch Rapunzel and Flynn go to great lengths to make her dream come true; and sing along with the likes of Ariel and Belle as they dance across the ice with their friends in tow.
The O2, Peninsula Square, Greenwich, SE10 0DX; 22nd December-2nd January
This impressive light trail offers a multi-sensory experience everyone can enjoy. Featuring light and sound artworks curated by artists from across the world, it’s a great way to spend a wintery morning or afternoon. Visitors can see the tallest LED Christmas tree in London, plus a range of interactive light installations including Yoni Alter’s City Lights. Visit Olympic Way to see the Reunited in Light photo exhibition, then make a beeline for the Art Trail on Bobby Moore Bridge, which has plenty of fun installations for children. Once you’ve seen the lights, treat the kids to hot chocolate and festive snacks from the food and drink stalls.
Wembley Park, Wembley, HA9 0RJ; until 27th February
Stick Man Live
If your children enjoyed the stage adaptation of The Gruffalo, they’ll love Stick Man Live at Leicester Square Theatre. In fact, the entire family can laugh along to this funny and original adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s story. What starts off as a morning jog becomes quite the misadventure for Stick Man: a dog wants to play fetch with him, a swan builds a nest with him, and he even ends up on a fire. How will Stick Man ever get back to the family tree in time for Christmas? Featuring dancing, puppetry, songs and live music.
6 Leicester Place, West End, WC2H 7BX; until 3rd January
Ice Skating at Hampton Court
It’s all about atmosphere at Hampton Court Palace’s ice rink, which is now open to the public for its annual run. 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. Available to book during the day and at night, tickets are on sale now.
East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AS; until 2nd January
*DISCLAIMER: Restrictions are changing daily, so please check the latest government advice before you book anything.