It’s December, and I hope you’re ready for a whole slew of posts about things to do in London at Christmastime, because I’m ready to do them ALL and report back.
Last year I had a new baby, and so couldn’t handle that much advance planning for Christmas activities (though looking back, we still managed to do an awful lot for someone with a newborn… see Christmas 2016 recaps Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6).
Well, this year I have been on top of it. I started booking things in October, and have pretty much overbooked the diary full of festive cheer. Since we don’t know whether this could be our last Christmas here, and since E is 4 1/2 and has just hit that fun peak Christmas magic stage, I want to do as much as possible this year. We are going to completely Christmas ourselves out.
The nice thing about having done so much advance planning is now December is here and everything is already booked and we can just enjoy going to the things I’ve got tickets for.
Last year we went to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, a large temporary amusement park, but this year there’s a similar thing set up on Clapham Common, not far from where we live. So this weekend we bundled up the kids and rode our bikes over to Winterville.
Winterville has the typical fun fair/carnival rides and games and noise, though they’ve tried to theme it for Christmas/winter.
(The horse ride they’d turned into reindeer by stretching reindeer masks over the horse heads. The effect was truly terrifying, made more so by the Chipmunks Christmas album being blasted at an ungodly decibel level.) (And speaking of terrifying…:)
In addition, there’s a roller disco, a small ice skating rink, plonk golf (whatever that is?), entertainment in the “Spiegeltent,” a puppet theatre, street food cart pods (yes! so much better than typical crappy fair food stalls), and bars selling beer plus festive options like hot mulled wine, Bailey’s hot chocolate, and frozen toffee vodka shots.
Backyard Cinema have set up a “Winter Night Garden,” where you go through a “secret” wardrobe door and into a “magical” (and fully heated) forest, where you can watch a film from the comfort of a beanbag sofa. It sounds like fun, and they’re doing a lot of popular Christmas movies I love, but it’s also something like £22 a person, plus of course I’d want to buy a drink from the bar, so I decided I had to draw the line somewhere in my Christmastime event booking.
Entry to Winterville is free (and they even allow dogs on leads), so we could go back again this month to do other activities if we choose to. Or even just to eat at the food carts!
We let E choose three rides to go on, which are absurdly overpriced, but I had picked up a couple of 2-for-1 ride tickets at a local business, so we did get a bit of a discount there. She did the flying elephants and the giant wheel with M, and I went on the Santa’s sleigh mini rollercoaster with her.
Then we went to one of the two food cart pods, which has tables in the middle, as well as, thankfully, heat lamps overhead. M got this ridiculous “Christmas burger,” featuring a fried turkey breast. Ridiculous in a fantastically good way. And for a side, duck fat potatoes with cranberry chutney, chestnut stuffing, bread sauce mayo, pickled red onions, and a pot of gravy for dipping. Why not? It’s Christmas!
I’d booked tickets in advance for the Christmas puppet show, Mimi and the Mountain Dragon, and M took E after lunch.
Then there were kids’ activities in the Spiegeltent this afternoon, so they got some hot chocolate with torched marshmallow fluff and E happily did some Christmas crafting and got “glitter tattoos” and learned some circus skills. In case college isn’t her thing, it’s good to have something to fall back on.
The two things Winterville seems to be missing, which Hyde Park has, are Christmas market stalls selling handicrafts and Father Christmas’ grotto, where you can meet the jolly big elf himself. There was one little market tent, but it wasn’t very big, and the stuff being sold inside was… kind of weird.
Crazy sparkly costume stuff that you’d wear to, I don’t know, a rave or something I guess? A festival I’m not cool enough to attend? And there was literally a table selling what appeared to be handmade, artisanal… S&M supplies. I’m just glad I didn’t have E with me when I wandered through there. When I reported back to M on this, he just shrugged and said, “London, man. Something for everyone.”
I’ll update this post if we go back to Winterville for anything else; and stay tuned for more London Christmas activity posts to come!