Free Holiday Activities in London 2018
We say bah humbug to spending lots of money on family outings this holiday season, London has a wealth of free family festive fun just waiting to be discovered. We’ve wrapped up some ideas for free activities to do with kids in London this December. Open and get merry….
1. A Docklands Christmas Carol
Transport your family back in time to Victorian London with this immersive performance of A Christmas Carol, done docklands style. The museum’s galleries will be transformed into a wintry Dickensian London setting where you’ll encounter Ebenezer Scrooge, the Cratchits and some friendly ghosts. See if you can help cheer up grumpy ol’Scrooge and get him to swap his trademark “bah humbug” bluster for something a bit merrier.
Fancy dress is very much encouraged (but optional). The performances will include walking and standing for long periods of time. Afterwards you can create your own wintry crafts to take home and deck the halls with.
When: 1-9 Dec. Performances at 11am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm & 4pm
Where: Museum of London Docklands, No.1 Warehouse, West India Quay, London E14 4AL
Booking: Performances are free, but ticketed. Tickets will be allocated from the front desk.
Ages: Aimed at families with children aged 5+ but all ages welcome. Max 3 children per adult, max 4 adults per child. No unaccompanied adults or children.
More details: website
2. Festive lights and wow-factor shop window displays
Central London is dolled up in its festive best now, there are so many “oooh” and “aaahhh” moments for all ages to enjoy. Carnaby Street, Regent Street, Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Marylebone and other areas are twinkling with light displays and incredible shop windows.
Tips to avoid finding yourself dragging around moaning, hungry kids – Go early if possible, it’s dark by 4pm. Create your own family-friendly walking tour or bus tour (not free but with the bus hopper fare you can transfer buses as many times as you like within an hour of first touching in) to maximize the glitz gazing. Be sure to pack some snacks and flasks of hot chocolate to keep the little ones warm and energized for the experience. Do you have a camera at home that you never use, now that you use your phone for pictures? Let the kids carry it along to take their own photos of the holiday displays. Draw or print out a quick map or trail of your anticipated route and let them mark off / place stickers on the destinations as you reach them. If everyone needs to warm up, duck into a department store and gawk at the decorations for a few minutes before heading back out into the glow.
3. Islington Menorah Lighting festivities
The Jewish festival of light is getting a proper launch party in Islington Green. Everyone is invited to come celebrate the first night of Chanukah and see the lighting of a brand new Chanukiah (a nine-branched Menorah) created by the Jewish community of Islington during collaborative workshops with local artists. There will be lots to see do and eat here – make your own candles with the Jewish Museum, watch a light show, listen to live klezmer music, play the dreidel, and sing and dance to Jewish tunes. Ahh and yes yum yes, there will be free latkes, doughnuts, Chanukah gelt and hot cocoa to enjoy.
Get there on the early side, last years’ celebrations attracted crowds of up to 1,000 people, bringing together Jewish and non-Jewish members of Islington community.
When: 2 Dec, 5-7pm
Where: Islington Green N1 8DU
Ages: All ages
Booking: Free, just turn up
More details: website
4. Winter Festival at Southbank Centre
The Southbank Centre’s Winter Festival is packed with a variety of jolly activities and colourful experiences and many are freeeeeee gloriously free! Following are a few family-friendly recommendations from their winter programme:
Children choir performances
A festive high-energy performance by primary school choirs from across the borough of Lewisham.
When: 12 December ; Starts 6pm, approx run time 60 mins
Where: Royal Festival Hall, The Clore Ballroom Level 2
Warm up with some Caribbean vibes and festive music. The event starts with guest poets and artists performing pieces about the holidays in the islands and celebrating West Indian traditions in the UK and abroad. Then it’s time to party. Live musicians and DJs will showcase the festive sound of the Caribbean at Christmas.
When: 15 December; Starts 12pm
Where: The Clore Ballroom Level 2 & Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer
Winter Gathering / Tomorrow’s Warriors Extraordinary Winter Showcase
12 -2pm and 2.30pm -4.30pm: Create decorations inspired by friends and loved ones to show appreciation for all the people who make you feel cared for at this time of year.
3pm – 7pm: Continue the festivities at the Tomorrow’s Warriors Extraordinary Winter Showcase, where you can enjoy jazz music from Southbank Centre’s resident group. The young musicians present their Female Collective, String Tings and youth ensembles.
When: 16 December 2018
Where: Queen Elizabeth Hall
More Details: website
5. Carols and London’s Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square
A joyful noise will certainly be heard in Trafalgar Square throughout December as more than 40 carol groups will sing for an hour each beneath London’s famous Christmas tree (gifted to the city every year from Norway, thanks Norway). The choirs will belt it out with hopes of raising spirits and funds for various charities. Bring the family and sing along.
When: 10-21 December; Carol performances 4pm-8pm on weekdays and 2pm-6pm on weekends. There is no performance on 15 December.
Where: Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN