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Christmas highlights – what to see and do over the holidays

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! As the countdown begins, it’s time to start planning some magical days out and evening events with your family. We have teamed up with dandelion.london (the new home for the editorial team behind angels & urchins) for their pick of the best festive events of the season.

As with everything at the moment, the number one tip is to book ahead! Over Christmas it’s not often possible to turn up and walk in, even for a permanent collection. So be sure to book in good time to avoid disappointment.

Don’t miss..

It is your last chance to see the fabulous Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser  at the V&A. On until 31 Dec, there is currently decent availability 15–17 Dec, or, if you are looking for a weekend slot they release tickets for the following week at 12pm on a Tuesday. If you like the sound of their new Fabergé Exhibition – and it is wonderful – you need to book now for the February half term – it is completely sold out until end Jan.

The other crowdpleaser is Beano: the Art of Breaking Rules at Somerset House which still has decent availability and is a total hands on JOY of a show. Perfect to combine with a twirl round the ice, though you may need to do this AFTER Christmas as the skating is almost completely sold out in the run up.

Under 10s

Visit Santa at the grotto!

We are always rather sceptical about visits to Meet Father Christmas but we have been to his grotto at the National Gallery this year and it is enchanting. Make a snowflake, listen to the elves read a story, visit the Big Man and then design a Christmas card. There is still availability, so if you have believers in your house…

The great tennis ball exchange

From Trafalgar Square, head up to Old Burlington Street and the Stephen Friedman Gallery. The Mayfair Tennis Ball Exchange has been devised by the ever-brilliant David Shrigley: the idea is you take an old moth-eaten tennis ball and swap it for a pristine new one. Open Tues-Sat, free. Don’t forget your ball!

Click here for more info

Festive activities galore at the Postal Museum

Our favourite off-the-beaten track museum is the charming Postal Museum and Mail Rail behind Sadler’s Wells. Heaps of festive fun, from Christmas mail train rides, to an exhibition of Christmas cards and letters to Santa.

Click here for highlights.

Bake some Christmas treats at the Garden Museum

The Garden Museum is tucked behind Lambeth Palace. There are still spaces on the Kids Christmas Baking Workshop on 21 December. Drop off kids aged 8–12 for a morning of gingerbread and mince pie making. Perfect last minute presents for grandparents. Plus a delicious café on site.

Catch a magical show in London

Do try and fit in some live theatre. We are spoilt for choice as theatres big and small open their doors. Three top picks: Piers Torday’s extraordinary There May be a Castle gets puppet treatment at the Little Angel Theatre in Islington (ages 7+); a new kids’ opera, Wolf Witch Giant Fairy, opens at the Royal Opera House on 10 December (ages 5+) and the National Theatre’s Christmas treat, Hex,  is a musical retelling of Sleeping Beauty (ages 8+). Currently, ticket availability is OK for all three in the run up to Christmas.

Over 10s

From Ancient Incas to Skulduggery in Scotland

The British Museum and the British Library can sometimes be a bit dry and ‘schooly’ but their current shows are anything but. Peru: a Journey in Time is a little gem of an exhibition that opens up the magic of this country from long before the Spanish arrived. The story of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots sounds too unbelievable to be true but it is brought brilliantly to life through first hand letters and records in Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins Rival Queens.

Spend a festive day of fun in South Kensington

South Kensington is the place for photography this Christmas. Amazonia at the Science Museum is a mesmerising, immersive walk through the jungle with a ‘soundscape’ by Jean Michel Jarre. Perfect for eco warriors and budding anthropologists. Across the road, opposite the French Institute, the National Portrait Gallery’s annual Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize is in temporary residence until 2 Jan and has some powerful entries, many made during the Pandemic. You can finish it off with a skate at the Natural History Museum (better availability than Somerset House and it’s the last-ever year of the rink here!).

An explosion of art and culture at the Tate Modern

Tate Modern is our favourite public gallery space for older kids. Anicka Yi’s floating balloon-like machines in the Turbine Hall are strangely peaceful and we reckon teens will enjoy the brilliant colours, theatrical layout and questions raised in the new Lubaina Himid show.

Brilliant workshops to get their creativity flowing

If you are looking to keep older kids occupied for a bit longer, you can send arty teens for a morning or afternoon at Chelsea Fine Arts in Lots Road; write a song with Song Academy in Shepherd’s Bush or make a Christmas robot in Notting Hill with Blue Shift Coding.

Take your pick of festive West End shows

Theatre-wise, we cannot recommend The Ocean at the End of the Lane too highly but it is a dark ride (ages 13+). The Life of Pi is about to make its long-delayed entry into the West End (press night on 2 Dec). Or, for a tried and tested Christmassy treat, head to the Old Vic to see Stephen Mangan turn his hand to Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. It’s a tear-jerking, heart warmer complete with Christmas bells, tangerines and brussel sprouts.

For lots more suggestions and reviews, head to dandelion.london or visit them on instagram.

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