Christmas At The London Zoo And Holiday Lights At Carnaby Street Are Magical … Here’s Why

Guest Post

Christmas at the London Zoo, sparkling lights on Carnaby Street and a holiday fair at St. Michael’s Church are what fairy tales are made out of. And 2018 is no exception.

Spending Christmas in London is as magical as you’d imagine. And here’s why …

I’ve lived in London for over ten years. But having grown up in Australia, Christmas truly takes on a different meaning in this part of the world.

I’m used to seafood and salads on the deck because it is too hot for a roast, Carols by Candlelight at 10 p.m. and cards showing Santa in board shorts surfing Bondi waves. Despite the cold climate and rainy days, there’s nothing like London in December.

Christmas at the London Zoo

This year London Zoo has transformed the space into a fairy tale meets fantasy experience with beautiful festive light installations mixed with Christmas treats. A perfect experience for kids young and old (the first time slot is at 4:45 p.m. so great for young babies who have an early bedtime!), as well as treats for the adults – think mulled wine, hot chocolate, chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

London zoo lights at christmas time

Photo by Miriam Knipe

What mum loved?
This was a truly festive experience for both adults and kids, and it was really great to mix all of our favorite Christmas treats into one. Lights, music, food and a traditional mulled wine! The London Zoo is a fully enclosed space, meaning the kids can explore and enjoy, rather than having to stay on the pathway avoiding London traffic.

What bebe loved?
I put our little one in the sling for the trail and it worked really well as the lights were really engaging – baby sensory class eat your heart out! Our 3 year old would say her favorite thing was seeing Santa and his elves along the way. Watch out for a special visit from the man himself along your journey.

 

Walking Tour of the City and Christmas Lights

Since having children, Christmas takes on a different meaning. The first thing I did this year with my 2-year-old boy and a 7-month-old girl was head out to the center of the city to see the streets lit up. We strapped the wee one in the carrier and her brother in the travel stroller and hit the streets, ready to be dazzled!

What mum loved?
My all time favorite lights are on Carnaby Street in Soho. The displays are rainbow delights from all our favorite musicals. From here you can take a more traditional turn and wander through to Oxford Street (don’t forget Selfridge’s) and Regent Street (#Instagram ready for snaps that include wedding cake style terraces as a backdrop against a red London bus) towards Hamley’s for storybook style windows. We then went back toward St. James Park via the top deck of the bus (the tube is pram-friendly with its lifts) to see the old-fashioned windows of Fortnum and Masons and the Ritz as well as Burlington Arcade for that chic fix.

What bebe loved?
My toddler loved the wandering (somewhat freely) around Carnaby Street, investigating the windows and the intricacies of Hamley’s and Fortnum and Mason’s windows were a big hit as there was lots to point out, especially among the London buses and taxis (he’s a big transport fan!).

Other lights to check out include Kew Gardens.

 

It’s Show Time! 

There’s no shortage of Christmas shows in London and one of our favorite family-friendly ones are Bach to Baby (shown in venues all over London).

What mum loved?

Their execution is faultless and tickets are reasonably priced. Adults can enjoy a classical style concert that the children can fully participate in too. For fleeting moments you can be pre kids. But  seeing your tots enjoy and bop away to the music is pretty lovely. Anyone with a newborn to pre-school is welcome and at this time of year the churches are beautifully decorated. The sound of the music and the carols are so atmospheric.

Logistically there’s plenty of pram parking and Monmouth coffee on tap, which is always a winner for the sleep-deprived.
Parents are encouraged to behave as they would in a normal concert, so chatting is discouraged.

What bebe loved?
The way children are actively urged to get involved, from plucking the harp strings to singing along and dancing to favorite nursery rhymes, is really special. My toddler especially loved dancing to the orchestra. There’s no stopping him!

The next one is on Tuesday, December 18th at St Barnabas, Lavenham Road, Southfields. See www.bachtobaby.co.uk

Time to Shop!

Depending on what area of London you are in, Christmas fairs tend to be popular with local families in the ‘nappy valleys.’ We recently went to one at St. Michael’s Church in Southfields.

What bebe loved?
There was a show for the children (ages 5 and under); the Puppet Singalong Christmas Extravaganza and food and retail therapy galore.

What mum loved?
The greatest part about shopping there is that you shop independent, often local and you are able to give something personal and special. I love being able to purchase unique gifts. And the best bit? There is often a Christmas movie on to distract the Children.

Other opportunities to enjoy some festive shopping include the Kingston Christmas Market, which is a traditional German Weinachtsmacht in style, complete with dreidel, bratwurst, gluhwein and little chalets selling their wares. Another bonus is that it is a stone’s throw from the ice skating rink at Hampton Court Palace, far less touristy than central London but with a beautiful, historic backdrop (another one on our list for the coming weeks!)

Kingston Weinachtsmacht christmas market in london

Kingston Weinachtsmacht Photo by Sarah Brand

The Snowman at Peacock Theatre

See Raymond Briggs’ beautiful book come to life on stage at London’s Peacock Theatre. This play is absolutely magical from start to finish! It’s beautiful and enchanting, and interesting enough to hold both parents’ and kids’ attention for the hour-and-a-half production.

the snowman at peacock theatre in london

Photo by Natasha Dooley

What mum loved
If you’ve read the book or seen the short film, you know there are no spoken words in The Snowman. So it leaves lots to the little’s imagination, which I loved. The live orchestra was also amazing. And if you grew up watching or reading this every Christmas, you’ll love the nostalgia factor.

What bebe loved
I took our 4-year-old, and she was mesmerized the entire time! She said her favorite part was the scene with the ballerina and nutcracker. But when the Snowman and the boy started flying through the air, the audience collectively gasped . So I’d say that scene was a big hit with the kids too. Be warned: I wouldn’t take children much younger than 4, as it is quite long.

Other info
The Peacock Theatre is about a 10-minute walk from either Holborn or Temple underground stations. There’s parking for strollers, but you need to leave them upstairs. There are a lot of stairs, especially if you’ve gotten the cheap seats like we did (which, by the way, you can see just fine from). There’s a bar with drinks and snacks too. On until January 6th!

Well there you have it. In our humble opinion, London is one of the top Christmas cities in the world and all the magic is sure to capture the entire family!

 

This article was co-written by Miriam Knipe, Sarah Brand, and Natasha Dooley, mums living in London and Club Bebe Voyage members

 

 

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