Christmas family activities

There are so many lovely things going on locally around Christmas time, that we thought we’d put them in one handy guide to Christmas events. From festive storytelling to husky sleigh rides, it’s all here… and of course the big man himself!

We’ve also pulled together a selection of events that are going on further afield. It’s a slightly random selection, but based on recommendations from other local mums and dads – so if you know of a little gem outside the area, then please do let us know about it and we can add it in.

Details of all the Richmond Borough events can also be found in our What’s On guide, including opening times. For the Christmas lights switch-on events please see our separate guide to Christmas Fairs, Lights & Markets.


Richmond Borough, Chiswick, Isleworth & Brentford:


After Dark at Chiswick House & Gardens:

Chiswick House After Dark15th November – 30th December (Thursdays to Sundays):  Brighten up your winter evenings with a visit to Chiswick House and Gardens, where a brand new night walk and light display is transforming the historic property and its grounds. A series of modern light installations will illuminate the 18th century gardens and architecture, giving visitors the chance to enjoy the Gardens in a different light, after dark. Walk the trail that weaves through the grounds and see Chiswick House brought to life with a projected light show set to a curated soundtrack and treat yourself to a bite to eat from one of the food traders in the walled garden. Booking essential.

A Candlelit Christmas at Ham House:

Ham House christmascandles1st – 23rd December: Experience the wonderful splendour of Ham House lit by candlelight. They’re re-creating a traditional 17th century atmosphere: candles will guide your way, providing soft light and a wonderful atmosphere, and expect an abundance of natural green wreaths and swags and garlands draped over banisters, mantelpieces and windowsills. Father Christmas will be available for visits between the 15th – 23rd December, but he’s in high demand so booking is essential! There will also be arts & crafts below stairs at weekends and during the school holidays, and afternoon teas available during the week (booking required). There will be Christmas ghost tours suitable for 12+yrs, preceded by a light meal, taking place on Thursday & Friday evenings (booking essential).

Christmas Family Activities at Hampton Court Palace:

Hampton Court Palace Christmas Family Activities1st – 16th December (weekends): Celebrate Christmas with weekend family workshops and discover more about traditions and decorations, as well as writing that all important letter to Father Christmas. Every weekend children can write their letter and take it to the cooks in Henry VIII’s Kitchens who will use some palace magic to send it up the huge chimney to the North Pole! On selected weekends there’s also wreath making, perfumed pomanders, seasonal star decorations, and glorious gift tags. There’s skating on the ice rink (booking required), and you can visit Henry VIII’s Kitchens to find out how they used to create festive fare and how it has changed through the years. On 2nd December there will be a storyteller at the Palace telling the story of The Night Before Christmas.

Christmas at Kew Gardens:

Kew Christmas Various dates between 22nd November – 5th January: See the Gardens light up for an unforgettable after-dark festive trail of lights. Now in its sixth year, the 2018 winter trail is bigger than ever before, with over a million twinkling pea-lights and thousands of laser beams. Walk under welcoming arches into a world festooned with seasonal cheer and wander beneath unique tree canopies drenched in Christmas colour.  Complete your trail with tempting treats under the stars – a spiced cider, mulled wine or hot chocolate whilst the aroma of roasting chestnuts and toasted marshmallows fills the air. For the young ones, don’t miss the vintage fairground rides and look out for Santa and his elves along the way. Booking essential.

New Year Steam Up at the London Museum of Water & Steam:

New Year Steam Up LMWS 29th December – 1st January: The Museum’s annual New Year festival of steam. All available engines will be in steam, including unlimited rides on the Waterworks Railway and you will be able to see the Victorian Shand Mason steam fire engine in action. There will also be plenty of volunteers on hand for stories to bring the engines to life and you will see the Museum’s unique Waterworks site in all its glory, including its Waterworks Galleries and new Electric House. Family visitors can also take advantage of a seasonal children’s trail and there will be themed craft activities to allow younger visitors to let off a little New Year Steam of their own. Plus kids go FREE with Twick Mums!

Christmas Activities at the London Wetland Centre:

Wetland Centre Christmas 8th December – 6th January: Lots of activities for the whole family to enjoy. The main focus for Christmas is the weekend of the 8th & 9th December. Children will be able to hop aboard a festive husky sleigh ride through the beautiful wetland scenery. They are sure to fall in love the friendly husky dogs, which pull their sleds barking joyfully (suitable for 2-8yrs). Alternatively, they can take a ride on an adorable donkey! It’s a wonderful experience with the donkeys saddled up in their Christmas finery. There will also be elves workshops where children can prepare and to make their own Christmas gifts. Throughout the festive period there’s a whole host of drop-in activities – make bird feeders and learn about birds in winter; discover which animals hibernate on site and make a home for them using natural materials; tick and twitch your way into 2019 with a birdwatching walk; or enjoy a story around the fire.

Festive Family Trail at Osterley House:

Osterley Lay The Table Trail 27th November – 13th January: Explore the gardens to help the butler find his missing tableware in Osterley’s festive family trail. While laying the table in the Eating Room, the Butler has discovered he is missing items from all of his dinner sets! After the Head Gardener found a silver spoon in a flower bed, the Butler suspects the Menagerie Boy has taken them and hidden them around the garden. Can you help find all the items before Mrs Child notices that they are missing? (£1.00 per trail). There is also bauble decorating on 15th December, Georgian dinner party activities on 20th December, and tea light holder decorating on 29th December.

Santa’s Grotto at Squires Garden Centre:

Squire's Santa's Grotto Weekends between 17th November – 16th December, plus 17th – 24th December: Children can meet Santa in his magical grotto at Squire’s Garden Centres and receive an early Christmas present. As well as seeing your child’s face light when they see Santa and receive a beautiful wrapped gift, you’ll also get a warm glow as you’ll be benefitting a local charity. Tickets cost £6.00 per child, with £1.00 from every ticket being donated to Squire’s local charities.


Further Afield:


Visit Father Christmas at Bockett’s Farm, Fetcham:

Bocketts Farm Christmas 22nd November – 24th December: Enjoy a magical and festive family visit to Father Christmas in his traditional hay barn workshop. The visit begins as you hop on board the Santa Express trailer with one of the elves for a short ride. Once through the magical gates, you’ll gather as a group in his workshop, set deep in a traditional hay barn. In the grotto, each child will meet Father Christmas and receive a wrapped present from him. Other festive activities include ‘Discover your Inner Elf’ with a fun Elf Passport; festive craft corner; a Giant Snowglobe to experience a ‘white Christmas’; and gorgeous new born baby lambs expected early December. Booking essential.

Visit Father Christmas at Crockford Bridge Farm, Addlestone:

crockford bridge farm christmas Weekends between 1st– 16th December, plus 19th – 22nd December: This Father Christmas visit is a unique and much loved walking performance through The Wonder Wood (the Farm’s 30 year old real Christmas Tree Forest.) After writing your Christmas wishes and being entertained by a cast of characters along the way, your group will meet Father Christmas in his Log Cabin. There is a gift for every child and a chance to share your Christmas wishes. The walking performance lasts for approximately 30 minutes. Booking essential.

Reindeer at Garsons Garden Centre & Farm, Esher:

Garsons Reindeer24th November – 24th December: Visitors will be able to see and learn about these magical creatures every day until Christmas Eve midday – when they return to help Santa make those all-important deliveries. While there is no charge to visit the reindeer at Garsons, this annual tradition raises thousands of pounds for Garsons charities of the year, ‘Princess Alice Hospice’ and ‘Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance’ with collection buckets for donations. It truly is a magical day for all ages.

Santa Specials at the Hampton Kempton Waterworks Railway:

Weekends between 8th – 16th December: Unfortunately these are already sold out, but you might want to put a reminder in the diary for next year!

Festive Illuminations & Christmas Workshops at Painshill Park, Cobham:

Painshill Rark Christmas24th November – 23rd December: See the landscape garden transformed with twinkling colourful lights and laser beams. Walk around the magical winter evening trail to discover glowing follies, amazing reflections and breath-taking illuminations. The winter festivities continue under the stars with a live band who will be playing traditional Christmas songs and some great ‘all-time-favourite’ classics tunes. Families can also enjoy ‘Santa’s Toy Factory’ (additional costs apply). Meet the cheeky elves who will lead you through the toy factory to see the presents being made and to meet Father Christmas, where your child will receive a gift. Booking essential. From 12th December there will also be creative Christmas workshops (2-8yrs) – children will join an outdoor adventure leader and explore the winter landscape to gather natural material. They will warm up afterwards with a hot chocolate inside then get creative making wonderful Christmas decorations. At the end of the workshop each child will receive a present and a special note from Father Christmas who will be taking a daytime nap. Booking essential.

Family Christmas Experience at Tulleys Farm, Crawley:

Tulleys ChristmasWeekends between 24th November – 16th December, plus 17th – 24th December: Take your family to enjoy a magical and unique Christmas experience for all ages! The Christmas Experience is set within the beautiful woodland grounds of Tulleys Farm, and includes fairground rides, reindeer food making, gingerbread decorating, the elves’ magical forest, story time with Father Christmas, make a bear, Santa’s sleigh ride, Santa’s post house, an elf hunt, puppet shows, singing chickens and the Christmas store. Booking essential.

Santa Specials at the Watercress Line, Alresford or Alton:

watercress line santa specialWeekends between 1st– 16th December, plus 19th – 24th December: See Santa on a magical steam train ride. Travel in a festive train carriage for a magical trip where Santa and his jolly helpers visit you in your seat with a gift. Grown-ups get treated to white wine and mince pies, whilst children enjoy a soft drink and a gingerbread man. Each child will also receive an activity pack to keep them entertained on this enchanting one hour journey. Don’t forget to bring your very best singing voice to join in with your favourite Christmas songs too! Booking essential.

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park:

Winter Wonderland22nd November – 6th January: London’s spectacular Christmas destination, including a special family entrance entering straight into Santa Land, brand new children’s attractions, Christmas themed rides & games, a variety of food & drink stalls, and a free Santa’s Grotto, guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit. Family-friendly attractions include The Magical Ice Kingdom, The Snowman™ Experience, Peter Pan on Ice, Teletubbies Christmas Show, Zippos Christmas Show, the Giant Observation Wheel and an Ice Skating Rink. Some attractions need booking.


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