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Christmas

Every year we look forward to our family trip to Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. For me it signals the start of Christmas in London! So even if you have been before or this is your first ever trip, let me tell you what you need to know to enjoy your day at this magical festive experience. Every year they seem to add more and more rides and attractions, so I think it really pays to study all the information available on the Winter WonderLand’s website. That way you can have a think about which rides and attractions you would like to visit. I think if you plan your visit instead of just wondering around, you will actually get more from your day out. The nearer to Christmas Day you go in my opinion the more busy it becomes, so I think go sooner if you can or even wait until after Christmas.

When is it open?

Winter Wonderland is open every day (apart from Christmas Day) from 10am to 10pm until the 6th January 2019.

How much does it cost?

It’s completly free to enter, but of course rides and attractions will have charges. A ride token costs £1.00, children’s ride start at £2.00 and adults rides start at £3.00.

You can purchase tickets for all the shows & attractions via the website.

How do I get there?

The best way to get to Hyde Park is via the Underground or rail via the following stations:

Green Park – step free access

Victoria

Paddington

Marble Arch – avoid at peak times

Hyde Park Corner – avoid at peak times

Can I bring my own drinks?

Only if it is an un-opened bottle of water, anything else the security people will not let you bring in.

Any other tips?

Really do watch your bags and belongings. I haven’t seen any evidence of pick pockets, but I have been told they are around, as in any other busy part of London.

This year we started off our visit with a show, Teletubbies Live! The show is on every day at 11:00am and runs for around 45 minutes. To give you an idea the cost for a family ticket is around £ 30.00 to £46.00 depending on if it is peak time or not (Children under 1 year do not require a ticket), a transaction fee will also be added. We enjoyed a snack before the performance then settled into our seats. It is recommended that you arrive 20 minutes prior to the show start time, which I think is a really good idea as you will also need to allow time to walk from which ever entrance you come into. The new family entrance which brings you in via Santa Land is recommended.

I would say the show is suitable for ages 1 up to 5 years, it was perhaps a bit young for my six year old, but I did see her laughing and joining in when audience participation was needed!

Image credit – Glenn Grafton

Our next show was Zippos Circus, which I have to say for me was the highlight of my visit! I love a good circus and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. Show times are daily at 1:00pm, 2:00pm and 4:00pm. Again to give you an idea of ticket prices for a family ticket you are looking at around £30.00 to £46:00 depending on if it is off peak or peak times, a transaction fee will also be added. The show lasts for 45 minutes, which we found with a 6 year old was about the right length of time for her to sit through it.

There was a really good mixture of traditional circus acts and take your breath away stunts and tricks. From amazing acrobatics to stunts involving huge rotating wheels, it really was jar dropping stuff!

Image credit – Piet-Hein Out
Image credit – Piet-Hein Out
Image credit – Piet-Hein Out

I would highly recommend a trip to the circus as it is a great show for all ages. The show was produced really professionally and the level of talent of performers was very high too.

Image credit – Piet-Hein Out

Then it was time to relax and have some lunch in the Bavarian Village. Every year we go I can not resist a Bratwurst sausage and a lovely warming cup of mulled wine! The music and atmosphere in the village always gets me in the Christmas Spirit!

Even if you are not into the German style food you will find so many other opitions such as: chicken and flamed grilled salmon, burgers and so may sweet treats to mention just a few!

Our next activity was The Magic Ice Kingdom, The Secret Forest, which is amazing! But make sure you are wearing a hat, scarf and gloves as it is just like stepping in to a freezer, the temperature can be as low as -10 degrees. It really is magical you will see so many beautiful ice sculptures, you can even sit in your very ice throne and there is an ice slide too which children will love!

You can take your time walking through this attraction, but I would allow around 30 minutes. The last admission is at 9:30pm and to give you an idea of the cost a family ticket ranging between £20.00 and £36:00 depending if on if it is classes as off peak or peak time when you visit, a transaction fee is also added. You are able to bring your pushchair all the way round this attraction which is handy.


There are so many rides to choose from this year. They range from traditional childrens fairground type rides to the super frightening roller costers. We tried a few different ones and this year we even braved Ice Mountain that had all of us screaming, not for the faint hearted!

Image credit – IMG Press & Winter Wonderland

A new addition to Winter Wonderland this year is Santa Land, which is really geared up to younger children and there is also the opportunity to meet Santa in his grotto for free! However the queues will be long at busy times and he does take breaks throughout the day. So do check the times in advance and think about getting there early if you don’t want to wait!

This is just a taste of whats’s on offer at Winter Wonderland for 2018. I think I might be going back for another visit, as I have some other things on my list that I didn’t manage to do!

Image credit – IMG Press & Winter Wonderland

Disclaimer – I was invited to the Family Press Day and received complimentary tickets for various rides and atttractions. All views are my own and are an honest reflection of my visit.

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A couple of weeks ago we attended the VIP launch of After Dark at Chiswick House and Gardens with celebrities and VIPs such as Kasabian’s Sergio Pizzorno, actor Joe McFadden, reality stars Jake Hall and Missé Beqir in attendance. Guests rubbed shoulders with Kasabian’s singer and songwriter Sergio Pizzorno, who created a bespoke classic track for the winter experience, inspired by electronic music. His track was played against a lighting display backdrop by Renegade’s lighting engineer, Nick Gray.
Image Courtesy of After Dark
Visitors are guided through a trail that took up to 45-minutes, set in the award-winning, opulent gardens of the 18th-century Chiswick House and Gardens. The historical villa formed the canvas for the illuminating lighting display where classical architecture meets modern technology. 
Image courtesy of After Dark
Several art installations by up-and-coming artist Finn Thomson also featured.
Image courtesy of After Dark
We Enjoyed the delicious range of street food at the end if the trail. There was plenty of seating and a play area for the kids, which even had giant illuminated balls!
Image Courtesy of After Dark
After Dark is perfect for the family, friends (including furry best friends), office parties or partners looking to dial up their date night and will take place every Thursday to Sunday until 30th December and is a winter extravaganza like no other. 
Image courtesy of After Dark
 
Tickets are available now from eventbrite.co.uk and start from £8.50.
 
ADDRESS
  • Chiswick House and Gardens Trust is at Burlington Lane, Chiswick, London, W4 2RP (entrance is on Duke’s Avenue)
RESTRICTIONS
  • There are no age restrictions
  • Dogs are welcome
  • It is prohibited to bring your own and food and drink into the event
WEBSITE
 
TICKET PRICES
  • £8.50 – £47
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Christmas is coming (yes I know it is only the 4th November!) So now is the time to think about where your little ones will meet Santa this Christmas! Some grottos in London get booked up very early and if you are looking for certain dates it’s better to be organised and book now. There are so many places to visit Santa or Father Christmas depending on what you like to call the man in red. So how do you decide?

I have compiled a top ten of the places that you could go this festive season. They range in price from completely free to super expensive! Plus, I have given you a brief description of what to expect and I have also added some of my own photos from past years too. I hope you have an amazing Christmas 2018!

Santa’s Grotto Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre – 2017

The Magic Wardrobe – Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre

Where? Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre – Outside Tesco

When? 17thNovember until 23rdDecember, every weekend 11-6pm

Cost? Free!

What to expect? A great opportunity to meet Santa locally, no need to book just turn up! With the added bonus that it is free!

Wyevale Garden Centre – Osterley 2016

Breakfast or Tea with Santa – Wyevale Garden Centre – Osterley

Where? Windmill Lane, Osterley, TW7 5PR

When? from the 1stDecember morning and afternoon slots available.

Cost? £10.95 child & £8.50 Adult

What to expect? Meet Santa and receive a present, tuck into breakfast or enjoy an afternoon tea, decorate your own biscuit and take part in festive fun activities!

Santa’s Grotto – at London Wetland Centre

Where? WWT -Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, London, SW13 9WT

When? 8, 9, 15 & 16 December. 10am– 4pm.

Cost? £10 per child and accompanying adults go free, however normal admission charges apply. So for example a family ticket is £34.77

What to expect? Receive a gift from Father Christmas and have the opportunity for a photo with him! Also husky sleigh rides, donkey rides and an elves workshop at an additional cost.

Image courtesy of Westfield London

Santa’s Snowflake Grotto – Westfield White City

Where? Westfield White City – Shepherd’s Bush

When? 22ndNovember until 24thDecember

Cost? £7.50 per child and £7.50 per adult

What to expect? “Westfield London invites children and families to Santa’s Snowflake Grotto, a magical world of snow. You’ll be transported to the Snow Factory in the North Pole, where Santa’s elves make all the snow in the world. Children will create their own snowflake and explore the various activities within the factory. Meet Santa in his icy Snow Chamber, where every child will receive a gift and have their photo taken with him. To leave the North Pole and go back to London, experience the infinity room. The visit lasts approximately 20-25 minutes, and photos can be purchased in the Christmas Shop at the end.” (source from Westfield website)

Santa’s Grotto – Smiths Garden Centre Denham

Where? Smiths Garden Centre, 95 Oxford Road, New Denham, London, UB9 4DE

When? Various dates in December – book in person or by phone

Cost? £7.50

What to expect? “Meet Santa and also ride the train will also be in operation taking you on a spectacular journey throughout the Smith’s Winter Wonderland on Saturdays and Sundays throughout December, as well as the final week in the lead up to Christmas. The train ride is £2.50 and cannot be booked, just turn up for a magical adventure!” (source from Smith’s website)

Hyde Park – Winter Wonderland

Santa Land at Hyde Park – Winter Wonderland

Where? Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park. Nearby tube station and mainline stations include: Bond Street, Green Park (step free access so best if you have a buggy), Knightsbridge, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner, Paddington and Victoria.

When? from the 23rdNovember

Cost? FREE!

What to expect? There is no booking, so first come first served basis. Choose your time carefully as it will be busy! Perhaps consider avoiding weekends.

“Catch a glimpse of Santa in his Christmas grotto and enjoy a magical family day out in the new and exclusively designed Santa Land! This year, we’ve created a convenient family entrance that will take you straight into Santa Land. See your little ones’ faces light up as they experience the full festive experience including the brand new 45m long Ice Slide as well as an Ice Trike Trail. There’s so much to do with plenty of eateries and sweet treats, specially chosen rides to suit the little ones and the chance to meet Santa in his grotto.” (source from Winter Wonderland website)

Hamleys, Regent Street

Meet Father Christmas – Hamleys

Where? 188-196 Regent Street, London, W1B 5BT

When? Selected dates from Saturday 24th November – Monday 24th December 2018.

Cost? £39.95 child, adults do not require a ticket. Recommended age range 3-7yrs.

What to expect? “Jingle all the way to the Finest Toy Shop in the World to join Father Christmas and his loveable elves for fun, magic and theatre at this very special time of year. Meeting Father Christmas at Hamleys is an extra special experience where children will take part in seasonal activities, spend time with Father Christmas and receive an extra special gift bag to take home. During this group session each little guest will hear magical stories of Christmas, write their own Christmas wish list and meet Father Christmas himself, all surrounded by the finest toys in the world.” (source from Hamleys website)

Lapland, Uk

Where? Whitmoor Forest, Swinley Road, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 8BD

When? 17th November – 24th December

Cost? The cost is variable depending on which day you book, but to give you an idea a family of four (including two adults and two children) would cost £300. this includes:

  • Personalised invitation to every child from Father Christmas by post
  • Entry to LaplandUK
  • Elf Passport for every child
  • All activities, and performances including ice skating
  • Beautiful gift from Father Christmas for every child
  • One free photo per booking
  • Booking fees
  • Parking at Whitmoor Forest
  • Christmas Morning Thank You card from Father Christmas for every child

What to expect? “LaplandUK is an original adaptation of the Father Christmas story and the secret world of the elves brought to life through a 4-hour immersive experience of unprecedented scale and quality.” (source LaplandUK Website)

Visit Father Christmas – Crockford Bridge Farm

Where? New Haw Road, Addlestone, Nr. Weybridge, Surrey KT15 2BU

When? Selected dates in December, check their website for more details.

Cost? child ticket £16, adult ticket £12 and babies in arms 0-8 months go free.

What to expect? “Our Father Christmas visit is a unique and much loved walking performance through The Wonder Wood (our 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. Our walking performance lasts for approximately 30 minutes.” (source Crock Bridge Farm Website )

Ham House in Richmond, London

Meet Father Christmas  – Ham House

Where? Ham House, Ham Street, Ham, Richmond, TW10 7RS

When? 15thDecember until 23rdDecember

Cost?£5 to visit the grotto plus the usual admission price to enter Ham House, which for a family is £27.60.

What to expect? “Meet Father Christmas and recieve a special Christmas gift or take part in some of our other family activities in the house and gardens. Such as the Children’s trail (which is £3 extra) or make your own set of antlers. Wear them proudly as you explore Ham House. (source taken from Ham House website)

Amelia with Santa – Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre 2017

 

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The Christmas season is a time when families enjoy many different traditions and mine is no different. We love the big build up to Christmas and enjoy all the preparation involved. This year I have done a lot of my shopping locally in Ealing, as I have found that I have been able to fit it around my work schedule and the school run. I was delighted when I heard that Cath Kidston would be opening a new store in Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre, just in time for Christmas! The new store is next door to Wasabi and opposite to Marks and Spencer. I was there on the day the new store opened and couldn’t wait to start my Christmas shopping!

In our house we like to open a couple of presents on Christmas Eve. I think that way you can enjoy a few small gifts the night before. On Christmas Day it can be a bit over whelming for children (and adults!) as there is so much going on.

I often like to buy some new nightwear for Christmas Eve. I couldn’t resist getting us matching PJ’s (we did it last year too). The Christmas cushions are a great way to make your bedroom or lounge look more festive!

Ladies snowman brushed flannel long PJ set – £55.00

Kids snowman PJ set – £25.00

Polar bear sack – £12.00

Polar bear cushion – £12.00

Snowman cushion – £12.00

We always have a stockings for both children as well as adults! I enjoy choosing the stocking fillers and like to include smaller more personal items. This year Cath Kidston have a lovely range of smaller gifts which are perfect stocking fillers. These are the items I decided upon:

Pets party 6 pack pencils – £4.50

Ballerina kids diary – £6.00

Junior metallic clasp purse – £8.00

Lucky rose kids two pack hair bows – £5.50

I always like to have a relaxed breakfast on Christmas Day, usually smoked salmon and scrambled eggs is on the menu. Cath Kidston does some lovely china wear and there is nothing like making a pot of tea and relaxing on Christmas morning while watching the children unwrapping their presents!

Alphabet mugs – £7.50

Pets party teapot – £28.00

I always enjoy choosing a special outfit for my Daughter for Christmas day. I absolutely love this floral print dress. I think it makes an adorable Christmas day outfit if you wanted an alternative to a Christmas print or jumper.

Northcote flower dropped waist dress – £26.00

Junior medium double zip rucksack – £28.00

Hankie Rose fairy rag doll – £18.00

What traditions do you have in your family for Christmas? Let me know in the comments, I would love to know!

This is a collaborative post.

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Here in Ealing we are so lucky to have Watermans Arts Centre right on our doorstep. The Centre houses an independent cinema, theatre and art gallery. The Christmas programme is in full swing and top of the bill is The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.  It is the perfect performance to take your children to this Christmas. The show is based on the original book by ETA Hoffmann, which was published in Germany in 1816. Winter Walker the theatre production company have brought the story to life with their clever use of puppets, enchanting music, dance and a beautiful set.

The performance runs for 50 minutes and is just the right length of time for younger children . It is recommended for children 3+ years. My 5 year old absolutely loved it and sat completed enthralled for the whole time. The story was easy to follow and the cast really engaged with the audience.

 

After the show there was plenty going on in the foyer. The cast were available for photographs, plus there is currently a wall mural in the foyer by Scott Walker. Pens are provided so that children can colour in the art work, my little one absolutely loved it! Small gifts and toys were also available to purchase.

How to get to Watermans

It is a short distance from Ealing and well served by public transport, plus there is also on site parking (the first hours parking is free). Alternatively you can take the number 65 bus from Ealing Broadway or the centre is just a short walk from Kew Bridge or Brentford Train Stations.

Eating & Drinking

Watermans have the Guru Café open daily from 10am serving coffee and snacks, plus it is a licensed bar too. The Guru Tandoori Kitchen is a great place to relax afterwards for a meal.

The Nutcracker and The Mouse King is running from now until the 30th December 2017. Tickets can be purchased via the Watermans website.

Don’t forget to follow Watermans on social media to get regular updates on their programmes. The Spring 2018 programme is out now. Featuring the best in family theatre with some great shows coming up for February Half Term. Including John Hegley and Noggin the Nog. You can book for these shows now via the website.

I received complimentary tickets to the production in return for a review. All opinions are my own and are a honest reflection of the performance I saw.

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One of the things I absolutely love about Christmas is the opportunity to put together some special outfits for my Daughter. There are so many great high street brands to choose from and with a bit of imagination you can create a look that won’t look out of place on the pages of a magazine.

I decided to focus on three different looks. All the outfits are available to purchase from shops that you will find at Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre 

H&M – A Winters Walk

For my first outfit, I wanted to create something that could be worn on a crisp Winter’s day for a walk in the park. I absolutely love this outfit as it has a nordic feel to it, plus the dress has a really cute vintage look.

All items are available to purchase from H&M (except for the boots which are from Step2wo – Sabrina Glitter Boot in Wine £40.60)

Fleece Lined Hat in Natural White – £7.99

Patterned Dress – £9.99

Faux Fur Gilett in Light Pink – £14.99

Father Christmas Charm Necklace – £2.99

Monsoon – Party Ready!

My second outfit is the perfect party dress. In my opinion a little girl can never wear too much sparkle! Monsoon has always been my go to for special outfits. This season they didn’t disappoint and as ever have some beautiful partywear and accessories.

All above items are available to purchase from Monsoon

Claudia Wire Rose Hairband – £7.90

Principessa Dress – £55.00

Glitter Spot Tights – £8.00

2 Part Embellished Star Shoes – £17.50

Big Bow Mini Bag – £9.00

Marks & Spencer – The Night Before Christmas!

My final outfit is perfect for a cosy night at home relaxing. Marks and Spencer always have a great selection of children’s nightwear, so I was spoilt for choice when I went to have a browse. There is also an excellent choice in their boys nightwear too and some of the PJ’s could in my opinion be unisex.

I also couldn’t resist buying a Paddington Bear (I was lucky to get the bear, as it was a very popular item and soon became sold out!) and a story book “Paddington & The Christmas Visitor”.

 

All above items are available to purchase from Marks and Spencer

3 pack Cotton Christmas PJ’s with stretch  – £27.00

Paddington Bear – £12.00 (currently out of stock)

Book Paddington & The Christmas Visitor – £3.00 (£2.00 of every book sound will be donated to the NSPCC Childlike). The book is suitable for ages 3-5 years.

“With Love From Ealing” Christmas Cards – set of 6, £12.00 (20% of sales goes to funding breast cancer research) stocked in various Ealing gift shops or buy online via Charlotte Berridge Studio

 

This is a collaborative post with Ealing Broadway Centre.

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My family and I have been going to Winter Wonderland every year since it first opened in 2007. Over the years it has become a place that we always visit, as the build up to Christmas begins. It started off 10 years ago as an ice rink in Hyde Park with a selection of Christmas markets. It has grown over the years to become a destination to visit and I know many families who have made their visit part of their holiday traditions.

Winter Wonderland is open every day (expect Christmas Day) from 10am to 10pm until the 1st January 2018. Admission is free and is a short walk from the following underground stations: Green Park (this has step free access useful to know if you have a pushchair), Paddington, Victoria, Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge. I usually avoid getting off at Marble Arch as this can be a very busy station.

This year there is so much more to do! It is definitely worth picking up one of the free maps available, as the site it’s self is now a lot bigger. Or alternately why not get familiar with what is available before you go via the website, that way you can plan which attractions you really want to visit. The Winter Wonderland website also has a handy feature where they have suggestions for various days and evenings out. Perfect if you are going with children or alternatively for a romantic date night!

There are so many amazing rides to try out. Remember you will need to purchase tokens which are available to buy from the various token booths on site. Make sure you use up all the ones you have brought, as they are only valid on the day of purchase. Each token costs £1.00, so to give you an idea of the cost children’s rides start at £2.00, with other rides starting at £3.00. With some of the children’s rides you will need to accompany your child, so do factor in that too.

There are a number of pre-bookable attractions including: The Ice Rink, The Magical Ice Kingdom, Cinderella On Ice, Bar Hütte, Zippos Christmas Circus, Cirque Beserk, Bar Ice and the Sooty Show. It is worth booking these shows as soon as you can, that way you can get the times and dates you want. My top tip would be make sure you allow extra time to get to the right part of The Winter Wonderland. As if you are attending a show, it will depend on which entrance you enter at, as it can be fair walk with little ones in tow!

This year we went to the Sooty Christmas Show and I am not sure who enjoyed it more? Myself or my Daughter! I think it goes back to the fact that when I was a child Sooty and Sweep were very popular and I remember going to see them (yes I am a child of the 1970’s!), so at that time Matthew Corbett was the puppeteer. The show this time hosted by Richard Cadell. It was very much the simple slap stick humour that I remember from my childhood. There was plenty of water pistol action and silly jokes. My Daughter couldn’t stop laughing and neither could I!

I would throughly recommend this show to families with children from toddlers up to around 6 years old. The show lasts approximately 45 minutes, so a really good length of time for children of this age group. An adult ticket is priced at £8.50 and a child ticket is £5.00. Children of 2 and under if they are not taking up a seat will not need a ticket.

We also went to Zippos Christmas Circus, which was an excellent family experience. Incorporating all the fun of the circus, from comedy with clown like characters to acts that perform acrobatics to escapism. Again a really managable length for young children the show lasted approximately 45 minutes. Ticket prices vary according to if it is peak or off peak times.

My Daughter particularly loved the dancing snow bears, courtesy of Britain’s Got Talent finalist Vadik and the Bears.

You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to eating and drinking at the Winter Wonderland. There are so many options to choose from including plenty of indoor areas for when it get’s chilly. I particularly loved the atmosphere in the Bavarian village. You just can’t go wrong with a hotdog and a mulled wine to get you in the festive spirit!

We are planning another visit in-between Christmas and New Year, as there are still lots more things we would like to experience!

I received complimentary tickets to the shows and some rides in return for a review. All opinions are my own and are a honest reflection of my recent visit.

 

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