Who has a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly? Who has a beard on his chin as white as the snow? Why it’s jolly old Saint Nicholas, otherwise known as Father Christmas, of course! Now we all know that you can see the man in red in the obvious places like: Harrods (SOLD OUT), Hamleys, Selfridges, Stories with Santa – Whiteleys, W2 4YNWinter Wonderland, Westfield and Duke of York Square. But you will either spend your day queuing in the cold or just won’t see him at all. We have put together a wilder and wackier list of places to see the big man himself. From winding, wintry walks through Kew Gardens to the City Slicking Santa in Canary Wharf, there are many wonderful and varied venues to see the main man and get that Christmas cheer.
Santa at the ZSL London Zoo – NW1 4RY
We all know how much Santa loves animals and now he has settled into the London Zoo in the run up to Christmas. Visitors can go and meet him and help his hardworking elves prepare edible presents for the permanent residents of the zoo. Those busy elves have also transformed the Animal Adventure exhibit into Elfville where there will be Christmas-themed activities and musical performances. If that wasn’t enough you can go and see Santa’s reindeer getting ready for their big night out on Christmas Eve. The keepers will be giving talks about the Reindeer Royalty and their ancestry.
Sat 22nd November – Wed 24th December (Need to Book)
10am - 3pm
£24.09 – Child (3-10 years)
£8.00 – Under 3 years
This sugary creation is home to Santa and his merry elves every weekend and the week up to Christmas Eve. You don’t need to book here so the elves and helpers will be putting on cheeky displays and entertainment to keep the little ones busy as they wait in the queue. There is no fee but visitors are asked to give a £2 donation to Richard’s House Children’s Hospice.
Sat 29th November – Wed 24th December (Don’t need to Book – Give adequate time to queue)
11am – 5pm
£2 donation to Richard’s House Children’s Hospice
Santa’s Floating Grotto – Ladbroke Grove, W10 5AA (13th/14th December) & Little Venice, W2 (20th/21st December)
Who wants to queue around the block for two minutes with Santa? Well how about an hour with the man on a floating grotto on the canals of Little Venice? Here your children get to meet Santa, get a story read by him, enjoy some festive celebration with the mince pies, free presents for the kids and Carol singing (settle down Carol!). The boat will be moored and not moving, but it will be decorated in true wintry fashion.
Sat 13th November – Sun 14th December - Ladbroke Grove
Sat 20th November – Wed 24th December – Little Venice
11am – 5pm
£10 per child
Santa’s Grotto at Kew Gardens – TW9 3AB
Kew is notoriously one of the most beautiful places to be at Christmas time and they always make a huge effort. This year is no exception. The light installations are botanically inspired this year and range from a giant lily-of-the-valleys to light up thistles. As you make your way around the mile long trail the aromas of roasting chestnuts and melting marshmallows will tickle your nostrils. For the kids there is a Victorian carousel and other rides, and outdoor playground. But the piece-de-la-resistance is Santa’s Snowflake Grotto located in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. The trail is very popular and entry is by timed ticket, so you need to book well in advance to ensure that you have time to see Santa.
Wed 26th November – Sat 3rd January – Christmas at Kew Gardens
Wed 26th November – Wed 24th December – Santa’s Snowflake Grotto
5pm - 9pm
The Enchanted Christmas House will take you on a truly memorable, magical adventure with Mrs. Claus and her elves. On the tour you will have surprise encounters from several Christmas characters, help make presents in the elves workshop and receive a personalised meeting with Santa in his grotto. For the kids there is a Garden of Winter Wonder play zone and the chance to decorate gingerbread men. And of course, there are minced pies and mugs of mulled wine for the older ones.
Sat 29th November – Wed 24th December (Need to Book)
10:30am – 1:30pm (Morning Session)
2:30pm – 5:30pm (Afternoon Session)
£195 – Family of 4 (29th November – 20th December)
£236 – Family of 4 (21st December – 24th December)
Santa’s Grotto at Rainforest Café – Shaftesbury, W1D 7EU
There's a secret in the forest at Christmas. Hidden in the depth of the jungle is a magical Winter Wonderland at the Rainforest Café. Every weekend in November and daily from 1st December in the rainforest you can find a personalised Christmas with the following goodies: A personal invitation from Santa himself, a warm welcome from his very own elves and a Christmas gift and meal for everyone.
Sat 29th November – Wed 24th December (Need to Book)
12pm – 10pm (Monday to Friday)
11:30am – 10:30pm (Saturdays)
11:30am – 10pm (Sundays)
£35 – Child Experience
Adults need to buy at least 1 main course per person.
What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than this wonderful storytelling experience with Santa and his elves? Whiteleys are offering this shared experience where children will have the chance to grab a photo with jolly old St. Nick to capture the moment. The stories are offered free for families and children and are running in partnership with the National Literacy Trust to raise money for the charity so a minimum donation of £2 per child is requested and provides each child with a free book.
Sat 29th November – Sun 30th December (12pm-3pm & 3:30pm-6:30pm)
Sat 6th December – Wed 24th December (12pm-3pm & 3:30pm-6:30pm)
£2 minimum donation per child.
Penguin Santa at Sealife - SE1 7PB
In keeping with a marine theme, kids can meet Penguin Father Fishmas at The Sea Life London Aquarium. The giant jolly penguin has set up an icy, snow-filled home in the Antarctic Penguins: Ice Adventure area, to welcome children into the festive spirit and give each child a special Christmas gift. Only on for two weeks from 19th December through to 2nd January, why not wish your child a happy fishmas this year!
Mon 15th November – Sun 28th December
11am - 3pm
£16.50 – Child (3-15 years)
£24.95 – Adult (16+ years)
£77.40 – Family (2 adults + 2 children)
FREE – Child under 3 years
Travel back to Victorian London and take a walk through the Museum of London, which has been decked out to resemble the 19th Century. Bring your kids to have a photo with Santa with a Victorian background and then go home with a present (not a lump of coal I hope).
Sat 6th December – Wed 24th December (10am – 6pm)
FREE entry to the Museum
£7 to visit Santa
Winterville – Victoria Park, E3 5TB
If you want to avoid Winter Wonderland, but still want a fun family evening out, then Winterville in Victoria Park is the place to be. There are a variety of activities and attractions that will get the kids clamouring to go whilst giving the parents enough that they will be happy to oblige. If you’re not happy with just ice-skating there is a roller disco as well, where you get to enjoy some of the coolest London DJs. The kids will love the House of Fairytales where there are activities put on for them. The pièce de résistance is Santa’s glamorous grotto, which includes a troupe of dancing unicorns as well as activities with Santa and his helpers. This is an experience that your kids will be good all year for.
Tue 2nd December – Thu 1st January (10am – 6pm)
£5 for Santa’s Grotto (Don’t Need to Book)