We’re approaching the time of year when everyone starts to think about one final mini-break before Christmas truly arrives. Those last two or three weeks of December always go past at a frantic pace, with little time to pause or relax, so many of us go away for a long weekend to charge our batteries before it’s too late.
There are plenty of places to go, both in the UK and abroad, but it might not always be wise or desirable to spend money leaving the country when you have the festive season approaching. You’re likely to be spending a lot on gifts and entertainment, so you don’t want to leave yourself short by blowing it all on a trip to Rome, even if that does sound wonderful.
The UK has plenty of destinations to choose from for a few days away. It sometimes feels like ‘the done thing’ is to head to the countryside for a while, and that can be a great choice. The scenery is beautiful, and it never hurts to get back to nature. At this time of year, though, it can be a little too cold and dark. So why not show England’s capital some love instead?
If you already live there, try Birmingham or Manchester instead. See what you can find further North. But if you don’t, then here are a few good reasons to consider London for a pre-Christmas visit.
See Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
If you’ve never been to Hyde Park, you’ll have no appreciation of the scale of us. Trust us when we say it’s a really big place. Every year, Hyde Park turns itself into a Winter Wonderland that would be the envy of any city in the world. The entire park becomes a living, breathing Christmas town full of entertainment and excitement.
There’s far too much going on for us to detail here, but just to give you the headlines there’s a magical ice kingdom, a full sized theme park, a Bavarian market, an ice bar, and a complete Land of Santa. There are ice sculpting workshops. There’s a comedy stage. If you could imagine such a thing, this is the Glastonbury Festival of Christmas. There’s entertainment and activities for adults and children alike, and plenty of it.
Hit The Casinos
Very few people don’t enjoy the thrill of an occasional flutter. Whether your chosen method is bingo, lotteries, roulette or slot machines, there are plenty of casinos to be found in London which should cater to your tastes. Recent years have seen a lot of gambling move online. While there’s no denying the sophistication and variety of Clover Casino’s Games and websites like it, with their range of online slot titles and friendly gaming environment, there’s still a lot to be said for visiting a casino in person every now and then.
London has quite the extensive range of them. Just standing in Leicester Square, you’re within walking distance of Horizons Casino, the Hippodrome Casino, The Rialto and the Empire Casino. With all the lights shining bright in the winter’s dark, it’s like you’ve somehow wandered into the middle of the Las Vegas strip. And who knows, you might even win yourself some extra Christmas spending money!
Walk The Kew Gardens Light Trail
Kew Gardens is a tourist attraction worth seeing all year round. The massive, beautiful botanical gardens hosts displays, lectures and events from all over the world. Guided talks can give you a sense of the history of both the gardens themselves, and the plants and features to be found there. The story of how the gardens were affected by both world wars is particularly emotional, but it’s the Christmas Light Trail you really have to see.
Every December, Christmas arrives at Kew Gardens, and the after-dark festive trail of lights become open for families to walk down. The incredible display features over a million individual bulbs. The woods become glittering canopies, as laser displays skip across the skies. It’s a truly awe inspiring experience which seems to get bigger every year.
Carnaby Christmas Festival
If you’ve never heard of Carnaby Christmas Festival, you’re in for a real treat. Carnaby Street is forever associated with the sixties, where the street, the bars and shops on it and the people who visited it seemed to sum up the entire era happening around them. It’s managed to keep its finger firmly on the cultural zeitgeist since then, and every Christmas it hosts a carnival.
The carnival looks like something that would be more at home in Rio de Janeiro in the peak of summer than London at its coldest. This year, the organisers have ordered in neon coconut trees, giant party poppers and exotic birds to give the street a Caribbean flavour, which should go well with the pop up food and drink stalls that always appear in the street this time of year.
All The Reasons You’d Go Any Other Time
Of course, you might want to avoid Christmas while you’re away. You’re going to have to deal with it when it arrives, so why not delay that for a little while and focus on something else while you’re away? So instead of doing any of these things – except maybe hitting those casinos – why not just do the things you’d do in London at any other time of year?
London doesn’t stop being London just because of the season. You can still visit Big Ben. You can still see the Houses of Parliament. It still has Tate Modern and the Southbank Centre. The Tower of London and the Natural History Museum welcome visitors all year round. You’ll definitely see Christmas decorations if you go to look at Westminster Abbey, but it’ll be so beautiful that you won’t mind. Go and take in the sights and sounds of a real East End market. Go to find out what all the fuss is about in Harrod’s, the world’s most exclusive department store. This is London. There is always something to do. There is always something to see.
If reading this has whetted your appetite, then why delay? Christmas will be here before you know it, and then it’ll be 2019. You deserve a break. Give yourself one!