Last year I wrote a piece on why I don't celebrate Christmas, and why for me, it's all become a bit of a marketing gimmick. But as a working mum with two young children I'm finding it increasingly difficult to sway away from all the hype this year, and I've truly been thinking of making the Christmas holidays one to remember - and all because, the kids will be off, and so will I!
In the run up to Christmas most working parents will have already planned their Christmas leave, but taking time off is the easy part - what isn't so easy is making sure you have enough things planned that make the Christmas holidays fun for the whole family (especially if this year you're having a 'staycation'!)
Luckily, the capital has a lot to offer during Christmas. Here are my top five things to do that are sure to guarantee your little ones a fun-filled break.
Stroll through one of the many Royal Parks, or maybe even your local one!
There's something magical about walking in London on a crisp, cold, winter's day. But not all children want to be dragged around the city centre if the weather isn't great. So how about visiting one of the Royal Parks this year? From now until Sunday the 4th of January 2015, Hyde Park has been transformed into a beautiful Winter Wonderland, which includes the famous 'Cirque Beserk' by Zippo's Circus, a Magical Ice Kingdom; ice-skating; a Christmas market, and topped off with their annual fairground rides, including the Giant Observation Wheel. Children also have the chance to meet Santa at the Grotto and get a present (and photo) too! It's a great day out.
Go to a market
This has to be one of my favourites, and something that really captures the festive spirit. Just walking along the dimly-lit, food-filled streets of London can make anyone feel warm and fuzzy inside. Borough Market and Covent Garden Market are two such places that are not to be missed. With Christmas song in the air, street performers on display, and indulgent delights on tap, there's always something to be seen (and eat!) And best of all, it won't cost you a penny to go along.
Festive fun by the River
If you fancy a day near the river then you need not go further than Southbank. The Winter Festival is back, and it's even better than before! On until Sunday the 11th of January 2015 it takes the term 'winter festival' to another level. With a Christmas market that offers seasonal Christmas specials from across the globe, and an array of exciting things to do it really is the place to be - Just a few of their latest attractions include a Christmas Tree Maze; a chance to get lost in 300 black forest Christmas trees, or if you fancy something a little more relaxing, how about a journey on the Southbank Centre Express - a train ride that takes you from the Hungerford Bridge right to the Festival Pier and back. It'll be a great way to take in the sparkle of the city at this time of year. But for a truly extraordinary experience step inside a snow blizzard in the Slava Snowshow, at the Royal Festival Hall. It's sure to be a day to remember.
Visit a show
At this time of year, there is plenty on offer for arts and theatre-lovers of all ages, from The Little Angel Theatre to Unicorn; Southbank to Polka, there is something for everyone in every part of town. Some classics on show right now include The Gruffalo's Child, Santa Claus and the Magical Journey, The Snowman, winter ballet classics, and much, much more. Do a quick search online to see what's showing in your area and in the capital.
You may have already spotted them, but ice skating rinks have popped up all over town. I don't think there's a part of London I can think of without one. One of the best ones I've been to is at Somerset House - and there are tons to choose from, which are set in beautiful historic grounds, such as The Natural History Museum, or even in shopping locations, such a Westfield. For those with children under five, most ice rinks have the option of hiring mini-penguins, polar bears and seals, which are brilliant for younger children to sit on and glide!
So when it's time for you to put your out of office on and log off for the holidays, take a deep breath and think about all the exciting things you can do with your family in the city. Have a lovely Christmas, and a happy new year... For those of you who celebrate, of course!