Winter interests: London’s wintry family highlights

Fair dos, winter may not be the most enticing time of year to gather up your family and visit a city that’s undoubtedly in the north of the Northern Hemisphere. But should you be considering visiting the UK capital during the winter months – after all, there’s lots of travel and hotel offers that may catch your eye – then don’t worry; there’s a whole host of different things going on to provide entertainment, stimulation and more for all the family. Here are just a few examples…

Magical Lantern Festival

(Chiswick House, Burlington Lane W4 2RP/ until 26th February)

Don’t doubt it; the Chinese New Year’s a big deal in London. That’s in part because the city’s a global cosmopolitan hub, but also because there’s such a strong tourist tradition – especially this time of year – that’s grown in and out of Chinatown in the West End’s Soho district. That said; this celebration marking the end of the Chinese New Year is being held at the elegant and, frankly, very English, West London location that’s Chiswick House. And why not? Inspiration for the festival itself, with its spectacularly illuminated lanterns, has been drawn from the ancient Silk Road trading route, as well as the age-old tale of Aladdin and his Genie in the Lamp. Additionally, there’s a fittingly wintry ice rink and pop-up ice bar, as well as street-food stalls and, of course, a giant representation of the fire rooster for kids to find.

Queens Ice and Bowl

(17 Queensway W2 4QP)

The shutters had come down on it for a while, but now the capital’s only full-time ice-rink venue is open once more – and, yes, definitely full-time. Building on an esteemed history dating back to the 1930s, its recent refurbishment ensures the venue not only boasts a new rink, but (count ’em!) 17 bowling lanes, a bar, a pop-up eatery outlet and two must-visit retro computer game arcades. Fun for all the family then; especially if you’ve made your place of stay a Kensington London hotel, not least the Hyde Park International – Member of Park Grand London – they’re literally just round the corner from each another!

Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree

(Karamel Restaurant, 4 Coburg Road NU2 6JJ/ until 7th April)

Something a little different this, but it’s still thoroughly family-friendly fare despite its decidedly alternative feel. Showcasing a hotbed of white-hot entertainers, including everything from musicians to comedians to performance poets; it offers an annual opportunity for them to try out brand new material in a convivial, not-too-critical environment. Moreover, it’ll also be hosting similarly fresh short films, while DJs’ll provide backing music, along with food and drink, well into the early hours.

Adventures in Moomin Land

(Royal Festival Hall, Southbank SE1 8XX/ until 23rd April)

Finally, did you know that this winter the fantastic arts complex that’s the Southbank Centre is putting on an unashamedly Scandi-friendly season called ‘Nordic Matters’? Well, this brand-spanking new exhibition dedicated to the life of Tove Jansson, the creator of everyone’s favourite troll-cum-hippo and his mountain-inhabiting family, is one of its major highlights. Blessed with rarely seen objects and illustrative material, it promises to make for a truly immersive and marvellously interactive experience for Moomin enthusiasts of all ages. So something for Snufkin to trill his harmonica about, for sure!

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