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Every year I like to dedicate a weekend in which I do festive stuff with the kids: santa visits, tree decorating, present wrapping, roast dinners… you know the drill. We usually incorporate a trip to Lapland UK into this weekend and were going to continue the tradition this year, but after pricing it out at the same cost of four days at Center Parcs (£500 is ridiculous when it’s not *actual* Lapland) we decided to do something a little different.
As it happened, on the Sunday of our epic festive weekend of fun we had four inches of snow, a magical experience that could not have been bettered by five hundred quid’s worth of UK-based Lapland fun, so our decision to do something a little divergent this year and visit the gorgeous winter wonderland town of Kingston-upon-Thames was a great one.
I love Kingston: that is, Kingston-upon-Thames, not to be confused with Kingston Milton Keynes which is more massive Tesco retail park and less riverside idyll.
The Thames version is simply gorgeous… near enough to the city to feel like London yet far enough away to have its own independent charm, I love to visit but had never been in the winter so was excited to experience it with the children.
We arrived at lunchtime on Saturday ready for a visit to the Children’s Literary Festival. Running throughout November and December, this program of events has consisted of readings and tales from some of the best children’s authors. We were lucky enough to see Jeremy Davies give a reading from his festive tale The Advent Calendar, after which he did a little Q & A session for the kids (and adults!) in the audience and signed a couple of books. My little bookworm Elfie was absolutely thrilled to meet him and was so excited to have her own very special Christmas message in a copy of her book – her excitement was similar to that of mine when I was in the same room as Hillary Clinton, i.e. hopping up and down and needing to breathe into a paper bag-levels. It was wonderful to see her so ecstatic over a book, just like her mummy.
Next up was a stroll through town to look at the Christmas lights – something we always LOVE to do as a family, and an activity that’s on a par in terms of frugalness with the ‘free zoo’ (AKA Pets at Home). I loved those at Bentalls as well as the massive Christmas tree in the town square: though here was where cold finger syndrome started to set in – wear your gloves, you crazy children – and runny noses encouraged us to look for a slightly warmer activity.
We found this in the form of the gorgeous handmade fair that was going on next to the church, a huge sprawling marquee complex that had not only heaters but a brilliant array of crafters and small business owners selling gorgeous Christmas presents. We spend a lovely hour wandering around here looking at what was on offer, followed by a quick hot chocolate to warm up in the adjacent Alpine Village.
Back out to wander through the pop-up shops and snacks housed in the wooden cabins we took a stroll down to the river for an early supper at Bill’s. One of our favourite’s in London, we don’t have one locally so were really looking forward to our visit.
If you’d like to know why Hux spent his day with a half-blown up balloon in his mouth, well, I wish I could tell you. 5 year olds, eh? Luckily he fell asleep on my lap in the restaurant after all that Christmas excitement and I managed to confiscate the soggy piece of rubber to the bin. Mum: 1, Balloon: 0.
We finished our day in Kingston with a little stroll through the Candy Cane village, a new attraction for 2017 that features loads of entertainment for kids, including fairground rides and a few surprises.
Huge thanks to Visit Kingston for inviting us to spend the day in your lovely town. We had a brilliantly festive time and – bonus – I didn’t need to sell a kidney to pay for the entry price. It was such a lovely weekend for us to get excited in the run up to Christmas; between the festive market, Christmas lights and heavy snowfall we feel more than ready to gorge ourselves on everything Christmas – that’s mince pies (them) and mulled wine (me). Ho ho ho!!
This post was commissioned by Visit Kingston, a town we love to visit.