London has lots of fun activities for kids and their parents -- even on New Year's Eve. Start with a morning tour of London, including Saint Paul's Cathedral and the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. After lunch at Harrods, go to one of London's many museums, then catch the Royal Ballet's performance of "The Nutcracker." End the day with winter activities in Hyde Park and fireworks on the Thames.
Tour Central London
See the great monuments of central London from the comfortable seat of a luxury coach, and have everything explained to you by a professional tour guide. You will make a photo stop at Westminster Abbey, go inside Saint Paul's Cathedral to marvel at the elaborate mosaics and the genius of Christopher Wren. Then, it is on to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. It is a memory that will come back every time you here the phrase "pomp and circumstance." The tour runs from 9 a.m. to noon, and costs from 30 to 35 pounds. You can add a 30-minute boat ride on the Thames for an extra 3 pounds.
Lunch at Harrods
Harrods is not only a magnificent department store, it also is a great place to have lunch. The store's 30 eateries serve everything from hamburgers and wood-fired pizzas to seafood and sushi. Your kids will like the Disney cafe on the fourth floor. The Disney magic includes Mickey-shaped toast and ravioli, Disney on-table activities and giant screens around the restaurant playing Disney favorites.
The Kensington Museum
Kensington Palace, originally called Nottingham House, was built in 1605. Christopher Wren enlarged the house in 1669, after which William III and Mary II became its first royal inhabitants. The palace is now a museum where your kids can see the living quarters, art, clothing, and other memorabilia from royals extending from William and Mary to Queen Elizabeth II and Diana, Princess of Wales. Highlights include the King's Staircase and Gallery, the Sunken Garden and an exhibit on the childhood and reign of Queen Victoria.
Popular Alternatives to the Kensington
If royals do not interest you, try the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum. The Victoria and Albert is a museum of art and design with permanent collections and interactive activities in ceramics, glass, jewelry, architecture, furniture, textiles, fashion, sculpture, paintings, books and photography. You and your kids can explore the museum on your own or through the activities in a "family trail" or V & A backpack. The Natural History Museum has two children's labs and more than 30 permanent galleries on topics that include dinosaurs, mammals, insects, and the earth. Backpacks analogous to those at the V & A also are available. The Science Museum has permanent exhibits on the history of science and medicine, what makes us who we are, X-ray crystallography, electronic music, online communication, space, astronomy, the atmosphere, mathematics, agriculture and the modern home. The museum also has interactive galleries and flight simulators.
For a sedentary activity, go see the Royal Ballet perform Tchaikovsky's masterpiece at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Your kids will enjoy the opulent setting, incredible music and dancing, lavish sets, and the whimsical tale of a little girl's holiday adventure in a world filled with fairies, princes, toy soldiers, and an army of mice. You can be sure that you will never see the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" and the "Waltz of the Snowflakes" performed by a better ballet company. The performance begins at 5 p.m. and runs to 7:10 p.m.
Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
There is something for everyone here. You and your kids can skate under the stars around an illuminated Victorian bandstand. You also can walk through a magical ice kingdom where you will see ice sculptures in themed rooms, ice animals in a forest, and a unicorn pulling an ice carriage. For those who want more sedentary activities, there are two circuses and a Ferris wheel. You also might want to stop by one of the six restaurants in the wonderland for something to eat and perhaps some hot mulled cider to take to the fireworks.
New Year's Eve Fireworks
London's fireworks display is launched from the foot of the London Eye at Jubilee Gardens and from rafts on the Thames River. The show begins at 11:50 p.m. and lasts 10 minutes. To find a good viewing location, look for a spot that gives you a good view of the Eye. If you add the boat ride on the Thames to your morning tour, you will see the launch area and several of the best viewing locations.