Thursday, 20 December 2007

Places to go and things to do during the holidays...

By this time next week, it’ll all be over (Christmas, I mean, not the fuss over whether or not Leon really did win X-Factor...).

The only chocs left in the box will be the hard toffees and nuts. Turkey and mince pies will be forbidden words as, yet again, the post-festive diet tops the list of New Year Resolutions. That, and joining a gym (they really must do a roaring trade in new memberships in January); giving up alcohol (yeah, right, not until after New Year's Eve); and redecorating the spare room / tidying the attic / getting a new car, or whatever it was that you inadvertently promised your better half while pleasantly sozzled on Bailey’s and liqueur chocolates.

So, what can you do to get out of the house and get the circulation going? Well, in West London you really are spoiled for choice. Number one in my book has to be a walk around Kew Gardens. Although the leaves have fallen from most of the trees, the glass-houses are as fascinating as ever (to say nothing of being cosily warm), and you really get a feel for the landscape. If you are lucky, there will be some very early spring flowers around, too, courtesy of climate change (though I have to say, it doesn’t feel like that just now). Alternatives closer to home, and free, are Holland Park and Kensington Gardens, both great for getting some fresh air and walking off some of those festive calories.

Of course, you may not want to get quite that much exercise. An excellent family alternative is the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, just over the bridge from Kew itself. From 29th December until 1st January, they are having a “Grand Christmas Steam Up”. On this exclusive week-end, all of the steam engines will be working, and there will also be model steam trains and craft workshops, including material picture making, cross stitching displays and even how to make traditional sweets (not that you’ll want any more to eat, but it is amazing what kids can put away). There will also specialised talks on the working life of the Victorian pumping station, and behind the scenes tours of the original workshops. The museum is open 11-17h each day.

If Brentford is a little out of the way, there are always the museums in South Kensington. The Natural History Museum has tons of activities on all week from 29th December to 4th January (see listings). Next door, the Science Museum has special exhibitions (all free) on climate change, a look inside a Spitfire and one exploring the first century of plastics (which looks more fun than it sounds). There are also special events on most days, but my favourite has to be the 3D IMAX show “Santa vs the Snowman”, an animated 3D feature in which Santa takes on an evil, lonely snowman who is trying to take over Christmas to become the world’s most loved festive character. Expect flying 3D snowballs, elves and jet-propelled reindeer!! OK, it’s £7.50 (£6 children), but when first shown last year it was a huge family hit.

Then again, you could always pop down to the sale at Harrods...

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