Real lives: Who needs the telly anyway?

Children playing up? It's time to go out then. NIKKI SPENCER has lots of ideas - and yes, they're all open over the holidays
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Christmas is over and everyone's patience is wearing thin. You need to get out of the house, but where do you go? We've all piled the kids into the car only to find a "closed" sign taunting us. Luckily this year it's a bit different. Thanks to the 99s being replaced by all those noughts there are more than just a few pantomime dames on offer. Here are some of the best children's events over the holidays, complete with a grown-up approval rating. Is it going to be a case of grin and bear it for the sake of the kids or could you be the one having the time of your life?



Windsor (tel: 0994 040404). Open every day until 3 Jan 10am-6pm, closes at 5pm on 31 Dec, opens at 11am on 1 Jan. Adults pounds 17, children pounds 14.

The train has become the Snowball Express, Miniland characters will be blanketed in snow and Peter Pan and Cinderella are in panto. Plus the largest selection of Lego toys in the world.

Adult rating: One of the most civilised parks. There can be a scrum to get food but it's good, as are the free shows.


Museum of London, London EC2 (tel: 0171 600 3699), 27-31 Dec, 10am-5.50pm (closes 4pm on New Year's Eve). Adults pounds 5, children under 16 free.

The exhibition is putting on its biggest ever programme of family events with drama, music, dance and storytelling.

Adult rating: Don't miss the "London Eats Out" exhibit with 500 years of eating out in the capital. It even features a juice bar to perk you up. Tickets to the museum last a year so save them for a rainy day.


Geffrye Museum, Kingsland Rd, London E2 (tel: 0171 739 8543) 6 Jan, 4pm. Free.

This wonderful museum of domestic design is holding a lovely Twelfth Night event in the garden where they will burn holly and ivy and sing carols.

Adult rating: A good way to mark the return to the office.


Eureka! The Museum for Children, Halifax (tel: 01422 330069), 27-30 Dec, 10am-5pm. Adults, pounds 5.75, children pounds 4.75.

The elves get a chance to have fun at this special museum for children. Every day there will be music and dancing, a chance to make things and a celebratory parade.

Adult rating: Much more fun than museums were in our day.



Parliament Square to Berkeley Square via Whitehall and Trafalgar Square (tel: 09010 202000), 1 Jan, noon-3pm. Free.

Twelve thousand performers from all over the world will take part in this massive event which is expected to attract at least 2 million spectators. The event will begin quite formally with an opening ceremony by the Queen at 11.45am in Parliament Square, then the streets will be taken over by 10-storey-high inflatables of characters such as Betty Boop.

Adult rating: Your shoulders will be popular. You may start to regret not getting hold of any of the now sold-out pounds 12 grandstand seats. Dress warmly.


Civic Centre, Cardiff (tel: 01222 872000), 31 Dec-2 Jan, noon onwards. Free.

Calennig means "New Year's gift", and there is a packed programme over three days offering everything from space-age adventure games, fairground rides and fireworks to stage performances. City Hall has been transformed into Kidzone 2000, a futuristic playworld where children can make costumes, help to produce animation films and paint a giant mural.

Adult rating: There's an Intergalactic Cocktail Lounge and Litebyte Cafe where parents can relax.


City Centre, Manchester (tel: 0161 234 3999), 2 Jan, 4pm. Free.

A cast of thousands will take part in this celebration of the cultural diversity of Manchester and thousands more are expected to watch as the parade wends its way from Albert Square, along Deansgate, to Castlefield. As well as live music and special effects there will be artwork by local community groups with the help of commissioned artists.

Adult rating: Be prepared to do piggy backs. It's a long walk for little legs.


Newcastle (tel: 0191 277 8000), 31 Dec, 4.20pm, free.

In Newcastle the early evening focus will be on families and will kick off with the lighting of the millennium beacon at the Civic Centre followed by a grand procession where the crowds will be encouraged to join in with "Giant Geordie" puppets, based on local heroes and celebrities such as Alan Shearer. A spectacular finale is promised with fireworks and music at 5.30pm.

Adult rating: OK, it won't be quite the same as being there at midnight but at least you won't feel totally left out.



Nationwide (tel: 0181 315 1111), 26 Dec-3 Jan, prices vary, mostly free.

Dozens of walks are being organised by the National Trust and many of them are suitable for children. They include a 2.5 mile gentle walk around the Kingston Lacey Estate in Dorset on 29 Dec at 2pm (tel: 01202 840630) and a three mile walk around the Killerton Estate in Devon (tel: 01392 881107) on 3 Jan at 10.30am. Warm waterproof clothing and boots essential. Phone to book.

Adult rating: Anything that wears the kids out, and is free, is worth a lot.


More than 400 walks around the UK (tel: 0171 339 8500) 26 Dec-3 Jan. Free.

More walks, this time all free, courtesy of the Ramblers. Most are between four and seven miles so these are not for couch potatoes. They include a five mile walk around the Cosmeston Country Park, Penarth, Glamorgan, at 9.30am on the 30th and a five mile walk around Irvine in North Ayrshire, Scotland, on 29 December at 10am. Again wear suitable gear and phone for details. For very early risers there are also some New Year's Day walks kicking off at 7am although most start after 10am. For a full list visit

Adult rating: An excuse to curl up and watch another video when you get home.


Leeds Castle, near Maidstone, Kent (tel: 0870 600 8880), 1-3 Jan, 10am- 3pm, adults pounds 7.30 (castle entry extra), children free.

If your kids need to be bribed to go on a walk, then at Leeds Castle you can get fresh air in the magnificent grounds and maybe win a prize by following a trail of cryptic clues at the same time. There's the added incentive that for these three days you don't pay for under 16s (usually pounds 6).

Adult rating: There's a trail and prizes for adults, too.



Greenwich Theatre, London SE10 (tel: 0181 858 7755) until 22 Jan. Tickets pounds 5-pounds 15 (half price for kids).

For some reason there seems to be a plethora of productions of the Lord Mayor's tale in the capital this year. There's a stunning musical version devised by Gillian Lynne of Cats fame at Sadler's Wells (tel: 0171 863 8000), but for a more traditional panto head across the river to Greenwich Theatre where they are providing a temporary home for the Theatre Royal from Stratford East while their building is being refurbished.

Adult rating: Lots of gags for grown-ups.


Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester (tel: 0161 833 9833) until 8 Jan. Tickets from pounds 7.

Manchester has plenty of traditional pantomimes such as Peter Pan with Brian Blessed and Anita Harris at the Palace Theatre (tel: 0161 242 2503), but the recently re-opened Royal Exchange is offering something quite different for the over 10s. Bats is a spoof based on the story of Count Dracula with gallons of fake blood spurting in all directions.

Adult rating: Totally ludicrous but fun.


Ballroom, Royal Festival Hall (0171 960 4242) 28-30 Dec and 1 Jan; times vary. Free.

Not all Christmas productions have to

cost a wing and a leg. This stunning version of the Hans Christian Andersen tale is free and lasts just half an hour - perfect for young attention spans.

Adult rating: Plenty to dazzle all ages but get there early to nab floor space.


Blackheath Concert Halls, 23 Lee Road, SE3 (tel: 0181 463 0100), 26 Dec-9 Jan. Tickets from pounds 6.50.

For an alternative Christmas treat, experience the thrill of the circus in the warmth and comfort of the Victorian Great Hall. Trapeze artists will soar above your head while others perform football juggling and chair balancing, all accompanied by a six-piece band. If your children want to know how it's done they can sign up to daily circus skills workshops which will run from tomorrow until 30 December (pounds 5 per workshop).

Adult rating: Billed as something for everyone aged 3-103.


Birmingham Rep (tel: 0121 236 4455), 26-30 Dec. Tickets from pounds 7.25.

Last but not least, is this spectacular production of the Christmas story, suitable for children of eight upwards. Nativity is also on offer at the Young Vic (tel: 0171 928 6363) until 28 Jan.

Adult rating: A good story, whatever you believe.