The consolation for winter’s shorter days are magical seasonal events designed to make the most of atmospheric evenings. Sara O’Reilly selects three of the best after-dark outings in the run-up to Christmas.
For reluctant gardeners: Christmas lates at Kew Gardens
The jewel in London’s horticultural crown is a World Heritage Site but that doesn’t mean it’s content to rest on its, ahem, laurels, or any of the other thousands of species it cultivates. Seasonal late openings have plenty to offer those who have yet to discover Kew’s landscaped loveliness – as well as partners and children strong armed into accompanying fervent fans. So, expect a Victorian carousel and other vintage rides as well as Santa’s grotto, live music and a Christmas market offering foodie treats. New this year are lighting installations created by artists from around the UK. Explore them on an illuminated trail which will take around 75 minutes to complete.
Tickets are £12.50 (£8 children, free under-fives). Thu-Sun 4.30-10pm. Thu Nov 28 – Jan 5 2014.
For the Hoi Polloi: ‘Enchanted Woodland’ at Syon Park
The Duke of Northumberland, whose family have made Syon House their London home for more than four centuries, could offer Lord Grantham of ‘Downton Abbey’ a tip or two on creative ways to meet the expenses of a great estate. For four weekends in November, the trees in Syon’s arboretum are illuminated to create a magical wintery walk for plebs to enjoy after dark. The stroll takes about an hour and afterwards you can warm up with a indulgent mug of hot chocolate in The Refectory in the garden centre, which is housed in a sixteenth-century stable block.
Tickets are £7 (£3 children). Fri-Sun 5-9pm. Fri Nov 2 – Dec 8.
For Little Explorers: ‘Travelling to the Wonderland’ at the V&A
The serene, elliptical pool in the V&A’s courtyard has been transformed by Chinese artist Xu Bing to become an ethereal fantasy garden, inspired by a fifth-century Chinese fable called ‘Tao Hua Yuan’ (‘The Peach Blossom Spring’). ‘Mountains’ (actually, big chunks of rock from different regions of China) surround the pool. Ceramic animals roam the peaks, fish frolic in the shallow water and among the slopes are miniature houses. There are also tiny TV screens and other unexpected elements to discover. It’s not specifically aimed at children, but they’ll love it, specially after dark.
Free. Mon-Thu, Sat, Sun 10am- 5.45pm; Fri 10am-10pm. Until Mar 2 2014.
Find more festive fun at our Christmas hub.