Christmas across the world: Festive events in Kaplan cities

As the holiday season goes into full swing, whether you’re studying in London or New York, Sydney or Vancouver, you can guarantee that no matter the weather, each city will have its own selection of festive activities. To get you in the festive mood, we’ve put together the most popular (and Christmassy) events that’ll soften even the hardest of scrooges…


Winter Wonderland

No festive season will be complete without a visit to Winter Wonderland, arguably the biggest Christmas event in London. Based in Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland is an adult-sized Santa’s grotto, featuring fairground rides, an ice rink, a circus, a Bavarian beer tent, and a Christmas market. Thanks to its large bar and mulled wine stall, Winter Wonderland is equally as popular with adults as it is with children. With free entry for everyone, there's nothing better to do on a winter evening in London than to go to Winter Wonderland and feast on mince pies, sip some mulled wine and browse the chalets for Christmas gifts.

Christmas market at the Tate Modern

Another brilliant way to jump into the Christmas spirit if you’re in London is to visit the Christmas market at the Tate Modern. As one of the biggest Christmas markets in London, the annual market offers visitors the chance to browse a beautiful selection of handmade gifts, jewellery and toys, all whilst tucking into crêpes and listening to Christmas music.

Christmas shopping on Oxford Street

For those of you that get your kicks out of Christmas shopping, London is definitely the right place. Notorious for its incredible window displays, a trip to Oxford Street is both easy on the eye and gentle on your purse strings. From upmarket department stores such as Selfridges and Liberty, to high street retailers such as House of Fraser and Debenhams, Oxford Street is a brilliant place to enjoy the magical window displays and stock up on gifts for your loved ones.

Ice skating at the Natural History Museum

Although London has a huge selection of open-air ice skating rinks to choose from, perhaps the most popular (and most festive) rink can be found at the Natural History Museum. With the Natural History museum serving as the background to the ice rink, guests have the opportunity to skate amongst the museum's grounds to a backdrop of Christmas jingles.

Spend a night ice skating under the stars at London's Natural History Museum

New York

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Located at the Rockefeller Center, New York’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony is not to be missed. Festive fans flock in their thousands and stand back in awe as a 78 foot Christmas tree is lit up and illuminated by over 450,000 LED lights. Even after the official lighting ceremony, which this year was on the 2nd of December, visitors also have the opportunity to go ice skating, and can enjoy theatre acts and performances from surprise celebrity guests.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

For those that love theatre shows and musicals, the iconic Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a brilliant way to celebrate the beginning of the festive period. Featuring singing, dancing and humorous sketches within a traditional Christmas story, the show has become a New York Christmas tradition. Don’t think this is just for the younger generation – this Christmas celebration is popular with children and adults alike.

Christmas shopping on Fifth Avenue

Renowned for its shops as well as its sights, the abundance of department stores and large retailers make New York the ultimate place for Christmas shopping. Like Oxford Street, the window displays in New York are worth a visit alone, with department stores such as Macy’s and Bloomingdales going all out with their Christmas decorations and life-sized window features. The iconic Fifth Avenue is home to New York’s biggest and most iconic department stores such as Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman and Sak’s, and is a haven for designer goods. While Fifth Avenue boasts some of the world’s elite luxury shops, it’s also home to a fair share of high street retailers and chain restaurants, meaning it has something for everyone.

Ice Skating in Central Park

If you want to really soak up the festive spirit this Christmas, head over to Central Park for some ice skating on Wollman Rink. Ice skating at Wollman Rink is a beloved winter tradition for New Yorkers, made all the better during the Christmas period with the presence of festive music and Christmas carols. If skating isn’t for you, the rink also features a spectator’s area, where you can soak up the magical atmosphere and enjoy the stunning view of the Manhattan skyline.

Enjoy the views of the New York skyline while you're ice skating in Central Park


Santa Fest

Unlike Christmas in the UK or Northern America, the festive period in Sydney is full of sunshine and warm weather. Although the sun in shining, Australia still embraces Christmas in the same festive way, and every year hosts its ‘Santa Fest’ at Darling Harbour. The annual festival runs from late November throughout December and offers visitors an Open Air Cinema, a Ferris wheel, carol singing, live music, and Santa Fest storytelling.

Christmas Day: Bondi Beach

Due to the great weather in Sydney, a common feature for tourists and Australians alike is to spend Christmas Day on Bondi Beach. People flock to the beach by the thousands to celebrate the special day by the ocean. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this will be just a normal day at the beach – despite the beach setting, it is not unusual for you to see Santa costumes, Christmas hats, and even Christmas trees!

Darling Harbour Boat Race

Another of Sydney’s Christmas traditions is their annual Boxing Day boat race at Darling Harbour. Since 1945, it has been a Boxing Day tradition in Sydney for hundreds of boats to take part in a race from Sydney to Hobart. As it stands, the current record is 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds. Although the race goes on for more than a day, the race attracts visitors in the thousands, with the harbour being filled with families having picnics and enjoying the busy and cheerful atmosphere of the race.

Spend Christmas day on the beach at Australia's famous Bondi Beach


Rogers Santa Claus Parade

The annual Rogers Christmas parade is one of Vancouver’s most loved traditions, bringing in almost 300,000 people to the streets of Vancouver to watch Santa and his reindeer bring some Christmas cheer to the Canadian streets. The parade features over 60 marching bands, festive floats, dancers and choirs, and leads on to the Capital Christmas Square where visitors have the opportunity to take part in fun activities such as face painting and ginger bread decorating. Although it's too late to go this year – this parade took place on the 6th of December – it's never too early to start planning for next year!

Grouse Mountain

If you’re in Vancouver for the Christmas period, a visit to Grouse Mountain is not to be missed. Located just 15 minutes from Vancouver, Grouse Mountain resembles a real-life winter wonderland, where visitors can have breakfast with Santa, visit reindeer, take part in outdoor ice skating, and can even enjoy a sleigh ride. If you'd rather avoid the cold, you even have the option to snuggle up and watch a selection of Christmas movies at the Theatre in the Sky.

Vancouver's Grouse Mountain is a real-life winter wonderland


We hope all these attractions have got you in the Christmas spirit! Why not improve your English language skills and check out our list of Christmas vocabulary here, or check out any of Kaplan's other exciting destinations!

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