Whether you're jetting off to sunnier climes or returning from a relaxing winter break, Stansted Airport and nearby Stratford are packed with places where you can do some last minute Christmas shopping. From designer labels to gift boutiques and big name brands, this retail wonderland is guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit.
Since the 2012 Olympics kick-started a huge rejuvenation project, Stratford has become one of the most exciting up-and-coming areas in London. Located just 30 minutes by car or an hour by train from Stansted Airport, it's also the ideal place to pick up Christmas gifts before or after your flight. With many shops staying open until 11pm in the run-up to the big day, there's plenty of time for you to do the rounds before a well-earned rest at our Radisson Blu Hotel, London Stansted Airport.
The famous Stratford Westfield shopping centre transforms into a winter wonderland for the festive season, complete with dazzling decorations and a magical Santa's Grotto. This year, the grotto features an awe-inspiring 4D film for children, who'll also leave with a bespoke gift from Santa himself. Just make sure you book tickets in advance to avoid any disappointment. For adults who can't rely on Father Christmas to organise all their gifts, the Westfield centre has over 300 stores, so whether you're heading straight for the high-street staples or the high-end boutiques, you should be able to find something for everyone on your list. Take inspiration from the London Gift Shop, dedicate a good hour to clearing out John Lewis, and pick up perfect stocking fillers at Menkind, Accessorize and the Disney Store.
If you're travelling with children (or a significant other) who have patiently followed you around the shops, you can reward them with a visit to Lee Valley. This 26-mile long park stretches from east London up through Essex and Hertfordshire, encompassing a VeloPark, Hockey and Tennis Centre and White Water Rafting Centre. All three of these played an integral role in the London Olympics, and today, they're open to the public. If you've ever suspected that there's a gold medal-winning kayaker or canoeist in you just dying to get out, you can test that theory with some bespoke tuition, or sign up for sessions specifically designed to help you perfect your rolling technique. Anyone who prefers their sporting activities to stay on dry land can get involved with hockey and tennis, or check the events calendar to find out when the next big matches will take place. The centre is already signed up to host the 2015 EuroHockey championships and 2018 Women's World Championships, affirming its status as a world-leading venue.
The Stratford VeloPark was the site of some of Team GB's biggest and best victories in the 2012 Olympics, and boasts the fastest track in the world. The centre has several different options for newcomers to track cycling, with special holiday sessions for children who want to learn how to ride a bike with no brakes or gears. Alternatively, you can use the VeloPark as a starting point for one of the intense mountain bike trails, or stay on-road with a one-mile circuit route, designed to help the world's best bikers get even better.