Thinking of visiting the UK capital in June, July or August 2016? Here are 48 suggestions for some unmissable summertime family fun in London.
Music, Dance and Festivals
1. Visit historic Sadler’s Wells, where there’s a programme of family-friendly events, including My First Ballet: Sleeping Beauty from 6-10 July, and STEP Live, celebrating London’s youth dance.
2. Head north for the Walthamstow Garden Party on 16-17 July. As well as music, it features creative biscuits ceramic making, family film programmes and a Little Mashers screen printing workshop.
3. Competing for dates is Citadel, also on 17 July in Hackney’s Victoria Park. Big names like Sigur Ros, Calexico and Tinariwen are playing; for the little-uns there’s a roller disco, games with Arcola Theatre and a chance to learn to be a superhero.
4. Watch kids parade in exuberant costumes on Children’s Day at the legendary Notting Hill Carnival, Sunday 28 August.
5. Introduce your youngsters to classical music at one of the many family-friendly events at the London Proms, including Sunday matinees and bring-along-your instrument performances.
6. Gyrate along with Aussie DJ Monski Mouse in her Baby Disco Dance Hall, returning to London as part of the South Bank’s London Wonderground Festival. Here’s what we thought of the show in previous years.
7. Enjoy the Family Summer Festival at Canary Wharf, with free outdoor music, dance and theatre treats like Once Upon a Time There were Four Little Rabbits, a celebration of 150 years of Beatrix Potter on Sunday 26 June.
8. Marvel at Hyde Park’s new Pavilion, designed to look like an open zip, and take part in the family activities inside. Afterwards, visit the four new Summer houses, and take a dip in the Serpentine Lido.
9. Become engrossed in the collection of picture books from Soviet Russia at the House of Illustration, Kings Cross.
10. Stroll around the streets of Shoreditch, taking in the stunning street art.
11. Experience the best of contemporary art at the acclaimed Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
12. Drop in to Dulwich Picture Gallery in August for family month, which features art sessions in the garde, with a teaching artist; art play, and storytelling.
13. Visit the new Tate Kids website, which has art-based games, videos on street art, screen printin and Matisse for children; and all the latest news on events for families at London’s Tate museums.
14. Animal mania family festival day is at the National Gallery on Saturday 4 June. If you visit during the rest of the summer, you can take a family tour, or get involved in one of their art workshops.
15. Visit Kew Gardens and find out about the lives of bees inside the Hive, Wolfgang Buttress’s acclaimed 17-metre construction made of thousands of pieces of aluminium.
16. Explore the two-acre wilderness that is Camley Street Natural Park, just a stone’s throw from the Eurostar terminal at King’s Cross.
17. Visit the London Wetland Centre in Barnes to feed rare birds, meet otters and do a spot of pond-dipping.
18. Go wild swimming in Kings Cross Pond Club, a natural bathing pond just metres from the busy train station.
19. Get face-to face with sharks, penguins and other marine life at the Sea Life London Aquarium.
20. Visit Above and Beyond, the National Maritime Museum’s interactive exhibition on space flight. While you’re there you could climb the hill to Greenwich’s Planetarium, and watch Asteroid: Mission Extreme.
22. Roam the Victorian streets of the capital and see what Roman Londinium must have looked like at the Museum of London.
23. Climb aboard London’s original buses and trams at the Transport Museum, Covent Garden.
24. Spend days exploring the wonders of the Science Museum (set over five very child-friendly floors – one day just isn’t enough).
25. Meet Bagpuss, the Clangers and Noggin the Nog at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.
26. Marvel at mummies in the British Museum, and follow the diver through Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds, an exhibition of newly discovered treasures.
27. Learn all about dinosaurs and their young in Dinosaurs: monster families at the Horniman Museum, Forest Hill.
28. Visit the newly refurbished Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, opening on 23 July with The Fantastic World of Dr Seuss.
Just for fun
29. Ride with your favourite characters from the Shrek films in 4D at Shrek’s Adventure.
30. Get a birds-eye view of the capital on board the London Eye, the giant ferris wheel on the banks of the River Thames.
31. Have your picture taken disappearing into the wall, Harry Potter-style, at platform 9 and 3/4, Kings Cross station.
32. Picnic in St James’s Park, with a view of Buckingham Palace one way, the Houses of Parliament the other. As well as plenty of interesting sights in this area, including the changing of the guard, you can also watch the park pelicans being fed (just make sure they don’t try and steal your sandwiches!).
33. Bounce around at Oxygen, London’s first trampoline park.
34. Give your baby their first ever taste of the theatre at the Unicorn’s Baby Show (from 19 August).
36. Get carried away by the verve of Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone, on stage at the Lyric Hammersmith. You can read our review of the show here.
37. Experience the magic of a Julia Donaldson classic brought to life in The Scarecrow’s Wedding at the Leicester Square Theatre.
38. Catch a performance at the Little Angel Theatre, the small but perfectly formed Islington home of puppetry.
39. Celebrate Roald Dahl’s centenary at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon by watching their acclaimed production of James and the Giant Peach.
40. Watch Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
41. Growl away with The Lion King at the West End’s Lyceum Theatre.
42. Watch Roald Dahl’s Matilda performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Cambridge Theatre.
43. See E. Nesbitt’s classic The Railway Children brought to life at King’s Cross Theatre.
44. Visit London’s first public children’s playground: Coram’s Fields, a seven-acre park on the site of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital (immortalised in the book and Broadway show Coram Boy).
45. Visit the Tower Bridge exhibition, for a glimpse into the bridge’s history, stunning views across the Thames and dizzying glass floors.
46. See the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, dating back to the 1850s and resident in an large park, with a playground and city farm.
47. Climb aboard the world’s sole-surviving tea clipper, the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, and explore the vessel with Nannie the Witch and Captain Woodgett. You can read more about a family visit to the Cutty Sark in this post by Mummy Travels.
48. Visit the Churchill War Rooms to discover the wartime bunker that sheltered Churchill and his government during the Blitz.
These are just a few suggestions. There are hundreds more ideas for what families can enjoy – we live here, and even to us it still feels as though we haven’t scratched the surface of what’s available.
What would you do on a summertime trip to London?
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In the past we have been given, or offered, free tickets to a few of these attractions. No money has exchanged hands in the production of this post. All views are my own.