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The ultimate guide to London family fun

London Duck Tour

Thinking of visiting the UK capital in May, June, July or August? Or are you looking for something to do in the school holidays? Here is your guide to free, mid-priced, and top-deck family fun in London. *UPDATE: for the latest on what’s on in London this summer, visit our new feature here!*

Mid-priced fun (under £15 per adult)

  • For a Thames cruise experience, City Cruises’ River Red Rover ticket allows open passage on any City Cruises sightseeing boats for 24 hours or 72 hours. You can hop on and hop off at any one of four piers. For an extra charge, the Rover ticket can be combined with visits to London attractions like the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Shakespeare’s Globe or the Cutty Sark. Read about our trip with City Cruises here.
Dr Seuss

Dr Seuss at Discover Story Centre, Stratford

  • As well as rare birds, otters and  pond-dipping, the London Wetland Centre in Barnes now has the Dusty Ducks, a set of 6-foot characters designed by Aardman Studios. The Ducks will feature in activities over Spring and Summer 2017.
  • There are scores of family-friendly music events at the London Proms, including Sunday matinees and bring-along-your instrument performances.
  • The first exhibition showing illustrator Quentin Blake‘s personal sketchings of birds is at the House of Illustration, Kings Cross.
  • You can often find family attractions at Canary Wharf. Check out their Family Summer Festival for listings.
  • You’ll see some of the best contemporary art at the acclaimed Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
  • The Southbank Centre have extended the run of Adventures in Moominland, into the middle of August. The immersive exhibition exploring the characters and life of Finnish writer Tove Jansson is part of the Centre’s year-long Nordic Matters festival, which features a  range of other Scandi-inspired events. Here’s what we made of Adventures in Moominland.
Adventures in Moominland

Adventures in Moominland

  • For a big dose of London’s past brought into the present, visit the Tower Bridge exhibition. There you’ll be treated to a glimpse into the bridge’s history, stunning views across the Thames and dizzying glass floors.
  • During the warmer months, the brave can go wild swimming in Kings Cross Pond Club, a natural bathing pond just metres from the busy train station. Until then, a series of talks and events are held on-site.
  • Why not drop in to Dulwich Picture Gallery in August for family month, which features sessions with a teaching artist, art play, and storytelling.
  • Set in acres of parkland, Eltham Palace and Gardens is part 1930s art-deco showhome, part medieval royal residence. With dressing-up, regular family events and a castle-themed playground, the English Heritage site is great for a family day out, as we discovered.
Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace

  • If you visit Kew Gardens you can find out about the lives of bees inside the Hive, Wolfgang Buttress’s acclaimed 17-metre construction made of thousands of pieces of aluminium.
  • Fancy a bounce? Head to Oxygen at Acton, London’s first trampoline park.
  • Climb aboard the world’s sole-surviving tea clipper, the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, and explore the life of a seafarer. The Cutty Sark runs regular activities for youngsters, including a Sailor’s Challenge over spring half-term (1-4 June). You can read more about a family visit to the Cutty Sark in this post by Mummy Travels.
  • London’s Planetarium, at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, has a full programme of features suitable for all ages, from pre-schoolers upwards.

Top-deck fun (over £15 per adult)

London Duck Tour

An amphibious DUKW

  • Backyard Cinema is an immersive cinema experience, which runs screenings at pop-up locations around the city. We went to a delightful showing of Home Alone in their Winter Night Garden. For families with older children, Romeo and Juliet is showing until September, and Summer favourites will screen on ‘Miami Beach’, where families can watch films with their toes buried in the sand.
  • If you want a birds-eye view of the capital, head for the London Eye, the giant ferris wheel on the banks of the River Thames.

London Eye

  • To commemorate 350 years since the Great Fire of London, St Paul’s Cathedral is running history tours and talks exploring the events of 1666. There’s a family tour full of facts, where children can earn a Flame the Phoenix badge.
  • You can get face-to face with sharks, penguins and other marine life at the Sea Life London Aquarium. Just opened is Ocean Invaders, a set of immersive displays all about jellyfish.
  • If you want your mind to be blown, check out Star Wars Identities at the O2, Greenwich. The exhibition’s designed to appeal to fans and non-fans of the film franchise, and runs until 2 September.
  • Visit the Churchill War Rooms to discover the wartime bunker that sheltered Churchill and his government during the Blitz.

Free fun

  • Coram’s Fields was London’s first free children’s playground. The seven-acre park is on the site of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital, immortalised in the book and Broadway show, Coram Boy.
  • As preperation for going to the Tate Museums, you can visit the new Tate Kids website, which has art-based games, videos on street art, screen printing and Matisse for children.

Tate Britain

  • A picnic in St James’s Park, just up the road from the Houses of Parliament, will give you a great view of Buckingham Palace. 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!).
  • The National Maritime Museum is one of the most child-friendly museums in London. Over spring half term (Monday 29 May – Friday 2 June) there’s a full programme of activities, including Art of the Sea, where children can create a maritime-themed masterpiece.
  • The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is free to enter. You can see artist Rachel Whiteread’s collection of doll’s houses, Place, House and Building. From July this will be joined by another free exhibition, Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime in Stories.
  • Surrey Docks Farm has a petting area, and all the animals you would expect from a city farm: sheep, pigs, miniature ponies, donkeys, cows, chickens, turkeys, ferrets, rabbits and guinea pigs. It opens out onto the Thames-side path, opposite Canary Wharf, so it makes a good starting point for a riverside walk. D took his first blacksmith lesson at the foundry there, which you can read about here (you have to book in advance, and pay for the lesson).
Surrey Docks farm

Surrey Docks city farm

  • Another city farm that’s completely free to enter is Mudchute, in east London. With 32 acres, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were out in the countryside (apart from the fantastic views of Canary Wharf, that is!)
  • Hyde Park playground has views over open sports fields, tree-lined avenues and the Serpentine boating lake. If you don’t mind paying an extra charge, you can take a dip in the Serpentine Lido. Otherwise, the Diana Memorial Fountain and the Statue of Achilles are free to access.
  • If you take a stroll around the streets of Shoreditch or Camden, you’re bound to see stunning street art.
  • The National Gallery has regular children’s workshops in the school holidays, including a Secret Garden art-themed hunt (free), and a sing and play activity with ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ (an admission charge applies).
  • The mummies are marvellous at the British Museum. There are free trails, workshops and activities for family visits.
  • It’s always fun to explore the two-acre wilderness that is Camley Street Natural Park, just a stone’s throw from the Eurostar terminal at King’s Cross.

Camley Street

Camley Street Natural Park

  • Beast-lovers can quake at the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. The fun doesn’t end there. Until mid-September the Sensational Butterflies exhibition features a tropical butterfly house, with colourful species ethically sourced from Central and South America, Africa and Asia. There’s also the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, which is always good value. Entrance to the main museum is free, but there’s a charge for the exhibitions.
  • The fearsome Crystal Palace Dinosaurs date back to the 1850s and are resident in an large park, with a playground and city farm.
  • Children’s Day at the legendary Notting Hill Carnival, where you can watch a parade of dance and exuberant costumes, is on Sunday 28 August.
  • Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street is London’s highest public garden and offers 360 degree uninterrupted views across the City of London. Spaces are limited so online booking is essential. Visitors can wander around the landscaped gardens, observation decks and open air terrace.
  • There’s always a bit of a queue, but it’s completely free to have your picture taken disappearing into the wall, Harry Potter-style, at platform 9 and 3/4, Kings Cross station.
  • The Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, is set in beautiful grounds that are perfect for exploring. The museum’s free to enter. There’s an extra charge for the aquarium, and the current Robot Zoo exhibition, where you can learn about the inner workings of animals.

 

This is a living post, and I’ll be updating it regularly. What is your favourite way to have fun in London? Do let me know, in the comments below!

You can find more information on the Visit London website.

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Family Fun in London

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CulturedKids
MummyTravels

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50 Comments

  • Emma Raphael
    May 12, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Such a brilliant post! So many lovely ideas! Although I worked in London for several years, I feel a bit out of the loop having been away so long, so this is just perfect! Will keep checking back too! 🙂 x

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 15, 2017 at 8:20 pm

      Thank you! Glad it’s useful 🙂

      Reply
  • Ness
    May 12, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    I can’t believe I still haven’t been to some of these places. I saw Kew Gardens on the television this morning and it reminded me I must plan a visit this summer.

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 15, 2017 at 8:20 pm

      Kew really is beautiful!

      Reply
  • MrsS
    May 12, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    what an absolutely brilliant post! We love Hyde Park, its a fab day out for kids, – I really want to visit the Dr Suess exhibition and we would love to do the duck tour. Thanks for this – fab post.!!

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 15, 2017 at 8:24 pm

      It’s a pleasure! Glad you liked it.

      Reply
  • Maria Belfort
    May 12, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Absolutely brilliant post Nell! I will be bookmarking/pinning this and use it as our Summer weekend guide 🙂

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 15, 2017 at 8:24 pm

      Thank you Maria! x

      Reply
  • Kara
    May 13, 2017 at 10:32 am

    We loved our London Duck Tour, so much fun. My kids would love the Dr Seuss exhibition, will have to pay a visit next time we are there

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 15, 2017 at 8:24 pm

      Oh yes Kara, it’s really fun!

      Reply
  • Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)
    May 13, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Fabulous post, Nell. So many brilliant ideas here. I’ve pinned and saved as we’ll be looking forward to lots of London-inspired adventures over the summer.

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 15, 2017 at 8:25 pm

      Thank you Clare! x

      Reply
  • Fozia S
    May 13, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    We went to the Southbank last year but didn’t realise there was so much more to do! Post saved incase we go anytime soon again!

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 15, 2017 at 8:25 pm

      Oh yes, you could spend days just on the southbank alone!

      Reply
  • Jen Walshaw
    May 15, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Wow, what a comprehensive resource. We love visiting London. it is a real treat living in the North and it is Mini’s favourite place.

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 15, 2017 at 8:25 pm

      Ahhh. You’ll have to bring Mini back soon!

      Reply
  • Plutonium Sox
    May 15, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Wow, what a list! I’m going to have a look through this the next time we come down to London to visit my sister.
    Nat.x

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 19, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      Hope you have fun!

      Reply
  • Wherejogoes
    May 16, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Wow what a line up! Lots of our favourites here and lots of places we haven’t yet discovered too. The Fire of London tour at St Pauls would be perfect for my children’s age group and is somewhere we haven’t been yet. On land, on water or up in sky in the London eye there is something for everyone here regardless of age or budget. What a fantastic round up! #CityTripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 19, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      Yes, you can see i from so many different perspectives!

      Reply
  • elizabeth
    May 16, 2017 at 9:16 am

    There are so many great ideas here for a family trip to London! We’ve been a few times but it always seems like there is more to do, even with the kids in tow. #CityTripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 19, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      It’s never-ending!

      Reply
  • Lolo
    May 16, 2017 at 9:41 am

    So many great things to do! I’ve done the Tower Bridge Exhibition before and it was pretty cool! I bet the kids would like to see the giant wheels of the bridge and walk across the glass floor! #CityTripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 19, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      I know – that’s something we still need to do.

      Reply
  • Wandermust Mummy
    May 16, 2017 at 9:46 am

    This is a fantastic guide #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 19, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      Thank you!

      Reply
  • Jen from Jenography.net
    May 16, 2017 at 9:47 am

    What a comprehensive list of great things to do this summer in town. It’s reminded me of some of my old favourites. #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 19, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      Yes, it sent me off down memory lane, too.

      Reply
  • Steve | Big Stevie Cool Blog
    May 16, 2017 at 9:51 am

    We’ve taken the children to London a few times now but have a few things from your list I’d like to try still. We just tried the London Duck Tour at the weekend and had a fantastic time!

    For our next visit we have planned a trip to the Churchill War Rooms, Parliament Square and the Florence Nightingale museum.

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      That sounds like a great line-up.

      Reply
  • Phoebe | Lou Messugo
    May 16, 2017 at 10:39 am

    There’s always so much going on in London, it’s such a fabulous city. Amazingly comprehensive post for any visitor….I hope perhaps we’ll be able to make use of it later this summer….UK road trip in preparation! (I must admit I read “breast-lovers” for the Natural History Museum and did a double take!) #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      Hahahaha!

      Reply
  • Allison
    May 16, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    So much going on around London this summer. Makes me wish I was planning a trip. #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 19, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      Shame. But there’s only so much you can do!

      Reply
  • Baby Loves Travel
    May 16, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    This is a really useful list for when we fancy an impromptu day out. We’ve recently discovered the Oxygen trampoline park – we love their morning toddler sessions #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 19, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      I still need to go. It’s the other side of town from me, but it sounds worth the trip!

      Reply
  • Cathy (Mummytravels)
    May 16, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    This is amazing – there is SO much to do in London I can barely keep track and I live here, so some great inspiration. Thank you for linking to my Cutty Sark post and for linking up with #citytripping

    Reply
  • Hilary
    May 16, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    What a lovely post, filled with so many ideas! I’m definitely saving for later! #citytripping

    Reply
  • Donna Vallance
    May 16, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Some great ideas here, Some I forgot about too. great post!

    Reply
  • Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays
    May 16, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    The ultimate guide indeed, so may good ideas #CityTripping

    Reply
  • Christine | The Journey of Christine
    May 17, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Great guide! I was in London recently (I love London!) and my son couldn’t go with me cause of school. He’s dying to go and I want to take him around and show him how great of a city London is! #citytripping

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 19, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      Good excuse to come back!

      Reply
  • NINjakillercat
    May 18, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Plenty of extra ideas for when me and my husband go to LONDON CHILD FREE !

    Reply
  • Kate Williams
    May 21, 2017 at 8:37 am

    I haven’t been to London in ages but I really want to go on the duck tours thing – it looks so much fun!

    Reply
    • Nell
      May 21, 2017 at 6:51 pm

      It was. We saw them again today, driving past us on the Southbank. Great vehicles!

      Reply
  • Pat the Mum
    May 30, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    So many great tips. Wild swimming in Kings Cross – I never saw that coming. *packs up the buggy and jumps on the train*

    Reply
    • Nell
      June 6, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Yes – I’d never have guessed, either! I must try it this year.

      Reply
  • Zena's Suitcase
    August 18, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    This is awesome Nell! It’s brimming with ideas I would never have thought of for visiting London.

    Reply
    • Nell
      August 23, 2017 at 7:18 am

      Thanks. Glad it’s useful!

      Reply

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