The ultimate guide to London family fun

The ultimate guide to London family fun

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.

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.
  • 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.
  • You can ride with your favourite characters from the Shrek films in 4D at Shrek’s Adventure.
  • 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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MummyTravels

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50 Comments

  1. May 12, 2017 / 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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:20 pm

      Thank you! Glad it’s useful 🙂

  2. May 12, 2017 / 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.

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:20 pm

      Kew really is beautiful!

  3. May 12, 2017 / 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.!!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:24 pm

      It’s a pleasure! Glad you liked it.

  4. May 12, 2017 / 11:15 pm

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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:24 pm

      Thank you Maria! x

  5. May 13, 2017 / 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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:24 pm

      Oh yes Kara, it’s really fun!

  6. May 13, 2017 / 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.

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:25 pm

      Thank you Clare! x

  7. May 13, 2017 / 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!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:25 pm

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

  8. May 15, 2017 / 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.

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:25 pm

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

  9. May 15, 2017 / 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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 12:06 pm

      Hope you have fun!

  10. May 16, 2017 / 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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 12:18 pm

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

  11. May 16, 2017 / 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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 12:19 pm

      It’s never-ending!

  12. May 16, 2017 / 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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 12:20 pm

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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 12:20 pm

      Thank you!

  13. May 16, 2017 / 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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 12:20 pm

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

  14. May 16, 2017 / 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.

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 12:21 pm

      That sounds like a great line-up.

  15. May 16, 2017 / 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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 12:21 pm

      Hahahaha!

  16. May 16, 2017 / 12:38 pm

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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 12:46 pm

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

  17. May 16, 2017 / 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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 12:47 pm

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

  18. May 16, 2017 / 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

  19. May 16, 2017 / 4:39 pm

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

  20. May 16, 2017 / 5:05 pm

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

  21. May 17, 2017 / 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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 12:54 pm

      Good excuse to come back!

  22. May 18, 2017 / 3:12 pm

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

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 1:13 pm

      Woohoo!

  23. May 21, 2017 / 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!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 21, 2017 / 6:51 pm

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

  24. May 30, 2017 / 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*

    • Nell
      Author
      June 6, 2017 / 11:12 am

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

  25. August 18, 2017 / 1:51 pm

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

    • Nell
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 7:18 am

      Thanks. Glad it’s useful!

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