21 ways to keep the kids occupied in London
Looking to keep the kids entertained in London during the weekends and school holidays? Good news, there's plenty of things going on to make the kids (and you) happy, all around the city. We've scoured South Bank, London's museums, Greenwich, London's parks and the West End to find places to go, and activities and events running over the rest of the year. Here's our pick of the best places to take the kids in the city this season.
South Bank and London Bridge
1. The London Eye
One of the most iconic sights on the city skyline, the Coca-Cola London Eye offers a 30 minute panoramic tour of the city, with views stretching for up to 40km on a clear day. A good way to turn a ride into a great value day out is to book a Coca-Cola London Eye meal package, which includes dinner at a top nearby restaurant of your choice. The packages also include special children's and family rates, making it a good option for younger visitors.
2. County Hall
The County Hall building is at the foot of the Coca-Cola London Eye. It's home to three of London's most popular family attractions. Get entry to any of these attractions, combined with a meal at a top nearby restaurant when you book entry with us.
- Shrek's Adventure is a tour through the world of the hit animated films, including a high-tech 4D magical flying bus ride. And the attraction also includes visits from some of DreamWorks' other favourites, including Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon.
- The Sea-Life London Aquarium is home to a dazzling amount of underwater life, and you can even come face-to-face with some of the deep's most fearsome creatures (although thankfully you'll be separated by protective glass) in their Shark Walk.
- If you've got older kids, head to the London Dungeon. You'll get a warts and all tour through the dark side of London's history, and plenty of other spooky, grisly surprises.
3. Southbank Centre
One of London's leading arts venues, the Southbank Centre often has plenty of kid-friendly activities going on to complement its regular events programmes. And it's one of the city's most enchanting places to be over the festive period, with its annual Wintertime festival. Running from mid-November to early January, the festival includes a wintertime market, offering plenty of warming, tempting treats. Among the events highlights in this year's festival are the return of the charming circus-inspired Slava's Snowshow, and the interactive ABBA: Super Troupers exhibition.
4. The View from the Shard
Walk along the South Bank to London Bridge, and you'll find one of the most iconic addresses in London, The Shard. The ultra-modern skyscraper's 72nd floor is home to The View from the Shard, where you can take in the city's landmarks from 800ft up. And this Autumn is a particularly good time to take the kids, with two new VR experiences to enjoy alongside the view.
5. The British Museum
If you fancy taking a new look at the collection, book in for one of THATMuse's treasure hunts around the museum. THATMuse has several different themed hunts to choose from each week, and takes you on a fact-finding, selfie-snapping tour around the museum's collection. Their Fun and Games hunts are particularly good for kids, but most hunts are offered with a selection of difficulty levels, so all ages can take part.
6. V&A Museum of Childhood
The Bethnal Green-based museum's current exhibition is dedicated to the works of War Horse author Michael Morpurgo. Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime in Stories (until 25th February 2018) includes items from Murpurgo's own archives, as well as artworks inspired by his stories by some of Britain's most beloved illustrators, puppets from the award-winning stage version of War Horse and an immersive soundscape, which brings Morpurgo's work to life.
7. V&A Museum
And, this winter, the V&A itself is also celebrating the work of another beloved children's author. Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic looks at the creation of A.A. Milne's iconic character, as well as his enduring popularity today. Opening on December 9th, it's an enchanting option for the Christmas holidays.
8. Natural History Museum
The newly reopened grand Hintze Hall is the place to head at the moment. While we're sad to see Dippy the Diplodocus go, the blue whale skeleton that now takes his place is just as impressive. And the museum has several events planned over the summer to celebrate the whale's arrival, including an new exhibition Whales: Beneath the Surface (until 28th February 2018), and aquatic-themed movie nights, including Finding Nemo.
9. The Science Museum
The Science Museum is crammed with facts and interactive displays especially designed for little ones. You can catch a big budget blockbuster on their IMAX screen, or take a trip into space with their their new Space Descent VR with Tim Peake high-tech experience.
10. Horniman Museum and Gardens
Found in leafy Forest Hill in South London, this is a great alternative if you don't fancy facing the crowds at the Natural History Museum. While smaller than their South Kensington counterpart, the museum has a famous stuffed walrus on display. Their current exhibition is The Robot Zoo (until October 29th). It features gigantic robot versions of animals and insects. Not only are the robots impressive, but you're sure to find out something about the natural world too.
11. The O2
North Greenwich's The O2 has plenty of options for keeping the kids occupied, all under one roof. In addition to shows taking place in the arena - such as the Disney on Ice Passport to Adventure tour - the centre has several permanent attractions that are perfect for thrill-seekers, including the Up at The O2 roof-climbing adventure, and the Nissan Innovation Station virtual racing experience.
12. Greenwich Park and Royal Museums
Greenwich Park has five museums on site. Wander around one of the world's most famous ships at the Cutty Sark, and discover the history of the Royal Navy at the National Maritime Museum. The Royal Observatory and Peter Harrison Planetarium is great for star seekers, and exquisite art and architecture is on show at the Queen's House. Each museum has special family-friendly holiday activities on offer throughout the summer, including craft sessions and treasure hunts. And you can get a truly amazing view of the city for free from the top of Greenwich hill.
13. Thames Cruises
Travel to Greenwich in style with City Cruises. Boats depart every 30 minutes, and include three stops - Tower Pier, Westminster Pier and Greenwich Pier. You'll pass by some of London's most famous sights, get three days of unlimited hopping on and off, and a special family deal.
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
14. London Stadium tour
Built for the 2012 Olympic Games, the London Stadium is now home to West Ham football team and national athletics competitions. It's worth taking a tour to explore the grounds and soak up the Olympic Spirit. Not a West Ham fan? You can tour other stadiums and sporting grounds around the city, including Fulham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Millwall's grounds, Twickenham, Wembley, The Kia Oval and Wimbledon's tennis club.
15. The ArcelorMittal Orbit
The ArcelorMittal Orbit was designed by the Turner Prize winning artist Sir Anish Kapoor to mark the Olympics. Standing at more than 100 metres tall, it also offers great views across London from its viewing platform. In 2016 a slide was built around the outside. Almost 200 metres in length, it's the world's longest tunnel slide, and bigger, braver kids (and adults), will definitely want to give it a go.
16. ZSL London Zoo
The ZSL London Zoo is the world's oldest, at almost two hundred years old. It's home to animals from all over the world, and its conservation projects are also helping animals thrive in the wild too. The zoo hosts special events throughout the year, as well as a selection of exciting permanent exhibits. Such as its most recent addition - the thrilling, immersive Land of the Lions experience.
17. Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds is just a short walk from Regent's Park. It's been an institution for more than a century, and still features amazingly convincing waxworks of both historical and current celebrities. Alongside this there are more high-tech attractions, including a 4D cinema.
18. KidZania London
KidZania is a mini city in Shepherd's Bush's Westfield London shopping centre, run entirely by children. Well, not quite... but kids do get to experience the 60 real-life role playing experiences, from being a firefighter to a pilot (just without the boring bits). If your child's over 8 you can leave them in the capable hands of the KidZania staff, while you head off for a bit of shopping. And with the KidZania meal deal packages, you can find out about your kids' adventures over pizza afterwards.
19. Meet the otters at the WWT London Wetland Centre
Just a ten minute bus ride from the busy streets of Hammersmith, you can find yourself surrounded by nature at the WWT London Wetland Centre. The 30 hectare site is home to a wide selection of animals and birds, including species which you won't find anywhere else in the country. Its star attraction, however, are its resident otters. You can catch otter feeding time at 11am and 2pm every day.
The West End
20. Kid-friendly theatre shows
London's fantastic theatres have plenty of choice for family and kid-friendly shows to see. For a first trip to the theatre, the Old Vic's adaptation of Dr Seuss' The Lorax, or the returning hits, The Very Hungry Caterpillar at the Ambassadors Theatre and the Lyric Theatre's The Gruffalo's Child. For treating the whole family, you could go for Disney's hit musicals The Lion King and Aladdin. Or crowd-pleasers like School of Rock and Matilda. See more child-friendly theatre recommendations here.
21. ...and for Harry Potter fans
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is still the West End's hottest ticket, with seats very hard to come by. However, every Friday lunchtime, the theatre releases a small batch of tickets for the following week's performances, and it's always worth checking the website for returns. However, you can still experience a bit of Harry Potter magic by taking a walking tour of the book and film locations in the West End. And, of course, there's the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour just to the north of the city. If you want the full experience, you can save money with The Magic of Harry Potter in London, which includes combined walking and studio tour ticket. What are your favourite places to take the kids in the city? Let us know in the comments section. If you're looking for more inspiration, check out our guides to 50 things to do in the winter, and 28 things to do in London when it rains (just in case). If you want to make more than a day of it, we've got great deals on London hotels. And before you set off, be sure to check Transport for London's official website (and the weather forecast).