London can be a wonderful destination for a family vacation but it pays to do your research. Here are some great ways to have fun with the family in London without spending too much money.
Annual Events for Kids
London has loads of annual events that kids would enjoy. Here are a few highlights throughout the year:
- January: New Year's Day Parade
- February: Pancake Day Races
- March: St. Patrick's Day celebrations
- April: Easter celebrations
- June: Trooping the Colour (Queen's Birthday Parade)
- July: Wimbledon Tennis Championships
- August: Notting Hill Carnival Children's Day and Kid's Week
- September: Open House London
- October: Punch and Judy Festival in Covent Garden
- November: Bonfire Night and The Lord Mayor's Show
- December: Christmas fun
The Museum of London Docklands has a great play area for under 12s called "Mudlarks." Everything is themed around life in the London docks so the big kids can weigh cargo or load a tea clipper while the smaller kids get to crawl around and play with large foam bananas and London buses, plus they can pretend to drive a DLR train. Talking of trains, to get to the Museum of London Docklands you need to take the DLR (Docklands Light Railway). Get a seat at the front as these trains don't have a driver and you, or your little one, can pretend to drive the train!
This bronze statue of Peter Pan is in Kensington Gardens, next to Hyde Park. The exact location was chosen by Peter Pan's author, J.M. Barrie. Barrie lived close to Kensington Gardens and published his first Peter Pan story in 1902 using the park for inspiration. In his Peter Pan tale, "The Little White Bird," Peter flies out of his nursery and lands beside the Long Water lake on the spot where the statue now stands.
The Foundling Museum tells the story of the Foundling Hospital, London's first home for abandoned children. The Foundling Museum is free for children at all times but there is a small charge for adults. They have regular family events on the first Saturday of every month and admission is free for all then. Just around the corner is Coram's Fields, a central London children's playground where adults are only permitted with a child and there is always staff on site. There is a Pet's Corner and a cafe as well as playground activities for all ages
The London Dungeon calls itself "the world's most chillingly famous horror attraction." It covers 2,000 years of London's gruesome history. Kids love that stuff. The London Dungeon Review will help you know if it's right for you and your family
It can be a chore taking children shopping with you, particularly in a big city, as they can get easily bored. Hamleys is the most famous toy store in the world. It was established in 1760 and has been a London landmark since the early 1800s. The Regent Street store has 7 floors packed full of the latest toys, games, and gifts. And there's an exclusive Narnia staircase too. Keep your little darlings stimulated by visiting a few of the Top London Shops for Children.
London Zoo opened in 1827 and is reputedly where the word 'zoo' originates from. Its focus is on conservation and it has long-term breeding programs for 130 species as well as extensive education programs. Don't let the word 'education' put you off as London Zoo is an excellent family day out for kids of all ages. There are plenty of free activities once you're inside so you can easily spend a whole day there.
The British Museum opened in 1753 and has prided itself on remaining free to visit for all that time. There is so much to see at the British Museum in London that it would easily take a week to get round everything, so to help I have put together some photos of the British Museum highlights that can be seen in a couple of hours. Kids love the Egyptian mummies and the Easter Island Statue.
The Horniman Museum is a real find. Tucked away in the depths of south London, it features exhibitions of the natural and cultural worlds. And it has an aquarium. And it's all free. Really, this place is worth the trip across the river. In fact, it's actually only 13 minutes by train from London Bridge train station.
All of these ideas are FREE!
- Trafalgar Square's National Gallery always has free family activities, plus ArtStart - a multimedia system that allows you to search the collection and helps you plan your visit
- In South Kensington, you've got the big three: the V&A, the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum
- In east London, there's the Geffrye Museum which is always holding children's special days and the Museum of Childhood which is all about children
- The Guards Museum has real military uniforms for the kids to try on and receive a photo and certificate
- You can always check the London with Kids section of this website for even more ideas.