Welcome to the second instalment of MTM’s Guide to entertaining the kids this summer holiday. If you’ve been struggling to keep the kids’ boredom in check, have no fear – there are plenty of activities and attractions to visit in and around London.
And if any of these don’t take your fancy, remember the huge green outdoor spaces that London has to offer from the adventure playground in Victoria Park to Battersea Park’s Zoo, as well as watching the deer and hiring bikes in Richmond Park. Not forgetting all the city farms across the capital and the National Trust properties and estates. The list is endless…
If you missed it the first time round, take a look back at my other suggestions in the first part of this Urban Monkey Guide.
Catch the best views of London
The Sky Garden is a unique public space that spans three storeys and offers 360 degree uninterrupted views across the City of London. Visitors can wander around the exquisitely landscaped gardens, observation decks and an open air terrace of what is London’s highest public garden.
The Sky Garden; 20 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M 3BY; Free, but you must book your tickets in advance
At some point in the day, a bite to eat or a coffee break will be most welcome, so why not combine it with a fun venue, too? The Ship of Adventures Cafe run by Hackney Pirates is inside the hull of a real galleon ship! The kids will love the space – which also has a shop and workshops for local children.
Hackney Pirates; 138 Kingsland High Street, E8 2NS; Free entry
Have a family day at the V&A’s Summer Festival
As part of the Museum of Childhood, head to the V&A this Sunday and enjoy music and dance troupes and juggling acts as well as delicious food, henna and face-painting, games and lots of crafty make and do. Meanwhile, if you can’t make the festival don’t worry, the Childhood Museum runs free drop-in activities every day including arts and crafts, tours, trails and storytelling.
V&A Museum of Childhood; Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA; Open daily from 10.00am-17.45pm; Free
Have a creepy-crawly sleepover
Bed Bugs at London Zoo is a fantastic experience for 8-11 year olds who can stay the night in their famous bug house! Explore the zoo by torchlight and wake up to the sounds of the animals. Plus games, story-telling and talks – all animal themed of course!
ZSL London Zoo, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4RY; Adult £65; Child £65; Tickets include breakfast, free parking, entry to the zoo for the day and services of a guide
Jump on board a magical tour bus
Everyone’s favourite ogre comes to life in a new 4D experience which is part ride and walk through for the whole family. Head to Far Far Away Land where the Shrek Adventure begins when you board a magic bus that transports you to 10 different themed live shows including Shrek’s Swamp and The Muffin Man’s House.
Shrek Adventure; Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB; Open daily until 6.00pm; Adult from £23.40 online; Child from £18.72 online
Be young at heart at the Diana Memorial Playground
With the centre piece being a huge wooden pirate ship – there’s no end of fun for little ones to let their imaginations run wild in this Peter-Pan play area right in the heart of London. There is also a sensory trail, tee-pees, a beach, various toys and play sculptures.
Kensington Gardens; W2 2UH; Free
Located underneath City Hall, The Scoop is an outdoor amphitheatre situated on the south side of the River Thames. Every year, free film screenings are put on from the beginning of September – and if the weather is glorious, pack the kids up and a picnic, grab a spot and catch the likes of Paddington, Frozen and The Sound of Music.
The Scoop: Queen’s Walk, More London, London SE1 2DB; See website for full listings; Free
See the colours of the rainbow at the Serpentine Pavillion
Every year, the Serpentine Pavillion showcases a temporary exhibit outside its main gallery – and this time a brightly coloured organically shaped structure by architects SelgasCanos is not only a must-see for art lovers but a sensory treat for children.
Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, W2 3XA, Until 17 October; Free
The Pawprint Trail starts at the Paddington Bear Shop at Paddington Station and features four of the Paddington Bear statues that made up the Paddington Trail in late 2014. The trail and clues including a stone bear and book bronze bear leads intrepid explorers through Sheldon Square, Little Venice and Camden Lock. You can even watch the fan bridges in action and cool off in a water maze in Merchant Square.
Pawprint Trail: Paddington Station Praed St, London W2
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, RHS Wisley are running free fun activities every weekday of the holidays, including gardening, arts & crafts, music, theatre and puppet shows. There’s even a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party but make sure you bring your best hat!
RHS Wisley; Wisley Ln, Wisley, Woking GU23 6QB; Open daily until 6.00pm; Adults £12; Child £6