The spirit of celebration is in the air with untold street partying and revelry being planned for the Queen’s Jubilee and of course the London Olympics 2012 Games.
Here’s our calendar guide to where the party’s at for kids and families this summer, as we highlight child-friendly festivals in London and around the UK.
(by date order)
1. Norfolk and Norwich Festival, Norwich NR3 1HF (Norwich rail station, 30 mins from Liverpool St via Greater Anglia trains)
Kicking off the family-friendly festival circuit this weekend with 2 weeks of music, arts, circus cabaret and loads of action for kids. Top picks include Festival Feast, Kid Carpet and the Noisy Animals rock and roll stage show, more party music from Dan Zanes and Friends, Dinosaur Petting Zoo and the Bo Nanafana Social Club! £5-£55, some events free. Ticket hotline 44 (0)1603 766400 (May 11-26)
2. Big Dance 2012, across the UK
Step up for the UK’s biggest celebration of dance, with thousands of local events including the touring Big Dance Bus and the Big Dance Pop-Up Cinema, all building up to Big Dance Week (Jul 7-15) including Big Street Dance and the grand finale in Trafalgar Square. (May 18-Jul 15)
3. Southbank Festival of the World at Southbank Centre, SE1 (Waterloo tube)
There’s no better place to be in London this summer than on the banks of the Thames with the return of the Urban Beach, plus the UK’s largest poetry festival, street food, outdoor arts, shows and more. Keep an eye on the web site for updates. (Jun 1-Sep 9)
4. Jubilee Family Festival (pic) at Hyde Park, W1 (Hyde Park Corner tube)
Party like your middle name is Kate at this massive event with 40 bands, kids zone featuring Thomas the Tank Engine, Mike the Knight, Angelina Ballerina and others, Commonwealth Stage, village green fete, plus daily finale with Magic of Disney concert. 10.30am-7pm, adult £20/child under 16 £12.50/under 3s FREE (Jun 2-3)
5. Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, along River Thames to Battersea
Watch 1000 boats of all descriptions sail in tribute in one of the largest flotillas ever on the river. Check website from May 16 for updates on viewing areas/screens and transport/road and bridge closures. 2-6pm, FREE (Jun 3)
6. Diamond Jubilee Festival in Battersea Park (Clapham Junction, Fulham Broadway and Victoria tube)
Carters Steam Fair, the Alternative Village fete and pop-up pub the ‘Diamond Geezer’ lend a quirky, vintage feel to this traditional celebration, with live bandstand, main stage, deck chairs and big screen to watch all the riverboat action. 12-7pm, adult £5/under 12s FREE (Jun 3)
7. Apple Cart Festival in Victoria Park, Grove Rd, E3 (Mile End tube)
Escape the frenzied flag-waving at the boutique festival of comedy, music and cabaret with main stage acts Noah and the Whale, Adam Ant and more, plus House of Fairytales, magic tents, kids crafts, village fete and other shenanigans. 11am-10.30pm, adult £33/under 12s FREE (Jun 3)
8. Water Poet Diamond Jubilee Festival, at the Water Poet, 9-11 Folgate St, E1 (Liverpool St tube/Shoreditch High St overground)
Join a good old fashioned East End knees up on the cobbled streets of Spitalfields, with cocktails and street eats, live stage, Red Routemaster bus market, keepsake crowns and 7 screens showing the Jubilee Concerts. 12-6pm, FREE (Jun 4)
9. London Green Fair at Cumberland Green, Regent’s Park, NW1 (Regent’s Park tube)
The capital’s top eco-cool event lets it all hang out with live stage, good food, hundreds of boutique stalls and tons of baby-friendly action including activities and chill-out zone. 12pm onwards, FREE (Jun 9-10)
10. Festival London 2012, UK-wide
More than 12,000 events across the country including loads of free stuff for families. Highlights such as Hackney Weekend, World Shakespeare Festival and River of Music Festival (see July) keep the celebration of the Olympic Games popping through the Closing Ceremony and beyond. (Jun 21
11. Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, varying locations around SE10, Canary Wharf and Docklands
A 10-day carnival of live performance with explosive theatre including Prometheus Awakes and Handspring Puppet Company, free outdoor arts in family-friendly Greenwich Fair, music, words and more. Varying times, FREE (Jun 23-30)
12. Latitude Festival, Henham Park, Southwold, Sunrise Coast, Suffolk (National Express coaches from central London direct to festival)
Artsy fun for every age group with top acts ranging from Pet Shop Boys and Javier de Frutos’ The Most Incredible Thing to Jack Dee, Lucy Rose and DJ Norman Jay. Children’s Arena with Noisy Toys, Book Nook, theatre workshops, Heartstitch crafting and baby and toddler chill-out tent. From 2pm (Thu); day ticket £75, weekend £175/child 5-12 £5/under 5s FREE (booking fees apply) + camper van £40 (Jul 12-15)
13. Deer Shed, Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire (Grand Central trains direct from Kings Cross London to Thirsk rail station)
Deer Shed is run by parents and was nominated for Best Family Festival in 2011 (UK Festival Awards). Fun for young ‘uns includes Paintball Art, Cardboard City building, Exotic Animals show, drumming workshops. Saint Etienne, Villagers and Los Campesinos among the main stage bands. From 1pm (Fri), 8am-3am (Sat), 8am-7pm (Sun); adult £69 (Fri-Sun) or £59 (Sat-Sun)/child 6+ £20/under 5s FREE + weekend camper van pass £15 (Jul 20-22)
14. BT River of Music Festival (London 2012 Festival), various locations
It’s the weekend before the Opening Ceremony, what to do? How about 2 days of free music from around the world at landmarks along the River Thames. Locations include Battersea Park (Asia stage); Trafalgar Square (Europe stage); Somerset House (Europe stage); Tower of London (Americas stage); Greenwich Old Royal Naval College (Oceania stage) and London Pleasure Gardens (Africa stage). From 12pm, FREE (tickets required, £3 processing fee/under 2s no tickets). Tickets released from May 15, check web site (Jul 21-22)
15. Camp Bestival, Lulworth Castle, Dorset (Big Green Coach from London Victoria station, direct to festival)
One of the most popular family festivals actually has its own guide to Camp Bestival for parents. Main stage features Hot Chip, Chic, Kool & the Gang, Happy Mondays and other unmissable acts. For the kids, there’s Shrek the Musical, Mr Tumble, the Bopps, Beauty & the Beast, Fantastic Mr Fox and the Silly Olympics. Weekend with camping tickets adult £175 or £185 (from Thu)/child 15-17 £110 or £115 (from Thu)/child 11-14 £95/under 11s FREE (Jul 26-29)
16. LolliBop Festival, Regent’s Park, NW1 (Regent’s Park tube)
London’s biggest bash for little people returns for its third outing, with line-up including The Gruffalo live, Waybuloo, Mister Maker, Little Angel Theatre, Science Museum plus tons of activities including 3ft and Under Tent, Disco Shed, Enchanted Forest and more. 10am-7pm, from £22-25 adv single ticket/babies under 1 FREE (Aug 17-19)
17. Just So Festival, Rode Hall Estate, Stoke-on-Trent, ST7 3QP
A journey of creativity and imagination awaits at this baby-friendly festival with live theatre, storytelling, boutique camping, Lazy Days fun area including trapeze lessons, Jitterbugs dance action and special under 3s area, Peekaboo. From 2pm (Fri, car park), from 9am (Sat & Sun day ticket), adult weekend with camping £85/child 3+ £35/under 3s FREE (Aug 17-19)
18. Carnaval del Pueblo, Burgess Park, Albany Rd, Camberwell, SE5 (Kennington tube)
Europe’s largest outdoor Latin American festival presents a riot of colour with more than 15 floats, 3 mile carnival procession, 4 live stages and 200 stall marquees. All day, FREE (Aug 19)
19. Notting Hill Carnival, Notting Hill and surrounding areas (Westbourne Park exit only, see TFL web site closer to date for transport advice)
The biggest street party in Europe happens in the heart of west London as colourful floats, sound systems, street food and millions of revellers take over for the August Bank Holiday. Sunday is Children’s Day, with kids on parade and a lighter atmosphere. Monday is mayhem! From 9am, FREE (Aug 26-27)
20. Thames Festival, along South Bank, Tate Museum, Southwark Bridge and Tower Bridge
The massive annual end-of-summer party happens this year on the closing weekend of the Olympic Games and promises non-stop action. From big stages to local celebrations, family-friendly Blue River village, rounding off with the popular Night Carnival and spectacular Fireworks Finale. From around 11am daily until late, FREE (Sep 8-9)
+ 10 More Family Friendly Festivals
World Shakespeare Festival (Apr-Sep)
Bigging up the Bard, all about the UK, as part of the Cultural Olympiad.
Hay Fever at Hay Festival (May-Jun)
Hay Fever is the Hay Festival’s 10-day event for children and families with writers, storytelling, workshops and tons of activities to stoke the imagination.
The festival to begin and end all festivals. Cancelled for 2012, but watch the web site for 2013 updates.
Wychwood Festival (Jun)
100 acts and 3 days of music, cabaret and creativity, Wychwood is a nominee for Best Family Festival at the UK Festival Awards.
Cornbury Festival (Jun-Jul)
Great gigs for grown-ups, fun stuff for kids including dance workshops, circus skills and shows, against a beautiful Oxfordshire backdrop.
Ben & Jerry’s Sundae on the Common (Jul)
Sadly the Olympics schedule has wiped this year’s event from the calendar, but definitely one to watch, great vibe and free ice cream!
Larmer Tree Festival (Jul)
Friendly, intimate gathering in Dorset with loads on for kids and fun carnival procession to round things off.
The global celebration of world music has always been a cool spot for families.
Big Chill (Aug)
Cancelled this year, but keep an eye on the web site for possible news of a smaller, indoor event for 2012 and a return to outdoors in 2013
Beautiful Days Festival (Aug)
Already sold out for 2012, this happy, hippy event by the Levellers won Best Family Festival in 2011.
Top image via Just So Festival web site