The school holidays are upon us, six weeks of fun with kids — or are you dreading those moments stuck indoors, trying to hold it together while your little wolf cubs huff and puff?
Here are 31 cool ways to spend your summer days out with the family in London:
1. After its sell-out success last summer, the Camden Beach is back at the Roundhouse, NW1 offering beach huts, ping pong, cocktails, deckchairs, live music and150 tonnes of sand to sink your toes into. Get in early with the bubbas and don’t forget your bucket and spade! 12-11pm (Mon 5-11pm, closed Jul 31, Aug 6 & 21), FREE entry (Jul 27-Aug 24)
2. Ping! London is back with its pop-up tables all across the capital and highlight events including a Ping! Picnic in Soho Square (Aug 2, 12pm). Plus there’s table tennis coaching in Gillett Square, N16 (Jul 24-Aug 31). All FREE (until Sep 7)
3. Skate King’s Cross is the pop-up rollerskating rink that featured in our Dates with Dads series. Take the whole family for a spin, to the beat of DJs, and food from Disco Bistro plus special guest chefs. From 10am daily until late, adult £14.30/concs £9.90/child £5.50 (until Sep 6)
4. Bounce Festival (pictured) in Old Deer Park, Richmond is a jam-packed family weekend of activities for ages 12 and under. From cooking and crafts, to sports and science, to live entertainment all designed to spark the imagination. 10am-6pm, £18 adv/£20 door/family £60 or £70 door (Aug 10-11)
5. George Irvin’s Funfair rolls into Camden (Jul 24-Aug 4), London Fields (Aug 16-18) and Clapham Common at the SW4 Weekender (Aug 24-25). Also don’t forget the Hampstead Heath Funfair on that Bank Holiday (Aug 24-25).
6. The big bash for little people, LolliBop Festival relocates to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a larger and more involved experience for kids ages 10 and under, and their fun-loving families. Dick & Dom, Rastamouse, Mr Men & Little Miss, Hello Kitty and Mr Tumble are just some of the names on the line-up. Daily 10am-6pm. Advance tickets from £23.50/family tickets from £92 + booking fees. (Aug 16-18)
7. Little Creatures Family Festival at London Zoo is a weekend of splashy fun, interactive theatre, roving entertainers, rainbow fairy trail, bouncy castle and of course animal magic. 10am-6pm, regular zoo prices (Aug 30-Sep 1).
8. An interactive blend of music, performers, big screen and floor projections, and dramatic lighting get little people wiggling in We Dance Wee Groove at Unicorn Theatre, SE1. 11am (under 5s) and 1.30pm (5-7); 1 adult + child £10 (Jul 30-Aug 11)
9. See Shakespeare at the Farm as the Principal Theatre Company return to Coram’s Fields in Bloomsbury (having played at Freightliners Farm in July) with productions of Hamlet (Jul 27, Aug 2), and The Comedy of Errors (Aug 1 & 3).
10. Open Air Cinema is all the rage again across London, with family-friendly screenings including at The Never Ending Story at The Nomad Cinema, The Goonies at Experience Cinema, Cinema Paradiso at Kew the Movies in Kew Gardens, Grease at Open Air at Hampton Court Palace, Backyard Cinema and ET at Pop Up Screens and the Luna Cinema, various venues through September. Plus a late evening Fancy Dress Frankenweenie screening on the Floating Cinema on Aug 23.
11. Kids Week the annual family theatre discount allowing 1 FREE child per paying adult to a variety of top West End shows, returns for a whole month with hot tickets including The Sound of Music in Regent’s Park and Tony award-winning Matilda the Musical (Aug 1-31)
12. West Side Story at Sadler’s Wells, EC1 has already been described as a ‘masterpiece of musical theatre’. Watch the Jets and the Sharks battle it out on stage, in this soaring adaptation of Bernstein’s musical classic. For ages 5+. 7.30pm (Tue-Sat), 2.30pm (Wed & Sat), 4pm (Sun); £15-£75/half-price for under 16s on matinee performances for £52 & £65 tickets only (Aug 7-Sep 22)
13. La Tempesta in Queens Wood, Highgate features Scarabeus Aerial Theatre and Little Angel Theatre in a unique collaboration of dazzling puppetry and performers, suspended in the trees, retelling Shakespeare’s classic The Tempest for ages 3-7. 12pm & 3pm (no shows Mon Aug 12), £8.95 adv/£10 door (Aug 8-18)
14. The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre transforms into a Jurassic park as Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo roars onto the scene, thrilling the crowds with cute baby dinos and tooth-gnashing giants. 2.15pm (Mon-Wed), 11.30am & 2.15pm (Fri), 9.45am & 11.30am (Sat-Sun); £15-£20/family ticket £15 (Aug 9-Sep 8)
15. Catch Zoo Nation’s Groove on Down the Road, a hip hop reinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz, showcasing a new generation of dancers ages 10-19. 2pm, 4pm, 7pm (varying dates); £10-£32/concs. half-price (limited availability) (Aug 10-Sep 1)
16. Head off for a Toddle in the City, a photographic treasure hunt around Shoreditch with your little ones. Urban Beings arms kids ages 3-6 with a camera, so they can take snaps of the city from a mini perspective. 11am-4pm (Sat-Sun), adult + toddler £15 (weekends until Sep)
17. A gorgeous season of Summer Events at Kenwood House offers everything from weekend arts and crafts with Summer Sundaes; a 1920s Summer Garden Fete (Aug 3-4) with horse and cart rides, Charleston workshops and rag time music; and English Heritage concerts from 7.30pm including Singing in the Rain and an Evening of Gershwin. Dates, times and prices vary by event. (Jul 28-Sep 1)
18. Discover the Horrible Histories: Spies exhibition at Imperial War Museum in Lambeth Rd, SE1 bringing WW2 history to life, with tales of exploding camel poo, itching powder and more. Based on Terry Deary’s book from the Horrible Histories series. 10am-6pm, adult £6.20/child 4-15 £3.30/under 4s FREE (Jul 29-Jan 4, 2015)
19. Go boating on Bompas & Parr’s Tutti Frutti lake at the IncrEdibles Festival at Kew Garden, Kew Rd, TW9 (Richmond overground), where edible plants grow out of beautiful goblets and jugs in the Rose Garden Tea Party and kids can play on the Bouncy Carrot Patch created by Hide&Seek. Daily from 9.30am, adult £14.50/child under 12 FREE/charges for Tutti Frutti boat ride and pre-booking apply. (until Sep 1)
20. Escape from modern city life by taking a Ride on a Steam Train; we love the Epping Ongar Railway with heritage buses, diesel and steam trains included in one price, open Fri-Mons throughout the holidays. Also London Transport Museum is holding Vehicles on the Move, special heritage ride days at Buckingham Railway Centre in August, and a celebration of 150 years of the Tube, where you can hop on steam trains along the Metropolitan line (Sep 7-8)
21. Catch Science Museum Live: The Energy Show (Jul 22-Aug 31), an explosive show for ages 7+ at Science Museum in SW7. Younger kids can enjoy 3D cinema in the Imax, explore the interactive Launchpad gallery, watch the amazing Bubbles show, or play in the Under 5s activity zone. Open daily, FREE
22. Go on the hunt for Sensational Butterflies at Natural History Museum, £4.50/under 5s FREE (until Sep 15). You can also follow the Barbie Mariposa Butterfly Trail at London Zoo (Aug 18-23).
23. Come to an afternoon Urban Block Party on the Southbank Centre terrace, hosted by DJ Ty and guest DJs, part of the Festival of Urban Arts taking place across the weekend including displays of skateboarding, parkour, breakdancing (Aug 3-4)
24. Following on from last year’s smash hit Jubilee knees-up, the Book Club is throwing a Bookstock Street Party on Leonard St, EC1, with a nautical theme in 2013. Enjoy DJ sets, local food, film screenings, fancy dress up box, live acts, dancing and musical seaside bingo. 12-8pm, FREE with priority entry wristbands available closer to the date. (Aug 25)
25. Europe’s biggest street party sweeps into West London with the Notting Hill Carnival happening as ever on the Bank Holiday weekend. Sunday is Children’s Day but the fun lasts through Monday with floats, costume parades, food stalls, sound systems and good vibes from 9am-7pm. FREE (Aug 25-26)
26. Ickle Pickles Summer Party is south London’s annual event for families, raising money for the neonatal unit at St George’s Hospital, Tooting. Bouncy castles, fairground rides, stalls, face painting, live entertainment, workshops and more all take place at Clapham and Streatham Girls’ School from 11am-5pm, adult £1/child FREE (Sep 1)
27. Our favourite end of season celebration, the Mayor’s Thames Festival, has become a 10-day uber-event this year, with everything from kids workshops to riverside choirs on the roster. Sadly no funding for Night Carnival and Fireworks this year, but stay tuned for the full programme coming soon on the web site. (Sep 6-15)
28. The fabulous Disco Loco in the Park family pop-up festival returns for its 2nd outing in Springfield Park, Hackney. Expect more live music, loads of yummy grub, theatre, interactive fun, film and sound pods, DJs and a laidback crowd. Brilliant way to wind down the summer! (Sep 15)
29. Street Feast is back at Dalston Yard, E8 for 9 weeks, having transformed the space into an outdoor haven for hipsters, without losing its appeal for families and foodies from all over. Enjoy a rotating menu of street chefs and stalls, live music and DJs, and special family activities on Saturdays. 5pm-12am (Fri), 12pm-12am (Sat), FREE entry. Also don’t miss Truck Stop, with top street food trucks pulling up in Canary Wharf at various dates over summer. (until September)
30. Go on a burger expedition in Covent Garden. Washington DC foodie favourites Five Guys (1-3 Long Acre, WC2) along with cult NYC joint Shake Shack (24 Market Building, the Piazza, WC2) join other carnivore crazed pitstops like Meatmarket (Jubilee Market Hall, Tavistock St, WC2). Expect big things… and queues!
31. Celebrate the Festival of Neighbourhood and the last days of summer at SouthBanquet: A Feast for 500. This weekend of ethically sourced food, events and music by family bands features delicious vegetarian or a pot luck platter of organic pork, kebabs, chops and more. Also interactive food events taking place throughout the day. Activities 12-7pm, banquet 7pm onwards, £15 (Aug 31-Sep 1)
Don’t miss our guide to Top 20 FREE things to do with kids in London this Summer, out tomorrow and our Kids Theatre Guide later this week!