Happy September! Boy, that went fast. Are the end of summer blues starting to get you down already? Don’t worry, as I’ve found 16 Awesome Things to do this Autumn in London to keep you and your crew in an upbeat mood.
From local festivals to open-air screenings, immersive theatre and superheroes on stage, there’s tons of things to do on our Autumn guide. Embrace the start of a new season!
16 Awesome Things to do in London this Autumn
1. Africa Utopia at Southbank Centre
Get a taste of the Motherland at Africa Utopia at Southbank Centre, in collaboration with Baaba Maal, with African street food and some vivid performances including the return of Chineke! Orchestra (the UK’s first black and ethnic minority orchestra), and Cape Town Opera’s Mandela Trilogy, an epic ode to the late, great Nelson Mandela. There’s also talks, fashion, dance workshops, family activities and an African marketplace to explore. (until Sep 4; all ages; varying times and prices for performances, some activities FREE)
Also see: Mwalimu Express at Rich Mix, a brilliant monthly African inspired programme of food, craft, games, film and live music for families
2. Open Air Movies
The sun might play hide and seek this month, but London’s optimism continues with open-air screenings across the capital through September. You can catch family friendly screenings of Paddington, Frozen, Big and Sound of Music at More London at The Scoop, SE1 (Sep 2-24, varying dates, times and prices); head to Rooftop Film Club in Stratford for The Goonies, Grease, Labyrinth and The Jungle Book (Sep 1-30, varying dates, times and prices); or visit Pop Up Screens in Hammersmith and Fulham for films like Star Wars The Force Awakens, Beauty and the Beast, Jurassic World and Labyrinth (Sep 3-23; varying dates, times and prices)
Also see: Prince Charles Cinema launches its Kids Matinee season in September, 2 kids free with 1 paying adult
3. Big Fish Little Fish at the Floating Cinema
Join London’s most popular family rave crew Big Fish Little Fish at the Floating Cinema pop-up at Granary Square for one day only. Bring your babes and boogie shoes to King’s Cross for a canalside party featuring DJ Will Nicol, Captain Cookie crafts, bouncing balloons, glitter canons, foodie treats, licensed bar, parachute dance finale and a festival atmosphere. For ages 0-8 and party-loving parents/carers. (Sep 4; 2pm-4pm; £5/£3.50 concs)
Also see: Big Fish Little Fish are back for a full season of parties, with new venues popping up across London. Get down!
4. Kings Place Festival
Every year the Kings Place Festival brings a feast of entertainment for all ages to this classy King’s Cross venue. For families there’s cake decorating and comic book workshops, canal boat trips, an Alice in Wonderland family concert, jazz with Spitz Music Collective, plus more storytelling and musical theatre. (Sep 9-11; all ages; tickets from £6.50/many events are FREE)
Also see: The popular and FREE Family Sundays at Royal Opera House has been on a break for renovations at the ROH, but keep an eye out for its return as tickets go fast!
5. On Blackheath
We’ll be sad to miss On Blackheath for the first time this year (as we’ll be away), but I can highly recommend this family friendly festival for its exceptionally strong line-up of acts, fun, food and a feel-good atmosphere. It’s hard to top previous headliners such as Grace Jones, Madness and Massive Attack, but the 2016 bands including Primal Scream, Belle & Sebastian, Hot Chip, James and Roisin Murphy will give it all they’ve got. (Sep 10-11; day tickets from £62; under 12s FREE)
Also see: Hackney One Carnival (Sep 11) has colourful parades, costumes, sound systems and global music turned all the way up in East London.
6. Sail Royal Greenwich: Tall Ships Festival
Ahoy mateys! The Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival returns
this September in one of autumn’s most exciting spectacles. If you’re lucky enough to bag tickets, you can set sail from Greenwich past historic landmarks like Cutty Sark and the Old Royal Naval College. The four day fiesta includes live music, parades, street entertainment and an explosive fireworks finale. (Sep 15-18; 10.30am, 1.30pm & 4.30pm; tickets from £39.50)
Also see: This event is part of the Totally Thames Festival, taking place alongside the River Thames throughout September.
7. Marvel Universe Live: Superheroes Assemble
Boom, thwack, kapow! In Marvel Universe Live: Superheroes Assemble Thor, Spiderman, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk and other legends descend on the O2 for some serious hi-jinks. Watch your favourite superheroes battling the forces of evil and stunning viewers of all ages with their gravity (and in some cases, sanity) defying stunts. (Sep 15-25; tickets from £27; all ages, kids under 2 FREE on carer’s lap)
Also see: Revisit another legend in Jason & the Argonauts at Unicorn Theatre for ages 6-12 (Sep 24-Oct 4)
8. Spiegeltent at Canary Wharf
Hooray the Spiegeltent at Canary Wharf is back for another bold season of dance, theatre, acrobatics, family concerts, comedy for kids, interactive activities and more for all ages. We’re excited about the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, the Aurora Orchestra baby-friendly shows, Ready Steady Go cardboard driving school and the return of Big Fish Little Fish family rave. (Sep 22-Oct 2; all ages; £5-£8, some activities FREE)
Also see: The annual Fun Palaces Weekend celebrates culture and community, tagline ‘everyone an artist, everyone a scientist’ (Oct 1-2)
9. Cirque Eloize at Peacock Theatre
After having our minds blown by circus acts at Edinburgh Fringe festival this summer, we’re thrilled to see the comeback of the dazzling Cirque Eloize at Peacock Theatre. All the way from Quebec (home to Cirque du Soleil amongst numerous top circus troupes), Cirque Eloize bring their groundbreaking show ID, crammed with aerial, cycling, skateboarding, trampolining and other tricks. Expect to crack ya neck gawping at all the action. (Sep 20-Oct 8; £15-£42; ages 5+ only)
Also see: Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theatre at Sadler’s Wells this September. Absolutely sensational.
10. Shake, Rattle & Roll at Polka Theatre
Part of the London-wide Brain Waves festival, Shake, Rattle & Roll at Polka Theatre is a mind-enhancing experience for babies and toddlers, blending neuroscience with interactive theatre. How do young ones respond to stimuli? What makes babies giggle and toddlers groove? Scientists from Birkbeck University’s Baby Lab and theatre director Sarah Argent collaborate on a lively show for babies ages 0-18 months, inspired by their latest research. (Sep 21-Oct 16; £12.50/concs £9; babies under 6 months FREE)
Also see: Book ahead for Leaf at Half Moon Theatre (Nov 24-26), a fun piece about the changing of the seasons, aimed at ages 0-3.
11. The Beano Experience
Naughty nippers are called to a TOP SECRET gunge-filled mission this September, as part of the launch of Beano’s brand new digital network. The Beano Experience will be held at a yet-to-be-named central London location, offering kids ages 7-10 years old a chance to have fun and get filthy, in an immersive playground like no other. Limited family tickets available via random selection, email email@example.com to request an invite. (Sep 25; venue and times tbc)
Also see: Game Plan at Museum of Childhood (Oct 8-Apr 23) is an exhibition of board games from past to present, check (ahem) out Chess and other favourites or try something new!
12. Picasso Portraits at National Portrait Gallery
The major new exhibition Picasso Portraits at National Portrait Gallery explores one of the best known mavericks of modern art’s work, in a breathtaking range of portraits featuring family, friends and lovers. Kids will enjoy seeing fun caricatures and playful takes on Cubism, and on Oct 16 they can join in The Big Draw family drawing workshop inspired by Picasso Portraits. Advance booking for this show strongly recommended. (Oct 6-Feb 5; £17/concs £15.50/under 12s FREE)
Also see: More colour and experimentation in Abstract Expressionism at Royal Academy of Arts (Sep 24-Jan 2)
13. Bloomsbury Festival
The theme is LANGUAGE at this year’s Bloomsbury Festival, encompassing everything from computer coding to the language of food, music and love. For five days every October, Bloomsbury is transformed by pop-up performances, talks, gallery shows, workshops and more to stimulate all ages. Surprises this year include sound and visual installations and a street party with a twist. (Oct 19-23; all ages, FREE)
Also see: Experience the best that Barbican Centre has to offer in Barbican OpenFest (Oct 8), a one-day FREE festival for all the family.
14. Jazz for Toddlers at London Jazz Festival
Credit cards at the ready. Every year Jazz for Toddlers at London Jazz Festival venues sells out in a hot minute, so book NOW if you fancy the thought of spending an hour or so with your baby and toddler in the company of some of the world’s finest jazz musicians. This year bassist Dave Kane and saxophonist Oliver Dover lead the fun-packed sessions of playful music and movement, with a be-bop attitude. For ages 2-5 and carers. (Nov 11 at Southbank Centre/£5 per child + up to 2 adults; Nov 13 at Kings Place/adult £6.50/child £4.50; Nov 19 at Arts Depot/£7)
Also see: Groove Baby hosts top quality music concerts for babies, toddlers and their grown-ups.
15. Peter Pan at National Theatre
Take a trip back to Neverland in Peter Pan at National Theatre with the eponymous hero and his friends Tinkerbell, Wendy and the Lost Boys. Based on JM Barrie’s beloved tale, we follow the adventures of a boy who refuses to grow up, and the characters who challenge (and love) him along the way. Fresh from its sellout success at Bristol’s Old Vic, Sally Cookson’s mischief and magic-laden production sprinkles fairy dust onto National Theatre. For ages 7+. (Nov 16-Dec 29; £15-£60)
Also see: Another boy who can never grow (apart from his nose), Pinocchio at Sadler’s Wells this October half term
16. Fantastic Beasts at Harry Potter Studio Tour
As if a visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour wasn’t magical enough, this autumn you can catch exclusive screenings of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at the WB Studio Tour. Go behind the scenes of the Harry Potter universe, exploring props and wonders, then follow the tale of Newt Scamander and his magical creatures on screen. (Nov 18-20; tickets £145 for full tour and screening)
Also see: It’s not Episode 8, but another hotly anticipated movie Rogue One brings Star Wars mania back to UK cinemas this December