Whilst there's endless family fun to be had in the Old Smoke, sometimes it's important to escape the city and explore its surrounding array of country parks, seaside towns, castles and cobbled villages. Being at the heart of so many wonderful day trip destinations means that it's as easy as pie to step out of London's hustle and bustle with your family and open up those little eyes to the beauty of the British countryside. Read on to find out our top day trips from London that should shoot to the top of your bucket list when the school holidays come, or when you just fancy a cheeky weekend getaway...
Why kids will love it: Kew Gardens is one of the best day trips from London that you can still tap into on your Oyster card and boasts an adventure play area like no other. The Children's Garden is imaginatively themed around the four earthly elements, and come rain, shine, wind or soil, there's definitely something for everyone. Kew's immersive bee hive experience will also get the kids buzzing as well as its daring Treetop Walkway.
Why parents will love it: Set over 300 stunning acres, Surrey's renowned Kew Gardens will be sure to clear any London fog from your head and make you feel worlds away from the capital. This breathtaking botanical garden is home to some of the most intriguing international plants and tropical indoor rainforests, all set amongst gorgeous glass greenhouses you (and your Instagram feed!) will love. Discover even more to love in our ultimate guide here.
Nearest station: Kew Bridge Station or Kew Gardens tube station.
Hampton Court Palace
Why kids will love it: Hampton Court Palace is another day trip destination featuring one of the best play areas for kids with their huge Magic Garden adventure playground. Kids will also love getting lost in their 300-year-old maze, travelling back in time to their spooky Haunted Gallery and keeping things hush in their secret spy school!
Why parents will love it: With stunning gardens, a magnificent palace and tonnes of interactive exhibitions, Hampton Court makes for one of the best days out with the kids from London. Discover how Henry VIII and his Tudor royals lived in the extravagant Hampton Court kitchens and delicately sculpted gardens.
Nearest station: Hampton Court Train Station.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour: Harry Potter
Why kids will love it: Potterheads will be mesmerised as they unlock the magic behind the boy-who-lived in this ultimate Harry Potter experience. They'll get to meet Dobby and his fantastic beast friends, hop on a broom themselves and finally get to taste Hogwarts' best Butterbeer (non-alcoholic of course!).
Why parents will love it: Harry Potter is by no means just for children, and people of all ages will love exploring the magical world of wizardry and everything that went into its creation. The makers of the film phenomenon, Warner Bros., open their studio doors to reveal special effects secrets that will fascinate the whole family. To make it one of the smoothest day trips from London for parents, Kidadl offers luxury round-trip transportation with your ticket from King's Cross St Pancras itself! See you at platform 9 and 3/4...
Nearest station: If you choose your own travel to the studio tour, the nearest train station is Watford Junction from London Euston.
Why kids will love it: Let the little ones become a British King or Queen for the day in this historic royal residence! Windsor Castle offer a free family multimedia tour and Activity Trail, led by Scorch the dragon, as well as Family Saturdays every week. Children will get the chance to hear historic stories, step back in time into dress up costumes and chivalric knightly armour, and get creative in their arts and crafts workshops.
Why parents will love it: Windsor Castle is set in the beautiful English countryside of Berkshire and is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. Amongst its exquisite rooms you can find Queen Mary's Dolls' House, a miniature masterpiece to inspire the most ambitious DIY parents. If you really want to do Windsor justice, book onto our VIP tour of the castle!
Nearest station: Windsor & Eton Riverside.
Why kids will love it: Canterbury's Howletts Wild Animal Park breeds some of the world's rarest and most endangered species for children to discover, and The Goods Shed eclectic indoor food market, home to 12 independent traders under one charming wooden roof, is a treat for every age.
Why parents will love it: Take a day out with the kids to discover this Roman-built World Heritage Site, adorned with quaint cobbled streets, peaceful canals and a world-famous Cathedral. For less bustle and more traditional trinkets, step off the high street to The King's Mile. Want to travel in style? Hop aboard our cushty coach tour to Canterbury along the beautiful White Cliffs of Dover!
Nearest station: Canterbury West or Canterbury East.
Why kids will love it: Southend-on-Sea is one of the most fun-packed and quintessentially British day trips from London that kids will love, with its Adventure Island seafront amusement park and Sea Life Adventure Aquarium. Put the fun in funicular with the coast-lining Cliff Lift, offering breathtaking views of the British coast.
Why parents will love it: The historical Southend Pier is the longest in the country and features a wonderful natural history museum on its shore, complete with a planetarium that will leave you star-struck!
Nearest station: Southend Central.
Cassiobury Park Watford
Why kids will love it: From sloshing in the Splash Park and paddling under the Rustic Bridge, to zooming on zipwires and riding the famous Miniature Railway, kids will find loads to love in Cassiobury Park.
Why parents will love it: With 190 acres of open space to explore with your little ones, you'll love stretching your legs along woodland trails and gorgeous greenery. If you're looking for a park you can fill the whole day in, Cassiobury is one of the best day trips from London on a balmy day. Find out the best things to do in this wicked Watford park here!
Nearest station: Watford Junction or Watford Tube Station.
Why kids will love it: This beloved toy has built its blocks up the family bucket list and become one of the best children's theme parks in the UK. Legoland Windsor is home to more than 55 amazing rides across 12 imaginatively themed lands offering endless entertainment for kids no matter how they like to play, be it braving the Knight's Kingdom or getting sprinkled in the Duplo splash Valley.
Why parents will love it: With attractions aimed at a range of 3-12 year olds, Legoland makes for an unforgettable day out with kids of all ages where you won't need to worry about anyone being left out. Parents will love the Legoland app, which we seriously recommend downloaded ahead of your visit for top tips, parking details and even live queue times! You'll also love our ultimate guide to Legoland here, if we do say so ourselves...
Nearest station: The nearest train station is Windsor & Eton Central, just half an hour from Paddington.
Why kids will love it: Brave a Brighton dip or take some pocket money along to the iconic pier for some classic arcade games, fairground rides and irresistibly fresh doughnuts. Kids will also go doolally for the infamous Choccywoccydoodah chocolatier shop in town!
Why parents will love it: If you're after some sand then Brighton is one of the UK's best beach trips. Don't miss a stroll along the quirky cobbled Lanes and some proper fish 'n' chips on the seafront.
Nearest station: Brighton Railway Station.
Enchanted Forest Groombridge
Why kids will love it: Groombridge Forest will leave kids completely enchanted. Spot the tiny fairy houses and wooden magical creatures, whisper with totem poles, soar on giant swings, discover tipi tents and water pools, and get lost amongst endless labyrinth trails. This forest is truly enchanting and one of the most beloved memories from my childhood.
Why parents will love it: Emerge from the magic and come back to reality on the gorgeous Groombridge Place Estate - the perfect grounds to enjoy a good old-fashioned game of 40/40 home! Their frequent bird shows are also an all-round crowd-pleaser.
Nearest station: Tunbridge Wells.
Why kids will love it: Hever Castle boasts three amazing playgrounds: the Acorn Dell natural play area for toddlers, which invites their imagination amongst boulders, giant sandpits and a living willow structure; Tudor Towers Adventure Playground - a nine metre wooden castle complete with fireman's escape poles; and their enclosed wooden playground for older kids featuring an aeriel runway. Even better, though, are Hever's two wonderful mazes to get lost in. The 100-year-old Yew Maze is eclipsed by 8 feet high hedges with a quarter mile of pathways to conquer, and - my childhood favourite - the Water Maze... can your kids reach the grotto without setting off the water jets nestled amongst the stepping-stones?
Why parents will love it: Mums deserve to feel like a Queen for the day at this childhood home of one of Henry VIII's wives, Anne Boleyn. Explore inside the romantic double-moated castle, stroll its stunning gardens whilst the kids hide amongst sculpted hedges, or sail away from city-stresses on its peaceful boating lake. You can also download the castle's handy interactive kids trails from their website for extra back-up!
Nearest station: Edenbridge Town Station or Hever Station, from London Bridge or London Victoria.
Why kids will love it: Oxford is one of the most famous Harry Potter filming locations in the UK, and a stroll around the Oxford University campus will at times take you straight into Hogwarts (just don't get turned into a ferret on its grounds!). The town is also where Alice in Wonderland was originally created, and there's tonnes of hidden hints to discover in Christ Church Cathedral such as curious candle holders and tiny garden doors taken straight out of the story. See how many you can spot!
Why parents will love it: Take a charming punt along the Oxford canals which disembark at the best picnic spot for a summer's day. For whole families of Wonderland-lovers there's also plenty of Alice-themed cafes and afternoon teas dotted around the picturesque town.
Nearest station: Oxford Railway Station.
Why kids will love it: This quaint village is situated around a unique ford that in summer becomes a children's natural paradise. Visit during school holidays to join the throngs of people paddling through the water, fishing for newts and playing on the sunny river bed. If you're lucky enough to visit when the water's high and covering the crossing, one of my favourite things about a trip to Eynsford as a child was driving through the ford as we came in!
Why parents will love it: More of a hidden gem trip from London, Eynsford in Sevenoaks has the humble makings of a perfect parents and kids day out. The Plough Inn offers a lovely pub lunch alongside the water, and later be sure to visit the nearby Eagle Heights Wildlife Foundation for some awesome birds of prey demonstrations.
Nearest station: Eynsford Railway Staton.
Why kids will love it: Whistable's pebbled shores are the perfect exploring ground for your little ones to roam for fossils and collect some unique shells. Try on the deep-diver helmets propped up around the beach, stock up at Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe, grab some traditional fish 'n' chips and brave the - um, aromatic - fish market. They'll have to hold their noses to grab a photo with the yellow-coated fisherman!
Why parents will love it: Walking amongst Whistable's wind-breaks offers a less manic but equally delightful day out from London, as one of the less touristy seaside spots. Sitting right on the beach is the charming Old Neptune pub, offering a picturesque pint on the pebbles and deliciously fresh fish from their outside picnic benches or quirky crooked interior.
Nearest station: Whistable Station, with trains going directly from St Pancras and Victoria. Kidadl tip - if you choose to drive, veer right as you come in from London to find free on-street parking and the town's quieter car park (this end of the high street is also where the best ice cream shop in town is located - double win!).
Why kids will love it: The wonderful zoo and castle of this eclectic Essex town make it a firm family-favourite outside of London. Older kids will love Firstsite's innovative visual arts centre, hosting tonnes of regular family events, and the endearing Brambly Hedge Trail at the Abberton Reservoir Visit Centre is perfect for your younger ones - a wildlife trail marked by characters from the adorable Brambly Hedge book series.
Why parents will love it: The historic town centre of Britain's first Roman city is full of bustling shopping streets and surrounded by bountiful wildlife to explore with the family. Discover nature reserves, woodland walks and the lovely Mersea Island seaside right on Colchester's doorstep.
Nearest station: Colchester Railway Station.
For more family fun in and around London, head to Kidadl.com.
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