Let's face it, summer can be expensive - holidays, back to school gear, keeping the kids entertained and even ice-cream. So we've rounded up 21 free things to do in and around London so that you can leave your wallet at home and still make some epic family memories. Keep your cash, gather your family together and make the most of the last few weeks of summer without breaking the bank.
1. Put your adventure caps on for the Gruffalo Trail
All was quiet in the deep dark woods… Until your family came along to tackle the brilliant Gruffalo Trail! Pack a picnic and set off to this idyllic park in Wembley with a Gruffalo trail leading you on an adventure through the woods. The trail features a huge wooden Gruffalo sculpture, and four other smaller sculptures of characters like Mouse, Fox, Snake and Owl – all hidden along the trail path for kids to discover.
2. Soar over to the RAF Museum
Jet over to the Royal Air Force Museum for a fun day out that’s sure to pass with flying colours! Check out loads of life-sized aircrafts - from fighter planes to war planes - try a flight simulator and set little imaginations soaring.
3. Stroll through Trent Country Park
Trent Country Park is a not-so-little slice of country heaven just on the outskirts of busy London. The park offers a host of exciting activities, from horse riding to golfing to wildlife watching. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of pheasants, rabbits, or even adorable Muntjac deer! Cows can also be seen grazing in the fields, and see if you can spot all the little molehills made by the nocturnal burrowers in the woods and meadows.
4. Brush up on your knowledge at the British Dental Association Museum
Brush up on your knowledge of dentistry at the free British Dental Association Museum. Discover dentures from the Battle of Waterloo and even learn how to extract a tooth by yourself - ouch! Featuring unexpectedly fun and unique exhibits, the BDA Museum houses over 25,000 objects spanning 500 years of dental history and will make you and your whole family leave with a toothy smile!
5. Raise your wands at Platform 9 ¾
Will you make it to the wizarding world? Don your Gryffindor gown and head to Kings Cross where you’ll find the magical Platform 9 ¾. Strike a pose in front of your trolley as you disappear through the brick wall and into the wizarding world… Perfect for any Potterheads!
6. Get ready for a Big Barbican Adventure
Get set and explore the Barbican Centre with this free, do-it-yourself trail specially designed with families in mind. Solve cryptic puzzles, create new drawings and play games while exploring the fascinating labyrinth that is the Barbican Centre. Those who manage to complete the trail can even redeem their very own prize. Get solving!
7. Explore the Horniman Museum and Gardens
The Horniman Museum and Gardens is a one-stop shop for nature lovers. Complete with an aquarium, butterfly house and animals on site, plus heaps of museum artefacts and 16 acres of stunning gardens - there’s something for everyone.
8. Unleash your adventure at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Stroll on over to the heart of East London and explore the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Home to London’s 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, zigzag through the water fountains, climb the ArcelorMittal Orbit and soar down the world’s tallest tunnel slide. And don’t forget your bike because there are over 560 acres of land just waiting to be cycled on!
9. Sit by the seaside at Brighton Beach
No summer holiday is complete without a trip to the beach so head down to Brighton - one of the best beaches of all time. Make a splash in the sea, rent a deck chair, watch the sun set and scoff some traditional fish and chips. Mmmm.
10. Tickle your tastebuds at Borough Market
Free - if you just look! Perfect for budding chefs and foodies, London's oldest food market is a real treat for the senses. With over 100 stalls to drool over, don’t forget to stop by each and every one of them for your free taster! Why not make a day of it by walking ten minutes along the river to Tower Bridge to see HMS Belfast or the staggering Shard.
11. Run around at Princess Diana Memorial Playground
Located next to her Kensington Palace home, this playground is a fitting tribute for a Princess who loved the innocence of childhood. Play, explore, dash about, and let your little ones’ imagination soar in this magical space.
12. Splash about in Granary Square Fountains
Soak up the last of the summer and head to Granary Square in Kings Cross and splash about in the fountains - completely free, just make sure you remember your swimming costume! With over a thousand choreographed jets, squirting water in each and every direction, it’s the perfect way to cool off this summer right in the heart of London.
13. Discover Verulamium Park
Grab your swimming trunks and head to the splash pad in the Verulamium Park in St Albans! It’s the perfect way to cool down on a hot summers day. Whether you just want to dip your toes in or make a huge splash standing under the giant water fountains - the splash park will fulfil all your splashing needs! Fun for all ages and won’t cost you a penny!
14. Witness the Changing of The Guard at Buckingham Palace
Londoner or not, the Changing of The Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace is a sight to behold. Completely free to attend, this colourful spectacle is something everyone has to experience at least once in their life. From the music to the flags, it’s the perfect way to spend a morning before exploring the rest of London.
15. Sift, weave and drool your way through Camden Market
Whatever you're looking for, you'll find it at Camden Market. The multiple adjoining markets sell everything from crafts and bric-a-brac to clothes and food. Sift through tons of treasure whilst exploring the masses of stalls. Weave through the stables of the old horse market and pose for a picture with the life-size bronze horse statues. Drool as you breath in the tantalising scents of the churro stands and so much more.
16. Explore this sweet hidden gem
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Head to Lewis of London in Barnet - a free to visit local ice-cream farm! You’ll find sandpits, a few friendly animals dotted around the place and, of course, ice-cream! Kidadler Katie says ‘It’s a really sweet hidden gem’.
17. Head to Pooh's place at Aldenham Country Park
Have your honey at the ready and head on down to 100 Aker Wood at the beautifully scenic Aldenham Country Park where Winnie the Pooh and his friends are waiting for you! Have a go at playing ‘Pooh Sticks’ at Pooh’s Bridge, get inside Eeyore's Gloomy Place, post a letter and even make it all the way to the North Pole!
18. Get crafty at Burgh House and Hampstead Museum
You won’t know where to start at the Burgh House & Hampstead Museum! From poetry to sculpture exhibitions to playing dress up and making your own watercolours - there’s always something going on! Suitable for mini artists aged five and up, The Kids’ Corner is the perfect place for all things artsy and for older artists aged seven and up, there are free poetry workshops. Ahem, ahem!
19. Reach staggering heights at the Sky Garden
Soar through the sky and reach swanky views of London at the Sky Garden. With floor-to-ceiling glass windows, the Sky Garden provides breath-taking views, bound to wow your mini adventurers. Don’t forget to charge your phone because no trip to the Sky Garden would be complete without an epic selfie for the ‘gram.
20. Play all day at Coram’s Fields
Unique, family orientated and fun. Coram’s Fields is one of the most child friendly, open spaces in London. Stop off at the city farm, set up your picnic in the open fields, scoff some ice-cream and play in the adventure playgrounds and sandpits.
21. Head to the priceless Bank of England Museum
Yes, it really is priceless! Come on down to the free Bank of England Museum, see how money is made, how coins have changed and how to tell real bank notes from fake at this small and family-friendly museum. Budding bankers will even get the opportunity to lift a gold bar worth nearly half a million pounds!
At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things, that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.
We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it's important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.
Kidadl provides inspiration for everything from family days out to online classes, arts, crafts and science experiments. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.
Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.
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