February half-term is on the horizon, which means now is a good time to start thinking of activities to keep the little ones entertained.
London can be a magical city to explore with children if you know where to go. You’ll find galleries, museums and pop-up installations at practically every corner, and excellent transport options also make exploring the capital a breeze.
On a budget? No problem. There are plenty of free and affordable family-friendly activities to enjoy, especially if you take your own packed lunch, with most museums providing designated picnic areas to refuel.
Booking in advance online will also cut the cost of activities that do charge a fee; you could save up to 20 per cent by planning ahead rather than buying tickets at the attraction on the day.
Whether you have tots or teens, here are 11 of the best things to do with kids in London to make February half-term a memorable one.
B-Bakery Paddington afternoon tea bus
Catch a B-Bakery bus from Trafalgar Square and gawp at some of London’s most iconic sights in the 90-minute ride. See all the best bits of the capital from the comfort of your seat, while devouring a delicious afternoon tea. You can choose from a Paddington themed bus, which will be enjoyed by children of all ages, or a Peppa Pig bus geared towards preschoolers and younger tots.
On the Paddington bus, each table comes with a special built-in screen providing guests with a bear-guided animation of the tour of London. Paddington and Mrs Bird will tell you all about the city’s most famous landmarks, including Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Borough Market and Piccadilly Circus. Freshly baked treats include a marmalade finger sandwich, chocolate cupcake with bear paw prints, and a delicious vanilla rice pudding.
Price: From £50, b-bakery.com
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Cute, Somerset House
With Hello Kitty looming large, as well as cute creatures and cuddly monsters, Somerset House has created the ultimate child-friendly day out. From emojis to internet memes, video games to plushie toys, this highly-anticipated new exhibition explores “the irresistible force of cuteness in contemporary culture”. Alongside a host of images and installations to amuse and coo over, the exhibit also includes toys and memorabilia that adults may remember playing with as children, such as Sylvanian Families and My Little Pony. With pieces that will make you go “awwww”, this is pure feel-good fun.
Price: Kids £11, adults £18.50, somersethouse.org
Revolting Romans, British Museum
The British Museum is hosting five days worth of exciting, playful and exploratory activities as part of their Revolting Romans event. Here, kids can get stuck into some hands-on activities, such as handling replica Roman objects, playing Roman games and making special legionnaire figures to take home. Whether your kids are fans of the BBC show Horrible Histories, or simply enjoy hearing a few gruesome facts, this exhibition is sure to enlighten and amuse young minds.
Free to attend, Rotten Romans is expected to be popular, so it’s worth booking a timed entry slot in advance on the British Museum website.
Price: Free, britishmuseum.org
Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross station
Harry Potter themed days out can be expensive, but there is one activity you can enjoy for free. Station authorities at King’s Cross Station erected a Platform 9 ¾ sign in honour of JK Rowling’s hit series between platforms 9 and 10 in the station. Since then, Harry Potter fans from all over the world have ventured to King’s Cross Station to pose and take a picture in front of the famous platform sign. It’s completely free to visit and to take a photo, but you might want to get there early in the morning to avoid the queues.
Once you’ve bagged a photo, you could make the fun last longer by visiting a Harry Potter merchandise shop inside the station. Alternatively, burn off some energy with a walk down the canal and a play on the swings and slides in Handyside Gardens, just off Granary Square.
Indulge your kids’ love of splashing around with bubbles at this immersive 11-room exhibition in Wembley. Children will adore this unique activity, which takes the best parts of a bubble bath without the hassle; the bubbles are dry, so you won’t need to bring a change of clothes. It contains some epic ball pits, so you can throw yourself and the little ones into a smaller one with bigger balls, and a humongous one the size of a swimming pool that contains smaller balls. There’s also a VR experience, where you sit in bubble chairs suspended from the ceiling and put on the headsets to surround yourself with bubbles from all angles.
Price: Kids £16.90, adults £21.90, bubble-planet.com
Family climbing and bouldering, Parthian climbing wall
This 25,000 sq ft climbing centre inside the Southside shopping centre in Wandsworth, south-west London, is the first indoor climbing facility in the UK to include an exact replica of The Titan bouldering wall, due to feature at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. And with introductory climbing lessons for children as young as three, it’s a great opportunity to get them flexing their physical and mental capabilities before they’re old enough to experience too much fear. Wild Climbers is an introductory session for children aged three to six, while a Youth Taster session is aimed at kids aged seven to 10. There’s no pressure to sign up for a course after this one-off lesson either – and it’s a fun way to scale new heights and test kids’ boundaries and courage.
Price: £25, parthianclimbing.com
Turn it Up, The Science Museum
This family-friendly exhibition at the Science Museum makes music come alive. Kids can hear, interact with and even make their own music, dance on an interactive mat that lights up a pattern of their movements, and discover weird and wonderful instruments, such as the pyrophone, an organ powered by flames. Journey inside this musical playground and meet Haile, the musical robot that can play and improvise alongside human musicians. This is a great opportunity to encourage your child’s creativity and discover the joy that music can bring.
Price: Kids £8, adults £10, sciencemusuem.org.uk
E-Karting, Gravity Wandsworth
The E-Karting track in Gravity Wandsworth takes exhilaration to a whole new level. It’s suitable for children from the age of three if an adult is driving, while kids aged eight and over are allowed behind the wheel of their own car. Each race takes eight minutes during which time they can go around the indoor track as many times as possible. Further fun comes from the fact that it’s not a flat course and 8 metres is downhill, so you can all experience high speeds and the adrenaline rush that comes with it. If all the thrills and spills makes you hungry, Dirty Bones is a decent fast food joint that serves up the very best in New York inspired burgers.
Price: From £13.95, gravity-global.com
Tidy play, Polka Theatre
Based in Wimbledon, the Polka Theatre creates world-class plays and live entertainment aimed at young audiences. During half-term, children aged three to eight can watch Tidy based on the much-loved children’s book by author and illustrator Emily Gravett. It’s a gentle but cautionary tale about the value of the world around us and what happens if we don’t look after it. With beautiful puppets, original music and a touch of silliness, this 45-minute event is perfect for the smallest members of the family – and adults can expect a few laughs, too.
Price: From £10, polkatheatre.com
Imagine festival, The Southbank Centre
Imagine Children’s Festival takes place over 11 days at February half-term, with brilliant theatre, comedy, music, literature, poetry, dance and flat-out family fun on offer, designed for children aged from zero to 11 years old.
Half-term highlights include dance circus fusion from Motionhouse’s Starchitects: A Cosmic Adventure, talks by Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho and Michael Rosen, a new performance from YolanDa Brown, CBeebies Ocean Adventure with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, workshops in the Art Makes People Powerful creative zone, plus hip-hop, comedy, singing, poetry, dance parties and more.
Price: Varies depending on event, southbankcentre.co.uk
When Forms Come Alive, Hayward Gallery
When Form Comes Alive is the perfect first art exhibition for children as it celebrates life and all its movement. There’s no standing still looking at static paintings on a wall here; instead, the exhibit is inspired by sources ranging from a dancer’s gesture to the breaking of a wave, from a flow of molten metal to the interlacing of a spider’s web. As well as a giant neon rollercoaster-esque structure, highlights include DRIFT’s kinetic Shylights that mimic the folding and unfolding of flowers that close at night. And Marguerite Humeau’s multimedia scultures echo the gills of mushrooms to conjure scenarios of organic metamorphosis and adaptation.
Price: £18 – £19, free for members and under 12s, southbankcentre.co.uk
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