Half-term attractions near London to keep the kids busy and where to eat for free

Photo of stressed out young mother sipping on a cup of coffee on her messy bed while her three daughters are playing around her.
-Credit: (Image: Getty)

With the May half term fast approaching (May 27-May 31), many parents will be wondering what to do with the kids. It can be a stressful time for parents, as even if you are working from home, juggling jobs and childcare can leave you at your wits end.

The obvious thing to do is to get the tots out the house. But there’s a problem with this - it can be costly. Fortunately however Londoners are spoilt for choice in terms of places to take the kids. Better yet, there are a few spots where kids eat for free - all of which are fairly nearby.

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Happy family, parents and children in a park in summer, smile and relax on grass field for quality time, love and nature. Happiness, picnic and portrait of people outdoor and playing together
Fortunately there are a few options which can save parents from pulling their hair out -Credit:Getty

Where to take the kids

London zoo - ZSL London zoo is the first and obvious choice. With its wide array of rare animals, this is more than likely to excite the children. Found in Regent’s Park, it’s open between 10am and 6pm. It costs £33 for an adult ticket, and £23.10 for kids aged between three and 15.

Crispin, the Sumatran tiger, walks along his grassy enclosure with his striking bright orange and jet black fur
Crispin, a Sumatran tiger, takes part in the annual stocktake at ZSL London Zoo in central London -Credit:Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Peppa pig world - You may remember Boris Johnson made the quip about taking his son Archie there, during a press conference. Peppa Pig World is another brilliant spot with a whopping nine rides as well as the opportunity to meet cartoon favourites such as Peppa Pig and George. You can find it at Paultons Park, Ower, Romsey, The New Forest, Hampshire SO51 6AL. It’s open between 10am and 5.30pm, and tickets cost £43.50 each.

Characters George and Peppa on one of the rides at Peppa Pig World -Credit:Guildford Titles
Characters George and Peppa on one of the rides at Peppa Pig World -Credit:Guildford Titles

Alton Towers - Because what would a school holiday be without whizzing on a ride at a terrifying speed? Known for rides such as Smiler, and The Nemesis Reborn, tickets to Alton Towers cost £39, while those under 90cm enter for free. You can find it at Farley Ln, Alton, Stoke-on-Trent ST10 4DB.

It also offers a range of accommodation options if you're travelling from afar -Credit:Getty Images
It also offers a range of accommodation options if you're travelling from afar -Credit:Getty Images

Drayton Manor - Another theme park as kids always love them. Found at Drayton Manor Dr, Fazeley, Mile Oak, Tamworth B78 3TW, there’s something for everyone: whether you want to spin around on Loki, or get drenched on Stormforce 10. Entry to Drayton Manor costs £24.90 for those aged four to 15, and those above pay £29.50. It’s open between 10.30am and 4.30pm during the week, and 10.30am to 5pm on weekends. From Saturday through to Tuesday it’s open from 10am until 6pm, and 10am to 5pm on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Drayton Manor is great for kids -Credit:Tripadvisor
Drayton Manor is great for kids -Credit:Tripadvisor

Chester Zoo - If you want to head to the north for a short getaway then Chester Zoo ’s for you. With over 31,000 creatures - such as lions and monkeys - across 128 acres, there’ll be a creature everyone loves. When booked online, those aged 16+ pay £31.81 during peak times, and £28.63 during off-peak times. Kids aged three to 15 pay £21.81 during off-peak times, and £24.54 when it’s a peak time. The zoo is open everyday between 10am and 5pm.

Free activities for half-term

Mudchute Farm

Spread over 13 hectares in the heart of East London, Mudchute Farm is one of the largest city farms in Europe. It is home to over 100 animals and poultry, including some rare British species.

The larger animals graze in the outer enclosures and fields, while the smaller - and perhaps more cuddly - are kept just next to the main courtyard in 'Pets Corner'. Note that most of the animals go to bed at around 4pm.

Admission is free. Mudchute Farm is located at Pier St, London E14 3HP

Cartoon Museum

Just a stone's throw from the British Museum, discover the best of British cartoons at the Cartoon Museum. Founded in the early 2000s, it houses an impressive collection of over 6,000 original cartoons and comics.

As for its library, it contains over 8,000 books and comics. The Cartoon Museum also offers regular workshops for children to learn different drawing techniques.

Admission for under-18s is free, workshops are around £12. The Cartoon Museum is located at 63 Wells St, London W1A 3AE

Where kids eat for free

Having to sort out extra food everyday can be costly, which can very reasonably be an added worry for a parent. But fear not, as there are plenty of places where kids eat for free .

Asda - Under 16s can eat at any Asda cafe for just £1 at any point in the week and there is no required minimum adult spend.

asda new men's formal wear collection
There are also meerkats to feast your eyes on at Chester Zoo

Sainsbury’s - When an adult spends £5.29 in the cafe, a child can eat a hot main meal or lunch bag for £1.

It's best to check the Sainsbury's store locator for the your local opening times
It's best to check the Sainsbury's store locator for the your local opening times

Morrisons - When an adult spends £4.50 at the cafe an under 16 eats absolutely free of charge.

Tesco - Tesco has a free meal deal for kids - which includes sandwich, fruit, two snacks and a drink - with every adult purchase.

IKEA - The Swedish DIY shop offers childrens’ mac & cheese, or a pasta and tomato sauce, a soft drink and a piece of fruit for just 95p. Other kids' meals will cost £1.50.

When an adult spends a certain amount, kids eat for £1 at Sainsbury's -Credit:Getty
When an adult spends a certain amount, kids eat for £1 at Sainsbury's -Credit:Getty

Dunelm - This deal only applies after 3pm. It includes a free main kids’ meal, plus two snacks and a drink for every £4 an adult spends at the in-store cafe.

Bella Italia - Italian chain Bella Italia offers a solid three-course meal for £1. However it applies to kids aged between two and 11 whenever an adult buys a main meal. The deal runs from Monday to Thursday from 4pm to 6pm.

Heathrow Airport - You can even get a discounted meal - a kid’s meal with an adult one - at the following participating restaurants: Big Smoke, Giraffe, Pilots, and The Prince of Wales.

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