London with kids is a continuous discovery. However, if you’ve already covered all the basics, like getting them to visit Peter Pan’s statue, the National History Museum and the London Zoo, and you are looking for something new, you’ve found the right place. In the English capital city, there is always something special to discover, especially if you are looking for unusual activities and unexpected things to do and see. Something not touristic, away from the same old routes. Here is the guide of 10 unexpected things to do in London with kids.
A short cut summary of the content:
- Electric Cinema e Portobello Road
- Wild Nature at London Wetland Center
- Animals from the world: the Horninam Museum
- Outdoors crazy golfing, or indoors?
- Gravity Wandsworth – fun in VR
- Family fun at the National Gallery
- The world of theatre – children activities at the Royal Opera House
- Climbing up the Cutty Sark’s highest masts
- Dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park
- Underground tunnels at The Postal Museum
Among the colourful houses and the unique stalls in Portobello Road Market, why not stop at the Electric Cinema? Every Saturday morning, at the Kids’ Club, shows are all for children. And the place is a historic building – opened in 1910, with its characteristic architecture is one of the first cinemas built in the UK.
If you are far from the Portobello area, you can find another Electric Cinema with a Kids’ Club in White City. Or, if you are visiting the city centre, have a look at the programme of the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. Among vintage animated films, classics and blockbusters from the last 40 years, you may find your children’s favourite cartoon (or yours) and see it exceptionally on the big screen. Tickets and seat choices are available both online and at the cinemas’ ticket offices. The Electric Cinema’s Kids’ Club shows start at 9 AM every Saturday morning.
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When in the area, I suggest you take a trip to the Museum of Brands in Notting Hill: don’t miss the Time Tunnel to retrace the historical moments of the most famous brands from the Victorian era over the decades and from the industrial revolution to the first BBC broadcasts. The Museum does not get too crowded and also organizes various family events (often free on weekends). It’s also included in the London Pass!
Among the unexpected things to do in London with kids, why not discover the London Wetland Centre, for a day in nature? It is a natural reserve for a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, where you can watch the wildlife in their natural habitat. Like beavers, ducks and colourful birds, all surrounded by the blue of the ponds and the green of the trees.
Children will love to play with the zipline, and try the climbing wall. The London Wetland Centre is in Barnes, in the southwest area of the city. It’s open every day but opening times vary according to each season – it’s always better to check before planning a visit. It’s possible to book online, and children under 4 enter for free.
PS: If you are visiting London in Winter, check out if they are running the winter garden intallations called Illuminature.
The Horniman Museum is an icon of the southeast, and it’s been awarded Museum of the Year 2022. It reminds the Natural History Museum, just smaller and more essential. It shows stuffed animals, local and exotic, cultural and anthropological exhibitions dedicated to children yet fascinating for all ages. The glass conservatory is not to be missed – it recalls the Kew Gardens tempered houses, only you won’t find plants in it, but tables for you to sit while you and the kids enjoy a snack or tea at the café. The Museum is free, however, you can complete the visit by buying tickets for the small underground Aquarium and the Butterfly House, together with the temporary exhibitions.
Another peculiarity of the Horniman Museum is the spectacular view from the Horniman Gardens, where you and the kids will also find growing vegetables and plants – especially butternut squashes in Autumn). On Saturday morning stalls open for the weekly Farmers’ Market. There you’ll find the Animal Walk too, which is open every day. A fun route where kids can spot alpacas, sheep, goats, rabbits and chickens. End the visit with a nice walk at the nearest park descending the hill and leading up to the playground. The Museum is open every day from 10 AM to 5 PM. The Butterfly House is open from 10.30 AM to 4 PM. The Gardens are open from 7.15 AM (8 AM Sundays and Bank Holidays) to 4.20 PM. The Animal Walk is free, and open from 12.30 PM to 4 PM every day.
Putt in the Park in Wandsworth Park is an outdoor path, perfect for a day outside. Golfing is definitely something unexpected to do in London with kids, and at Putt in the Park everyone can have fun – no experience needed! The kiosk serves pizza, drinks and burgers, together with a Kids’ Menu. Other Putt in the Park places are located in Battersea Park and Acton Park. Opening times are from 9 AM to 5 PM. Children under 3 go free.
Did it just started to rain? No panic: Putney offers Jungle Rumble, an indoor crazy golf place with thematic paths, colourful and unexpected. Royal Tahiti is the exotic course, Surfers is inspired by the surf’s world, and Ocean presents a path with gigantic octopi and a sea-inspired path. To book in advance is always a good idea – avoiding queuing is always appreciated with kids. Jungle Rumble is open every day from 10 AM to 12 AM (10 AM to 10 PM on Sundays). However, the opening time for kids is different – from 10 AM to 7 PM.
Gravity Wandsworth is a 4-floor fun indoor arena, with activities and restaurants from around the world. Among the most famous things you can do there’s the Japanese e-karting track (for children older than 5 years), with the related street bar and noodle kitchen. The New York-themed kitchen is not to be missed, together with the 14-lane bowling, the crazy golf, the e-Sports and VR Holograms activities. Grown-ups can enjoy live music and a cocktail bar. It’s better to book in advance. Gravity is open every day from 8.30 AM to 11 PM, except for Fridays and Saturdays – closing at 12.30 AM.
The National Gallery is probably the most famous museum in London… according to adults. However, activities for kids and families have nothing to envy to the proposals for grown ups. From sensory experiences to painting workshops, the family events are many and always different. Free, most of the time – but it’s crucial to book online, as they get often sold out quite early. Besides that, visiting the National Gallery is free – showing the children artworks from Caravaggio, Monet, Giotto, Van Gogh and other most famous paintings in the world will certainly be an unforgettable experience. The Museum is open every day from 10 to 6 PM, except for a Friday closure at 9 PM.
Children are rarely exposed to the opera world. But we know, for sure, they can make their voice heard, just like they were sopranos or tenors! The Royal Opera House offers its Family Sundays: entertainers and actors tell stories about the most famous operas and their plots. An introduction to this particular art forms such as ballet and theatre, where children can try and dance and sing as they were performing the Swan Lake or the Barber of Seville. The best thing to do to avoid any disappointment is to book in advance.
I’ve already told you about the fascinating experience of visiting the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. It is a merchant ship that can be visited to discover the world of tea shipping from China in the 19th century. Besides that, Cutty Sark offers performances and activities for kids and teens. Kids older than 10 years can book to climb up the highest mast in total safety with a helmet and ropes to protect them. From above, the view of the Thames and Greenwich is spectacular. For younger kids, have a look at the performances of actors and singers telling children pirates’ and merchants’ stories in a fun and captivating way. Tickets are available online or at the ticket desk. Performances are usually included. Meanwhile, if you book the Climbing experience, the museum visit will be included.
While exploring Crystal Palace Park it can happen to meet a group of… 15 real-sized dinosaurs! Built in 1854, these are the very first statues in the world representing dinosaurs, and they have been designed according to what was known at the time about these fascinating creatures. They are a must for the dinosaurs obsessed – spotting them while walking is like visiting Jurassic Park.
Besides the dinosaurs, visiting Crystal Palace Park is a nice idea among the unexpected things to do in London with kids. It is a monumental park, the former home of the famous Crystal Palace, built for the 1851 Exposition, destroyed by a fire in 1936. The park still shows its original majestic setup, created to marvel the visitors of the Expo. Also, it’s free.
The Postal Museum is located in the city centre. Here, you and the children will discover how the postal system works, and its story – a revolution that changed the world of communication. Also, there is a special underground train bringing visitors to explore the tunnels used in the past by Royal Mail, allowing you to discover an underground and secret London. Children up to 8 years can play as postmen and postwomen at the mini-city at the play area. They will handle parcels, trolleys and letters – everything dedicated to children. The Museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Another unusual thing to do is about driving a boat in Little Venice. You can learn more in this post: Self-drive boat along the canals of London.
And now we are done with this guide of 10 unexpected things to do in London with kids. Among free or ticketed activities, museums, workshops, outdoor events, fun and curiosity, I hope I gave you the chance to plan an unforgettable visit to London, especially for your little ones.
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