For young visitors to London, it can be mentally tiring walking to and from and around famous buildings, monuments, museums and art galleries the whole time. It may well be worth their time and they’ll be very glad they’ve done it in later years (or so their parents may say as they drag them about them all!), but where’s the real fun? For families then – and really here, this blogger means the kids – where in London can they go for the day or the afternoon and have a tailor-made dosage of out-and-out fun? Don’t fear, London being the place of terrific variety it is, there’s a huge number of such venues – some obvious and others less so, but all of them highly recommended…
The obvious ones…
The London Dungeon (Waterloo)
Kids love a good scare (playfully, at least) and this massively popular attraction slap bang in the centre of the capital delivers that in spades. Focusing on recreating – in a family friendly way – the darkest and bloodiest of local London and British history, it does so with semi-gory gusto thanks to outstanding live performances, set design and special effects. Its latest addition is Sweeney Todd-themed – you may not want to touch a meat pie for days afterwards!
Horniman Museum and Gardens (Forest Hill)
One of the UK capital’s most unique and original family attractions, the Horniman’s stuffed full of weird and wonderful exhibits; a bit like a museum as envisaged by Roald Dahl – therefore, perfect for kids. As soon as you clap eyes on the enormous stuffed walrus that greets you in the first room, you know you’re in store for little different. And thanks to the ‘Hands on Base’ section (where you can pick up, handle and wear any of 4,000 artefacts) and the 15-exhibit-toting aquarium (each of them revealing a different underwater environment), there’s no question this place delivers on exactly that.
Alexandra Palace Ice Rink (Wood Green)
Children of all ages – whether they’re members or not – are welcome at Ally Pally’s dedicated venue for every ice sport imaginable, as well as ballet classes and dance clubs. But most kids and grown-upswill, of course, be most attracted by the large ice rink that’s ideal for a spot of wintry skating. Note: there’s also an inflatable area dedicated to soft-play – where the ice skates aren’t permitted, obviously!
London Transport Museum (Covent Garden)
The big draw at the eternally popular Transport Museum is its numerous interactive displays. All of them are educational and interesting; none more so than the Tube train simulator – a must surely for boys and girls obsessed with all things that move. Parents too may well find themselves intrigued and impressed as they learn about London’s substantial transport heritage. An excellent day out then for all the family during a visit to the UK capital, not least because of its easy-to-reach location, especially if you’re staying in one of the luxury hotels in London West End.
The less obvious ones…
Battersea Park Children’s Zoo (Battersea)
London Zoo is fantastic (of course, it is), but at the weekend or on a Bank Holiday it can be very busy and it’s always a tad pricey; in which case if you head south you’ll come across an excellent zoo that’s undoubtedly among the very best family friendly London attractions. Featuring a wonderful array of animals, including the incredibly child-friendly lemurs and kunekune pigs, it also offers a great playground and climbing frame for your little tykes should they be inspired by climbing monkeys.
Hounslow Urban Farm (Feltham)
Which child isn’t going to love watching pig-racing, seriously? An outdoor play area and an indoor bouncy castle are also a big plus for the little ones here (and there are Shetland pony rides for the youngest), plus the fact parents can familiarise their children with an environment usually only to be found miles away from an urban metropolis, while they’re probably otherwise visiting London for all its cosmopolitan delights, is a terrific selling point for this gem of an attraction.
Wet ‘n’ Wild at Waterfront Leisure Centre (Woolwich)
Perhaps the perfect waterpark for all the family, this one offers a fitness pool – with four lanes – and a spa pool for the parents, while the leisure pool for the kids is flanked by a five-lane water slide, a 65-metre snake slide, water jets, a wave machine, a waterfall and, er, a volcano (apparently). Moreover, entry is just £2 for juniors.
Snakes and Ladders Play Centre(Brentford)
Boasting a huge three-tier play-frame with various slides, climbing frames and a mini-sports pitch for the older kids and a soft-play area for the young ’uns, this place has just reopened after a £2 million refurbishment. It also has a café for parents – and the children when they need a break from all that energetic jumping, sliding and climbing.