London offers entertaining family-friendly events year-round, including these 10 fun dates for 2018. From exhibitions to experiences, theatre, concerts, tours and carnivals, we’ve hand-picked distractions for all ages, so book that trip now!
Need a stylish family stay? London Perfect has a family-friendly collection of rental apartments in the city, with handy central locations. Close to Notting Hill, Austen in chic Kensington sleeps four in two bedrooms. It also offers two bathrooms, a comfortable living room, dining nook, kitchen and access to a gorgeous communal garden. For a bigger family, Kensington mews home Hornton sleeps six in three bedrooms, near parks, shopping and the Design Museum.
1: ‘Defend the Tower’, Tower of London (until 15 April 2018)
Kids will love helping heroic guards defend the mighty medieval castle from enemies at the heritage-packed Tower of London. Lasting 35 minutes, at ‘Defend the Tower’ live costumed historical re-enactments take place at 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm daily, with tickets included in admission. Think siege engines, fortified gates, cannons and rebellious peasants! For an atmospheric nocturnal visit, over 12s can take part in ticketed outdoor Tower Twilight Tours. Yeoman Warders share gruesome sights and spooky stories (7pm, select Sundays, February-April). By day ogle the Crown Jewels, a dazzling collection of over 23,000 gemstones including crowns, robes, and ceremonial regalia. Don’t miss the Tower’s six famous resident ravens, cared for by a Ravenmaster. Discover more happening at the Tower here. Tower of London, London EC3.
2: ‘Ferrari: Under the Skin’, The Design Museum (until 15 April 2018)
The iconic red-hued Italian car brand is celebrated in exciting exhibition ‘Ferrari: Under the Skin’. At London’s Design Museum, it speeds through 70 years of glamour, passion and engineering innovation. Kids and teens who love cars or racing will enjoy this exploration of Enzo Ferrari’s luxury Formula One car maker. Hand-drawn sketches, models, and engines are on display. You’ll also see rare cars including the first Ferrari, driver Michael Schumacher’s winning car, and new hybrid vehicles. Films and interviews help share this gripping design story, which has an age guidance of six-plus, with advance booking advised. The Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High Street, London W8.
3: ‘Dinosaurs in the Wild’, Greenwich Peninsula (until 31 July 2018)
Travel back in time 67 million years to see living dinosaurs at immersive ‘Dinosaurs in the Wild’ at Greenwich Peninsula. This thrilling safari experience transports you to a dinosaur scientific research station, TimeBase 67, where you’ll encounter Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. You can even watch baby dinosaurs hatching, through a mix of time-jump technology, theme park, and theatre. The guided adventure takes 70 minutes, but leave 90 minutes including entry and exit. It’s recommended for children aged five or above, with parental discretion. Those younger than two might find the large 3D dinosaurs, virtual action and noise scary. Near The O2 arena, Greenwich Peninsula is a 10-minute walk from North Greenwich underground station (Jubilee Line) or North Greenwich Pier. Reach the latter by Uber Thames Clippers riverboats. It’s also four minutes’ walk from Emirates Air Line cable car, a fun way to cross the Thames. Dinosaurs in the Wild, West Parkside (junction of John Harrison Way), Greenwich Peninsula, London SE10. Closed Mondays; book online.
4: ‘Horrible Histories: More Best of Barmy Britain’, Museum of London (18 March 2018)
Gross out the family on a journey into the city’s past care of Horrible Histories at the Museum of London. The witty Birmingham Stage Company’s new one-hour compilation show is titled ‘More Best of Barmy Britain’. It whizzes from revolting Romans to vicious Vikings, entertainingly evil Elizabeth I, crazy King Charles and Vile Victorians. Look out for a special scene with wordy Will Shakespeare. Even the frightful First World War gets covered. Part of Barbican OpenFest, there are two free performances at 1.30pm and 4pm on Sunday 18 March. The show is recommended for kids age five-plus, with visitors standing or sitting on the floor festival-style (book places online). Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2.
5: ‘Century of the Child: Nordic Design for Children 1900 to Today’, V&A Museum of Childhood (30 March-2 September 2018)
Scandinavians are famous for feelgood furniture, so it’s no surprise that they’re also ace at designing for children. The V&A Museum of Childhood in East London’s Bethnal Green is always fun to discover with kids. It’s especially worth visiting as it hosts new exhibition ‘Century of the Child: Nordic Design for Children 1900 to Today’. From vibrant fashion brand Marimekko to the enchanting Moomins characters, LEGO and IKEA, it shares iconic 20th-century designs for kids. Alongside work by talents Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen, the exhibition explores children’s creativity, showing how they influenced progressive designs. You can also catch playful ‘Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic’ at big sister the V&A in South Kensington (until 8 April). V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2; V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7.
6: Cirque Berserk!, Theatre Royal Stratford East (3-4 April 2018)
Traditional circus artistry meets adrenaline-fueled stunts at this modern spectacular, created especially for the theatre. Cirque Berserk! brings over 30 jugglers, acrobats, aerialists, dancers, drummers and daredevil stuntmen to London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East. Particularly hair-raising is legendary motorcycle act ‘Globe of Death’. Britain’s biggest contemporary theatre-circus spectacle is the perfect Easter entertainment, tailored to both adults and kids (age guidance six-plus). Performances are at 5pm and 7.45pm (3 April) and 2pm and 5pm (4 April), including strobe lighting. Main House, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, London E15.
7: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre (17 May-15 September 2018)
What could be more quintessentially London than enjoying a spot of Shakespeare outdoors in spring and summer? This year’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre season includes a work by the bard, as well as other family-friendly shows. It kicks off with puppetry and magic in J.M Barrie’s spellbinding ‘Peter Pan’ (17 May-15 June). Next up is Henry James’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’ (22-30 June) set to music by Benjamin Britten. William Shakespeare’s comedy ‘As You Like It’ (6-28 July) stars Charlie Fink, former frontman of Noah and the Whale. Then catch mean-green monster musical ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (3 August-15 September) and interactive ‘Dinosaur World Live’ (14 August-9 September). Book online for performances, which are a short walk from Baker Street underground station. Open Air Theatre, Inner Circle, Regent’s Park, London NW1.
8: Paul Simon ‘Homeward Bound: The Farewell Performance’, BST Hyde Park (15 July 2018)
For musical days out the whole family can enjoy checking out the British Summer Time concerts in Hyde Park (6-15 July). Presented by Barclaycard, all the gigs are in the afternoon. They culminate in Paul Simon’s ‘Homeward Bound’ concert (1pm, 15 July), with special guests James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt. Performers include Roger Waters (6 July), The Cure (7 July), Eric Clapton (8 July), Michael Bublé (13 July) and Bruno Mars (14 July). Top-notch support acts span Richard Ashcroft, Squeeze, Goldfrapp, and Khalid. Children under two enter for free, with special rates for kids age two to nine. Book quickly before they sell out. British Summer Time, Hyde Park, London W2.
9: Notting Hill Carnival (25-27 August 2018)
West London’s wonderful Notting Hill Carnival celebrates Caribbean culture on the August bank holiday. Expect steel band floats, dancers, sound systems and colorful costumes. Animating Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove, Westbourne Grove and Westbourne Park, London’s biggest street party can get very packed. Aim for Family Day on Sunday which draws slightly smaller crowds with kid-friendly floats for the Children’s Parade. Turn up early in the morning to catch Jouvert, the traditional opening of carnival, followed by the afternoon parade circuit. Have a dance, sample curried goat, plantains, or ackee and saltfish from food stalls, then leave before things get really busy. Monday is a more adult parade and party and may get overwhelming for younger children. Alternatively, Saturday evening’s free Panorama competition between national steel bands is aimed at young music fans. Notting Hill Carnival, Notting Hill, London W10 and W11.
10: ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter (17 November 2018-27 January 2019)
Calling all Harry Potter fans! See iconic sets from the UK film series transformed for the winter season in ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’. It’s a self-guided walking tour of London’s Warner Bros. Studios. Spy glittering Christmas trees in the Great Hall with a replica festive feast including flaming puddings. There’s also a snowy Yule Ball with magical instruments. Highlights include special-effect fireplaces, Christmas treats in Gryffindor’s common room and a model of Hogwarts castle blanketed in snow. Potter devotees can find out how the artificial snow and ice is created for the movies, and even touch samples. Brrrr! Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, WD25 (20 miles north-west of London).
See London Perfect’s Harry Potter tours for more behind-the-scenes access and wizard-world locations, including Warner Bros. Studios and central London.
Luckily, a family visit to London needn’t cost a fortune, with affordable transport on the Tube (underground trains). Another good tip is Giraffe restaurant, which offers kids’ meal deals and a children’s menu of world food. City-wide outlets include Holland Park, Southbank Centre, King’s Cross, Spitalfields, Victoria, Westfield Stratford and Brunswick Centre. Start exploring now…