Whether you live in the capital or are visiting the city for a family holiday, there are some great activities to enjoy during the summer holidays in London with kids this year.
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From free summer days out in London with kids to festivals, exhibitions, activities, theatre performances, chances to get outdoors and reasons to tempt you into museums and galleries, you’ll be spoiled for choice, whatever your budget and however old your kids.
Many need prebooking, but there are options if you’re feeling spontaneous and just want to drop in, as well as ideas to take you from July right to the end of the school summer holidays in London in early September. Read on for my top picks, with more than 40 family days out.
Medieval mayhem at the Tower of London
As well as eyeing up the Crown Jewels and enjoying some more royal history on a visit inside the fortress, the Tower of London will be hosting a mini festival of fun throughout August.
Watch out for medieval Londoners trying to sell their wares, put on a pageant about the ravens and keep the queen happy – there’s even a magical giant.
Included as part of entry, you can spot the historical characters as you explore throughout the day, with 15-minute shows on the South Lawn at 11am, 1pm and 2.30pm.
The colourful Superbloom floral display, planted to celebrate the Jubilee, will also still be blooming throughout the summer (heatwave permitting!) until September 18, including the chance to slide down into the moat (there are alternative entrances if you don’t fancy that!).
Gunpowder Plot immersive experience
Older kids can also check out the brand new Gunpowder Plot immersive experience (recommended for age 10+) with limited tickets available throughout the summer.
Whisking you back to the London of 1605, you need to unmask those behind the infamous plot, with a mix of live theatre and digital technology to bring the fevered atmosphere of the Jacobean city to life. Excludes entry to the Tower.
Pirate treasure hunt at Sea Life aquarium
Pirates are coming to SeaLife London aquarium this summer, with a special Pirate treasure hunt from July 23 to September 4.
Grab your pirate map (parrot optional!), and take on the challenge of helping Captain Careless find his booty as you discover the other treasures of the deep – the aquarium houses over 500 species, 14 themed zones and more than 2 million litres of water.
Along the way, you’ll find a whole string of unusual creatures as well as some favourites including penguins and clownfish.
Well worth prebooking during school holidays, there are usually discounts if you buy online in advance as well as combined tickets to other Merlin attractions.
Puss in Boots at Shrek’s Adventure
En garde! Puss in Boots is heading to Shrek’s Adventure this summer, with the chance to meet the swashbuckling hero and show off your own sword-fighting poses, enjoy some extra activities and pose for photos as part of the visit.
There’s also the usual fun for Shrek fans, to explore the world of Far Far Away, encountering Princess Fiona and Donkey and an adventure on the 4D flying bus.
Running from July 23-September 4, it’s included in standard entry and takes place after the main Shrek meet and greet of the experience. Prebooking recommended
Mandrakes & Magical Creatures at Warner Bros Studio tour
Earmuffs at the ready and watch out for mandrakes, as the doors to Professor Sprout’s greenhouse have now opened at the Warner Bros Studio tour.
The latest permanent addition to the tour, you can pull out your own mandrake – just watch out for the venomous tentacula – as well as the usual attractions, from riding broomsticks to drinking butterbeer, spotting the Hogwarts Express, walking into the Forbidden Forest and watching a dragon rampage through Gringotts bank.
There’s a chance to get hands on with the monster book of monsters (and a promise it won’t bite), as well as meeting hippogriff Buckbeak and interacting with Dobby the House Elf, among other magical creatures too.
Jurassic World: The Exhibition
Watch out for dinosaurs in the Docklands this summer – Jurassic World: The Exhibition, a 20,000-square-foot immersive experience is coming to ExCeL London in August.
Based on the blockbuster movies, you’ll be greeted by a velociraptor, T-rex and a brachiosaurus, before encountering life-size dinosaurs roaming through the site – not to mention some baby dinos.
Designed to mimic earth’s environment back in the days when these prehistoric creatures did stalk the globe, it’s a fantastically fearsome summer day out in London with kids.
Runs from August 25, prebook tickets here – best for age 8+ although open to all, it’s accessible via the new Elizabeth Line from central London. Allow around 45 minutes to one hour, although you can stay as long as you want.
Summer of Colour at London Zoo
London Zoo is celebrating the kaleidoscopic world of amazing animal colour with its family-friendly Summer of Colour event from July 23 to August 31
Through animal talks, creative crafts, dress-up shows, and a host of fantastic activities, kids can explore everything from the brightest creatures in the animal kingdom to the role of camouflage in keeping others hidden.
Advance booking is essential, so grab your tickets soon to avoid missing out on one of the most fun but educational summer days out in London with kids.
Dear Zoo at the Postal Museum
The Postal Museum and Macmillan Children’s Books are partnering up this summer to celebrate 40 years of the best-selling children’s book Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell.
Running from July 22, the special activities at the museum will include a themed trail with hidden animal characters, interactive storytelling sessions, and meet and greets with the author. There are also arts and crafts sessions where kids can decorate their own paper toucan or create an animal suncatcher.
Dear Zoo activities are included in the standard museum ticket. However, many events have limited capacity and are first come first served, so be sure to get to the museum early.
Family events at Westminster Abbey
Step inside one of London’s most famous landmarks this summer with family tours and activities at Westminster Abbey.
The family highlights tour is tailored especially for families, with lots of fascinating stories of the people who have filled the abbey over its long history.
Throughout July and August, the iconic landmark is also hosting a number of family days and activities, including brass rubbing, ancient arts and mind-bending riddles, and science and nature days. Plus, all the family events are completely free with Abbey entry – tickets can be prebooked here.
Family fun at the Cutty Sark
Meet the characters of the Cutty Sark, from the charismatic captain to the young apprentice and hard-working dock hands, every day over the school holidays.
This summer, the popular Greenwich attraction is putting on family trails, character performances, and plenty of other activities to keep kids of all ages engaged and entertained – you need a timed ticket to board the ship, so prebooking is highly recommended.
And for even more family fun, visit on August 6-7 for their monthly family fun weekend. The special event features workshops, games, activities, and experiences for kids of all ages. Little explorers can sing sea shanties with the captain and dress up as a member of the crew. All family activities are free with a regular entry ticket.
Family activities at HMS Belfast
For more nautical fun this summer, head to the HMS Belfast for a whole host of family activities.
From July 21 to September 4, kids can earn their Sea Legs in an interactive activity that involves them completing fun tasks around the ship.
Families can also take part in the Family Mission: D-Day Edition – in this fun challenge, you’ll use a Kit Bag to find hidden messages, discover more about ship life, and even crack Morse code. These free drop-in activities are suitable for kids over 7.
Plus don’t miss HMS Belfast’s dedicated family days every Friday during the summer holidays. These events welcome some special guests who will draw upon their personal experiences at sea to fascinate little one with their amazing stories.
Story Seekers: Camouflage & Disguise at Imperial War Museum
New for summer 2022, visitors to IWM London can uncover the secrets of camouflage with a fascinating trail focusing on illusion and disguise.
Running daily from July 26 to August 29, the family trail is designed to help kids dig deeper into the museum’s collections and uncover the inspiring stories they tell, from the First World War to today.
Check out the Dazzle Design Studio from July 29 to August 29 too, sharing background about the optical illusion behind Dazzle camouflage and just how you go about hiding large ships, including activities to test your own Dazzle designs.
All activities are included in entry, which is free – timed entry slots available so prebooking recommended, as you may have to queue otherwise at busy times.
Mediaeval Season at Eltham Palace and Gardens
Discover what life was like in medieval times at Eltham Palace and Gardens this summer with their family-friendly Mediaeval Season events.
From jester workshops, archery, and defence skills, to storytelling, squire training, and lessons in courtly etiquette, there are plenty of activities for kids to try – the activities change week to week, so if you’ve got your heart set on sword-fighting or trying on armour, check the schedule to see what’s on.
Takes place from July 23 to September 4, it’s free for members or you can get discounted entry if you book online in advance – walk-up tickets may be available on the day as well though.
Family Festival of Flight at RAF Museum
Aspiring pilots can experience what life is really like in the air at the Royal Air Force Museum’s Festival of Flight.
Taking place from July 30–31, the free family event features plenty of fun activities for kids of all ages – everything from testing your coding skills with rolling robots, to making and launching your own parachute, informative science shows, storytelling for under 5s, Explorer Trails, and more.
There are drop-in options, as well as timed activities during the day, and while some are better for older kids, the whole festival is suitable for age 3+. Prebooking is recommended, although tickets are free.
Hidden beneath our feet at London Museum of Water & Steam
For one of the most unusual summer days out in London with kids, head to the little Museum of Water & Steam in Brentford, west London, where you can discover more about the network of pipes which supply water to the city.
As well as crafts, trails and activities, there’s a chance to discover more about the hidden world beneath the museum. Runs from July 23 to August 29, from 10am to 4pm, with more details still to be announced.
Prebooking is optional, and the museum is walking distance from Kew Bridge station.
Summer at Chelsea Physic Garden
Chelsea Physic Garden is running a series of educational workshops this summer for some outdoor fun for the whole family.
Events include chocolate workshops, botanical soap making, design your own plant pot, family seed excavation, and making your own paint with plants. Check the website for the exact schedule. Tickets for the workshops also include entry to the garden.
There’s also the chance to join Wild Immersive Theatre and embark on a journey into the animal kingdom with Dr Dolittle at Chelsea Physic Garden from Monday to Thursday between August 8-18. The family-friendly show runs several times each afternoon and lasts around one hour.
For more ideas of great summer theatre in London with kids, scroll down, including the Kids Week discounts on a string of family-friendly shows in the West End.
Discovery days at Hyde Park
Hyde Park’s ever-popular discovery days return this August for some of the best free activities during the school summer holidays in London.
Taking place every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday across August, the drop-in activities encourage adults and children to connect with nature together. You’ll find nature trails, arts and crafts, orienteering, and lots more.
Kids Summer Splash at Royal Docks
Head to the beach without leaving the capital this summer with Kids Summer Splash at Royal Docks in east London.
The summer-long event sees the Royal Docks kitted out with large sandpits, deck chairs, pop-up cafes and bars, and dedicated swimming areas. Grab your swimwear and a bucket and spade, and spend a fun family day out swimming in the lido and building sandcastles right in the heart of the city.
You’ll also find a series of free family events taking place at the Royal Docks over the school holidays, including family shows, picnics, Mermaid Mondays, hula hooping, dance classes, and lots more. With so much going on, it’s a great destination for a fun family day out in London this summer.
Junior Wetland Ranger at WWT London Wetland Centre
The London Wetland Centre in Barnes is running daily Junior Wetland Rangers sessions from July 23 to September 2, to let kids experience life as a ranger this summer.
The fun family sessions see experienced rangers discuss how they keep the centre’s wild inhabitants safe and healthy throughout the year. Kids will learn how to care for the different species of birds and mammals, and even get to put their own skills to the test.
The daily sessions take place several times each afternoon throughout the school holidays and last for around 30 minutes. They’re suitable for children ages 5 to 11. Other family-friendly activities at the centre include pond dipping and meet the otters sessions.
Summer Lights at Canary Wharf
Light trails aren’t just for winter, with this fun free trail of 11 installations at Canary Wharf to spot, alongside six permanent pieces.
Celebrating the beauty of natural light and long summer days, the artworks are designed to look their best with the summer light shining on and through them, creating patterns and reflections to transform the outdoor areas of Canary Wharf into sparkling, colourful spaces.
On display until 20 August, you can download a map and find more information on the website.
This Bright Land at Somerset House
The courtyard at Somerset House gets a summer makeover for its new cultural festival, This Bright Land, running during August with a theme of community.
Along with a programme of performances, music, dance, talks and workshops planned for day and night, there’ll be a new 35m Observation Wheel with some fantastic views of the skyline – and audio exploring different ideas of family.
There will also be extra family-friendly activities, including Sunday Street parties and treasure hunts, plus street food. Some activities and events are free or pay what you can, others have a fee.
Family workshops at Sir John Soane’s Museum
Throughout August, Sir John Soane’s Museum is running weekly drop-in workshops for families with a chance to hone your own artistic and creative skills.
The free interactive sessions vary from building Lego cities and cork temples to designing stained glass windows and painting terracotta pots.
Sessions run between 2pm and 4pm on set days. Tickets can be booked in advance, but you can also drop into the sessions on the day with your regular museum entry ticket.
Join Craft School in Islington
There’s a series of free events, workshops and exhibitions at the Crafts Council gallery in Islington, as part of a project with Yinka Ilori, aimed to let kids explore creativity and craft to tell their own stories.
Running until September 3, there’s a free weekly workshop every Wednesday in August, as well as the chance to experiment with clay, textiles, paper and card at a making table in the gallery.
Open Wednesday to Saturday, you can book tickets in advance or drop in.
Make your own Toy Theatre with Pollock’s Toy Museum
London’s oldest historical toy museum is already a fun but unusual day out with kids in London. But this summer, Pollock’s is kicking things up a notch and letting children build their own toy theatre at Strawberry Hill House and Garden in Richmond.
These two special workshops on August 24 are led by educational artist Jack Fawdry Tatham, letting kids aged 7+ design colourful backgrounds and characters to put on their very own performances at home.
The Kaleidoscope Festival at Ally Pally
The famed summer festivals at Alexandra Palace are always perfect for the entire family – and this year, there’s plenty to tempt you out to north London.
The Kaleidoscope Festival takes place on Saturday July 23 and features a packed schedule of live bands, DJs, comedians, and more.
For families, you’ll find plenty of fun activities and mini-parties for the little ones too, including magicians, games, arts and crafts, and a mini Land Rover adventure.
Mayfair Summer in the Square
If you’re looking for ideas for free summer days out in London with kids, head to Grosvenor Square in Mayfair where the Summer in the Square festival will be running from July 21-31.
With family entertainment taking place from 12pm to 8pm, there are summer-themed dance classes from Danceworks, including the chance to learn new moves in a string of styles, including Latin, Afrobeat, Bollywood and street dance plus a hip-hop street dance class kicking off the festival at 5.30pm on 21 July.
Or budding singers can join the interactive opera classes on July 25, 27 and 28, with 45-minute sessions aimed at kids aged 5-10, plus bitesize Shakespeare performances lasting 30 minutes during the afternoon of July 30 from local theatre company Wildcard.
CBeebies at the Royal Albert Hall
Most people know about the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall – but I think it’s safe to say that this famous annual London event doesn’t exactly scream family friendly if you’ve got younger kids.
But for those who do want little ones to get their first experience of the event, The Proms are hosting a special family-friendly show day this summer in collaboration with CBeebies.
On Saturday July 23, The Proms invites young children to join their favourite CBeebies friends on an underwater family adventure at the historic London venue. With performances at 11am and 3pm, the musical show draws kids into an exciting world of endangered creatures.
There’s a relaxed atmosphere for both performances, with chill-out zones and no restrictions on leaving and re-entering the theatre.
The Secret Garden at the Garden Museum
Head over to the Garden Museum near Lambeth Palace to discover a new immersive exhibition celebrating The Secret Garden.
As well as displays of artists’ illustrations from over the past 100 years, you can find out more about the true story which inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic book.
There are also interactive games and trails for kids to learn about the plants and animals found in the story, as well as inspiration to try their own hand at gardening. Runs to September 4, free for kids; must be prebooked.
Kids week theatre deals
If you needed any extra excuse to visit the theatre during the school holidays in London with kids, the special Kids Week discounts are the perfect temptation to book.
No longer covering just a week, Kids Week includes a whole month of theatre deals where kids can see some of London’s top shows and family-friendly performances for free. As well as one child under 17 getting in free per paying adult, two more kids can also get half-price rates – and while tickets went on sale in June, there are still deals available throughout July and August itself.
This year, shows include Frozen, Room on the Broom, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors, & Juliet, and Wicked, among others. Click to book and to check out the kids eat free discounts also available in August.
For more ideas on saving money on days out in London with kids this summer, check out my top tips
Open-air theatre during the summer holidays in London
The Jungle Book at Kew Gardens
Find Mowgli, Baloo and Shere Khan in the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew this summer, with performances of The Jungle Book between July 23 and August 21. Taking place Tuesday to Sunday at 11am and 2pm, the 70-minute shows are aimed at kids aged 5+.
101 Dalmatians at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
This musical version of 101 Dalmatians features puppets as well as the infamous Cruella de Vil (played by Harry Potter and Star Wars actress Kate Fleetwood). Runs until August 28.
The Jungle Book/Awful Auntie at Osterley House
You wait ages for one performance of the Jungle Book and two come along at once! Osterley Park & House also has its own performance on August 5, as well as Awful Auntie on August 19.
Catch an open-air movie
Swap indoors for outdoors with a string of family films on show at London’s open-air cinemas this summer.
Pop-up screens is celebrating its 10th birthday with tickets for £10 at locations including Fulham, Brockley, Hammersmith and Sydenham, with films including The Greatest Showman, Back to the Future and The Goonies. Click here for more details.
Screen on the canal has one of the most fun locations in London, with seats on grassy steps by the banks of Regent’s Canal near Granary Square, King’s Cross. Even better, the Everyman Cinema festival is free to watch (and unticketed, so make sure you arrive early).
See the full schedule here but family favourites include Matilda, Encanto, The Lion King, Harry Potter, Coco and Fantastic Mr Fox, plus classic favourites including Labyrinth, Mary Poppins and The Princess Bride.
Summer holidays at Hamleys
A trip to Hamleys is always one of the most popular family days out in London year-round, based on the London with Kids Facebook group that I help to run. But this summer, the huge toy store is doing its best to make the experience even more memorable.
Over the school holidays, the famous Hamleys Entertainment Team will be hosting all sorts of special activities, from dinosaur encounters and Jedi Knight training to space hopper races, puppet shows, and Hamley Bear meet and greets. On weekends, little ones will also get free delicious BEAR Paws treats made from real fruit.
Kidzania Summer of Fun
There are some special activities taking place at KidZania in Westfield, Shepherd’s Bush, until August 31, including a new summer trail and activities inspired by Jack and the Beanstalk.
Aimed at kids aged 4-14, there will be the usual attractions within the 75,000sq ft real-life mini-city, including the chance to experience working as a pilot, police officer, doctor, actor, DJ or just about anything else they want.
But this summer, they can also join KidZania’s theatre, and sign up for Jack & The Beanstalk auditions, design summer biscuits and summer outfits as well as performing their own comedy routine.
There is an extra charge for some of the special activities. You can also find some great offers on Piqniq with 44% off a standard entry ticket.
More summer days out in London with kids: ongoing
There are some great activities and exhibitions running throughout the summer holidays, including tours ending in September – so seize your last opportunity now.
Tootbus Jubilee Tour
Jubilee celebrations are continuing all year, so you can still enjoy the royal makeover on the 45-minute Tootbus Kids bus tour. As well as the usual London sights, there are coronation stories, royal trivia, quizzes and – of course – crowns to wear.
Only available for selected tours, taking place on Friday/Saturday/Sunday at 2pm outside school holidays, and daily at 12pm and 2pm during the school holidays, so worth booking ahead.
The hop-on hop-off London Discovery bus tour is getting a similar Jubilee theme, celebrating the Queen’s 70 year milestone on departures leaving Grosvenor Gardens at 9am, 10am, 12pm, 1pm, 3pm and 4pm until September 4.
There are also ticket options including a Thames cruise, along with the hop-on hop-off Jubilee bus tour.
Dippy at the Natural History Museum
After touring the country, Dippy the diplodocus is back at the Natural History Museum all summer, appearing again until December.
As well as a chance to see the famous dinosaur again, there’ll be an exhibition on the UK landscape and a few of Dippy’s memories from the tour.
You don’t need separate tickets but prebooking entry to the museum is highly recommended during school holidays.
Escape Room at the Golden Hinde
The Golden Hinde – the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship on the Thames near London Bridge – has spent much of the last two years closed (you can’t socially distance on a Tudor size galleon!). But it’s reopened with a brand new attraction: an escape room.
Escape from The Golden Hinde introduces you to the two histories of the ship – the original one which sailed in 1577, and the reconstruction built in the 1970s.
Players have an hour to solve the puzzles, and while it’s aimed at those aged 10+, younger kids will also have fun as part of a family group – and for now, under-10s go free. Sessions take place on most dates through July and August (check here for the latest availability).
The Golden Hinde Night Voyage experience, a sleepover on board the ship, has also restarted with dates later in the year if you’re planning ahead – check out my review
Pip & Pop at Kew Gardens
There’s always a riot of colours at Kew Gardens throughout the summer, but you’ll also get the chance to explore a colourful imaginary landscape thanks to the Pip & Pop installation running until March 2023.
Created by Australian artist Tanya Schulz, the artworks on display for When Flowers Dream will all be made from everyday materials including sugar and sweets in bright candy colours.
Included in entry, the exhibition can be found in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art within the botanic gardens. Prebooking tickets to Kew Gardens is advised.
There are also performances of The Jungle Book taking place at Kew this summer – scroll up for details
If you’re fascinated by the royal family, where else should you start than the Queen’s own official residence? While you can get a glimpse of the exterior of Buckingham Palace year-round, you can only venture indoors for a 10-week period with the State Rooms opening on July 22.
As well as seeing the Ballroom and White Drawing Room, you can visit the Throne Room – although the chances are, the Queen won’t be in residence (to check, take a peek at the flagpole before you go in: if it’s flying the Royal Standard, Elizabeth II is at home but if it’s the Union Flag, she’s currently elsewhere).
The Palace gardens are also open during the summer months, while the Queen’s Gallery is also open year-round (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays) – prebook tickets here.
And you can also see some of the famous carriages (and horses in the stables) at the Royal Mews.
There are regular family activities during school holidays at Tower Bridge, as well as the chance to stand on the glass walkway and look down, before heading into the engine rooms.
This summer, there will be a string of drawing activities and challenges on July 26, and August 2, 9, 16, 20 and 23, between 10am and 4pm on the West Walkway – included in the ticket, they’re drop-in sessions.
If you’d like a chance of seeing the bridge’s impressive opening as a bigger boat comes through, check the lift times.
Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature at the V&A
Looking far beyond Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggywinkle, this family-friendly exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum takes visitors on a journey to discover Beatrix Potter’s life as a scientist and conservationist.
There’s plenty on her famous characters too, including the places and animals which inspired them, as well as some truly beautiful illustrations to inspire young artists and animal lovers alike.
Prebooking is highly recommended, with tickets already getting snapped up. Adult tickets cost from £14, with children under 11 entering free: family tickets are also available. Runs to January 2023.
There are also regular family activities taking place in the main museum – check out this summer’s art-inspired fun here.
Cats & Dogs exhibition at the Horniman Museum
The exhibition at the Horniman Museum in south-east London looks at what we really know about our furry friends – and takes a look at the world through their eyes (and noses).
With plenty of interactive fun, kids are challenged to try to jump as high as a cat or complete a slalom course as fast as a dog (a lot trickier than it sounds!), as well as a relaxed corner for younger kids, and a string of games to play.
While the exhibition itself is small, it’s so packed with facts and some occasionally in-depth videos that you can easily spend over an hour boosting your animal knowledge, to come away with a whole new appreciation for our canine and feline friends. From £4.50 for children, £8.50 for adults, runs to October 30.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission – and paid promotion. All opinions remain my own.
Images Puss in Boots courtesy Shrek’s Adventure (John Nguyen/JNVisuals), Jurassic World as copyright on the photo, This Bright Land courtesy Somerset House, KidZania image courtesy KidZania, Westminster Abbey/HMS Belfast/Eltham Palace/Buckingham Palace/Royal Albert Hall courtesy of Depositphotos, Alexandra Palace via Picfair, all others copyright MummyTravels