20 Ways to Entertain Kids In London this Summer

With 20 ideas, from shops to shows, you’ll never have to hear the two dreaded words: ‘I’m bored’. Our expert editors discover how the city is turning into a playground for kids

From top West End shows to interative attractions, London is filled with delights for young visitors and this summer, there are even more ways to keep them entertained. 

1 Meet Your Heroes in Wax

There’s nowhere else than Madame Tussauds where kids can come face-to-face with their heroes. Each wax likeness takes a team of 20 to create, from sculptors and moulders to make-up artists and hairdressers to create that realistic character. See Pharrell Williams, President Barack Obama and (new this year) Luke Skywalker and other Star Wars characters.

Star Wars characters, Madame Tussauds, London, UK
Sculptors create the new Star Wars characters at Madame Tussauds (©Madame Tussauds)

2 Enjoy Adventures with Shrek

London’s latest walk and ride attraction Shrek's Adventure! takes the family on a journey into the kingdom of Far Far Away. Let Donkey be your guide as you board the DreamWorks Tours bus leading you into 10 live fairytale-themed shows. You'll visit scenes from the movies where you’ll be challenged to find Shrek and get back to London, and see characters including Puss in Boots, Princess Fiona and Pinocchio.

3 Ride the Rapids

At Lee Valley White Water Centre, kids aged 14 and above can choose from wet and wild activities including rafting, canoeing and kayaking, while those aged 12+ can board an inflatable kayak known as a ‘hot dog’. Take the 160m course on a popular hydrospeeds, (a cross between a bodyboard and a float). The 2015 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships takes place here 16-20 September, until then, it’s yours to rip up!

4 Follow in Harry Potter’s Footsteps

Fans of Potter will love visiting the very sets where the films were made at Warner Bros Studio Tours. Stroll along Diagon Alley with its array of wizarding shops before boarding the Knight Bus to enjoy a Green Screen ride on a broomstick. This year has seen the arrival of the original Hogwarts Express steam engine and a recreation of Platform 9¾, offering a glimpse into how the films’ iconic scenes were created.

Warner Bros studion, London, UK
All aboard the Hogwarts Express! (©Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tours)

5 Relive London Bridge's Scary History

The London Bridge Experience takes you on a dark journey through the capital’s history revealing some of its gruesome characters. See, hear and even smell what the bridge was like, with actors taking on the role of notorious figures. The brave can then move on to the London Tombs where they’ll be faced with horrors such as evil clowns, blood-dripping walls and other nasty surprises.

6 Learn a Trade at Kidzania

A brand new attraction, Kidzania brings immersive experiences and lets kids' imaginations run wild. With a combination of role play, fun and education, this indoor theme park is a city built to scale for kids, complete with buildings, vehicles and a functioning economy. With more than 30 careers to sample, they can choose to take on a 'job' ranging from pilot training at the Aviation Academy to training as a hairstylist at the beauty salon.

7 Meet Penguins at Sea Life London Aquarium

There’s no dout that watching real-life animals up close immediately grabs children’s attention. At Sea Life London Aquarium, kids will love to see both the curious (leafy sea dragons) and the awesome (sharks). The aquarium is home to more than 500 species of marine creatures, and interactive public feeding, diving displays and touch pools help to keep them engaged.

Sea Life London Aquarium, London, UK
Get up close to the pengiuns' home at the aquarium (©Sea Life London Aquarium)

8 Meet Demons at The Dungeon

Gore and gallows humour are a winning combination at The London Dungeon, on an interactive journey through London’s past with a cast of characters including Guy Fawkes, Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper. This summer (to 31 August), guests will receive spine-tingling new insights into the serial killer’s murderous story as the attraction explores The Ripper Myths.

9 Enter a Chocolatey World

Enter a world of 'pure imagination' at this musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Sam Mendes. You'll see larger-than-life characters, from the nut-cracking squirrels to the gluttonous Augustus Gloop, plus Charlie and the effervescent confectioner Willy Wonka, with big set pieces including a chocolate garden. 

10 See Witches at 'Wicked'

Who’d have thought that the untold story of the witches of Oz would become such a hit? Now one of the West End’s longest-running shows, "Wicked" is packed with wonderful songs and high drama. The plot re-imagines the origins of the witches, telling the story of the unlikely friendship between the blonde and popular Glinda and the misunderstood green girl Elphaba.  

Wicked on stage in London, UK
Good meets wicked at Wicked, the award-winning show in the West End (©Wicked)

11 Be Like Bond

Explore the Thames aboard Thamesjet, a high-speed military-grade jetboat slicing through the water like James Bond. You can choose from a 50 or 75-minute experience, both starting at Westminster Pier. Kitted out in waterproof clothing, you'll cruise past many of London’s most famous sights. Then beyond Tower Bridge, things get exhilarating as your professional skipper shows you what these boats can really do!

12 Build a Best Friend

As any child will tell you, a teddy bear is more than just a toy. The shop Build-a-Bear celebrates this magical relationship and enables kids to build their very own personalised bear. From traditional bears to colourful ponies, lifelike dogs to Marvel comic-book characters, there are more than 30 varieties as the base for your creation. Then it’s over to the Workshop where kids get to select outfits, accessories and sounds to complete their bear. 

13 Head to the Serangeti with The Lion King

When "The Lion King" burst on to London's West End 16 years ago, it was an instant smash hit, with the clever staging, fantastic costumes and hum-along songs. The plot follows young cub Simba as he grows to maturity and confronts his usurping uncle Scar, all accompanied by songs from that pair of musical knights, Sir Elton John and Sir Tim Rice.

The Lion King, London, UK
Top sets, costumes and music have made The Lion King a winning show (©The Lion King)

14 Enjoy Free Shows at Kids Week

Make the most of free theatre tickets this August. Kids Week West End, running throughout the month, encourages young people and their families to experience the magic of live theatre by offering free tickets to children aged 16 or under (when accompanied by an adult paying full price) to more than 40 top London shows. There's something for kids of all ages, from The Gruffalo for the under-threes to performances more suitable for teenagers such as 1984. 

15 Meet Marvellous Matilda 

Based on another of Roald Dahl's wonderful books, "Matilda the Musical" follows the fortunes of a girl who has magical powers and battles with the bullying headmistress Miss Trunchbull, the perfect baddie. This production is full of explosive dancing and singing, with a witty, moving script, always joyful. Prepare to be both entertained and delighted by this Olivier Award-winning show. 

16 Go Toy-Crazy 

It’s not just about the mammoth amount of toys on offer at Hamleys, from traditional dolls and teddies to high-tech mini vehicles. It’s also the entertainment on offer, where staff demonstrates new toys or dress up in character for special events. Hamleys is 255 years old this year, a reward for its many years of hard work to maintain exceptional standards. It’s more than just a toy shop – it’s a complete family experience. 

Hamleys, London, UK
In-store events and plenty to tempt little ones at Hamleys (©Hamleys)

17 Feast on Colourful Chocolate

The immense M&M's World, with four fun-filled floors, sees these popular chocolates come to life: M&M’S characters Red, Yellow, Green, Blue and Orange delight kids with their personalities and interactive games. Explore the shop’s selection of themed toys, clothing and jewellery, making good souvenirs for your London trip. Kids will enjoy the giant wall of chocolate to create their own selection of M&M’S from more than 100 different varieties.

18 Release Your Inner Tarzan

No one loves adventure more than kids. At Go Ape!, the Tree Top Adventure provides up to three hours of fun: hanging out in the forest, being high up in the trees and whizzing down zip wires. Their famous Tarzan swing is fun to conquer – it involves leaping from a platform into thin air and hauling yourself up a cargo net, a bit like Spiderman. Nerves of steel required! 

Go Ape, Trent Park, London, UK
Swing through the trees and have adventures at Go Ape! (©Go Ape)

19 Cast a Spell! 

Magic is very much alive here, where youngsters can become real-life Harry Potters with the right tricks up their sleeve. Founded by award-winning magician Ron MacMillan more than 50 years ago, the International Magic Shop is certainly authentic: Inside you’ll find all the apparatus, guides and accessories needed to master the art of real magic, from coin tricks to disappearing objects and much more. 

20 Climb Over The O2

The O2 is the capital’s major entertainment venue with a 20,000-capacity arena. Now, adventurous kids aged 10 and over (and at least 1.2m tall) can scale its steep exterior in Up At The O2, suited and booted with harness and latch before ascending 52 metres to the top of the roof. Fully guided, they will hear all about the sights that come into view from the Olympic Park to historic Greenwich.

Up At the O2, London, UK
Climb the London iconic venue for views of the city (©Up At the O2)