One thing’s for sure; you’ll never hear your little one moaning: “I’m bored!” in London with plenty on offer, and much of it free. There are plenty of kid-friendly ways to get to know the city, from the Museum of London’s exhibitions covering thousands of years of local history, to old railway carriages at the Museum of London Transport. For those who like to get stuck in, try the hands-on fun at the Science Museum and Natural History Museum, located very close to each other in South Kensington. The world of nature is there to see at the immense ZSL London Zoo and Sea Life London Aquarium to get up close to creatures great and small. And don’t forget the London stage, where musicals and performances are tailor-made for kids of all ages, most of which have matinees.
Get closer to the animal world with more than 720 species in its 36-acre site. Head for timed daily shows to see penguins in action in their own pool, and get over the fear of creepie crawlies in the MegaBugs show. For an extra special treat try a ‘Meet the Animals’ experience, where kids can tickle the aardvark’s belly or feed meerkat.
It’s hands-on fun and interactive experiments: everything from medical history treasures to an Apollo 10 command module. Want to know more about bubbles or rockets? A live Launchpad Science show explains how, one of our favourites for kids. Check out the IMAX films, many in 3D, covering the mysteries of the universe or deep sea.
Fossils, environment and more – and essential for all dinosaur fans. Kids love the intact skeleton of a Stegosaurus, one of the venue’s latest specimens, acquired in late 2013. The old favourite, the animatronic T-Rex, still results in squeals of excitement, plus the life-size model of a blue whale. It’s very busy during holiday weekends.
It’s been a roaring success ever since leaping onto the London stage in 2000 and won many awards. With music by Sir Elton John, the Disney film adaptation set in the Serengeti Plains comes to life with astounding sets and songs. The story is powerful – suitable for kids aged 7 and over – one of many top London theatrical experiences.
From tiny clownfish to immense sharks, there'll be plenty of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ as kids get up close to the sea life. Don't miss the stingrays, floating against a glass tank at perfect eye level for little ones, and the new Sea Dragon Kingdom in its enchanting themed zone. There’s a strong educational and conservation message throughout.
This is the place to find some the secrets behind London’s fascinating 450,000-year history, with a swathe of events including the Romans, the Great Fire of London and Carnaby Street in the swinging 60s. The weekly play-based activities for under 5s are fun, plus weekend family sessions inspired by the museum’s collection.
It’s well known for jazz, organ recitals and string ensembles, but the big appeal here for children is the brass rubbing section. We’ve done this with a bunch of adults and kids of all ages, around a huge table making a rubbing of replica brasses from churches and cathedrals from across the UK. Take a break at the Café in the Crypt.
Inside the historic Horse Guards, you can peep through a glass partition into stables to see the troopers preparing the horses, in this museum that celebrates the history of the British Army’s senior regiment since 1661. Watch out for the horses being washed and groomed – even their hooves being oiled.
Film stars, royalty, sports heroes and fictional characters are here in life-size wax figures. The Star Wars gallery (from 16 May) is an immersive experience with 16 of its famous heroes – Jabba the Hutt, Princess Leia and all. The section showing how the models are made, taking hundreds of measurements and photographs, is fascinating.
Get the kids wearing a vintage bus drivers hat, drive Tube train simulators and gaze at old gadgets and posters in this museum celebrating the history of the city's transport. From 28 March, an exciting new interactive play zone All Aboard, for kids aged 0-7, lets them 'sail' the Thames Nipper and make driver announcements.