1. Parks, Gardens and Nature
Richmond park sits 12 miles west from the centre of London, a 2,500 acre expanse of parklands, woodlands and gardens. The park is the largest of London’s royal parks and is an ideal place for a family walk or bike ride. There are also local stables from where you can go horse riding around the park. The Isabella plantation is a particularly idyllic spot with its ponds and surrounding woodland, while the kids will love seeing the herds of deer which famously reside in the park. Refreshment points and a cafe will keep you well watered and fed.
This park may be lesser known than Richmond Park, but Bishops Park is a little gem. One of the main attractions for families is its urban beach, as well as the summer splash pad with which offers seasonal interactive water play features for all ages. A grade II listed park close to the Thames for riverside walks, Bishops park has plenty of sporting facilities as well as lovely meadows, gardens and an ornamental lake. The children are certainly well served here with playgrounds for both toddlers and older children. The park is an 8 minute walk from Putney underground station, with opening times varying according to the season.
No matter the age you will find something to entertain in Holland Park. The recently refurbished children’s adventure playground links with the surrounding woodlands and offers zip wires, a 10-person dragon swinger, climbing walls, aerial runways and more. Not to be outdone, the little ones have their own enclosed play area next to the adventure playground. The park’s woodlands is the perfect habitat for wildlife as are the 22.5 acres of gardens, including the beautiful Kyoto garden. Holland Park is located in Kensington and also houses a cafe when its time for refreshments.
Another park the whole family can enjoy is Gunnersbury Park in Ealing. As well as being a perfect spot for a picnic, there is a boating lake, miniature golf, family trails and a children’s adventure playground. After exploring the gardens there is also the museum to visit where the kids can dress up and play games as they learn about the past. Entry to all this fun is free, with donations welcomed.
Just as you start to head west out of London you will find Kensington Gardens, once part of Hyde Park. Lovely gardens, memorials, fountains and statues mean there is much to see as you gently stroll around, with the Serpentine lake marking one of the borders to the gardens. The Diana Memorial playground is a must for the children, with its centrepiece wooden pirate ship, teepees, sensory trail, play sculptures and more. The urban beach around the pirate ship is a great touch to help fuel the children’s imagination as they play.
2. Museums and Historical Houses
London Museum of Water and Steam
This is a fun and educational look at the history of London’s water supply. The museum holds an impressive collection of steam pumping engines, and their interactive waterworks gallery helps your children learn about the development of the capital’s water supply.
On certain weekends you can ride on the Waterways miniature railway, while out in the courtyard the whole family can enjoy the Splash Zone where you create your own water supply. The museum in Brentford is open at the weekends and has a cafe too, as well as a lovely garden to explore. Kids go free, with adult admission priced at £18.
Osterley Park and House
Osterley park and house in Isleworth is one of the few remaining country estates within London. With its own lake and surrounded by parkland, woodland and gardens, this is the perfect spot for a family walk or picnic. There are plenty of family events through the year to engage the little ones such as the Easter egg adventure and the winter picnic trail.
There are two hour play sessions every Saturday, while the whole family can hire bikes to fully explore the estate. Family tickets for the house and garden start from £19.50, or £11.25 for the garden only. The cafe opens daily, where you can get money off your drinks if you bring a reusable cup.
Chiswick House and Gardens
Stunning architecture and landscaped gardens are to the fore at Chiswick House. Whether you take a tour of the house or simply stroll in the gardens, Chiswick House offers a lovely family day out. There are over 65 acres of gardens where the kids can run around and let off some steam, while the Chiswick House and Garden kid’s trail combines fun and learning as you go round.
There is also an under 7s adventure playground, ideally situated next to the cafe. The kids can play while you relax over coffee and get tempted by the freshly baked pizzas. Family admission to the house and kitchen garden starts from £16, while the main gardens are free to access all year round.
Hogarth’s House is part museum, part historical house, allowing you to wander around the home of the painter William Hogarth. The house holds a large collection of his works and holds special exhibitions such as William Hogarth’s Animals. Beyond the house is the Mulberry Garden where family orientated events and activities are held.
If the kids prefer something a little more Gothic then a trip to Strawberry Hill House could be just the ticket. Located alongside the Thames in Twickenham, the house is renowned for its Gothic revival architecture. Perhaps less known is its lovely collection of painted glass. The fine garden is free to enter and is ideal for picnics. Be sure to download the free family garden trail to help get the most out of your visit.
3. Stadium Tours, Theatres and Entertainment
A tour of the home of English rugby is a great way to go behind the scenes of a top international sports stadium. Sports fans in the family will love the opportunity to visit areas such as the players changing rooms while imagining the pre-game atmosphere. You will also have the chance to go out pitchside through the player’s tunnel as well as visit the Royal Box. Included in the tour is entry to the stadium’s World Rugby museum, packed with rugby memorabilia including historic trophies. There are also interactive features where you can show your rugby and commentary skills. Adult tickets cost £26.95, while child entry costs £16.50. Museum only tickets are also available.
London is one of the great centres for theatre in the world. However, you do not have to travel in to central London to sample world class productions. West London has some excellent theatres, including the Hammersmith Apollo. Watching a show at the theatre is a great way to bring families together for the evening. Whether you are in the mood for drama, music or comedy, check out the upcoming listings at the Hammersmith Apollo for a show the whole family can enjoy.
If it is cinema you fancy, then check out Vue Westfield in Shepherds Bush, with a train station next to the venue for easy access. Vue offers a state of the art cinema experience for the family with 20 screens to select from. With stepped seating and Dolby surround sound you can sit back and enjoy all the latest films. Look out for Vue mini mornings, where from £2.49 per ticket you can watch all the best children and family films with your kids. Vue sits on level two of the Westfield centre, above the food court and handily placed for refreshments and some pre or post film shopping.
Further Recommended Stadium Tours
West London has several prominent sporting arenas which allow you to take a close up look behind the scenes. If football is the favoured sport in your household then a tour of Craven Cottage provides the chance to visit this historic and characterful ground, home to Fulham FC. As well as the player areas, you will visit the famous cottage itself and the grade II listed Johnny Haynes stand, built way back in 1905. This is an atmospheric football stadium, a wonderful throwback amid all the modern day stadia.
You can also take your football mad kids for a tour around Fulham’s near neighbours, Chelsea FC. Lasting an hour, your tour guide will take you through all the normally off limit parts of the Stamford Bridge ground including the players changing rooms and tunnel. A visit to the Chelsea FC museum is also included in your tour ticket. The Classic tour and the Legends tour offer further insights in to this famous football club.
4. City Farms and Zoos
Hounslow Urban Farm
Hounslow urban farm is a great treat for children who love animals. Shetland ponies, donkeys pygmy goats, peacocks, owls, rabbits, chipmunks, ducks and a bearded dragon are just some of the animals your children can meet at this urban farm. There are activities scheduled through the day including animal encounters, allowing your children to get up close to the animals.
The farm is open all year round, with admission from 10am and last entry at 4pm. Family tickets cost £23 if bought online, and season tickets are also available for families that hope to make many visits through the year. Hounslow urban farm is located in Feltham, with Hatton Cross the closest tube station.
This small zoo close to Hanwell station is a community based zoo with conservation at its heart. Among the mammals and birds at Hanwell Zoo is the critically endangered Margay, an arboreal cat whose natural habitat is the jungles of South America. Further animals your children can see at the zoo include capybara, meerkats, porcupines, black and white ruffed lemurs and miniature donkeys. There are animal feeds during the course of the day, which are always popular. Hanwell zoo opens every day of the week from 10am to 4pm, with adult admission priced at £4.50 and child admission at £2.50.
Chessington World of Adventures
The zoo is a major pull at Chessington World of Adventures. A visit does involve heading further out west from greater London, with Chessington South station a 35 minute train journey. However, this popular adventure park and zoo is home to over 1000 animals, and also contains a Sea Life centre. Add to this all the rides and attractions Chessington has to offer, then you can be sure of a full day out and more. Standard day tickets cost £34 when booked online, and there are plenty of options when it is time for a drink or a bite to eat.
5. Indoor and Outdoor Play
If your kids love to bounce then head along to Oxygen Freejumping in Acton, where you will find 150 interconnected trampolines. An hour session allows them to explore all the park and the activities it offers. A family ticket for an hours freejumping session costs £45. However, there is plenty more on offer at this centre, with additional zones containing airbags, a foam pit, a ninja warrior course and dodgeball courts. The Little O toddler sessions are great fun for under 5s and can help teach them coordination as well as social skills, while the peaceful play area is designed for children on the autistic spectrum or who have sensory or learning disabilities.
Gambado in Chelsea is an indoor soft play area which also specialises in hosting kids parties. The centre offers a fun and stimulating space where children can play, explore and have fun. Play frames, dodgems and a carousel are a snippet of the facilities on site to engage and entertain your children. There are toddler areas for the very little ones, as well as Toddler Time sessions during the school term time that ensure your youngest do not miss out on all the fun. Meanwhile, the adults can relax with a coffee in the cafe. Prices vary according to age group, with a two hour play session for 3 to 12 year olds costing £11.50 on weekdays and £14 at weekends. There is an admission fee for adults of £3.25 during the week and £5.25 at the weekend.
Snakes and Ladders
There is so much for the kids to do at this soft play centre next to Syon Park in Brentford. There is a huge play area where your children can let their imaginations run wild, plus an outdoor play area with a bouncy pillow. Back inside they can explore the massive 3-tier play frame as well as the various slides, tunnels and rope climbs. A mini sports pitch is another feature, while the electric motorbikes are bound to be a hit. Snakes and Ladders in Brentford is open every day of the week and prices depend on age groups. For over 5s an off peak play session costs £8.70 and £11.80 at peak times. Adult admission is £3 off peak and £5 in peak time. The centre has a cafe serving hot and cold food and drinks.
One Further Recommendation
If you head to the Westfield London shopping centre you will find Kidzania, which offers a host of activities for children of all ages. The concept is an indoor city, where through dressing up and interactive play children can pretend to be a range of occupations for the day including a pilot, surgeon, firefighter or DJ. These are just a sample of the activities in which children can participate as they have fun while learning important skills such as creativity and communication. There are also a range of activities for younger children aged up to 3 years. There is a designated place for the adults to relax, but viewing windows and open ended play areas mean you can always watch your kids as they play.