1. Parks, Heaths and Forestry
As you head north out of the city of London you come to the large expanse of greenery that is Hampstead Heath. One of the most famous outdoor spaces in London, this is an ideal location to let the kids run around, let off some steam and allow their imaginations to run wild. Great views, plenty of wildlife, bathing pools and a lido make Hampstead Heath a great place for the family to explore, either on foot or by bike. There are three cafes handily located around the Heath including one at the lido when it is time for refreshments.
London has many world famous parks, but it is also blessed with many lesser known local parks too. Highbury Fields is one such example, a large park in Islington with plenty of activities for families to enjoy. Tennis courts and table tennis are available for those feeling a little active, while the nearby Highbury Leisure centre houses a 25m swimming pool. The park also has a children’s adventure playground containing water features and a sand pit. The park is a lovely place for a picnic, although there is also a cafe and a barbecue area.
Priory Park in Haringey is another green space in North London where you can take the kids and let them enjoy running around. This 16 acre green haven has plenty of features to entertain the kids including tennis courts, basketball courts, a paddling pool and a children’s playground. Take to the heritage trail and locate some of the significant features in the park’s history such as the Metcalf fountain with the help of four boards posted along the way. The tree-lined walks and open areas of vegetation are great for exploring, while the Priory Park cafe is an ideal place to relax while keeping an eye on the kids playing out on the grass.
Camley Street Natural Park
As you come out of central London and start heading north you will find Camley Street Natural Park. Sat between Kings Cross and St Pancras stations, it is a wonderful urban nature reserve with a mix of woodland, grassland and water features. Run by the London Wildlife Trust, this centre can serve as an ideal introduction to nature and wildlife for your little ones. There is a visitor centre for all your information needs, plus a cafe when it is time for a drink and a bite to eat.
Visitors to north London are spoilt for choice when it comes to parkland and green open spaces. Further recommendations includes the Railway Fields, a hidden gem of a forested area and a local nature reserve which also has grassland and a pond. The 100 acre Finsbury Park is another well known green oasis, while Islington’s King’s Square Gardens is a spot enjoyed by families for picnics and as a place to sunbathe.
Another highly recommended site run by the London Wildlife Trust is the Woodberry Wetlands Nature Reserve near Finsbury Park. This recent addition to London’s nature scene is a former reservoir which now attracts a host of migratory birds to its waters. Hedgerows and wildflowers line the banks of this tranquil spot within urban north London. Wildlife flourishes here and it is a great spot to bring the kids for a stroll along the trails to enjoy the 12 hectare site. A visitors centre, cafe and shop are among the facilities provided.
2. Museums and Manors
Headstone Manor and Museum
This grade 1 listed manor in Harrow takes you on a trip through time, ending in the remaining medieval section of the house. Headstone Manor and Museum is a great place for families, with striking buildings and beautiful gardens to explore, plus a moat where the ducks like to hang out. Explorer backpacks are provided to engage the younger children, while at the Bakehouse they can dress like a Tudor. There are plenty of activities aimed at the kids, and the whole family can enjoy the Bill the Duck trail. The Moat cafe is a great place to relax, overlooking the historic 700 year old moat.
Grant Museum of Zoology
If you have kids interested in science and animals then the Grant Museum of Zoology offers a fun, yet fascinating day out. It is a museum in the purest sense, but the fact that it is filled with specimens from all corners of the world should enthral enquiring minds. Located just north of the river in Bloomsbury, there are over 68,000 specimens to explore. This includes the world’s rarest skeleton from the South African quagga, dodo bones and an intriguing collection of brains. This may not be for every child, but for those into their science or animals this is a quirky option.
Planes, interactive displays, flight simulators, a 3D cinema and model planes in an adventure playground, what’s not to like here. Just a 30 minute tube journey brings your family to the RAF museum on the former Hendon aerodrome. This is one of London’s major attractions, with the history of the RAF laid out across six hangars. The chance to sit in the cockpit of an iconic spitfire will certainly get the heart racing for the older members of the family, while family trails and activity backpacks ensure the younger ones do not miss out on the fun. When it is time to refuel, hangar one houses the cafe as well as the museum shop.
Kenwood House has been restored to its former Georgian splendour and houses a world class art collection. This hidden gem caters for families with lots for the little ones to get involved with. There are family activities located throughout the house, while Mac’s Kenwood trail will guide you round both the house and garden, allowing you to discover all the tales from Kenwood’s past. There are free seasonal activities staged at Kenwood with kids in mind. Located on the northern tip of Hampstead Heath, this stunning home and its famed art collection is free for all the family to enjoy.
Another recommendation at Hampstead is Keats House, home to the famous English poet between 1818 and 1820. Family days are held through the year where everyone can get involved with craft and poetry activities. The gardens are a great space for the children to run around and explore. Adult admission to Kenwood House is £7.50, while entry is free for anyone 18 years or under.
The Postal Museum is another must for families. Closer to central London than the other museums listed, this one has to be included for the underground ride on the mail rail which used to transport the post around London, plus the interactive displays that makes the museum so much fun for the kids. Open Wednesday to Sunday, the Postal Museum costs £16 for adults when booking online, and £9 for children aged 3-15 years.
3. Stadium and Studio Tours
Premier League Stadium Tours
Many kids dream of being a professional footballer and a stadium tour allows them to walk in the footsteps of their footballing heroes. One such tour is at the Arsenal Emirates stadium, home to the famous Gunners. A tour of this fabulous stadium gives you access to the player’s entrance, the dressing rooms, the player’s tunnel, the director’s box and more. You will even be allowed pitchside.
You will have a state of the art handset throughout and can listen to a commentary provided by an Arsenal great. Fantastic for any football fan, incredible for a young Arsenal fan. Stadium tours are priced at £27 per adult and £18 for children aged between 5-15 years. For an extra special treat there are also Legend tours, match day tours and the VIP experience, a four hour tour with your chosen Arsenal legend
However, North London has two spectacular stadiums which are worth visiting. Tottenham Hotspurs recently completed stadium is a modern and technically advanced sporting arena, one even an Arsenal fan will reluctantly admit is pretty impressive. You will get to visit all the same behind the scenes areas before heading out pitch-side down the player’s tunnel. You can even take try out the manager’s chair on the sidelines.
A family ticket for a Tottenham stadium tour is £67, while individual adult admission is from £24 with child entry priced from £14. There are a number of unique experiences available at this stadium, including the Dare Skywalk, an adventure way above pitch level for those with a head for heights that costs £35 per adult and £28 for children.
Harry Potter Tour
This requires a further jaunt north of the river, but for parents with kids who are Harry Potter fans a tour of the Warner Bros studios is a must for any itinerary. You will see iconic sets from the Harry Potter films such as the Great Hall and Diadon Alley, as well as seeing a host of props and costumes. You will have the chance to see how the special effects were created as well as having the chance to fly on one of the famous broomsticks courtesy of green screen technology.
The studios are 20 miles north-west of London, with regular shuttle buses running from Watford Junction. Adult tour admission is £49.95 with a child admission costing £39.95, while a family ticket is available priced at £159. Little ones under 4 years old are admitted for free. There are plenty of cafes and places to eat on site, while the complimentary activity passport offers lots of fun games and puzzles to enhance your children’s tour.
4. City Farms and Nature Trails
Kentish Town City Farm
Your kids will love meeting the sheep, goats, pigs, horses, donkeys and chickens at this petting farm. This local charity was the original city farm, introducing children since 1972 to farm life and farm animals. A community garden, a riding arena and a wildlife pond further educate children about the joys of the natural world. Spread across 4.5 acres in the borough of Camden, Kentish Town City farm has free entry and is open every day from 9am to 5pm.
Freightliners City Farm
This lovely community farm brings a small slice of the countryside to urban north London. This is a working farm which is home to a number of rare breeds. The garden at Freightliners city farm is a lovely, tranquil spot for a wander while the kids learn about the variety of fruit, vegetables and plants on show. This charitable city farm is free to enter, but you can purchase from a range of farm goods with proceeds going towards the running of this valuable space. There is a small cafe too when it is time for a bite to eat and something to drink.
Why not immerse yourself and the kids completely in nature and take to the Parkland Walk, a former railway line which once connected Finsbury Park to the Alexandra Palace. Stroll as far as you want and set the pace you want as you enjoy this 4km mile corridor of North London. The Parkland Walk is London’s longest local nature reserve and plays host to a wide range of plants, wildflowers and wildlife. This is an important site for many species of birds and a great place for kids to fall in love with nature.
5. Climbing, Skating and Indoor Fun
Alexandra Palace is one of London’s most recognizable buildings, but it is also a great place for a family visit. With the choice of a boating lake, skate park, an all year round adventure soft play area, the Go Ape tree top adventure, plus a lakeside children’s play area and cafe, the Alexandra Palace has something for all ages. On top of all this is the ice rink where anyone can take to the ice, with sessions for under 16’s costing £8.50.
Castle Climbing Centre
For active kids who love to climb then the Castle Climbing Centre has the climbing walls for them. This is one where parents and kids can all join in, with family taster session under the supervision of qualified instructors. The centre offers bouldered and rope climbs to test your skills, but if you do not have a head for heights your kids can still hit the walls. The centre is located in Green Lanes in Stoke Newington and sessions cost £13 per adult, with prices for under 18s starting from £8. After your climb, the Castle Cafe serves wholesome home cooked food.
Clowntown is the largest indoor activity centre in North London, with a dedicated play area for under 12s plus a separate play space for under 3s. The centre runs play sessions which last for 105 minutes, plenty of time to let the little ones run off some youthful steam. Clowntown has been running since 1994 and is a very popular centre which happily host kids parties too. If you are worn out just watching the energy your kids possess then the cafe could be the place to head, serving a selection of home-made meals, including vegetarian options.
A Further Recommendation
North London offers plenty of options for family activity days out. Sobell Leisure Centre in Islington is a further example, offering a range of activities as well as having a soft play area for the very little ones. There is an indoor ice rink, a trampoline park, plus a host of sporting facilities. Check out the indoor adventure area for kids set across three floors that includes a rope bridge, crawl tube, a sky glide and more. The indoor adventure area costs £5 per child.