The best day trips near London
As much as I love everything about living in London (well, nearly everything, I’d happily live without the drizzle or the Northern Line at rush hour), sometimes you just need to escape the city. Leaving the big smoke behind for family days out is good for the soul – and great for some quality time together too. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy day trips from London with kids whether you’re in search of countryside or culture, magic or monarchs, history or action. The following are some of the best day trips from London for families for kids of all ages to enjoy. I’d love to hear your suggestions too, please let me know your favourite days out in the comments below.
The Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead
One of our recent best day trips out of London was to the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead. This indoor ski slope is located just 30 minutes from north London and is one of six indoor snow centres in the UK that have real snow. The Snow Centre has a 160-metre main slope with two button lifts to take you to the top. There’s also a large lesson slope (the biggest lesson slope in the UK) with two travelator lifts (otherwise known as ‘magic carpets’) as well as a small freestyle section. You’ll also find a small sledging section, the Ringo Slide. Although real snow centres are never going to replace skiing on the mountains, they are a great way to try skiing for the first time, a brilliant way to brush up on your technique and an opportunity to try something new, such as snowboarding or some freestyle tricks. It’s also just a fun family day trip from London!
The Snow Centre, St Albans Hill, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HP3 9NH
Getting there: Hemel Hempstead train station
Warner Bros Studio Tour
For a truly magical day trip from London, head to the studios where the Harry Potter films were shot. As any wizarding fan worth their weight in Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans knows, the studios have been transformed into an amazing exhibition space where you can walk around the sets and discover how the special effects department made Harry and his friends fly (among other things!). Costumes from the movies are on display as well as the mighty steam train that played the part of the Hogwarts Express. Seasonal experience also take place at the studios; right now it’s time for Hogwarts in the Snow, which sees Christmas trees line the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room dressed for the season and a blanket of filmmaking snow covering the majestic Hogwarts castle model. If you haven’t got your Hogwarts uniform yet, make sure you are fully kitted out before you visit.
Warner Bros Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, Herts WD25 7LR
Getting there: Watford Junction rail then shuttle bus, free parking for ticket holders
Hampton Court Palace
For an equally fun and easy day trip from London, head to Hampton Court Palace in Surrey. Transport yourself back to Tudor times with a visit to Henry VIII’s kitchens, experience the splendour of the Tudor court in Henry VIII’s Great Hall and discover if it really is haunted. Hampton Court Palace often run family events in school holidays; we enjoyed a Beast Quest adventure during half-term and the palace’s open-air ice rink has recently opened for the Christmas season. Once the weather warms up again, pencil a day trip to Hampton Court Palace and the Magic Garden in your diary. This kids play area is a magical playground with architecturally designed towers and high walkways, slides that burrow under ground and a 25ft-long red dragon to climb on. The garden is currently closed for winter and will reopen in spring 2019.
Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey KT8 9AU
Getting there: Hampton Court rail
IWM Duxford, Cambridgeshire
A fun day trip form London by car or train is to the Imperial War Museum in Duxford. Set on one of the key RAF bases in World War II, the museum today houses a huge collection of tanks, military vehicles, naval exhibits and aircraft, including famous Second World War classic like the Spitfire and the Lancaster. Other highlights include the Battle of Britain exhibition, the American Air Museum and the 1940 Operations Room. The IWM website has a number of family trails that you can download and bring with you to make your visit even more fun; options include the I-Spy Creatures Trail and Finding out about the First World War Trail.
IWM Duxford, Duxford, Cambridgeshire, CB22 4QR
Getting there: Royston or Whittlesford Parkway train stations
See where Megan and Harry tied the not with a family day trip from London by train to Windsor and Windsor Castle. Built 900 years ago by William the Conqueror, the castle has been home to 39 monarchs and is the official residence of the Queen. For kids and families there’s a fun multimedia guide that introduces you to many of the characters who live (or lived) at Windsor Castle, including Gilbert the Grotesque and Cyril, a Page of the Back Stairs as well as some of the castle’s main rooms. These include the State Apartments, used by The Queen to entertain her guests, and St George’s Chapel where 10 kings are buried, including Henry VIII and Charles I. Family activities are held every Saturday throughout the year and during school holidays.
Windsor Castle, Windsor, SL4 1NJ
Getting there: Windsor & Eton Central or Windsor & Eton Riverside train stations
Who doesn’t like to be beside the seaside?! Brighton is a one of the best day trips from London that you can have, particularly if the sun is shining. But, whatever the weather, there’s lots to do in Brighton with kids. The Volks Electric Railway train opened in 1883 and is the world’s oldest electric railway. You can hop aboard for a ride today, the train starts east of the Palace Pier and runs along the coast for a mile. At the Royal Pavilion, the Brighton Museum’s World Stories treasure trail will entertain most kids, almost as much as the bright, flashy and noisy rides at Brighton’s Palace Pier. Visit during the warmer months and take a boat tour of the coast or hire a standup paddleboard or kayak. Another activity for months when the sun shines is a traditional Punch & Judy show performed by Prof. Glyn Edwards who has been performing the act for some 50 years.
Getting there: Brighton train station