Things to do in London over Half Term
If you’re going to be in London this October half-term then you’re in for a treat because there are some really fun activities happening around the capital. From the colourful and quirky exhibition of Yayoi Kusama and a treasure hunts at the British Museum to spooky Discovery Days in Hyde Park, drawing workshops at the Tate Modern, pumpkin picking and much more, there’s something to keep everyone busy over the half term holiday
Beast Quest at Hampton Court
Dark wizard Malvel has cast a spell over Hampton Court Palace bringing its resident beast to life! This October half term, visit the palace and work with one of the resident Questers to solve puzzles, riddles and games in order to defeat Malvel – just watch out for the phoenixes and griffins! Once you’ve restored order, head to the Magic Garden to meet even more mythical beasts, including the palace’s very own fire-breathing dragon.
The Moving Moment when I went to the Universe: Yayoi Kusama
One exhibition that we cannot wait to see is the mind-bending new installation by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, the artist sometimes called ‘the princess of polka dots’. The exhibition at the Victoria Miro features new paintings, the iconic My Eternal Soul series, painted bronze pumpkin and flower sculptures and a large-scale Infinity Mirrored Room. We first saw her when she exhibited in Mexico City and the kids loved it! Expect lots of colours and lots of polka dots! At the time of writing there were still tickets available over half-term and the exhibition runs until late December.
Out of this World: Mars
Journey to Mars with this special half-term activity at The Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Join the observatory’s astronomers for a planetarium show, two interactive workshops and immersive virtual reality. Your voyage starts with a visit to some of our Solar System’s most popular destinations via the planetarium and continues with a brain-bending Mars quiz using voting keypads and featuring stunning images of the planet. Finally, take a virtual walk on Mars with our virtual reality activity to feel what it’s like to step onto the planet and identify features on the Martian surface. This will be combined with meteorite handling and a chance to ask astronomers about the possibility of life on Mars.
Held Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 October from 10am – 12.30pm
Advanced booking required. Tickets are £8.20, children must be aged 7 and above.
Sir Walter Raleigh at the Tower of London
Head to the Tower of London this October half term for a series of events and activities inspired by one of its most famous prisoners, Sir Walter Raleigh. The adventurer was imprisoned at the famous fortress on three separate occasions before he was eventually executed in 1618. When he was at the Tower, however, he lived in relative comfort (his wife and family even joined him on occasion!) and used the courtyard outside the ‘Bloody Tower’ to grow plants from the New World. Visitors this half term can explore Raleigh’s Lost Garden, occupying the same spot where the original garden once stood, and learn all about the herbs, fruits and flowers that Raleigh and his wife used to create herbal medicines. You can even have a go at concocting your own elixir using the same herbs seen in Raleigh’s gardens. Make sure to stop by Raleigh’s study, that has been recreated in the Bloody Tower, to see what life was like for him here. ‘Beat the Block’ Performances will also be held on Tower Green throughout half term where Sir Walter and his wife Bess entertain the audience with stories of their adventures.
All activities available from 20 October and included in the Tower of London general admission. Walter Raleigh Beat the Block is held daily from 20 – 28 October at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Performances last 30 minutes.
The Imagination Station at the V&A
Inspired by the exhibition Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self, the V&A museum are running free workshops for kids where you can learn the story of Mexico’s most famous artist and explore your own identity through fashion and portraiture. Activities include creating colourful flowers to add to the museum’s Mexican garden and drawing your own portrait, which can then be displayed inside the V&A’s very own Casa Azul.
Held daily Monday 22 – Friday 26 October
10.30am – 5pm. Free
The Natural History Museum
There are a number of ongoing exhibitions at the Natural History Museum that fall over the October half-term and will definitely keep the kids busy for a half-day or more. Go behind the scenes of the museum’s zoology collection with the Behind the Scenes Tour: Spirit Collection. Led by knowledgeable science educators, this tour explores some of the Darwin Centre’s 27 kilometres (yes, kilometres!!) of shelves where you’ll meet some of the museum’s most famous residents, pickled for eternity, including Archie, the 8.62-metre-long giant squid.
The exhibition that we’ll probably be visiting is the Life in Dark exhibition that explores the worlds of nocturnal animals. Visitors are invited to meet the creatures that thrive at night in pitch-black caves and deep in the sea.
Behind the Scenes Tour: Advance booking required, Tickets £10. Children must be aged 8 and over. Life in the Dark: Advance booking required, Tickets £11.50; up to 3 children go free per adult.
Get your house Halloween-ready and take the kids to pick their own pumpkin! There are currently no places in London itself where you can pick your own pumpkin but there are a handful of pumpkin-filled farms surrounding London including the following:
Crockford Bridge Farm, Surrey
Although this Surrey Farm has been growing pumpkins for some 15 years this is the first year that it is opening its doors to the public. You can choose your own from the field or take home a ready-picked one (but where’s the fun in that?!). You can also carve your own pumpkin in the pumpkin patch but you’ll have to bring your own knives. During half-term the farm holds its own immersive theatre experience, Wonder Woods. This year’s walking performance is Jack & Mr Beanz Stalk.
Pumpkin picking is available on the following weekends:
Sat 13th / Sun 14th
Wonder Woods is held From October 20 to 28 at various times throughout the day. Advanced booking is highly recommended.
You have a lot of pumpkins to pick from at this Secretts, a Surrey based farm and farm shop. Take a tractor ride out to the pumpkin field to pick your favourite; kids can play in the tractor and haystack play areas and even get their faces painted.
Pumpkin Week runs from Tuesday October 23 to Sunday October 28, 11am to 4pm. Tickets are £1.50 per person.
Priory Farm, Surrey
Another farm where you can take a tractor ride out to the pumpkin patch to choose the best looking pumpkin is Priory Farm in Surrey. Pumpkin picking is being held on the weekend 13/14. Over half-term there’s the Spooooooky Trail, where frights and fun are to be had on The Discovery Walk. Visit on October 27 and enjoy an even spookier trail after dusk – make sure you remember your lantern!
The Spooooooky Trail: Friday 19 October – Wednesday 31 October
9.30am-4.30pm (last entry 3.45pm). Entry is £3 per person.
Drawing Workshops at the Tate Modern
The Tate Modern are running a number of drawing workshops over the October half term including storytelling and drawing with Mark Nicholas around his story The Lost Horse, a drawing workshop with Marion Deuchars where you’ll learn all about Bob and his adventures in Bob’s Blue Period, and a storytelling and drawing workshop with Emily Rand around The Lost Property Office.
Mark Nicholas: October 21, 2.30-3.30pm
Marion Deuchars: October 25, 2.30-3.30pm
Emily Rand: October 28, 2.30-3.30
I know it’s only October but Christmas is coming! And the Natural History Museum’s Christmas ice rink opens to the public on October 25 (until 6 January 2019) making it a great end of half term activity!
From £12.65/£8.80, book ahead
We loved our visit to the Postal Museum in the summer so it’s highly likely that we’ll head back for the October school holidays. Daily activities are behind held from Saturday 20 October to Sunday 28 October and are open to children of all ages on a first come, first served basis. Drawing inspiration from The Postal Museum’s stories, kids can experiment with calligraphy and paper making and create their very own character with the help from a storybook illustrator. Pop up performances promise to bring the postal past to life. Free with general admission ticket. For more information, see their website.
Spooky Discovery Days in Hyde Park
Discovery Days take place every place on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the school holidays at The LookOut Discovery Centre in the heart of Hyde Park. This October half-term the sessions have a distinctly Halloween feel to them; dare to investigate the ‘feely boxes’ in the Witches Den, explore the hair-raising nature trail, create potions using herbs and plants from the garden, make your own bat mask and more!
Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 October, 11am-3pm. Free
Mary Poppins Afternoon Tea at Aqua Shard
One to please both parents and children is this Mary Poppins-themed afternoon tea on level 31 of The Shard, London’s tallest building. The tea promises to take visitors on a trip down memory lane inspired by the popular story by P.L. Travers. Menus are presented on a gilt, gold-framed mirror, tea is served on a custom-made tea stand with an umbrella on top and silver booted feet below and homemade scones with jam and clotted cream come served in Mary’s carpet bag.
Skull Scouting at the British Museum
To kick start the Halloween season, join in a grisly Skull Scouting THATMuse treasure hunt at the British Museum at 10am, Saturday October 20th! THATMuse goes ghoulish on this search for all things dark & macabre, from maudlin mummies & Greek sarcophagi to Aztec sacrificial knives dripping with blood (yikes!). Famous folk like Ginger (the Gebelein Mummy) & the Lindow Man (a Roman who met with a grisly end in 1st century Britain) make some special appearances. This theme covers a good amount of ground, so it’s not for the faint of heart, but is also family friendly. Make sure to bring your family and friends so you can compete together – it’s more fun that way!
Half term at the HMS Belfast promises to be a fascinating event with the chance for kids, and their parents, to meet veterans and eyewitnesses from home and overseas who have lived through periods of conflict. From life at the front line and being evacuated during WWII, to living through the Korean and Falklands Wars, these family-friendly sessions promise to bring history to life. Held Wednesday 24 and Friday 26 October, 11am-3pm.
Another activity at HMS Belfast that promises to be a lot of fun are their Ship Shape Saturdays (Saturday 20 and 27 October) where families are invited to help keep the warship in tip-top shape. Drop in and learn what it takes to conserve HMS Belfast and put their learning into practice as they take on specially-assigned tasks. Ship Shape sessions are held from 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm. Tuesday 23, Wednesday 24, Thursday 25 October; 10am-4pm. Free, just drop in.
Royal Albert Hall
There are a number of performances being held at the Royal Albert Hall over half term, for kids of all ages. There’s a screening of the animated movie Inside Out followed by an interactive family music workshop, a storytelling workshop by Lotte Moore , which is perfect for children aged 3 to 6-years-old, a Jazz for Kids session and storytelling and music sessions for 0-4 year olds. For slightly older kids, there’s a showing of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban accompanied by the music of a live symphony orchestra.
Museum of London Docklands Halloween Sleepover
Test your nerves on this spooky night at the museum sleepover! Solve mysterious crimes, listen to terrifying tales from Victorian London and trick or treat your way around the galleries. Admission includes breakfast and a family-friendly film in the morning, too.
Walk in the footsteps of Roman London
Step back 2,000 years in history and walk the streets of Roman Londinium on a family-friendly tour. Led by Museum of London experts, the hour-long walk visits the remains of the Roman city wall, the location of a long lost fort and Londinium’s hidden amphitheatre where brave gladiators entertained the crowds. Advanced booking essential. 21st, 25th and 27th October.
The Sun: Living with Our Star at the Science Museum
Half term is the perfect time to go to the Science Museum and Wonderlab, one of London’s best exhibitions for kids. Billed as the most interactive gallery in the world, this fantastic exhibition boasts 50 exhibits where you can play with forces on giant slides, travel through space under a canopy of stars, see lightning strike and much more.
Party like a Pirate at the V&A Museum of Childhood
The V&A Museum of Childhood is dedicated the whole of the October half term to pirates to coincide with the opening of their new exhibition that focuses on fictional pirates and their influence in popular culture and imagination. Kids are invited to come dressed as their favourite pirate and enjoy pop-up performances and pirate-themed workshops. Check the schedule for full details.
I loved the summer in London this year but I do really love autumn here. Half term is the perfect time to make the most of London’s amazing parks so button up your coat and get walking! Some of the best parks to head to with kids this October include Fulham Palace, where you can buy fruit and veg harvested from the grounds once you’ve finished stomping in the leaves, beautiful Hampstead Heath, filled with magical woodland areas (if you and the kids are feeling really daring, you can even take a dip in the bathing ponds! Kids must be 8yrs and over and able to swim), stunning Hyde Park, the Japanese-style Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park. Don’t forget Kew Gardens, which really shines in autumn. We’re also big fans of Highgate woods, which is also home to a fantastic playground.
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