School’s (nearly) out for summer! If you’re looking for things to do over the school holidays in London then you’re in luck because the city has a jam-packed calendar filled with fun things to do for families.
We share our favourite things to do on sunny days from how to keep cool (ice cream, splash parks and water sports!) and where to find the best family-friendly festivals to fun workshops, open air cinemas and much more.
In 2022, the summer school holidays generally fall between 22 July and 5 September.
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London sights to visit this summer
The Tower of London
Superbloom is the big event taking place this summer at the Tower of London as part of the celebrations for The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – the best way to see the millions of flowers is by sliding down into the moat itself. However, there are some other fun events taking place as well.
The Gunpowder Plot is an immersive experience that invites visitors to journey back in time to unmask the mysterious figures behind the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. It sounds like a great one for teens.
Taking place during the month of August is Medieval Mayhem, billed as a “mini festival of fun”. See historical characters wander around the Tower during the day and then watch their 15 minute show on the South Lawn (performances take place three times a day at 11am, 1pm and 2.30pm).
Where: The Tower of London; closest tube Tower Hill
When: Medieval Mayhem takes place from 1 – 31 August and is included in the admission ticket. The Gunpowder Plot is open Wednesday – Sunday and requires a separate ticket. Superbloom runs throughout the summer until mid-September and requires a separate ticket (although you can spot the flower-filled moat for free from up on the Tower Hill path).
Visit the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace
On 22 July Buckingham Palace open its gates for 10 weeks, welcoming visitors to tour the magnificent State Rooms including the Throne Room, the Ballroom and the White Drawing Room. Whether or not you’ll see a member of the Royal Family on your tour is another matter…
When: 22 July – 2 October; nearest tube Victoria, St. James’s Park and Green Park
Where: Buckingham Palace; Adult £30, child £19.50, under 5s Free. Family discount available
Drawing activities at Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is always fun to visit with kids and this summer they are running a number of drawing activities. The Tower has run drawing challenges for children before, inviting the next generation of artists to doodle the view from the Walkway.
Where: Tower Bridge; nearest tube Tower Hill and London Bridge
When: Drawing activities will take place on 26 July, 2, 9, 16, 20 and 23 August between 10am – 4pm. Family activities are drop-in and included in the price of admission.
Family events at Westminster Abbey
There are a number of events taking place at the famed abbey during the summer school holidays. These include Arts and Minds where kids will be invited to transform into living art and solve head-scratching riddles (29 July at 1 August); Science and Nature, which includes a science trail and interactive storytelling (12 and 15 August); Family Highlights tour (various dates 26 July – 25 August); and Brass rubbing (various dates 23 July – 27 August).
Where: Westminster Abbey; nearest tube Westminster station
When: Various dates, check website for details. All activities are included with admission and are on a first come, first served basis.
Discovery Days at Hyde Park
The Discovery Days at Hyde Park are always fun and they’ve got a great line-up for the summer school holidays.
Wild Water (2-4 August) explore the Royals Parks’ wild waterways and creatures who live here; Peter Pan (9-11 August) is based on the boy who didn’t want to grow up; Meadow Madness explores the Royal Parks’ meadows; and Life Underground (23 August) examines the creatures and critters who live in the park and discuss how rabbits and other animals live underground.
Where: Hyde Park LookOut Discovery Centre; nearest tube Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner
When: Various dates, see website for details; These are drop-in events that take place between 11am – 3pm – storytelling sessions take place at 12pm, 1pm and 2pm. Free.
Summer of Colour at London Zoo
The ZSL is celebrating the a Summer of Colour and its kaleidoscopic world of amazing animals from the emerald tree boa to the golden lion tamarins. Activities include themed talks, exploring colour in nature with themed activities, face painting and more. Advanced booking is essential.
On 23 July author and illustrator Rob Biddulph will be hosting a free, live #DrawWithRob session, make sure to book in advance.
Where: ZSL London Zoo; nearest tube
When: The Summer of Colour runs from 23 July to 31 August.
London museums and exhibitions to visit this summer
Dippy’s back at the Natural History Museum
Dippy the Dinosaur is back in residence at the Natural History Museum for a short while. If you want to learn more about the nation’s favourite dinosaur then join Waterhouse the mouse for a short story under Dippy before the Museum opens to daytime visitors (26 and 28 July; from £10.
A fun activity for teens in London this summer is Mystery at the Museum: The Search for Dippy. Set 1905 this escape-room like game invites you to discover who is threatening to steal parts of Dippy the Diplodocus? This game takes place in the Museum after hours and is for kids aged 13+.
When: Natural History Museum; nearest tube South Kensington
Where: The Natural History Museum; Mystery at the Museum is on 16 August, tickets are £35 each
Family events at the British Museum
The brilliant British Museum is running a number of family workshops and events over the summer holidays. These include making masks inspired by objects from Japan, creating an Egyptian-themed family photo, out-of-hours tours to China, ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece and even a museum sleepover. Don’t miss the Festival of Archaeology, which takes place on 16 July.
Where: The British Museum; nearest tubes Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square and Goodge Street
When: Various dates, check the website for details. Most are free, drop-in events.
Summer fun at the National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum will be hosting a range of indoor and outdoor activities for the family this summer promising lots of maritime-themed fun. Workshops include learning to play games from around the world, experimenting with a nautical play kit and celebrating play.
Where: The National Maritime Museum; nearest station Greenwich Station and Cutty Sark DLR
When: Various dates throughout the summer, check the website for details. The sessions are free and drop-in.
Meet the crew of the Cutty Sark
Head to Cutty Sark in Greenwich and discover the stories behind what was once the world’s fastest tea clipper – that’s a very fast ship to you and me. School holidays and weekends are the best time to visit because that’s when characters from the Cutty Sark’s past are on board to help you learn more about this famous ship. Meet the captain, chat with the cook and learn all about how Jock Willis built the Cutty Sark.
Don’t forget that the new Climb the Rig experience is also taking place all summer long.
Where: Cutty Sark; nearest station Greenwich Station and Cutty Sark DLR
When: Meet the characters of the Cutty Sark takes place on weekends and during the school holidays.
UNIQLO Tate Play: Kusama’s Obliteration Room
Go dotty for Yayoi Kusama this summer in the Tate Modern’s Obliteration Room. This interactive space allows visitors to stick colourful ‘dot’ stickers wherever they like and on whatever surface they feel like to help bring the space to life.
Where: The Tate Modern; nearest tube Southwark, Blackfriars and St Paul’s
When: 23 July – 29 August; daily 10am – 6pm; free
Family Activities at HMS Belfast
We Were There on board HMS Belfast is an incredible opportunity for children to meet eyewitnesses and veterans who will be sharing their memories of life at sea and what it was like to grow up during WWII. This special event takes place every Friday during the summer holidays.
There are also fun daily activities taking place including Sea Legs, where you can test to see if you could make it as a sailor, and Family Mission: D-Day Edition where you are invited to travel back to D-Day in 1944. These events are free with general admission and take place between 10am and 3pm (drop in).
Top tip! Combine a trip to HMS Belfast with lunch at nearby Borough Market.
Where: HMS Belfast; nearest tube London Bridge
When: We Were There takes place every Friday during the summer holidays. Other family activities take place between 10am – 3pm daily during the holidays.
Wonderlab at the Science Museum
If you’re looking for a fun day out that is both engaging and educational then head to Wonderlab at the Science Museum. Here, kids can get hands on with science experiments and watch interactive presentations. These lively demonstrations teach visitors about fire, electricity, rockets and more.
Where: The Science Museum; nearest tube South Kensington
When: Open daily; day passes from £9
The Discover Story Centre
The current exhibition at the charming Discover Story Centre is the 100 Story Hotel by author and illustrator Rob Biddulph. This summer children are invited to try and solve the mystery of the one story that has gone missing. Can you follow the clues and track the story down? Be prepared to meet some of the hotel’s madcap animal characters along the way!
Where: The Discover Story Centre; nearest tube Stratford
When: Until February 2023; check website for ticket prices
The Secret Garden at the Garden Museum
This summer the Garden Museum is celebrating the classic children’s book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Visitors are welcome to step inside a this immersive exhibition suitable for all ages, with interactive games and trails for children to learn about the plants, animals and stories found in The Secret Garden and to inspire young visitors to try their hand at gardening!
Where: The Garden Museum; nearest tube stations Vauxhall, Westminster and Lambeth North.
When: Until 4 September; £14 adults, under 18s free.
Make some Harry Potter magic in Professor Sprout’s Greenhouse
As all good Harry Potter fans know, Professor Sprout’s Greenhouse is where Harry and his friends were taught their Herbology lessons with Professor Pomona Sprout. Now you too can step inside and pull out a potted Mandrake, just watch out for the Venomous Tentacula hanging from the ceiling! This takes place at the Warner Bros Studios.
Where: The ‘Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter’ in Watford.
Africa Fashion inspired family activities at the V&A
Summer activities for kids at the V&A Museum this summer are inspired by the museum’s latest exhibition Africa Fashion. Enjoy drop-in design activities where you an create your own textile patterns; listen to pop-up performances led by musician Muntu Valdo (and make your own version of world sensation song ‘Jerusalema’); and turn drawings, colour play and collage into 3D garments and accessories.
There’s also a multi-sensory play session for 0-3 year olds, also themed around the Africa Fashion exhibition.
Where: V&A Museum; nearest tube South Kensington
When: Various dates, check the website for details. Some events are free, others are ticketed.
Outdoor Cinemas in London to enjoy this summer
London is a great place to be during the summer months for so many reasons, not least the numerous pop up cinemas that appear. Not all outdoor cinemas in London have family-friendly films on show, however, so we’ve picked our favourites here:
Screen on the Canal
Everyman Cinema is showing a free film festival on the banks of Regent’s Canal in Granary Square, King’s Cross. Films run throughout the day and every evening. Seats are on the grassy steps – amidst super-sized lollipops installation – and are staggered to ensure everyone can see the screen. This is a non-ticketed event so make sure you arrive early!
Family screenings for this summer include Matilda, Encanto, The Goonies, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Lion King.
For more free things to do take a look at this post.
Pop Up Screens
Pop Up Screens have locations across London (mostly south of the river) including Fulham, Brockley, Hammersmith and Sydenham. To celebrate their 10th birthday this year, all movies will be £10.
Film choices include Grease, The Greatest Showman and Back to the Future.
The Luna Cinema
The Luna Cinema is screening a handful of fun films at Kenwood House this summer, on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Although not suitable for younger kids, teens may enjoy screenings of The Breakfast Club, West Side Story and The Devil Wears Prada.
Fun outdoor events taking place this summer in London
London has got live music, open air theatre, festivals and more taking place this summer.
101 Dalmations at the Open Air Theatre
This big summer musical was due to open last year but we all know what happens then. Instead this musical version of Dodie Smith’s novel (and subsequent Disney cartoon) is brought to life at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in central London with a stellar cast and some impressive puppetry.
When: 12 July – 28 August
Where: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, closest tube Baker Street; check website for ticket prices.
The Kaleidoscope Festival at Ally Pally
There are lots of music festivals taking place this summer and the Kaleidoscope Festival is one of them. Taking place on Saturday 23rd July in Alexandra Palace, North London, the all-day festival promises bands (including Orbital and the Happy Mondays), DJs, Comedy and more.
The Family Area promises magic, arts and crafts, and even a Mini Land Rover Experience presented by Go Ape. Fingers crossed for warm weather.
When: Saturday 23rd July
Where: Alexandra Palace, North London
Summer Festival at Covent Garden
Covent Garden is hosting a festival all summer long with live performances, cultural exhibitions and pop up stores. There are family friendly ages and screens, lots of great street food and a Fever Tree bar. An ice cream festival will also be taking place!
Where: Covent Garden; nearest tubes Leicester Square and Covent Garden
When: Until September
Notting Hill Carnival
Dust off your sequins and feathers, Notting Hill Carnival is back. The carnival takes over west London for two days in August with plenty of fun and festivities. If you’re planning to visit the festival with kids then bookmark Sunday, which is when the Children’s Carnival takes place with a children’s parade.
Where: Notting Hill; nearest tube station Westbourne Park
When: 27 – 29 August
The Terrible Thames tour
If you want to combine sightseeing with a brilliant performance then hop onboard the Terrible Thames tour. Brought to you by the team behind the Horrible Histories franchise, this 45-minute trip along the River Thames is funny, insightful and laugh-out-loud fun.
Where: Boats depart from Tower Bridge Quay near St Katherine’s Dock, not far from the Tower of London.
When: Various times during the day, check the website for details.
Mayfair Summer in the Square
If you’re looking for free things to do in London this summer then head over to Mayfair for their Summer in the Square festival. Held in Grosvenor Square, this family-friendly festival includes summer themed dance classes hosted by Danceworks (for all ages and abilities!); interactive opera classes and the chance to watch multi-award winning local theatre company Wildcard as they perform bitesized Shakespeare acts.
Where: Grosvenor Square; nearest tube Bond Street
When: 21 – 31 July, 12pm – 8pm; free
London splash parks for keeping cool this summer
If you’re feeling hot, hot, hot right now then your’e not alone, London is currently in the grips of a heatwave (if you’re reading this and normal weather has returned then apologies!).
Fortunately there are other ways to keep cool other than eating ice cream all day and booking yourself into a family hotel with a swimming pool and one of our favourite ways to cool down is in one of London’s main splash parks or playgrounds with paddling pool areas. There are a surprising number of fountains, paddling pools and splash parks in the city, the following are some of the best.
If you’re looking for more ways to keep cool take a look at the best places to do water sports in London.
Appearing Rooms at the Southbank Centre
Without doubt our favourite splash park in London are the Appearing Rooms at the Southbank Centre. Jets of water spout seemingly at random creating “rooms” where you can stay entirely dry only to be soaked by a wall of water that jets up without notice. It’s great fun, always popular and guaranteed to get the kids soaked!
Union Park at Wembley Park
Once Union Park is complete it will cover seven massive acres. For now, the kids can keep happy and cool in the southern section, which is home to an outdoor gym and a children’s paddling pool as well as a wooden playground. Head to Arena Square and you’ll be rewarded with fountains perfect for splashing.
Fountains in front of Tower Bridge
For splashing with a view in Central London head to the fountains near The Scoop amphitheatre on the banks of the Thames River. Here, 200 jets of water spout into the air with views of City Hall and Tower Bridge in the background.
Granary Square Fountains
One of our favourite places to go when the temperatures rise are the fountains at Granary Square, near Coal Drops Yard. An impressive 1,080 fountains have been choreographed to spurt water at different heights, stopping seemingly at random before starting again to squeals of delight from the many kids getting absolutely soaked.
Edmond J Safra Fountain Court at Somerset House
The choreographed jets of water in the Somerset House courtyard are not always switched on so do check before visiting – they get turned off when events are held in the courtyard. Time your visit right, however, and you’ll get to run and jump among 55 fountains in one of the city’s most picturesque squares.
Merchant Square Fountains
Paddington has changed enormously over the last few years transforming itself from a place that you visited simply to jump on a train to a neighbourhood that you actually want to hang out in.
One such place is Merchant Square that is home to restaurants, coffee shops, floating gardens, deckchairs, screens and the fantastic spiralling fountains. These are great fun for kids – just remember to bring a spare change of clothes!
Diana Memorial Park Fountains
One of the best playgrounds in London is home to a water play area that is perfect for toddlers and primary school children. These are not jumping jets of water, rather a trickle of water that allows kids to cool down and play – bring a bucket and spade if you can. You’ll find the water play feature near the wooden pirate ship.
The John Madejski Garden, V&A Museum
Combine a visit to one of the new exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum with a splash in the museum’s fountain. Located in the inner courtyard and garden this is not the place for boisterous water fights but the fountains are perfect for cooling off.