It’s that most wonderful time of the year: the summer holidays. The school hands your little whippersnappers over to you, and your heart sinks as you wonder what on earth you are going to do with them for the next eight weeks. There’s no need to get your knickers in a twist as there are plenty of things to do in London this summer with the kids. Get ready for some swashboggling theatre and marvellous musicals, wondrous exhibitions, sparkly festivals and fab-tastic outdoor activities. And some of them won’t even cost you a penny!
All the world’s a Stage: Theatre and Musicals
Kids go Free
Yes, you read that right! Kids go free to some top London shows and musicals this August. Children under the age of 16 go free when accompanied by an adult paying full price. Adults can purchase up to two extra children’s tickets at half price, and there are no booking fees. You can drag the kids to An American in Paris, Dreamgirls, Mamma Mia or Phantom of the Opera. Or, you could opt for some children’s shows such as The Hunting of the Snark, Matilda, Alice in Wonderland, Oliver Twist, King Kong and The Lion King. For the full listings, click here.
Annie the Musical
I’ve seen this musical in several formats, (some of them excruciating) but the new West End production starring comedienne Miranda Hart in her West End debut is fun and colourful with some high-octane choreography. It has all the magical ingredients you would expect from a hit family show.
I took my daughter Anaïs and her friend Jess to see Annie a week ago, and it was a big hit with the girls (and the adults also had a hoot). With all the doom and gloom out there, Annie was just the heartwarming tonic we all needed!
Tickets from £20. Limited number of half-price tickets for children on selected performances. Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one 15-minute interval. You can book tickets here.
The most loveable gangstastic robber is coming to the stage from the 26th July at the Garrick Theatre. If your kids haven’t read David Walliams’s book, make sure you read it with your kids – it would be criminal not to! Tickets from £22.43. On from the 26 July to 3 September 2017. Running time: 2 hours and 10 minutes including one interval of 15 minutes. You can book tickets here.
Fantastic Mr Fox
The “dahlicious theatrical feast” returns to the Lyric Hammersmith from 26 July to 20 August. Last year, my daughter Anaïs loved this musical adaptation so much that she went back for seconds! Tickets from £15. Running time: 125 minutes. You can book tickets here.
Wind in the Willows
We always love an excuse to see Toad, Badger, Mole and Ratty, so it was a hop, skip and a leap towards the London Palladium to see Wind in the Willows yesterday. Jullian Fellowes, of Downton Abbey fame, has brought the children’s classic to the stage with the help of lyricist George Stiles and composer Anthony Drewe. The result is a fast-paced, shiny, jovial production, supported by a 14-piece orchestra. The Palladium is what I wish every London theatre could be: comfy seats with fantastic visbility, and roomy bars with plenty of tables and no queue. Now, if only the toilets were a little bigger! You can book tickets here.
Puppet Theatre Barge
This puppet theatre for little ones is moored in Little Venice, Maida Vale, moving to Richmond during August. This summer’s water-bourne shows include Aesop’s classic, The Hare and the Tortoise and other stories, as well as The Three Little Pigs. Tickets from £8.50. You can book tickets for the Puppet Theatre Barge here.
The north London theatre company is busy this summer with some fantastic, reasonably-priced plays for children of all ages. David Walliams is back with The Midnight Gang, there’s the hair-raising Rapunzel the musical, the magical Jumble Book, and much more. You can also see free Chickenshed performances at British Summer Time in Hyde Park and at the Victoria and Albert Museum (first four Saturdays in July). You can book tickets here.
Everyday gadgets and machines are given a lease of life at the Horniman Museum this summer. This exhibition reveals how animals see, eat, hunt and hide, and interactive displays give you the chance to try jet-propelled squid racing, shoot a chameleon’s ‘tongue-gun’ and even design your own mutant robot creature. Tickets from £4. On until the 29 October. You can book tickets for Robot Zoo here.
Michael Morpurgo V & A Museum of Childhood
An exhibition celebrating the life and works of one of the nation’s most-loved storytellers is coming to the V & A Museum of Childhood this summer. Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime in Stories is on from the 22 July and is free. The exhibition will include manuscripts, notebooks, correspondence, illustrations and original material from works such as War Horse. Make sure you catch Joey, the original puppet from the National Theatre’s innovative production. Entrance is free. For more information, click here: here.
Visit Buckingham Palace
A London education would be incomplete without a tour of Buckingham Palace’s 19 magnificent state rooms. The palace opens up to the public every summer, and this year the ticket includes entry to Royal Gifts, an exhibition showcasing the official gifts presented to Her Majesty the Queen for the past 65 years.
When you’ve completed the tour, your little princes and princesses can visit the Family Pavilion, a dedicated children’s space overlooking the palace gardens. Here, they’ll find some majestic crafts, themed games and dressing up costumes to keep them occupied. Tickets from £13 (under 5s go free). You can book tickets for the Buckingham Palace State Rooms here.
Hang out with spirits at Queen’s House
Have you ever wished that you could bring history’s characters back to life in front of you? Well now you can at Queen’s House with Spirited, a groundbreaking experience that makes history come alive in your hands. Using Google technology, the Queen’s House is the one of the world’s first cultural venues to trial this revolutionary technology. Holding a tablet, roam from room to room in the company of spirits which are magically brought back to life. Spirited has been launched to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Queen’s House, and is free. For more information about Queen’s House, click here.
Outdoor Activities and Festivals
Celebrate the Summer of Love with a family rave extravaganza at Alexandra Palace. Complete with astro turf dance floor, hula hoop workshops, craft areas, bubbleologists, cakeologists, glitter balloons and facepainting, what more could you wish for? 22 July only. Tickets from £8 (infants go free). You can book tickets for Alexandra Palace here.
British Summer Time in Hyde Park
The free lineup this summer includes outdoor movie nights (Jungle Book, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Back to the Future), live screenings from Wimbledon, street food, pop up bars and live music and entertainment. Check out the Chickenshed children’s theatre listings – each show lasts 50-60 minutes for children up to the age of 6. Entry is free. From Mon 3rd July to Fri 7th July. For a full listing, click here.
River Stage Festival
Head on down to Southbank and check out the River Stage Festival lineup. Activities for children include family workshops with world-renowed Rambert dance company. There’s also a vintage ice cream van, a Citroen pizza van and 80s inspired retro-bar bars for the adults. Event is free. For more information click here.
Do you have any suggestions for things to do in London this summer with the kids? Send them to me in the comments section below! Happy Summer!