London on a budget: 15 free family activities for the summer



With schools closed and summer in full swing, and its longer days giving toddlers excess energy and excitement, it’s worth arming yourself with a list of the best activities and free events the capital has to offer.

Covering everything from cultural and culinary to active and artistic, here are 15 city-wide activities to keep curious minds of all ages occupied this month and into September, and beyond.

Ocean Explorers at Westfield Stratford City

Nic Serpell Rand

Nurture the next generation of environmentalists with the Ocean Explorers family event in Westfield Stratford City.

This interactive dive into the big blue takes place through a series of activities combining entertainment and education. Highlights include ocean trash craft workshops, sea-themed trampolines, and a giant turtle sculpture made from recycled plastic bottles.

August 20-29;

House of Vans London’s Open Skate and Skate Skool

David Wren Photography LTD

Located in tunnels under Waterloo Station, House of Vans London is an alternate take on paradise for skate and BMX-obsessed kids (as well as those of a more vintage age).

This summer, House of Vans is hosting free (with ticket) Open Skate (Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening) and Skate Skool (Saturday morning) sessions. Material is provided for Skate Skool sessions but not for Open Skate. Let’s get gnarly, guys!

Fridays and Saturdays,

Summer Sounds at Coal Drops Yard

John Sturrock

Bringing 12 days of global music to King’s Cross, Coal Drops Yard’s eclectic Summer Sounds program covers everything from folk and flamenco to jazz, classical and gospel.

In addition to nightly shows, the laid-back “Family Sundays” sessions, which run from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., promise toddlers an introduction to an international mix of tunes, with musicians appearing alongside dancers and performers. over successive weekends.

Until August 21,

The secret garden of the Garden Museum

Garden Museum

Children’s classic The Secret Garden comes to life in a suitably earthy way at the Garden Museum on the south bank of the Thames.

This enchanting immersive exhibit uses Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel as a jumping-off point for families to explore flora, fauna, and the healing power of the natural world through interactive games, trails, and green-fingered activities. Admission is free for all children under 18 (but those under 16 must be accompanied by a paying adult).

Until September 4;

Minigolf by Craig & Karl at Canary Wharf

Matt Alexander / PA Wire

Colorful entertainers Craig Redman and Karl Maier scored another hole-in-one with their latest nine-hole course at Canary Wharf, turning Montgomery Square into a riot of color and fun.

No reservations are required for mini golf (open daily, 12pm-6pm) and plenty of fantastic Insta opportunities await your friends and competitive friends, so be sure to drop by.

Until the end of September,

Kids Summer Splash at Royal Victoria Dock

Nicky Sims

Swap the congested journeys to the coast for the Royal Victoria Dock’s Kids Summer Splash, which offers a seaside vibe for sun worshipers of all ages.

Its large lido features an important shallow end for small children, oversized sandpits provide a blank canvas for building sand castles and a host of free family activities – from Mermaid Mondays to storytelling workshops and the immersive theater at Dido’s Bar – mean there are plenty of reasons to return.

August 15-21,

Creative activities at Camden Market Hawley Wharf

Hawley Wharf

Camden Market is pulling out all the stops this summer with a series of eye-catching events in its stylish new Hawley Wharf quarter on the canal.

From encounters with the Gruffalo and encounters with dinosaurs and superheroes, to live music from award-winning MOBO artist Yolanda Brown, and the interactive Baby Broadway concert – which features hits from current and classic West End shows – it there is something to enlighten young minds.

Various activities throughout the month of August,

In the NBHD at All Points East

Rory James

The All Points East festival brings a roster of top performers to Victoria Park this month, but between the weekend gigs, In The NBHD is a free program of midweek summer activities and entertainment.

Expect to find outdoor cinema, shows like South London Samba, Half Moon Theater and Hip Hop Bingo, circus workshops and sports sessions courtesy of Saracens Rugby Club and West Ham United which are worth following.

August 21-24,

The Obliteration Room at Tate Modern

Tate photography

Any space is a potential work of art for budding Banksys, but this summer Tate Modern is giving all creative kids – and their parents – the chance to get really creative on the ultimate blank canvas.

Obliteration Room – it even sounds great – by acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama encourages everyone to explore a riot of color through circular stickers, so get stuck in.

Until August 29,

Greenwich and Docklands International Festival

Violetta Wakolbinger

Head east to Greenwich and the Docklands for a 17-day celebration of theater and art this summer.

Highlights for toddlers include Greenwich Fair on August 27 – where dozens of street theater artists appear in Greenwich town center and at the Cutty Sark – and Island of Foam on September 3 and 4, an installation hauntingly immersive, transforming the Greenwich Peninsula with rainbow foam mountains.

August 26 to September 11,

This bright ground at Somerset House

Somerset House

As part of This Bright Land, Somerset House’s summer celebration of community creativity, organizers are running a series of weekday activities (from free to paid) throughout August.

Held in the iconic courtyard, there are scavenger hunts, outdoor games and a range of pop-up activities, including creating your own scent maps. And if it’s a little too hot, the fountains in the courtyard will be there to cool you down.

Until August 29,

Dippy’s return to the Natural History Museum

NHM London

Attention dinosaur fans: a true icon of the prehistoric era returns to Kensington this summer.

Dippy the dinosaur – a replica of a diplodocus made from original fossil bones discovered in 1898 – returns to the Natural History Museum after a five-year tour of the UK, with free timed tickets available right now.

Fret not, this 88-foot-long wonder is an unforgettable reminder of the beasts that once roamed the earth.

Until January 2, 2023,

Summer in National Gallery Square

The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square comes alive with creativity this month, as the National Gallery launches a free art festival in the shadow of Nelson’s Column.

Summer on the Square promises free daily creative sessions and activities for all ages, including sculpting, sketching, collage and experimental drawing techniques, often hanging from masterpieces hanging in its permanent collection.

Until August 29,

Hula hoop and circus lessons for children


Do like the cast of The Greatest Showman this summer vacation and head to Stonebridge Gardens in Dalston every Tuesday night.

Here you’ll find Guinness World Records holding the hula hoop troupe Marawa’s Majorettes, whose mission is to teach kids aged 8-16 some really cool circus and hula hoop skills. These fun workshops are also great fitness classes.

Every Tuesday until the end of August,

Pasta workshops in Canary Wharf

Emilia’s artisan pasta

Feeding imaginations as well as bellies, London’s first-ever Pasta Festival on August 21 is a celebration of all things durum.

At Emilia’s Crafted Pasta in Canary Wharf, the Italian restaurant is marking the occasion with a series of events including live music, table football and pasta tastings. There are also hands-on workshops, where kids can learn about making pasta of all shapes and sizes, then they can take their creations home. It’s a dose of Italian inspiration for budding chefs!

21st of August,

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Richard V. Johnson