The cost of days out with children in London can leave your pockets very light but in spite of it being home to nearly 9 million people, there are tonnes of green spaces and fun things to explore in London.
Parks and open spaces
Crystal Palace Park and the fabulous 19th century Dinosaur Court with life size dinos is free of charge, but the car park fees are steep so be prepared or find alternative transport! Coram Fields is a charity funded park offering sandpits, paddling pools, IT suites, art and music studios, workshops, a city farm for animal lovers, a fab zip wire and drop-in centres and all for free! The playgrounds and activity centers are popular and available all year round but it’s worth booking ahead for the IT suites and workshops sessions. St James’s Park is surrounded by some of London’s most celebrated sights and has free entry all year. It also has great access for wheelchair and pushchair users. Although the park is free, watch out for high food and drink prices at this tourist hotspot so why not pack a picnic? Pelicans are fed daily on Duck Island at 2:30pm. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has so much to offer kids of all ages but not all of them are free. Tumbling Bay Playground is great for kids to let off steam, ride bikes and, for a small fee, test themselves at the Lee Valley VeloPark. To reduce the costs, apply for a free membership and book ahead.
At Richmond Park, Kingston Gate Park for the under 5’s and Petersham Gate Playground for older kids, features jumping lily pads, hammocks and even an elephant piano! Finsbury Park in North London is one of the best for free things to do. The café is a little pricey but with tons of healthy homemade goodies, it’s worth it! On the Southbank is one of London’s coolest places for to teens hang out with their BMX bikes or skateboards. It’s totally free but unmonitored and there are no safety procedures in place. However there are loads of cafes for adults to watch from a safe distance!
Check out where the nearest free gym is near you in London by visiting http://www.tgogc.com/Gyms/United-Kingdom/London/. Free outdoor gyms are spreading to cities and towns throughout the UK in a bid to get us moving! Just look at your local authority’s website for more info.
Museums are a great resource at any time. They offer free entry but may charge for special exhibitions, so please check on admission. The Science Museum is great for all ages and The Garden at the Science Museum is a fully accessible and great for interactive play. The British Museum is great for kids into ancient Egypt or history The cafes are very good and offer deals. The Natural History Museum is essential for dinosaur lovers of all ages and is a must see for animal lovers and history buffs alike. All three museums offer free interactive activities for kids to get hands on with science and history.
Novelty Automata, perfect for older kids and teenagers, offers fascinating mechanical curiosities and coin operated machines, all with a slightly satirical twist. The ghoulish Hunterian Museum (Royal College of Surgeons) charts the history of surgery through the ages and features medical specimen and bizarre surgical instruments. Check out the pickled organs! Entry is free and free Wi-Fi is available.
Views, stories, free-running and a magical mystery tour
Want one of the best views of London? Check out the Sky Garden at the Walkie Talkie building (officially called 20 Fenchurch Street), with view of the River Thames and the skyline of London. It is completely free but you must book in advance so book free tickets. The restaurant is lovely…but pricey!
The Children’s Story Centre at Discover is free for under 2’s and £5 per child and adult. Kids can play outdoors in the playground or inside if it’s wet. The centre is inspired by children’s story books and kids can play amongst their favourite characters. The Ship of Adventure is a fabulous, enterprising, charity aimed at developing resourcefulness, literacy and confidence in children and young people and incorporates a bookshop and café as well as workshop space. Based in Hackney, they have a full events calendar which is worth checking out but for a fab lunch, eat in their pirate café decked out in a ship.
Parkour (free running) is offered by the Chainstore gym by Canary Wharf. Check out more at http://parkourgenerations.com/training/
Finally, one of the best cheap days out is making your own magical mystery bus tour. All you need is an Oyster card and a window seat on a bus. From any central London bus stop, hop on a bus, grab a seat upstairs and view the famous sites of London as they go past for a fraction of the price of an official London bus tour which can set you back £20! The beauty of an Oyster card is that once you have reached the upper cap limit (£8 for adults) then you ride for free. Children under 16 travel for free on London buses. If you want a more structured day, plan a route with Transport For London.
Enjoy your days out!