Summer is officially here and that means school holidays, so the more family-friendly events you can add to your calendar, the better!
Rarely visited gardens, unique light displays and multi-sensory deep dives into world-famous artists, London has it all this summer. Whether you’re looking for circus storytellers or dance troupes, you’ll find them in our list of the best family-friendly summer events in London.
Active Fest and Sundown Cinema at The Royal Air Force Museum
ActiveFest: 24 July to 15 August
The perfect place to burn off all that summer energy, Activefest at the Royal Air Force Museum’s London site has obstacle courses, table tennis and a series of pop-up events to choose from. All are taking place outdoors and require booking in advance as spaces are limited.
The Hercules Course features a ninja wall, cargo nets and a water swing, making it a real adventure for those brave enough to give it a go.
Pop-up sessions include family-friendly dance, yoga and zumba classes, suitable for children over the age of five (with a couple of adult-only yoga classes too).
Tickets for the Hercules course cost £7.00 for adults and £5.00 for children, while group classes cost £5.00.
Summer Cinema: 20 to 22 August
The Sundown Cinema is only a weekend long but has six classic films suited to all ages and a vintage fun fair. There will be screenings of The Lion King and Top Gun on Friday night, with Greatest Showman and Jurassic Park on Saturday while Moana and Grease round things off on Sunday. All participants get two free fair tokens, so you can take your pick from the coconut shy, swing boats and chair-o-planes.
Sundown Cinema tickets cost between £5.50 and £15.00 depending on age and screening.
Greenwich and Docklands International Festival
27 August to 11 September
Taking place across three sites in London (Royal Greenwich, Docklands and Tower Hamlets), this is one of London’s largest free festivals and has a series of fantastic events to enjoy. From projected light displays recreating the northern lights to amazing dance performances by Black Victorians focusing on the overlooked Black figures in pre-Windrush Britain.
This year’s focus is on sustainability and well-being, with a Recovery Poems light installation and a look into reducing air pollution with Urban Astronaut.
Keep an eye out for Bee-ology, an interactive circus led by Poppy to teach everyone the importance of bees; Do What Yah Mama Told Yah!, a fusion of food and storytelling with circus tricks galore; while Steli allows everyone to take part in building a huge structure with bright coloured sticks in Thamesmead.
All events are free.
Explore Buckingham Palace’s Gardens
Until 19 September
For the first time, Buckingham Palace is opening its gardens to the public for the summer. Visitors can enjoy the royal beehives, over 1000 tree varieties and 30 bird varieties. While not everyone is a birdwatcher, the grounds are beautiful and picnics are encouraged, so it’s a great spot for an unusual picnic and a change of scene if you’re bored of your local parks!
Entry is free but tickets must be booked online as spaces are limited each day.
Underbelly Festival at Cavendish Square
1 July to 26 September
Previously held on the South Bank and now in the greenery of Cavendish Square Gardens, Underbelly is as bright and fun as it gets. Many performances are great for everyone, like Hotel Paradiso’s blend of comedy, circus skills and drama, but there are also plenty of child-focused events too. There’s a Baby Disco, Comedy Club 4 Kids, The 3 Little Pigs Musical and plenty of well-known faces like Basil Brush and Sam and Mark.
Tickets are priced differently for each event, starting at £12.50.
Step into Van Gogh Alive at Kensington
4 June to 26 September
Held inside Kensington Gardens, Van Gogh Alive is an immersive visual dive into the works of the world-famous artist. Using light, sound, colour and fragrance, the Sensory Gallery invites visitors to step inside the works and experience them in an entirely new way. There is also an interpretative area with information and Van Gogh and his works, an art activity area with three levels of drawing tutorials available, an immersive sunflower room and more.
Tickets cost £24.00 for adults and £14.00 for children and do need to be booked in advance.
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