If you’re planning a day out in London with kids this month, here are my recommendations for some great things to do. I publish a new London roundup every month, so do let me know if there’s anything which you think that I should include.
Lumiere London 2016
The biggest festival of light ever staged in the city launches this month with Lumiere London. From 14th – 17th January you can see some of the capital’s iconic architecture transformed by 3D projections and other lightworks. More than 20 international artists are taking part over four evenings to illuminate Kings Cross, Mayfair, Piccadilly, Regent Street, St James’s, Trafalgar Square and Westminster as never before. You can see the displays from 6.30pm to 10.30pm on each of the four nights. You can check out the full programme and download a free map of the event here.
The London International Mime Festival
The London International Mime Festival was founded in 1977 and is now one of the world’s leading visual theatre festivals. The festival showcases the very best contemporary visual theatre, including cutting edge circus-theatre, animation and puppetry, mask, physical and object theatre. The festival runs from 9th January until 6th February, and there are performances at various venues across the city. Artists from around the world and some of Britain’s emerging talents are taking part, as well as established names.
The following performances are recommended for families with children: Cie Yoann Bourgeois He Who Falls (for ages 8+); Familie Floez Infinita ( for 7+); Houben/Magni Marcel (for 8+); Jos Houben The Art of Laughter (for 8+); Ockham’s Razor Tipping Point (for 6+ – I especially like the look of this one); Stereoptik Dark Circus (for 7+); The Wrong Crowd Kite (for 7+0.
Cost: Varies according to performance.
House of Illustration
The House of Illustration was the idea of artist Quentin Blake, best known for his marvellous illustrations of Roald Dahl’s books for children. The gallery is dedicated to the world of illustration, from picture books to political cartoons, fashion design to animation
and more. Currently the gallery has an exhibition of Lauren Child’s dolls house (until February 7th) which looks fascinating – the best-selling illustrator has been working on her doll’s house for 30 years. There are regular family workshops: on January 30th there’s one where you can make your own picture book. The House of Illustration is a few minutes’ walk from Kings Cross Station.
Cost: Adults from £7, children from £4, under-5s free.
The Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street is London’s highest public garden. The landscaped gardens are in three storeys at the top of the building known as the Walkie Talkie. There’s an open air terrace and observation decks to enjoy 360 uninterrupted views across the City of London. There’s also a restaurant, a brasserie and a bar. I haven’t been to the Sky Garden yet, but I’m looking forward to visiting it soon and will write more about it when I do. You need to book online in advance for this, as space is strictly limited.
Hogwarts in the Snow
The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour is at Leavesden, just outside London. The tour is fascinating for Harry Potter fans, or if you’re interested in the film-making process. We went on the tour on New Year’s Eve and absolutely loved it (full review coming soon). Until the end of January, Hogwarts in the Snow shows the film sets dressed for the festive season, and you can learn how special effects experts create snow.
Cost: From £33 for adults and from £25.50 for children (5-15 years old). There’s no charge for tickets for under-fives.
Discover Children’s Story Centre
The Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford is an indoor story trail to encourage creativity and play for kids up to the age of 11 years old. There’s also an outdoor Story Garden, and the centre hosts themed family events and interactive exhibitions of both established and new illustrators. There’s a an immersive exhibition of Michael Rosen’s Bear Hunt (called Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake and Bad Things) until Sunday April 10th.
Cost: £5* per person, £18 for a family of four, free for under-twos.
The Railway Children at King’s Cross
The Olivier Award winning show of E. Nesbitt’s classic children’s book The Railway Children is running at King’s Cross station until April. The star of the show is a real steam train and the action takes place in a temporary theatre which has been built over the railway tracks. The show is recommended for children of two years old and above (under-twos aren’t admitted).
Cost: Tickets cost from £25 to £49 and there’s a 25% discount for under-16s.
With British astronaut Tim Peake currently on assignment on the International Space Station, this is a great time to visit the Science Museum’s Cosmonauts exhibition.
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age looks at how Russia turned the dream of space travel into a reality. In 1957 Russia launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into space and four years later Yuri Gagarin became the first person to be sent into space. The exhibition includes Vostok-6, the capsule flown by the first ever woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, as well as the gadgets which cosmonauts need in order to live in space, such as a space shower, a toilet, medical instruments and survival kits for crash landings. The exhibition runs until March 13th.
Cost: £14 for adults and £12.00 for children (7-16). Under-7s free.
If waxworks are your thing and you yearn for a galaxy far, far away, then you’ll enjoy the current exhibition at Madame Tussauds. Star Wars at Madame Tussauds shows 16 models of some of the famous heroes and villains from the iconic films.
Cost: Adults from £19, children (4-15 years) from £17.28 if booked online.
Tate Modern is an easy art gallery to visit with kids. It’s in a brilliant location on the pedestrianised Southbank, where there are lots of other things going on. There’s a Family Activity area on level two and there’s plenty of space where they can run around outside. It’s worth keeping an eye on the programme of exhibitions at the gallery – Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture (until 3rd April) is an exhibition of kinetic sculpture – otherwise known as ‘mobiles’ – which looks interesting.
Cost: It’s free to enter Tate Modern. Tickets for the Alexander Calder exhibition cost £18 for adults, under-12s go free.
Some of London’s seasonal temporary ice rinks are still open, although the one at the Tower of London, my favourite, has closed until next winter. The ice rink at Canary Wharf features a skate path, guiding skaters along a trail of fairy-lit trees. Ice Rink Canary Wharf is open until February 27th. London’s longest-running outdoor ice rink is at Broadgate, with private lessons available and rink-side bars and restaurants. Broadgate ice rink is open until February 25th.
There are permanent ice rinks in London at Alexandra Palace, Streatham, Lee Valley Ice Centre, Queens London Ice Skating and Sobell Leisure Centre in Islington.
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is a cat cafe in Shoreditch in East London. It was opened with the help of a crowd-funding campaign and is home to around a dozen cats. This is THE place to go for tea and cake if you’d love to have a cat but can’t. The venue is extremely popular, so you definitely need to book your 90 minute session online in advance. This is one for over-8s only – younger children and babies are not allowed to enter.
Cost: There’s a £6 cover charge, plus cost of whatever you eat and drink.
More on London
Check back next month for my February round-up – or subscribe to my blog (by entering your email address in the box on the right where it says ‘YOU’D LIKE MY POSTS BY EMAIL?) to have it emailed to your inbox automatically. If you’d like to find out more about London, I recommend the Lonely Planet London Travel Guide and also the London Marco Polo Travel Guide.
Where to stay
If you’re looking for a family-friendly place to stay in London, check out my reviews of the Four Seasons Canary Wharf here, the Amba Hotel Marble Arch here, the Hilton London Metropole here, Go Native Apartments here and the Royal Garden Hotel here. There are more reviews in the Where to stay category.
Do you have any suggestions to add for great things to do in London with kids, or for my February roundup? Do let me know, as I love sharing different recommendations!