1 | Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park | Stratford
While Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Gardens are already a firm family favourite, Queen Elizabeth Park is a relatively new kid on the block when it comes to kids’ playgrounds. Featuring a rock pools, sandpits, tree houses and wobbly bridges, this free park was first built in 2011, a year before the Olympic Games arrived to the UK capital. Surrounding the park is the London Stadium (now home to West Ham United Football Club), the London Aquatics Centre and the Copper Box Arena, as well as a whole host of delicious eateries and shopping outlets, providing the perfect spot for a fun family day out.
Where: London Aquatics Centre, London, E20 2ZQ
Opening times: Everyday
2 | Postman’s Park | St. Martin’s Le Grand
London’s ‘Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice’ was unveiled in 1900 to commemorate ordinary heroes who gave their lives to save the life of another. Sound too morbid for a family day out? Download the park’s free app and prepare to be surprised. Not only is Postman’s a unique piece of history, it’s totally engaging for kids and one of the prettiest, small green spaces in the city centre.
Where: St. Martin’s Le Grand, EC1A (nearest tube: St. Paul’s)
When: Every day from 8am to 5pm
3 | Thames Path walk (or cycle)
The 128km long Thames Path stretches from Richmond to the centre of London along the north and south bank of the river and is walkable or cyclable all the way. It might be a bit of hike in one go, but the path divides neatly into easy sections and can fill quite a few days – good for half-term adventures on a budget.
However much or little you do, expect to see most of London’s big ticket sights along the way including Hampton Court Palace, Kew Gardens, the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Battersea Park and the Royal Docks.
Where: 128km from Hampton Court to the Thames Barrier (or the other way round)
When: All year (check Transport for London for updated daily info)
4 | Dalston Eastern Curve Garden | Dalston
Take yourself and the kids along to Dalston Eastern Curve Garden any Saturday between 2pm and 6pm and get down and dirty weeding and planting in this gorgeous urban oasis. Set along the old Eastern Curve railway line, the garden’s been growing since 2009 and it’s wildlife and family-friendly, packed with pretty landscaping, fruit, vegetables and fun events all year round.
If you don’t want to work, just go along and enjoy the space, have a pizza from the woodfired oven or bring your own picnic – everyone’s welcome.
Where: 13 Dalston Lane, E8 (nearest station: Dalston Kingsland)
When: Monday to Thursday 11am to 7pm, Friday and Saturday 11am to 10pm and Sunday 11am to 7pm.
5 | The Cartoon Museum | Goodge Street
The Cartoon Museum doesn’t do Disney but it does have one of the UK’s best collections of British comic and cartoon art from the 18th century to the 21st. If that sounds a bit dry for kids, check out the results of their children’s workshops to see superheroes in the making and not a hint of Georgian political satire in sight. Because of the museum’s size, instead of guided tours, they have lively daily talks and regular visits from cartoonists and comic creators all year round. And it’s in central London but not touristy, so kids can take their time exploring the home-grown alternatives to Marvel and DC Comics.
In 2019 The Cartoon Museum will be moving to a new premises on Wells Street near London’s Oxford Circus. As well as an inspiring learning space for children, the new museum will include a permanent exhibition that tells the story of cartoons and comics.
Where: 35 Little Russell Street, W1CA (nearest tube: Goodge Street)
When: Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30am to 5.30pm (open Monday Bank Holidays)
Cost: £8.50 for adults; under 18s go free
6 | Morden Hall Park | Morden
For the heart of the English countryside in the heart of London, have a day out at Morden Hall Park. It’s one of the few remaining estates on the edge of the River Wandle. The National Trust has done a wonderful job restoring the historic snuff mills, stable yards and grounds for all sorts of adventuring around, wildlife spotting, birdwatching and exploring.
It’s also a reliably good place to find exciting and affordable family events for high days and holidays during February half-term, Easter, Halloween and Christmas.
Where: Morden Hall Road, Morden SM4 (nearest tube: Morden)
When: Open all year, seven days from 9am to 5pm