London family days out: What to see and do with kids in the city

Read our guide to the city’s top family-friendly shows, events, and attractions, and learn planning tips to be sure your whole family has the best experience.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

It’s impossible to explore all of London in a day, but locals have the benefit of coming back again and again to discover all it has to offer. And for those bringing children along on their day trips, plenty of family-friendly activities are happening all over London all the time.

Take your toddler to an interactive Lego world or marvel at the animals at an aquarium. Or, if you have older kids, you can ride with them on rollercoasters at an amusement park or take them to an immersive experience based on their favorite action movies. And, of course, London is the world's theatre capital, with shows suitable for all age groups in London’s West End.

Read on to discover some of the best London family activities to fill your day trip, including attractions to visit and West End shows to see. We also provide tips to help you plan your London day trip with the kids.

Best things to do in London with kids

There is so much to do in London, which makes planning an itinerary fun. Some events are full-day trips in and of themselves, like an amusement park, whereas you can fit multiple others, like an afternoon ride on the London Eye and a West End musical at night, into one day out. Discover some of the best things to do in London with kids below — there are options for families with children of all ages.

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The London Eye

A trip to London wouldn’t be complete without checking out this beloved attraction. Get spectacular 360-degree views of the city and all its most famous landmarks — including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and more — with all the high-flying fun of one of the world’s tallest Ferris wheels. The London Eye will amaze riders of all ages.

Not a fan of heights? Families can hop aboard the 40-minute London Eye River Cruise instead and see the famous landmark, plus many others, from the River Thames.

London Eye age recommendation: All ages and free for children under 3

London Eye River Cruise age recommendation: All ages and free for children under 3

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Madame Tussauds

Rub shoulders with celebrities — or wax figures of them — at the iconic Madame Tussauds museum in London. Get up close and personal with British royalty, world-renowned singers, Hollywood stars, famous sports players, and so much more. Kids and adults will be so amazed; you’d think the people were right there in front of you!

Madame Tussauds London also offers immersive activities so that kids can enter the worlds of their favourite characters and films. Save the world alongside the Avengers in the Marvel Universe experience, or travel to a galaxy far, far away with the characters from Star Wars.

Madame Tussauds age recommendation: All ages and free for children under 3

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Sea Life London

Take the kids “under the sea” at this London aquarium featuring over 5,000 animals. Visitors can travel to the Artic, the Amazon Rainforest, the Pacific Ocean, and more without leaving the city. In addition to the marvelous real-life animals on display, there’s also a life-size augmented-reality polar bear at Sea Life London, letting families get up close and personal with the animal and making the aquarium an attraction like no other.

Sea Life London age recommendation: All ages and free for children under 3

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Alton Towers

There’s fun for all ages at London’s thrilling amusement park. The youngest kids can explore CBeebies Land, which now features three new attractions based on the TV channel’s beloved shows: Hey Duggee’s Big Adventure Badge, Andy’s Adventures Dinosaur Dig, and JoJo & Gran Gran At Home. Families can even stay over in the CBeebies Land Hotel and make a two-day outing out of their trip!

Older kids and adults can brave Alton Towers’s many gravity-defying thrill rides like Wicker Man, The Smiler, and Oblivion, or explore the Alton Towers Dungeons. There are enough attractions to pack an entire day.

Alton Towers age recommendation: All ages and free for children under 3

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Legoland Windsor Resort

If your kids love to play with Legos at home, why not take them to a place filled with life-size Lego creations? Over 55 amusements make up Legoland Windsor Resort, a perfect place to build family memories. Explore Miniland and see Lego replicas of the world’s most famous landmarks all in one place! Or go on rides designed for all age levels, from leisurely train rides to rollercoasters designed for daredevils. All these options are the building blocks of a great family day out.

Legoland Windsor Resort age recommendation: All ages and free for children under 3

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Your child doesn’t have to wait until they grow up to be a pilot, doctor, or firefighter — they can become one during a day out at KidZania. The global educational phenomenon is now in London for the first time, offering youngsters of all ages the chance to learn skills in a fun and safe environment. Kids can try their hand at various professions and learn new skills while exploring a realistic city.

KidZania age recommendation: 4-14; separate activities available for children 3 and younger

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Shrek's Adventure!

A swamp doesn’t usually sound like a top place to go — unless it’s Shrek’s! Step into the world of the beloved movie and go on an adventure with Shrek, Donkey, Fiona, and more to save the land of Far Far Away. Go on a 4D tour in a flying bus, and walk through 11 live shows to meet new characters and gather the ingredients you need to make it home safely.

Shrek isn’t the only movie you can experience at Shrek’s Adventure! Afterward, families can hang out with characters from Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon at the DreamWorks play stations.

Shrek’s Adventure! age recommendation: All ages and free for children under 3

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Theatre shows to see with kids

Introduce your kids to the wonder of live theatre in London’s West End. London has so much children’s theatre to choose from, including plenty of musicals and plays that adults will enjoy. Get tickets to some of the best children’s theatre in London below. For even more options, browse our full guide to the best family-friendly theatre in London and our advice for taking kids to the theatre.

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The Lion King

The kids can watch one of their favourite Disney movies roar to life at The Lion King. The beloved Disney musical has played the Lyceum Theatre since 1999, and it’s your family’s turn to join the circle of life.

Kids and adults alike will marvel at the intricate puppets that bring the wilderness to life, and they’ll enjoy the familiar story of how the young lion cub Simba grows up to take his rightful place as King of the Pride Lands. The classic Elton John tunes from the movie appear, like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.”

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If the cold never bothered you anyway, spend a few hours with the kids in Arendelle at Frozen. This beloved musical adaptation features all the movie’s hit songs, including “Let It Go” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”

Join Princess Anna on a quest to save her kingdom from eternal winter, which her sister, Elsa, has wrought with her ice powers. If you and the kids are seeing a West End show for the first time in forever, make it Frozen.

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Countless children grew up on Roald Dahl’s kids’ book about a bookish little girl who uses her magic powers to save her fellow schoolchildren from an evil headmistress. In 1996, the story became a hit film, and in 2011, it became a West End musical still playing today.

The Olivier Award-winning Best New Musical’s catchy score features songs like “When I Grow Up” and “Revolting Children.” Kids will love the opportunity to see actors their age on stage.

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See why this gravity-defying musical has made countless kids and adults into theatre fans for good. Before the events of The Wizard of Oz, Elphaba — better known as the Wicked Witch of the West — was an ambitious, talented schoolgirl and best friend of Glinda the Good Witch.

What turned her wicked? Was she ever truly wicked? See the show at the Apollo Victoria Theatre to find out. While there, you’ll hear popular show tunes like “Defying Gravity,” “The Wizard and I,” and “Dancing Through Life.”

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The Play That Goes Wrong

You wouldn’t want your family day trip to go wrong — but you might want to see The Play That Goes Wrong. This slapstick comedy hit from Mischief Theatre Company is clearly doing something right, as the show has made audiences of all ages laugh for over 10 years and counting.

An amateur theatre troupe attempts to put on a murder mystery play, but actors forget their lines, props go missing, the sets fall apart, and offstage feuds spill on stage, creating hilarious mayhem all around as they try to make it through.

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How to plan a family day out in London

Even day trips require some advance planning to be sure you have everything you and your family needs. Here are some practical tips to help you plan the most enjoyable day possible for you and your kids.

Check events’ age recommendations.

London has events for kids of all ages, but only some activities are designed for some age groups. Some interactive shows may target very young children, whereas some thrilling amusements may only be suitable for older children. Check London Theatre or the venue’s website to be sure an event suits your children.

Dress the kids comfortably for a day out in London.

Many family-friendly activities, like aquariums or interactive experiences, require lots of walking around, so be sure everyone wears comfortable clothes and shoes. If you’re going to an outdoor attraction like an amusement park, check the weather forecast to see what the temperature will be like that day, and wear or bring a jacket or umbrella should you need it.

You can also let your kids dress to a theme for specific events. The Frozen musical, for example, is an excellent place for a child to wear their princess dress, as long as it doesn’t have any light-up or sound effects that might distract others.

Pack light, but be prepared.

You won’t want to lug huge, bulky bags around London if you don’t have to, especially to events like theatre shows where there isn’t much storage space. Be sure to bring essential items like sunscreen, water, and snacks to satisfy the kids while you’re out, but leave nonessential knickknacks at home.

Plan for breaks and pit stops.

If you’re doing one activity all day, like an amusement park, you can sit down, have a snack or drink, and rest anytime. But if you’re scheduling multiple activities in one day, leave some time in between to grab a meal, find a bathroom, stroll around the city, or simply sit down and rest for a while. Kids and adults need time to recharge on busy days!

Plus, wiggle room ensures you won’t be late to events if the kids spot a toy shop or there’s traffic on the road between one activity and another.

Discover family-friendly restaurants in London.

London has many family-friendly restaurants with food even the littlest and pickiest eaters will enjoy. One unique family restaurant in London is Jungle Cave, which is themed like a rainforest and is sure to delight the kids. Another great option is Giraffe, which has locations all over London and has an extensive kids’ menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Plus, the restaurant periodically runs a promotion where kids can eat for £1 with a special voucher code.

These are just a few of the best restaurants for kids in London. For more options, read our guides to restaurants in London’s West End, Covent Garden, and South Bank neighbourhoods so that you can find a great eatery anywhere in the city.

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