Family-friendly museums in London
Ragged School Museum
Bank of England Museum
Located within the historic Bank of England building in Threadneedle Street, right in the heart of the City, the museum is only open on weekdays. Popular hands-on exhibits include taking control of a virtual hot air balloon to learn about inflation, and the chance to get your hands on a real gold bar. The museum runs workshops and storytelling for kids during the school holidays, check the website for details.
Bank of England Museum, Threadneedle St (entrance in Bartholomew St), EC2R 8AH (7601 5491/www.bankofengland.co.uk/museum). Bank tube. 10am-5pm Mon-Fri.
For a more productive artistic outlet than scribbling on the wallpaper, try taking your budding Tony Millionaires to this Bloomsbury museum. The first-floor gallery is the most engaging for children, and includes original artwork loaned by publications like the Beano and the Dandy. There’s a cartoonist in residence and lots to make and do. Visit the museum’s website for details of cartooning and animation workshops.
Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell St, WC1 (7580 8155/www.cartooncentre.com). Holborn tube.
FirepowerPollock's Toy Museum
Gung-ho children will find plenty to keep them entertained at Firepower, a museum dedicated to the soldiers of the Royal Artillery. The Real Weapons gallery allows the firing of (mini) cannons and the whey-faced youth can join a drill class run by a fearsome sergeant major. Then get the free Woolwich Ferry to the north shore. Here you’ll find the North Woolwich Old Station Museum, (Pier Rd, E16; 7474 7244/www.newham.gov.uk) where kids can climb all over the Coffee Pot, a Victorian commuter train, and ride Dudley the Diesel.
Firepower, Royal Arsenal, SE18 (8855 7755/www.firepower.org.uk). Woolwich Arsenal rail.
This east London museum maybe isn’t that obvious as a family destination – its permanent collection is a series of room sets that chart the changes in (mostly middle-class) life from the start of the seventeenth century onwards. But it offers excellent free workshops designed to interpret the themes of its shows for young audiences. As well as the more structured sessions there are drop-in craft workshops between 2pm and 4pm each day for children of all ages. See website for full details.
Geffrye Museum, Kingsland Rd, E2 8EA (7739 9893/www.geffrye-museum.org.uk). Liverpool St/Old St tube/rail then 243, 149, 242 bus. 10am-5pm Tue-Sat, noon-5pm Sun.
London International Gallery of Children's Art
Struggling to get the bairns to appreciate the merits of the National Gallery? You might have better luck with the London International Gallery of Children’s Art, with its far-reaching exhibitions ranging from the young talent showcase of Tokyo’s Artscape competition to photographs taken by children from ethnic minorities. There are always art materials on-hand if your kids are feeling creative.
London International Gallery of Children’s Art, Waterlow Park Centre, Dartmouth Park Hill, London N19 5JF (7281 1111/www.ligca.org). Archway tube. 10am-4pm Fri-Sun, other times by appointment.
National Army Museum
This Chelsea museum is a good alternative for those experiencing South Ken fatigue. The displays concentrate more on telling the story of the individual soldier's life than on chronicling campaigns and battles. Among the exhibits is the pencil-written scrap of paper that launched the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854, sending more than 600 men charging in the wrong direction to attack the Russian Army. Uniformed presenters in role as soldiers from the past bring the museum's galleries to life at weekends.
National Army Museum, Royal Hospital Road, London, SW3 (7730 0717/www.national-army-museum.ac.uk). Sloane Square tube.
There's plenty of fun to be had at this quirky museum, which houses everything from a 4,000-year-old Egyptian toy mouse to nineteenth-century magic lanterns and, of course, a fantastic toy shop.
Pollock's Toy Museum, 1 Scala Street (entrance on Whitfield Street) W1 (7636 3452/ www.pollockstoymuseum.com). Goodge Street tube.
Pumphouse Educational Museum
The Young Archaeologists Club (for nine- to 16-year-olds) meets on Saturday of each month at the Pumphouse Educational Museum in Rotherhithe to discuss all things digging. Activities include walking the Thames foreshore to collect objects that have washed up, identifying bones and mosaic-making.
The Pumphouse Educational Museum, Lavender Rd, SE16 (7231 2976/www.thepumphouse.org.uk). Rotherhithe tube.
Ragged School Museum
With so many of the big museums laying on a multimedia frenzy, it might do your child good to visit the Ragged School Museum, not least because you will have the satisfaction of seeing them experience life in a Victorian classroom. The museum has a decent basement café and offers plenty of activities and workshops.
Ragged School Museum, 46-50 Copperfield Rd, E3 (8980 6405/www.raggedschoolmuseum.org.uk). Mile End tube.
Royal Air Force Museum
A perfect day out for plane-obsessed kids, attractions include 80 aircraft on display, an interactive area and a simulator ride. In the Aeronauts Gallery visitors can take a pilot aptitude test to discover whether they are the 'right stuff'. 'Milestones of Flight', a permanent exhibition in the museum's new silver barrel-vaulted, stainless steel-clad building, includes some of the most important RAF aircraft along with classics from the USA, Germany, Japan and France. The museum has also signed up to the Kids in Museums manifesto.
Royal Air Force Museum, Grahame Park Way, NW9 (8205 2266/www.rafmuseum.org.uk). Colindale tube/Broadway rail.
It’s well worth a visit to this Greenwich landmark, originally built for Charles II by Wren in 1675. The 120-seater Peter Harrison Planetarium is particularly spectacular, with an advanced laser projector and presentations specifically aimed at children. Most are suitable for kids over six, with special shows for children aged three to six at weekends and during the holidays (check the website).
Royal Observatory, Greenwich Park, SE10 (8312 6565/www.rog.nmm.ac.uk). Cutty Sark DLR/Maze Hill rail.
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
A trip here is always worthwhile. Recently reopened, it now boasts a 200° camera which lets you experience a Centre Court match from a player’s point of view. You can also ogle the trophies close up and tour the players’ gym, the BBC television studios, and the iconic Centre Court.
Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Church Rd, SW19 (8946 6131/www.wimbledon.org). Southfields tube.
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