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Free Range Urban Kids
Jorn Tomter

101 things to do in London with kids: outdoor activities

Get some fresh air in the little ones' lungs with these great ideas for open-air fun

By Laura Lee Davies
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London can’t be beaten for expansive parks and imaginatively designed playgrounds that keep little rascals occupied for hours on end. There are vertiginous slides, giant pirate ships and inventive water play zones on a scale that wow out-of-towners.

SEE THE FULL LIST101 things to do in London with kids

Outdoor activities for kids

Go leaf-boat racing at the Princess Diana Fountain

Kids Playgrounds Kensington

Located by the Serpentine in Hyde Park, the Diana Memorial Fountain is a landscaped circular stream made of granite that’s well suited to impromptu leaf-boat races. Water flows and bubbles from the top in two directions down a gentle slope, meeting in a pool at the bottom. Especially busy in summer, it’s open throughout the rest of the year as well. Children love racing round it, following the flow. You’re allowed to sit on the side and dip your toes in, too.

Free

All ages

Ride a Shetland pony across Richmond Park

Things to do Richmond Park

Stag Lodge Stables operates lessons and hacks in the relatively car-free settings of Richmond Park and nearby Wimbledon Common, suitable for all ages and abilities. For little ones (ages 3-6) the Shetland pony sessions are particularly popular, and include a four-day holiday course. Birthday party bookings are also available.

From £25

Ages 3+

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Tackle the mountain biking at Lee Valley VeloPark

Sport and fitness Stadiums Olympic Park

With the space to create graded mountain bike runs (the three trails are graded red, blue and black, like ski runs), this is one of the more easily accessible parts of the cycling experience available to the public, post-London 2012. It’s useful to sign up for free membership in advance, then you should be able to just turn up and pay for a session anytime, daily from 9am to sunset. Although booking ahead is recommended.

£5, £3 junior, £3 Super Thursdays

Ages 5+

Dodge the water jets in Granary Square

Attractions Public spaces King’s Cross

The area behind King’s Cross is gradually turning into a charming piazza between the station and the nearby arts venues and college buildings. Already there are some lovely features, including rows of ground-level fountains that rise and fall unpredictably. Try to stay dry or just run straight in and get soaking wet as you play. Bring a towel!

Free

All ages

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Race a car on the Alexandra Palace Boating Lake

Things to do Cultural centres Alexandra Palace

The boating lake and playground at Ally Pally are located behind the main building on the ice-rink side of the park. The boating lake has been spruced up in recent years and as well as the traditional swan-shaped pedalo vessels, you can rent pedal boats in the shape of a VW car or a dragon, too. Expect to queue on sunny days when school’s out.

From £8.95 for pedalos, from £7.95 for boats

12-months+

Commandeer a wigwam at the Diana Memorial Playground

Kids Playgrounds Kensington

Located next to Kensington Palace, this play area has a Peter Pan theme and a fabulous wooden pirate ship as its centerpiece. Specially designed to suit children of all physical abilities, the playground includes a beach, sculptures, teepees for make-believe games, and a sensory trail. It’s free to enjoy, but at busy times there might be a queue to get in.

Free

Under-13s

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Get a bird's eye view of the birds at the London Wetland Centre

Attractions Rivers, lakes and ponds Barnes

This splendid wildlife reserve in south-west London has plenty of ways to delight, including a purpose built observatory in the courtyard that offers stunning views of the whole wetland. There are family trails and children’s activity opportunities to get up close with the birds and beasts, including the interactive indoor Discovery Centre and the nature-themed adventure playground.

£11.59, £8.64 concs, £6.36 under-17s, free under-4s, £32.32 family

All ages

Venue says Award-winning nature reserve in the heart of the capital. Enjoy fantastic views, wildlife, lakes, gardens. Plus shop, café and playground

Feed the cows at Mudchute Farm

Things to do Isle of Dogs

An unexpected patch of countryside on the Isle of Dogs, Mudchute Park and Farm is a laidback and friendly day out, with the chance to get close to all kinds of animals. Join the regular crafting workshops and feed the beasts (the cows particularly love elderflowers), then feed your own little ones at the Mudchute Kitchen.

Free

All ages

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Play Bond for a day on the Thames Rib Experience

Attractions Sightseeing Victoria Embankment

Forget a sedate cruise down the river. Opt instead for the pacey pleasures of a high-speed trip down the Thames, bouncing over the water in a rigid inflatable boat (Rib). There are few other ways to go this fast in central London – and, fittingly, one of the special trip experiences on offer is the ‘Spy Charter’ – hire the whole boat and make like a special agent with a licence to thrill.

Prices vary

Minimum passenger weight 15k

Piotr Uklański, 'Untitled (The Thing)'. Image courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery

Admire plus-size artworks while you walk The Line

Why not take the kids on an art walk that uses the landscape of east London as its gallery? From North Greenwich to Stratford, you can follow a route by train and walking path that takes in a series of incredible modern artworks by some of the world’s great artists. Along the way see Antony Gormley’s spectacularly spiky ‘Quantum Gold’, Abigail Fallis’s tower of shopping trollies, ‘DNA DL90’, and Eduardo Paolozzi’s towering ‘Vulcan’.

Free

All ages

Various London locations


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