18 things to do in London before you’re 18

London is amazing. And there are experiences you can have in the city that will stay with you for the rest of your life. These are the ones we suggest ticking off before becoming a grown-up.
By Time Out editors |
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Up at the O2, 18 things to do before you're 18, kids
Attractions, Sightseeing

See London from a stunning viewpoint

icon-location-pin Greenwich Peninsula

London is huge. I mean, it’s galactically flipping enormous. You need to get your tiny mind around this as young as possible, to know that there is endless wonder in this city. The best way to do this is with Up at The O2, who’ll help you clamber over the mighty venue. It’s pretty steep for little legs, but no pain, no gain, kids. Oh, and you’re clipped on, so you won’t slide off into the river or anything. Once on top, gaze at the towers of the City, the Thames rolling towards its estuary, the hills rising to the north and south and London stretching westwards, for ever.

Ages 9-plus and a minimum of 1.2m tall. From £30.

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Wonderlab at the Science Museum, 18 things to do before you're 18
Plastiques Photography Limited
Museums, Science and technology

Blow something up at Wonderlab

icon-location-pin Brompton

Don’t believe the haters, science is awesome. Look at Dr Frankenstein, Bunsen Honeydew and that bloke in ‘Despicable Me’. The Science Museum’s Wonderlab is the perfect place to get hands-on and disrespectful with the forces of nature. Get involved with explosive demonstrations, test friction on their indoor slides and watch a lighting bolt strike from a giant Tesla coil. They’ll call you insane, but one day you’ll rule the world.

Ages six-plus. From £6.

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DianaPlayground_SS_06.jpg
Kids, Playgrounds

Pretend you’re a pirate

icon-location-pin Knightsbridge

Piracy – though illegal under international law – is a perennially popular career path for youngbloods. They also like tents. The Diana Memorial Playground offers both, with a giant wooden landlocked pirate ship and some tipis, and tons of other stuff to clamber around. More sophisticated kids could do a kind of historical mash-up involving the native peoples of North America and a lot of bloodthirsty cutthroats from Devon. Yar!

Ages 0-12. Free.

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Sport and fitness

Swim like an Olympian

icon-location-pin Stratford

The London 2012 Olympics showcased our city to the world, and inspired a whole new generation of athletes. Young swimmers must try the pools in the breathtaking London Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park. It’s a cathedral to water sports, with 50-metre pools and amazing diving facilities. What you really want to check out, though, is Extreme Aqua Splash, a 40-metre assault course, where you get to clamber over stuff, leap about shrieking and all the other things they don’t let you do in normal swimming pools. #legacy.

Extreme Aqua Splash is recommended for kids over eight who are competent at swimming 100m. £4.95-£7.50.

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Rough Trade East
Ming Tang-Evans
Shopping, Music and entertainment

Rock out at an instore gig

icon-location-pin Brick Lane

Okay, your first gig will be Katy Perry in a big shed somewhere, accompanied by your dad looking bored. But your first proper gig should be at Rough Trade East. Shows have no age restrictions and some are at lunchtime, so be anti-cool and go in yer school uniform. Seeing four deafening spotty herberts flail around a shop is your passport to a hipster future, my child.

Various dates, times and prices, including free shows.

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Dino Snores, the Natural History Museum, 18 things to do before 18, kids
© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum
Museums, Natural history

Go to a sleepover with a massive extinct lizard skeleton

icon-location-pin Brompton

If you’re the kind of kid who frets at night that there’s a monster in the corner of the room, get over yourself at Dino Snores sleepovers at the Natural History Museum. They guarantee that there will be several monsters in the room, including a Tyrannosaurus Rex, one of prehistory’s nastiest pieces of work. The chills continue with torchlight trails, and bedtime is a very civilised midnight. Not that you’ll be sleeping very much...

Ages seven-11. £120 (for one adult and one child).

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British Museum
Museums, History

Be freaked out by a bunch of mummies

icon-location-pin Bloomsbury

The ancient Egyptians were a strange lot. They worshipped jackals, wrote in pictures and built enormous pyramids out in the desert, just because they could. Strangest of all, though, was the way they preserved dead people. The British Museum’s mummy collection is a creepy treat for kids: human bodies, thousands of years old, wrapped in bandages and put in boxes. If that doesn’t freak you out enough, they pulled out their internal organs with hooks and put them in little jars. Erk.

Free.

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Big Fish Little Fish family rave, kids, 18 things to do before you're 18
Leon Neal

Let off steam at a family rave

You’re never too young to go raving: the lurid clothes, the daft dances, the repetitive beats – any toddler will feel right at home. Big Fish Little Fish are club events for the most junior of bass junkies, plus they have great facilities, play areas and craft sessions for when cargo-panted mums and dads get all tired and fractious.

Various venues and dates. See www.bigfishlittlefishevents.co.uk for details. Ages 0-8. Prices vary.

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Platform 9¾ at King's Cross Station, London
Hans Jürgen

Catch the Hogwarts Express

If you’ve been bitten by the wizardy Potter bug, you absolutely can’t miss the famous Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross. A place of Instagram pilgrimage, it features a luggage trolley comically disappearing into a wall, and a gaggle of aspiring Hogwartians selfieing away. Tip: don’t actually try and run through the wall. You’ll end up in A&E, which is a place for Muggles, if ever there was one.

King’s Cross station, N1 9AL. Free.

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Junior Keeper for a day at ZSL London Zoo, 18 things to do before 18, kids
Attractions, Zoos and aquariums

Try your hand at zookeeping

icon-location-pin Regent's Park

Feed the monkeys, see how tall you are next to a giraffe and shovel up tons of shit! If you’re a kid who loves animals, you should definitely be pestering a parent to make you a Junior Keeper at London Zoo. It’s pretty ace, and like a proper job, except you only have to do it for a day. Instead of FOR EVER.

Ages 11-15. £170 per child.

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Camden Lock, Chin Chin Labs, London, nitro ice cream
Justine Trickett
Restaurants, Vegetarian

Scoff a futuristic ice cream

icon-location-pin Camden Town

Chin Chin Labs are your classic mad scientists: they love billowing clouds of liquid nitrogen, which they use in all kinds of great stuff. The Brownwich (£5.45) is their ice cream sandwich, and you want one.

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Sport and fitness, Leisure centres

Bounce around gothically

icon-location-pin Barking

There are a lot of weird things about The Idol. It’s a soft play space in Barking: so far, so normcore. But it’s also the brainchild of Turner Prize nominee and eccentric art lady Marvin Gaye Chetwynd: a monochrome installation of slides, bumpers and ladders that looks like something out of ‘The Addams Family’. Fave user comment from the Time Out site: ‘Psychologists should contact these people’. Sold!

Ages 0-12. £1.50-£5.80.

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Prince Charles Cinema
Cinemas, Independent

Stay up till dawn at an all-night film screening

icon-location-pin Leicester Square

Staying up all night is great, and staying up all night in a cinema is super-great. The Prince Charles Cinema is famous for its brilliant programme, singalongs (‘Moana’, ‘Frozen’) and most of all for its all-nighters. There are fantastic ones for (older) kids, like all eight Harry Potter films, back-to-back. Take many snacks.

Various dates, times and prices.

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Sport_internationalcricket_2008presspic_lordsground_sentfromMCC_ok to use.jpg
Sport and fitness, Cricket

Hit a six at Lord’s

icon-location-pin St Johns Wood

Every kid wants to be a footballer. What they should want to be is a cricketer. Cricket is the best game in the world because: 1) It only happens if the weather’s nice. 2) There are tea breaks. 3) Most of both teams can sit/lie down for a lot of the match. 4) The clothes are cool. The best place on God’s earth to see cricket is Lord’s. And at the Nursery Ground they hold free children’s activities. Go on the last day of a Test match (often a school day, but hey: it’s what He would want).

From £10.

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ArcelorMittal Orbit slide, Stratford Olympic Park
Jack Latimer
Attractions

Go wheeeeeeeee! down the world’s highest slide

icon-location-pin Stratford

Good old Carsten Höller. The German artist took one look at Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture-tower thingy and said what everyone else was just thinking: ‘That would be so much better if it had a massive slide right from the top.’ Then he went and did it. The world’s tallest and longest (178m) slide is a mind-bending experience and will probably be the best 40 seconds of your life until you hit 16 or so.

Ages eight-plus. From £10.50.

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Alexi Duggins shark diving at Sea life London Aquarium
Rob Greig
Attractions, Zoos and aquariums

Snorkel with real sharks

icon-location-pin South Bank

Forget swimming with dolphins and other placid sea creatures. Kids know that sharks are what you want, and at Sea Life London Aquarium, you can actually get in the water and snorkel with the razor-toothed brutes. Both sharks and kids are machines designed to eat unrelentingly and at all costs, so they have a natural affinity, and this is an amazing experience.

No min age: children must be at least 1.3m tall. £130.

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101 things to do in london, Bunker 51
Things to do, Games and hobbies

Play LaserTag in a bunker

icon-location-pin Charlton

There are loads of secret places in London left over from wars and things. You can’t get into most of them, but that’s not the case with Bunker 51, a nuclear shelter that’s been turned into a LaserTag and paintball arena, with a chilling military vibe. First good thing: kids as young as eight can go paintballing here. Second good thing: if a nuclear apocalypse happens during your day out, you’ll be safe as houses.

Ages six-plus for laser tag. Ages eight-plus for junior paintball. Ages 12-plus for regular paintball. £6.50-£75.

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Things to do, Games and hobbies

Zip into town

Billing itself ‘The biggest, fastest city zip wire in the world’, Zip World London is an exhilarating-slash-petrifying plummet from a 100-foot-high tower adjacent to Lambeth Palace. If you’re eight and over, you can hurtle earthwards while admiring some of London’s best-known landmarks and possibly soiling yourself. It’s only here till October, so get cracking.

Ages eight-plus. £16.50-£22.50.

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