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Penguins with Halloween pumpkin at London Zoo
Photograph: ZSL

The best half-term activities in London

Keep the kids busy and entertained this October 2020 half-term with some fantastic activities around London

By Caroline McGinn
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In a year when everyone’s plans have gone to shit, there is NO SHAME in being disorganised. Yes, the smug Instagram mums have booked up all the pumpkin-picking slots, and you’ll be lucky to find a great Airbnb near London, but there’s still a bunch of very cool culture trips, outdoorsy excursions and last-minute tickets to be had. Sloppy parents, we’ve got you!

1. Take one of Shakespeare’s Globe’s brilliant daily guided toursAdults £17, kids £9. Central. All ages.

2. See the world from a whole new perspective at the British Museum’s new ‘Arctic: Culture and Climate’ exhibition. Seriously cool. Adults £18, under 16s FREE. Central. All ages.

3. Walk or scoot along the South Bank to Tate Modern – half-term tickets are available for its permanent collection and Andy Warhol exhibitionWarhol £22, permanent collection FREE but must be booked. Central. All ages.

4. Take your teen protester to watch ‘I Am Greta’ at the BFI then check out the Undercroft skaters next door. Film £6-£13.75. Central. Teens and tweens.

5. Admire the massive portraits of ‘Everyday Heroes’ which are plastered all over the outside and surroundings of the Southbank Centre, celebrating key workers in style. FREE. Central. All ages.

6. Become the pumpkin-carving champ of all Dalston. Drop off your scariest effort at the wonderful Dalston Eastern Curve Garden on October 26 to 29 between 2pm and 6pm. Visitors can enjoy the pumpkin display as well as the usual hot and cold drinks, cakes, ambience and, weather permitting, pizza at the weekends. FREE. East. All ages.

7. Use the dark arts to grab one of the final few tickets for the Celebration of Slytherin at Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio tour. If you can’t magic up tickets – or enough gold to pay for them – there’s always Time Out’s Sorting Hat Quiz, online and free... Adults £48, kids £38. Watford Junction (trains from Euston). Tinies and tweens.

8. Say arrrrgh! There are tickets available for most of Forbidden Forest’s cult horror film pop-up screenings in Peckham’s Copeland ParkFrom £19.50. South east. Teens.

9. Adore the otters and check out a bunch of new sculptures and sound installations in the lovely London Wetlands Centre in BarnesAdults £1.95, kids £8.95, tickets hereSouth west. All ages.

10. Thank God for London Zoo! Lions, tigers, giraffes, bugs, beetles, penguins, copious outdoor and indoor spaces, and tickets available. There are pop-up Halloween talks from the chilled and knowledgeable zookeepers. Plus a half-term trail pack all about creatures and their ‘costumes’ (find out why penguins wear tuxedos and why okapis have stripy bums). The zoo authorities are encouraging your little animals to arrive in costumes to add to the fun. Adults £30, kids £19.50, under-threes FREE. North. All ages.

11. Fly high on the Emirates Cable Car. The views are spectacular after dusk and, although it has a rep for being miles away from anywhere, the Cutty Sark and the many attractions of Greenwich (the Royal Observatory, Planetarium, and Maritime Museum) are a short and fun DLR ride away. Top tip: nab the front carriage seat on the DLR for maximum rollercoaster/train driver thrills. It's also handy for Up at the O2, where tickets are still available for bold and warmly clad pioneers (eight-plus) to scale the roof of the art-spot formerly known as the Millennium Dome. Thrilling and – on a fine day – spectacular. Cable car: adults £3.50, kids £1.70, under-fives FREE. Greenwich museums: various prices. Up at the O2: £32-£39. East and south east. All ages.

12. The Science Museum’s spectacular interactive Wonderlab is booked up, but the venerable and extremely fun palace of knowledge is opening daily through half-term. Unlike its neighbour the Natural History Museum, at time of writing there were FREE timed tickets available to the main space for most days. FREE. Central. All ages.

13. Thames Clippers are a genuinely brilliant way to slice through the city – ride out on the deck or inside the extensively windowed and socially distanced cabin below. Clippers run regularly from Canary Wharf to Putney, with handy piers at Greenwich, Tower Bridge, London Bridge (for Borough Market and The Shard), Bankside (for Tate Modern) Westminster, Millbank (for Tate Britain) and westwards to Chelsea Harbour and Wandsworth. A family river roamer (two adults, two kids) gives you 24-hour hop-on and hop-off rights. Family roamer, £35.50. East, central, west. All ages.

14. Crunch around in someone else’s local park, for a change! London’s leafiest parks are a symphony of red, amber and green right now. FREE. All areas. All ages.

15. Take a hike down a secret garden on a disused railway line: just one of London’s prettiest city walksFREE. All areas. All ages.

16. Saddle up for a scenic bike rideFREE. All areas. All ages. 

17. If you really are tired of London and of life, then GTFO on a seasonal day trip to Hever Castle (moats and boats!) or Winkworth Arboretum (seas of trees). Various prices. All ages.

Fancy jetting off somewhere instead? These are the countries UK travellers can actually visit right now.

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