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Bevan RoosCredit: Bevan Roos

The best half-term activities in London

Keep the kids busy and entertained this October 2021 half-term with some fantastic activities around London

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski
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With London more or less fully reopened for the first half term since February 2020, there’s plenty of activities – Halloween related or not – to get stuck into with the little ones these holidays.

  • Theatre
  • Theatre & Performance

Little Amal, a 3.5-metre-tall puppet of a nine-year-old refugee girl, is the centrepiece of ‘The Walk’, a logistically dazzling touring arts festival that has seen Amal walk from the Turkey-Syria border, across Europe and eventually on to Manchester. Before that: London, where she’ll be having her tenth birthday and serving as the focal point to family-friendly activities at a host of venues, from St Paul’s to the Globe.

  • Attractions
  • Hertfordshire

Warner Bros Studios’ blockbuster Harry Potter exhibition has undergone a spooky makeover from now until early November as its Dark Arts theme returns. Most spectacularly, the Great Hall is filled with a hundred flickering, flying Jack-o’-Lanterns – aka Instagram heaven. Elsewhere there’s a special limited edition passport, plus Death Eaters galore: wandering around looking menacing, but also with interesting demonstrations of everything from their wand stance, their choreography and their costumes. 

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  • Theatre
  • Private theatres
  • Wimbledon

Much-loved Wimbledon kids’ theatre the Polka chose a good moment to shut down for a massive £8.5m upgrade: it sat out the pandemic, basically. Now it’s back with new auditoriums, new play areas – including a sensory play – new cafes, new everything. And there’s a brand new programme, with its first show back, ‘Red’, a promenade version of the ‘Red Riding Hood’ story for ages six-plus that takes you on a tour of the new building via the medium of an exciting adventure.

  • Theatre
  • Shakespeare
  • South Bank

The Globe’s lively half-term programme returns for the first time in an age. The days are chock-full of workshops and activities, ranging from tours of the theatre to demonstrations of stage sword-fighting techniques. The headline events are the Storytelling Performances, which offer sensory interactive takes on a selection of The Bard’s greatest hits – this time ‘The Merchant of Venice’, ‘Hamlet’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Julius Caesar’ – for ages five-to-12.

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Hang out with Bing and Flop at London Zoo
  • Attractions
  • Zoos and aquariums
  • Regent’s Park

Beloved by kids, somewhat annoying to parents, and a source of eternal bemusement to Mark Rylance fans, CBeebies legends Bing and Flop will be descending upon ZSL this half-term for a series of fun themed activities. Explore a self-guided Bing trail, take in a Bing storytelling session, take home a pair of Bing ears, and pose for a photo with the bratty rabbit and his, er, undead carer thing. It’s all included with zoo entry but you’re advised to book a place for the storytelling upon arrival at the zoo.

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  • Things to do
  • Events & Festivals

A staple of London’s winter activities scene will be returning to us from October – but it’ll be your last time to enjoy its icy charms. 

The ice rink at the Natural History Museum will take up residence at the South Kensington venue for a final season this year before it gets transformed into a new urban garden. That means you have from October 22 to January 16 to cram in as many festive skate sessions as you can. 

Next year, the area usually occupied by the rink will become a fully accessible green space that the museum hopes will help visitors learn about the diversity of our planet, while also offering scientists a chance to develop best practices to protect our urban nature. The plans have been informed by a number of aims, including creating a sustainable design and protecting and increasing existing wildlife and biodiversity. 

It’s important stuff – especially given our planet’s climate crisis – but we will miss gliding (or attempting to) around the ice, 30ft Christmas tree twinkling away in the centre.

If you need to get one last skate in before our icy friend departs us forever, you can cop tickets on the Natural History Museum website – and they'll only set you back £11.50 for adults or £8 for kids. 

Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 5BD

The seven best bits of the Natural History Museum

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  • Things to do
  • Paddington

Okay, just to be clear: you cannot board any canal boats you’re not invited to and steal their booty. Do not, and we cannot stress this enough, keelhaul the lubber. However, eco-friendly boat company GoBoat is offering some fun special trips this half-term, inviting you to head out on an immersive pirate-themed treasure hunt down the Regent’s Canal. Obviously an adult is required to pilot said boat, but the crew can be of any ages as you sail the high seas (canal) looking for the X that marks the spot.

  • Attractions
  • South Bank

Older kids and braver adults can ‘enjoy’ the London Dungeons’ horrifying-sounding Halloween theme. Following The Dentist – the gristly venue’s recent tribute to the horrors of Victorian dentistry – The Surgeon is basically a celebration of the nightmare that was having a medical procedure performed upon you in the grimdark of the nineteenth century.

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  • Theatre
  • Children's
  • Covent Garden

The National Theatre’s stunning adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ has been endlessly delayed in its journey to the West End, but it finally hits the Duke of York’s Theatre just in time for half-term. It’s a dreamy, moving and visually spectacular slice of fantasy adventure suitable for ages 12-plus.

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