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The best ways to spend the last few weeks of the summer holidays in London

The holidays aren’t over yet! There’s still loads going on between now and September – Katie Gregory picks out ten of the best ways to stave off the back-to-school blues

Family Festival at Buckingham Palace, 5 August 2018
Photograph: Todd-White Art Photography/Ben F Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019
By Katie Gregory |
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Need a bit of inspiration to fill in the last couple of weeks of the school holidays? There's a ridiculous amount of fun to be had across the capital – not to mention a wealth of family day trips to take. And if you've already managed to take them to an education event or two, why not treat the kids to an afternoon tea?

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Ways to entertain the kids on the school holidays

1
Royal Windsor Horse Show
Attractions, Sightseeing

Step inside the Queen’s house

The Mall

The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are only open to us mere mortals for ten weeks of the year – until September 29 – so the summer hols are a great time to go. Gawp at the gilded interiors as you tiptoe through the Queen’s rooms, which look more like stately film sets. If you’re here on the Bank Holiday weekend, don’t miss the Family Festival – there are drop-in arts and crafts workshops at the Royal Mews and Queen’s Gallery, and lots going on in the Family Pavilion.

Until Sep 29. £25, £14 child. Family Festival. Aug 24-26. Free with standard admission.

2
Morgan and West
Photograph: Steve Ullathorne
Nightlife, Parks and gardens

Don’t believe your eyes

South Bank

Travelling magicians Morgan and West are bringing their ‘Utterly Spiffing Spectacular Magic Show for Kids’ to the South Bank’s Underbelly Festival for the last week of August. It’s pitched at over-fives and is packed with old-school tricks and optical illusions. Don’t let the fun end once school starts: for the perfect pick-me-up after the first week of term, book tickets for ‘The Showstoppers’ Kids Show’. It’s like an on-stage ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book, so be ready for some audience participation.

‘Morgan & West’s Utterly Spiffing Spectacular Magic Show For Kids’ until Sep 1. From £10.25. ‘The Showstoppers’ Kids Show’. Sep 8 and Sep 29. From £14.50.

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3
Ruislip Lido Lake, London
Attractions, Rivers, lakes and ponds

Hit the beach

Ruislip

Pack a bucket and spade, hop on the Tube and head for Ruislip Lido. This huge lake in Hillingdon is home to London’s only ‘proper’ beach: a sandy swathe with two play areas, a splash park and a massive nature reserve behind it. Bring a picnic and let them build sandcastles on the beach or hide out in dens in the ancient woodland. Plus, take a ride on the Ruislip Lido Railway – this little train loops around the lake and weaves through the woods, with a stop-off at The Water’s Edge pub. Cheers!

Open daily, free. Lido railway: £3.30, £2.80 child.

4
Space Descent VR
Photograph: Jody Kingzett Science Museum
Museums, Science and technology

See the moon landing

South Kensington

Still not been to the Science Museum’s Summer of Space festival? This three-month event, inspired by the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing, finishes in September, so kids aged six-plus still have time to join in with free drop-in workshops and watch bite-sized science shows. Plus, older children will have eyes the size of flying saucers by the time they’ve finished watching ‘Apollo 11: First Steps Edition’ in the Imax cinema.

Until Sep. ‘Apollo 11: First Steps Edition’ £11, £9 child.

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5
Olympic Park
Sport and fitness

Burn off some energy

Olympic Park

Let your little ones live out their sporting dreams at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. There are school holiday sessions running for kids aged five-plus at the Lee Valley VeloPark, so they can speed around the BMX track, mountain biking trails or velodrome. The park itself has plenty of open spaces, from the Tumbling Bay playground at the north end to climbing walls at the other. While you’re there, ride the ArcelorMittal Orbit slide – just bear in mind kids need to be eight-plus and at least 1.3 metres tall. Wheeeee!

Open daily. Lee Valley VeloPark school holiday sessions throughout Aug. From £28. ArcelorMittal Orbit and Slide £16.50, £10.50 child.

6

Go down the rabbit hole

Get thespy in the great outdoors with the Australian Shakespeare Company’s production of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ at Kew Gardens. Lewis Carroll’s classic tale is brought to life via alfresco morning and afternoon shows through August. After, let them explore the new Children’s Garden. It’s a huge, greenery-packed space with a four-metre high canopy walk, and you can book in advance to choose a 90-minute time slot.

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7
Dinosaur World Live

Bag free theatre tickets

Despite the name, Kids Week in the West End covers the whole of August, which means you can get a free kids’ ticket with every full-paying adult. Loads of venues are involved, and it’s not just musicals – interactive shows include ‘Dinosaur World Live’ at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre and ‘Brainiac Live’ at the Garrick. If you’ve already got one free ticket, you can buy two more half-price children’s tickets with no booking fees. Let’s face it, you’re going to need every penny for those interval snacks.

Various venues and prices. Until Aug 31.

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