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Secret London for families

Got small, restless people to amuse? TfL’s off-peak fares mean your Oyster card is your passport to a world of adventures in Zones 2–6


NOTE: As this article was originally published in 2018, any specific event mentioned in this article has now passed. 

Ever wondered what’s in Cockfosters, Ruislip and all those other places tube trains end up after you’ve alighted? An awful lot, actually, with a veritable goldmine of family-friendly activities along the way. And not only are London’s outer reaches great for fun days out but Transport for London’s ultra-affordable off-peak fares make getting the clan there simple and cheap too. So grab your Oyster card and round up the kids – it’s time to seek out some city secrets.

Remember to check TfL Journey Planner before you travel.
When the British summer is at its best, remember to carry a bottle of water with you while you make your journey, and use sunscreen with high SPF for kids!



BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Neasden

By far the most attractive building you’ll spot along the North Circular, this gleaming, ornate Hindu temple has to be seen IRL to be truly appreciated. Lucky for you, then, that admission and guided tours are both free.
Getting there: Take the Jubilee line to Neasden, then the 224 bus.
Other local bus routes: 112, 206, 611

Chickenshed Theatre
  • Theatre
  • Fringe
  • Cockfosters

The lively programming at this kid-centric theatre covers everything from multi-sensory shows for babies to stand-up comedy sets for young adults, with plenty of colourful fun for all ages in between.
Getting there: Take the Northern line to Cockfosters.
Local bus routes: 298, 299, 307, 610, 611, 692, 699

  • Museums
  • History
  • Hendon

Celebrating its centenary year in 2018, the museum is laying on headline attractions including the chance to sit in the cockpit of a real-life Spitfire. Pew-pew-pew!
Getting there: Take the Northern line to Colindale.
Local bus routes: 303, 632, 642


Museum of Childhood
  • Museums
  • Childhood
  • Bethnal Green

Huge glass cabinets of vintage toys are the main attraction at this offshoot of South Ken’s V&A. Yes, kids, video games really did once look that rubbish.
Getting there: Central line to Bethnal Green or Overground to Cambridge Heath.
Local bus routes: D3, D6, 106, 254, 277, 309, 388

God’s Own Junkyard
  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Walthamstow

Did a visit to Tate Britain result in a boredom- induced strop? There’s no chance of a tantrum at this glowing showcase of neon signage from the late artist Chris Bracey.
Getting there: Victoria line to Walthamstow Central or Overground to Wood St.
Local bus routes: W12, W16

Discover Children's Story Centre
  • Art
  • Cultural centres
  • Stratford

Their imaginations are sure to run wild at this exhibition and performance space dedicated to the art of storytelling. Make sure you check the website for the regular line-up of interactive author workshops and craft events, as well as film screenings and temporary exhibitions.  
Getting there: Central line, Jubilee line or Overground to Stratford or DLR to Stratford High St.
Local bus routes: 104, 238, 262, 276, 473


Horniman Museum
  • Things to do
  • Forest Hill

As well as a natural history section to rival the one in South Ken, this many-sided museum boasts loads to excite mini-Attenboroughs, including a butterfly house, an aquarium and an animal trail featuring goats and alpacas.
Getting there: Overground to Forest Hill.
Local bus routes: 176, 185, 197, 356, P4

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Crystal Palace

Looking for something to tire them out? An hour or so exploring/getting lost among the labyrinthine hedgerows of this 50-metre- wide maze (one of the oldest and largest in the country) ought to do the trick.
Getting there: Overground to Crystal Palace or Penge West.
Local bus routes: 122, 227, 450

  • Attractions
  • Brixton

Seriously, a working, nineteenth-century windmill, right there in SW2. Plus, tours around the place are free!
Getting there: 37 bus (it stops right outside) or Victoria line to Brixton then 15-minute walk.
Other local bus routes: 45, 59, 109, 118, 133, 159, 250, 333


Stag Lodge Stables
  • Things to do
  • Richmond Park

Home to more than 70 horses and ponies, Stag Lodge offers everything from one-off riding lessons to full courses in jumping and dressage – all amid the stunning surrounds of Richmond Park.
Getting there: Northern line to Putney then 85 bus.
Other local bus routes: 265, K3

Ruislip Lido
  • Attractions
  • Rivers, lakes and ponds
  • Ruislip

There are plenty of spots for an alfresco swim in London but only one comes with its own patch of beach. Pack buckets and spades!
Getting there: Metropolitan line to Ruislip then H13 or 331 bus.

Hanwell Zoo
  • Attractions
  • Rivers, lakes and ponds
  • Ruislip

Done the big one in Regent’s Park? Head to this little-known alternative where you can spot lemurs, exotic frogs and much more. If they’ve earned a treat (or just really love those adverts), the hands-on ‘meet the meerkats’ experience is well worth a go.
Getting there: TfL Rail to Hanwell.
Local bus routes: 92, 195, 207, 282, 427, 483, 607

Get there for just £1.50
David Potter

Get there for just £1.50

Yep, TfL’s off-peak fares mean travelling in the summer holidays doesn’t have to break the bank.

Off-peak fares apply on weekdays before 6.30am, between 9.30am and 3.59pm, and after 7pm, plus all day at weekends and bank holidays. Fare shown is for an adult off-peak pay as you go journey not going via Zone 1 on Tube, DLR and most London Overground services. Always touch in and out with the same card or device to pay the right fare. To check your fare, search TfL Single Fare Finder.

And let's not forget the bus or tram! The Hopper Fare lets you take unlimited bus or tram journeys anytime, anywhere within one hour for just £1.50.

Got kids? 
Children under five travel free. With a Zip Oyster photocard, five- to ten-year-olds can travel free on all TfL services, while 11- to 15-year-olds can travel free on buses and trams and travel at half the adult rate on all other TfL services.
Apply for a Zip Oyster photocard today by going to

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