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Take your family on a perfect half-term outing in London

From festivals to inspire little imaginations to dino-themed mini golf, there’s loads of off-peak family fun to be had in London over the school holiday

by Time Out in association with Transport for London
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Need some ideas for entertaining the little ones during half-term? We’ve selected a bunch of exciting, hands-on activities – many of which are free. You can get to them all during off-peak hours (that’s during the day, evenings and weekends), which means you’ll be saving on travel too. For grown-ups, Transport for London’s off-peak fares start at just £1.50 for a single adult pay as you go fare. All kids under 11 can travel free at any time on buses and trams. Up to four kids under 11 can travel free at any time on Tube, DLR, London Overground, and TfL Rail services when accompanied by an adult.

Remember to check TfL Journey Planner before you travel.

  • 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.

Get there for less!

Get there for less!
© Transport for London

Get there for less!

TfL’s off-peak pay as you go fares mean that you’ll save more pennies this half-term. Off-peak fares apply on all Tube, DLR, London Overground and TfL Rail services. You can tap into the wonderful world of off-peak every weekday before 6.30am, between 9.30am and 3.59pm, and after 7pm. Off-peak fares also apply all day at weekends and on public holidays. Always touch in and out with the same card or device to pay the right fare. Touch in only on buses and trams. To check a fare, visit TfL’s single fare finder.

Kids travel free!
All kids under 11 can travel free at any time on buses and trams. Up to four kids under 11 can travel free at any time on Tube, DLR, London Overground and TfL Rail services when accompanied by an adult. An adult is anyone 16 and over using an adult rate ticket (but not a Group Day Travelcard), pay as you go or travel concession.

Travel in Zones 2-6 for £1.50
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.

Travel into Zone 1 from £2.40
Fare shown is for an adult off-peak pay as you go journey from Zone 2 into Zone 1.

Travel by bus and tram for £1.50
TfL’s Hopper fare lets you make unlimited bus and tram journeys within one hour of first touching in for just £1.50.

The Cultural TfL Map is your key to finding more of London's family friendly hidden gems. This interactive map reveals more than 500 Time Out-recommended museums, galleries, street art and more, all within a short walk or bus ride of each station. Many of these experiences are free!

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We know that affordable, convenient public transport is the key to accessing the best that London has to offer – and thanks to TfL’s affordable off-peak fares and other discounts across the network, the possibilities for adventure are wider than ever. Here, you'll find plenty more unexpected and exciting off-peak outings.

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