Whether it’s escaping a great fire or splashing around on the Thames, there’s something to bring out the child in everyone. These are five of our favourite family activities, but for loads more ideas for all ages and interests – and to purchase passes to save pounds! – see www.visitbritain.com
1. Celebrate Roald Dahl’s centenary
The beloved author was born 100 years ago, and Stephen Spielberg’s take on his popular children’s book The BFG – or Big Friendly Giant – hits British cinemas on July 22 (and Dubai’s on August 11). Dahl’s centenary is being celebrated across the UK, and London will have giant Dream Jars set up at tourist hotspots until August 31. In a celebration of the British-Norwegian’s incredible imagination, we suggest heading to the West End, where two musicals based on Dahl’s books are playing to rave reviews. To make it a gloriumptious adventure, on your way there, stop at Indigo at One Aldwych (two blocks from Covent Garden) for its Afternoon Tea inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (pictured). Trust us, it will impress the entire family, even those brought up on over-the-top brunches. Visit www.onealdwych.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your place now (from £39.00 per person).
A short walk away you have a choice of Matilda at The Cambridge (from £20 to £67.50 at www.matildathemusical.com), or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Theatre Royal Drury Lane (from £17.50 to £67.50 at www.charlieandthechocolatefactory.com). The musicals will convert even the harshest of critics and you’ll soon see why they received multiple Olivier awards – Matilda holds the record for most Olivier awards won by a musical. Photo credit: One Aldwych
2. Take an alternative Potter route
Tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child are sold out until 2017, but there are other ways to get young and old hooked on Potter. Even a passing interest in film-making can be turned into a passion at the WB Studio Tour (you need to pre -book, see www.wbstudiotour.co.uk), complete with real sets, props and costumes from the Harry Potter productions. But to kill two birds with one philosopher’s stone, why not try the smallcarBIGCITY Harry Potter tour, where you can visit film locations in classic Mini Coopers and also learn about London from a local who is passionate about his city. On the tour, you’ll see Potter-significant sites from Leadenhall Market to Platform 9 3/4, which has a gift shop nearby selling character cut-outs, wands and Hogwarts souvenirs (£214 per mini, www.smallcarbigcity.com). Photo credit: Alamy
3. Escape the Great Fire of London
Reliving the Great Fire – which started 350 years ago in a bakery in Pudding Lane and raged for days, turning streets molten and causing pigeons to drop, cooked, from the sky – The London Dungeon’s new multi-sensory show is neither for the faint-hearted, nor tiny tots. Through the use of actors, special effects and screens, the audience is made to believe they are part of the throng of Londoners desperate to leave the capital by any means amid the panic and destruction. Tickets cost £28.95 for adults and £24.45 for children, and, If you can stomach any more excitement after the show, make your way through the rest of London Dungeon, covering 1,000 years of the city’s dark history and promising some of history’s greatest rogues and villains. See www.thedungeons.com for details. Photo credit: The London Dungeon
4. Take to London like a duck to water!
While visiting iconic sites is a great way to teach your kids about the illustrious history of city, let’s face it, it can get a bit dull for little minds shaped by games and gadgets. Enter London Duck Tours and their bright yellow amphibious vehicles. You’ll enjoy sightseeing, facts, live commentary and, best of all, a dramatic splash-down into the Thames. Sights include Big Ben, London Eye and Buckingham Palace. See www.londonducktours.co.uk for more information (a family ticket costs £75, while individually, adults pay £26 and children £18 for the 75-minute tour). Photo credit: London Duck Tours
5. Spread the love
With half the events free to visit, the Festival of Love will be spreading goodwill and fellowship among visitors until the end of August. This year’s event is inspired by the late South African president Nelson Mandela (with his own themed weekend on July 17-18), and will see the nature of love explored through installations, exhibitions, music, performances, talks and workshops across the site at the South Bank Centre. Shows include Klanghaus: On Air – an immersive musical experience – and Air Play, an awe-inspiring circus adventure for all the family, featuring flying umbrellas, giant balloons and floating kites. Also look out for renowned artist Jeppe Heinand’s ever-popular Appearing Rooms fountain (pictured), which kids will love splashing about in. If you start getting withdrawal symptoms for sun and sand, you can laze around at the copaCABANA beach, soak up some sun in the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden, or grab a bite at one of the pop-ups, markets and restaurants. See www.southbankcentre.co.uk for a full programme. Photo credit: Belinda Lawley/South Bank Centre