Take the argh out of Harghf-Term with our Ultimate Guide
We’ve cherry-picked the best things to do with kids this February and half-term and the only pickle is they might not want to go back to school once you’ve worked your way through this ultimate survival guide. From children’s festivals, ice rinks, Lord of the Rings Quests, circuses, record-breaking slides and Wild West towns to wizards, space adventures, ships and life-sized Monopoly.
Our top 30 picks include a gaggle of free events and there’s something to entertain (and wear out) every flavour of child.
Imagine Children’s Festival
Imagine Children’s Festival turns 21 next month, but it has no intention of growing up and will be entertaining children with more than 100 events, 50% of which are completely FREE. From 8-18 February, the Southbank Centre’s annual arts festival for children aged 0-11 will be taking the aargh out of Haarghf Term, with events spanning theatre, dance, music, poetry, literature, art and trails. Highlights include Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Tales from Acorn Wood, which brings the beloved, lift-the-flap books to life with puppets and songs. a modern retelling of Rapunzel by BalletLORENT, talks by legendary children’s authors Cressida Cowell and Michael Rosen; the return of CBeebies legend, YolanDa’s Band Jam; a daytime rave with the Guinness World Record holder for the world's youngest DJ, as well as dancing dinosaurs, monsters, dragons, magic from TV star Stephen Mulhern, astronomy, hip-hop, Imagine’s Big Gig concerts and comedy.
Imagine Children’s Festival. 8-18 February. Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX. Mixture of FREE and paid events.
Canary Wharf’s Ice Rink
Canary Wharf has been transformed into an icy wonderland until 25 February, whatever the weather, thanks to its transparent, weatherproof roof.
The minimum age to skate is four and skate aids will be available online. It is also running a schools’ programme on weekday mornings, offering children from local schools the chance to try out ice skating free of charge.
Ice Rink Canary Wharf. Until 25 February. Each session lasts 50 minutes. Adult/Teen (13 years and over): £17.95 Children (4-12 years): £13.50. Family (2 adults + 2 children or 1 adult + 3 children): £53.95
Lord of the Rings Quest
Take part in the Lord of the Rings, family challenge at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village to save Middle Earth and explore Tolkien's world Visit the Hobbit Hole and Mirkwood, where there are huge spiders awaiting you. See the enormous dragon guarding its treasure. Meet Halbarad the Ranger of the North, try your hand at archery and you might even meet a friendly Orc. Suitable for adults and children aged 3+ years, there are two parts to the Ring Quest trail, each lasting about 45 minutes. Lord of the Rings Quest West Stow Anglo Saxon Village, Icklingham Rd, West Stow, Bury Saint Edmunds IP28 6HG. Tickets £7 adults, £4 children 5-16 years, £6 concessions and £21 for a family (maximum of two adults and up to three children).
Paddington Afternoon Tea Bus Tour
Brigit's Bakery have launched the first, official Paddington Bear afternoon tea bus tour, celebrating the capital.
The double-decker has built-in screens, so that Paddington and Mrs Bird can provide an animated guide to the tour, which includes some of Paddington's favourite landmarks, like Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park, Nelson’s Column, Downing Street, St. Paul's Cathedral, Borough Market, Green Park and Piccadilly Circus. The tour takes just under two hours, while you scoff treats including glittering shortbreads, designed to look like nibbled marmalade sandwiches, mini pizzas, smoked salmon and cucumber pretzels, turkey ham and cheddar or cream cheese and cucumber finger sandwiches and naturally, marmalade sandwiches. And for those who share the bear’s sweet tooth, the homemade sweet treats included a rice pudding studded with chocolate honeycomb, chocolate cupcakes crowned with Paddington’s chocolate paws, lemon meringue tarts, chocolate macarons and freshly baked scones with cream and jam. Brigit’s Bakery also provide vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and halal afternoon teas. Check out our review, HERE
Paddington Afternoon Tea Bus tour Departs from Trafalgar Square, Wednesdays to Sundays. Prices from £45 adult, £35 child.
Sharky and George February Half Term Holiday Camp
The Sharky & George February Half Term Holiday Camp has an astonishing mix of activities for your sproglets, from chocolate making, mad science, graffiti workshops and nature trails to spy mysteries and fashion shows. The Parsons Green Club welcomes children from five to 11 every day from 9am to 4pm. Single day passes are also available. Sharky & George 64-65 Matrix Studios, 91 Peterborough Road, London SW6 3BU. 13-17 February
Story Time Drag Queen at Tate Britain
Head to Tate Britan’s PlayStudio over February half-term for FREE storytime shows from the brilliant @DragQueenStoryHourUK. And this isn’t just any queen, it’s Aida, the first drag artist in Europe to read stories to children in a nursery. Aida H Dee is an ADHD, neurodivergent, queer hero of literature, theatre, and children's entertainment.
She is a patron of Autistic Inclusive Meets London, a professional author, a five star Edinburgh Fringe act, has been featured on Forbes Magazine for being an activist for neurodivergence, and has recently been awarded Local Leader Of The Year in 2022 by PinkNews. Tate Britain, Play Studio, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG. 11 February at 11am, 12pm and 2pm. FREE.
I Want My Hat Back at Royal Albert Hall
Following their hit digital series, lockdown sensations Ian Nicholson and Sam Wilde are back with more of their trademark cardboard design. Jon Klassen’s beloved books, I Want My Hat Back, This is Not My Hat and We Found a Hat, will br brought to life in the Elgar Room.
Bear, Little Fish and the Turtles will be making an appearance in this one-of-a-kind trilogy for 3-6 year olds. Attendees are encouraged to make their own Little Fish puppet to bring to the show, where there will be an opportunity to take part in the action Royal Albert Hall, Elgar Room, 13 and 14 February. 11am and 1.30pm. £12.28
The Conservatoire Half-Term Creativity
Blackheath’s creativity mecca, The Conservatoire has a gaggle of courses in art, music and drama for babies, toddlers, kids and teenagers this half-term. For the more bite-sized kids, there are workshops to explore music and sounds, learn actions or get creative with arts and crafts. Children aged eight and over can learn the ukulele, play in an orchestra, make mythical sea creatures and hanging jellyfish sculptures and bring Monet’s water lilies to life. Prices range from £22 to £65 and last from one and a half hours to half a day. The Conservatoire, 19-21 Lee Road, London, SE3 9RQ. February Half-Term.
Whizz Down The ArcelorMittal Orbit
How about hurling your children down the world’s tallest slide, this half-term? The 178m long ArcelorMittal Orbit was the iconic landmark of the 2012 London Olympics and is now an attraction with three adventure experiences. Families can speed down the winding slide, abseil, or walk around the glass orbit at the top. You can also pretend it's a high-brow, cultural experience, because the orbit is also a sculpture by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond. And it beats the usual views of grubby swings and bins, because here you can check out the stunning views of Queen Elizabeth Park. To ride the slide, children must be at least eight years old and over 1.3m. ArcelorMittal Orbit, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 5 Thornton St, London E20 2AD. From £10.75.
John Lawson Circus at Ruxley Manor
Roll up! Roll up! The circus is coming to town this half-term and for just £7 a ticket, your little ones can enjoy 45 minutes of daredevil feats, including high speed rollerskating, unicycling, juggling, aerial displays, hula hoops and the crucial clown LOLs. Ruxley Manor, Maidstone Rd, Orpington, Sidcup DA14 5BQ. 13-19 February. Tickets £7. Children under 2 go free.
Phantom Peak, Surrey Quays
For something completely different, head to the Phantom Peake's immersive, open-world adventure, where families can lose themselves in a steampunk wonderland and enjoy an adventure of their own choosing.
The incredible Surrey Quays set includes a central waterway with real-life boat rides into the mountains, fully-working shops, restaurants and bars and even a waterfall. And you’ll be able to discover clues by grabbing the local newspaper, speaking to locals and even digging into their backstories to find out who’s trustworthy and who might be leading you on a merry dance.
Explore the 30,000 square foot ‘town’ that harks back to Victorian times, while also boasting futuristic technology. And by interacting with the locals and taking part in immersive games, you’ll find yourself at the centre of the unfolding story.
Phantom Peak, Canada St, Surrey Quays Rd, London SE16 7PJ.
Rumpelstiltskin is on the loose, and he’s causing all kinds of mischief for the characters of Far Far Away and beyond.
Luckily, Donkey is on hand to give you a ride on his flying bus and Shrek and Fiona will join up with you as soon as they get the chance. Shrek’s adventure is a wild adventure through the land of children’s favourite ogre and actors, technology and immaculately created sets will make sure your children are engrossed from start to finish.
Check out our Shrek’s Adventure review to find out more.
Shrek’s Adventure tickets. Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd, London SE1
Go big or go home… or straight to jail at Monopoly Lifesized, an immersive, on-your-feet version of the classic, family game, played on a 15m x 15m lifesized Monopoly board
Enter the 4D experience and compete in challenges for your chance to buy properties. Stage a heist in Mayfair, compete against a clock to build some of London’s iconic buildings, solve a baffling murder mystery or step into the world of codebreakers.
The 80-minute experience is suitable for kids from 9 and older and is open every day except Mondays.
Monopoly Lifesized, 213-215 Tottenham Court Road, W1T 7PS. Tickets £49 pp
Crystal Maze LIVE Experience
Older children (from 8 onwards) can take on this immersive adventure, which brings the hit 90s TV show to life. Run around like mentalists, yell, complete a host of difficult challenges and end the game in a fetching, satin bomber jacket. Crystal Maze Live Experience, 22 - 32 Shaftesbury Avenue W1D 7EU
Flip Out Hounslow
If your children are of the ‘charmingly indecisive’ type, then a trip to Hounslow’s newly-opened Flip Out might be the answer to your prayers. Cramming mini-golf, arcades, laser quest, bumper cars, inflatables, a ninja assault course and soft play under a single, cavernous roof, the beauty of Flip Out is that you pay for entry to the venue and not for individual activities. We’re yet to discover whether you can drive a bumper car around the laser quest arena, performing drive-by shootings with a slushy in your hand, but there’s only one way to find out.
Entry is a very reasonable £19pp (dropping to £14 for children under 1.1m tall) for three hours in the ‘Arena’ and if you’re not local to the newest venue in Hounslow, Flip Out has similar offerings all over the country.
From £4. BUY TICKETS
Flip Out Hounslow, Units 3, 4 & 5 High Street Quarter, 8 Smithy Ln, Hounslow TW3 1EH
Shakespeare's Globe Bankside
Banish the bored with the Bard at Shakespeare’s Globe this February half-term.
With interactive theatre shows, tailored to a young audience, Elizabethan dress-up, sword fighting demos and storytelling, Shakespeare will keep little ones entertained.
Shakespeare's Globe: 21 New Globe Walk SE1 9DT. Dates, times and ticket prices vary.
Discover Children’s Story Centre - The 100 Story Hotel
Stratford's immersive, sprog-storytelling Mecca is brimming with amazing half-term events.
And it’s also your last chance to check out the brilliant, The 100 Story Hotel show. Clive the polar bear concierge can take your bags. And fellow guests include lions, tigers, dinosaurs and bears. Some sausage dogs are having a party on the hotel beach. The porters are penguins. And the housekeeping team is headed up by a handy octopus.
There’s just one problem – although the hotel is usually full of 100 amazing stories, one story has just gone missing. They need your help to follow the clues and find the culprit. Created with bestselling, multi award-winning author and illustrator Rob Biddulph, this world of play and storytelling has something for everyone aged 0-8. Check out our review here
Discover Children's Story Centre 383-387 High St, London E15 4QZ until 19 February.
Ambulances and fire engines hurtle through the streets and emergency workers tumble out to jet hoses at the Grand Flamingo Hotel fire or treat the wounded, while police cordon off the area and Metro journalists interview witnesses. It might not sound like your typical half-term trip, but the kids will love every second, because they are the firefighters, paramedics, press and police role-playing in KidZania, London's extraordinary, 75,000 sqft indoor city for children.
KidZania: Westfield London Shopping Centre Ariel Way W12 7GA. For 4-14 year olds
Snot, Sick and Scabs at the Centre of the Cell
Deliciously disgusting and sneakily educational centre in a futuristic, light-studded pod suspended above the laboratories of the Blizard Institute in Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. Children can learn about the heart, teeth or senses, see scientists at work and enjoy their delightfully vile ‘Snot, Sick and Scabs’ session.
Centre of the Cell, 4 Newark St, London E1 2AT
Jack V Giant
Get yourselves down to southwest London’s kiddie gem, Polka Theatre and wrap your eyes and children around its £8.5 MILLION makeover, including theatre for babies, toddlers, indoor playspace, playground with treehouse, sensory room, a large café and more.
And this half-term, they launch Jack V Giant, which uses charming puppetry and music to bring the classic tale of a young boy who sells a cow for magic beans and climbs a beanstalk to a golden castle in the clouds.
Polka Theatre, 11 February - 26 March, 240 The Broadway, London SW19 1SB. From £10.
Thomas and Friends at Whistlestop Valley
Take unlimited train rides on Thomas, Toby and Mavis, meet Sir Topham Hatt and Sodor Station Sweepers Rusty and Dusty for singalongs and performances at Huddersfield’s Whistlestop Valley.
Kids can also enjoy an Imagination Station play zone with Thomas and Friends activities, jumping pillow, bubble zone, storytelling sessions, giveaways for every child and themed activities.
Thomas at Whistlestop Valley Park Mill Way, Clayton West, Huddersfield HD8 9XJ
Cutty Sark Rig Climb Experience
Originally climbed when the ship first arrived to Greenwich in 1954, visitors can now recreate this, by clambering up the famous masts of the Cutty Sark.
The Rig Climb Experience invites kids and brave parents to step up from the main deck onto the ship’s ratlines and climb up its top mast, as hundreds of sailors did during the Cutty Sark’s heyday. Once at the top, climbers will experience a controlled descent from the rigging. Participants will be rewarded with some of the best views in London, overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral, The Shard and Tower Bridge.
Cutty Sark King William Walk, London SE10 9H
Birdies’ crazy golf in Angel provides an Insta-worthy, nine hole course featuring three completely new holes - Wing it, Green and Bunker 2.0 - as well as tried and tested fan favourites Hazard, Kinetic, Steps, Infinity and Roulette.
Cheeky Burger will keep the kid’s happy, while the coral pink cocktail bar will please the parents.
Birdies Level 1, Angel Central, 31-32 Parkfield Street, N1 0PZ
This half term, kids can take part in a host of free and paid events at Wembley Park, from stadium tours to acting classes, Wonderkids football sessions and movies.
Teens and bigger children can take on the zombie apocalypse at meetspaceVR or have a round on neon crazy golf course at Pop Golf.
And Union Park has a kids’ splash par (bit nippy in February, though) games court and a bee hotel to keep them entertained.
Wembley Park London
Holiday to Space at Royal Observatory Greenwich
Join Ted and Plant as they explore the Solar System in search of the best place to take a holiday in an intergalactic morning adventure, including a planetarium show and interactive workshop.
Recommended Age: 3 - 6 yrs. Open 10am-5pm daily
Royal Observatory Greenwich Park, Blackheath Avenue SE10 8XJ
Soho's magic-themed Wizard Exploratorium is a five-storey, geek wonderland, offering a 4D wand-making workshop, immersive trick shop and suitably magical afternoon tea encompassing tea brewing, molecular gastronomy, and technology.
Wizard Exploratorium, 26 Greek St, London W1D 5DE
There aren’t many places for a family to enjoy a butterfly house, aquarium, 16 acres of stunning gardens, alpacas, a merman, gorillas and a giant, overstuffed walrus for less than a chippy tea. So thank chuff for Horniman Museum and Gardens.
The brilliant, South-East London attraction is one of the capital’s hidden and most eclectic gems and is a huge hit with kids of all ages, as well as grown-ups.
The vast gardens are completely free, dog-friendly and have a variety of trails and activities. Children can make a racket on giant instruments in the Sound Garden, explore the Bee Garden or visit alpacas, goats and sheep on the Animal Walk.
The museum is also free and includes the wonderfully weird and fascinating Natural History Gallery, packed with taxidermy, skeletons and fossils including Forest Hill's most famous resident, The Horniman Walrus - generously stuffed by Victorians who had (clearly) never seen a real walrus before. Read our review here
Horniman Museum 100 London Road, Forest Hill SE23 3PQ