In the UK, the spring has been firmly heralded in by the time May half-term is here. The sun is shining, flowers are blooming and excitement is in the air. For the last week of May 2021 is half-term and children have one week out of school. School holidays are normally a time parents like to plan. Maybe the adults have to work and the little darlings will go to camps or perhaps the seven days are there to be filled with family time. Whatever the case, plans have to be put into place. Which is why this guide to May half term activities in London will come in super handy.
This year, the bank holidays in May fall on Monday 3rd May and Monday 31st May. Which means that most office workers will have at least three days off at the end of May. This coincides with the half-term. So whether or not you are planning on taking the whole week off work, you will, at the very least have three days to spend with your family.
I am privileged to live very close to London, a city full of history, culture and Harry Potter. The vast array of activities mean that both my son and I can enjoy a day out, with a family friendly activity for him and a little something for me. I intend to share this amazing treasure trove of a city with you so that you do not need to waste time searching for options.
Types of business opening in May
On May 17 2021, the next tier of businesses will open up in the UK. Pubs, restaurants and cafes have been able to serve outside for a few weeks now. From May 17, they will be able to serve indoors. Also open, alongside these will be:
- Steam rooms
- Bingo halls
- Bowling alleys
- Big events
- Sports stadiums
20,000,000 have currently had their first vaccination in the UK so expect London to be getting a little busier in the half term. If you are expecting to be able to do your normal ‘book a ticket’ on the journey to London, please think again. Many experiences will just be opening back up and families will be keen to make the most of this in the half-term. So, if you are eager to experience a dose of culture, please book your May half term activities in advance.
Here is a small selection of the museum’s that London has to offer. These are perfect for families with children of all ages. Our museums have done a fantastic job of thinking ‘outside the box’, this last year and have managed to provide online culture and much needed funds. As many museums are charities, it is now up to us to support them unless we are willing to loose them.
Natural History Museum
Based in South Kensington, the Natural History Museum is full of natural wonders and remains a source of inspiration for children of all ages. With exciting exhibitions in May such as ‘Fantastic Beasts’, ‘Wildlife photographer of the year’ and ‘Our broken Planet’, this museum has the May half-term covered. Remember, if you wish to see an exhibition as well as the rest of the museum, you will need to book in advance.
Also based in South Kensington, going to the Science Museum is like being in the coolest science lesson ever! From an interactive Gallery that will excite children with scientific phenomena to the immersive IMAX theatre with different nature and space shows to delight you, there is something for all ages. This museum is sure to blow your child’s mind.
This is a school trip I remember as being very interesting. A real life historical sailing ship that will bring your children’s history lessons to life. Be taken back in time when you meet some of the crew, all dressed and talking according to the time. Explore the captain’s cabin and the main deck The ship is part of the Royal Museums Greenwich so while you are booking your ship trip, check out the The National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory. I told you London is brimming full of history, didn’t I?
The Postal Museum
Another good choice for the children, the Postal Museum will be sure to delight. Learn the history and celebrate the iconic role that the postcard has had to play in keeping people in touch. Take an exciting tour down the 100 year old Royal Main tunnels. We shouldn’t forget the part that our postal system has played over the years in communication and this is something educational and fun to pass onto our children.
Clink Prison Museum
For another trip into history, visit the Clink Prison Museum. Dating back to 1144, this is one of England’s most notorious prisons and will surely delight your children. Learn about the inhabitants of the prison, handle torture devices and go for a tour around the museum.
Indoor and outdoor London attractions
If you wish to intersperse your indoor activities with a stroll around London, make sure you visit at least one of the
A royal park, Kensington Gardens is situated next to Hyde Park. Well known for the Diana Memorial playground, there is enough to do to keep both adult and child entertained. Visit the good size pirate play area then stroll down to the Italian Gardens near Lancaster Gate and admire the ornate water garden. When the children become hungry, go to the Italian Garden café and enjoy the sunshine.
Kew Gardens is a botanical garden in Richmond, South West London. It boasts the largest and most diverse botanical collections in the world. Make sure you book your visit to the magical Kew Gardens in advance. Visits are timed so you will need to make sure you arrive for your slot. There is plenty for the family to see from the Arboretum to the Princess of Wales Conservatory. If you and your family love a spot of nature and walking, this is the place for you this May half-term.
This one may be more for the parents but I know that my son will love trawling the market and especially testing out the food. Children often love pizza and pasta but do not really know how truly delicious it can be and the ingrediants that go into making it. This is a new market in London, with the imaginative title of ‘Eataly’ and is now open in Broadgate. But hold onto your child’s hand – at 42,000 square foot, if you leave them at the pizza stand, you may not see them for a while. I know when we visit it, we will be choosing a few items to stock our cupboards from the 5,000 Italian products to buy. Also sampling some treats over the two floors. Then we will experience an Italian lunch in one of the six eateries. Bliss!
Now this is one I’ll definitely by taking my son to this summer. Its certainly not cheap – £16 for an adult, £24 for a child but it looks amazing. It’s an indoor city with immersive play areas, in the Shepherds Bush area. Children can take part in many different activities and learn how to do different jobs, from a doctor to a pilot. Each time slot is four hours and children choose the activities they want. Your child will come out inspired and empowered. Maybe not one to do every holiday due to the price but definitely an experience to be had once.
What child does not like a treasure hunt? Following a map, realizing you are getting closer and the element of surprise. Geocaching is a modern, technology aided version. Download the app using your phone and participate in hiding and seeking containers, the world over. The containers are the geocaches and they are hidden and found using coordinates. Typically, a container has a logbook in it for you to sign and date, to prove you have found it. Larger containers will often contain an item to be traded.
This is a great family activity. Before your day trip to London, plan with your child what he/she would be willing to trade. Or to even leave a little money in the container. These items can be taken with you on the day and if you have any spare time in your day you can become treasure hunters. A cheap, fun activity the whole family will enjoy.
Where to eat as a family in London
So, by now you should have a plan starting to formulate in your head. The types of activities you and your family would like to take part in during your day out in London. But of course, we can’t enjoy the day properly unless we stop for a meal. Well, there is so much choice in London that it can be exhausting even thinking about it. Even more so when you have to think about what the whole family likes and if the place you are planning on going is even ‘kid friendly’. And by that, I don’t mean serving chicken nuggets, I mean would they mind if your children are exuberant?As you don’t want your meal ruined by disapproving tuts and stares when your child is excitedly recounting how exciting it was to see dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum.
- Locale. An Italian eatery, this lovely restaurant in Belvedere Road, SE1, is located next to the London Eye. A family restaurant, the main dining area is in a circle around the kitchen, giving a good vibe. There is a variety of Italian dishes, from pasta and pizza to garlic bread and seafood. There is a selection of vegetarian options and the restaurant has a rating of 4.5 stars on trip advisor.
- Ping Pong. This is one of my favorites and is also loved by my son. A Dim Sum restaurant, expect a variety of steamed and fried buns, noodles, rice and much, much more. If you fancy a drink, both you and your children can partake with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. It’s noisy, so perfect for families, the food is delicious and the different branches are all central to the many attractions London has to offer.
- New London Cafe. If your family rushed in the morning and did not have much of a breakfast, consider this café for a hearty brunch. Perfect if your first stop is North London. The café has a family vibe and the menu will perfectly fill you up until you get home. Delicious coffee and an international themed food menu, this is surely the place for a picky eater or two.
- Andy’s Greek Taverna. If you are browsing Camden Market and get peckish, head to this family run Greek restaurant. Fancy a mixed grill? Done. Or would you rather something from the sea? Maybe Calamari or Corfu style prawns will tempt you. There is haloumi, houmas and much, much more. Your family can share a platter or nibble on starters. With so much to choose from you are all bound to find something you like.
- Irana Indian Cuisine. We can’t talk about East London and food without including at least one Indian restaurant. Proclaimed as one of the best in that area, this is actually a mixture of Thai and Indian. Two of my favorite cuisines, so can it actually go wrong? Not according to the reviews, it can’t. Check it out.
- Giraffe. If your children are fussy eaters, head to Giraffe in Spitalfields. Serving global food, their menu is vast and will allow your children to eat what they already know whilst also giving the adults more choice. Choices include jerk chicken, burritos, steak and burgers.
- Cabana. A Latin American restaurant, now this is my type of food. Inspired by grilled food in said countries, the menu is full of spice and flavor. I’m sure there are ingrediants some children will not have tried, so what a great experience. There is a children’s menu which is fairly typical but I find it rather bland so an option would be to order from the main menu and share with your child. We need to encourage our children to experiment and what better way to do it than with delicious food.
- Antipode. This is a tiny Australian West London café, based in Hammersmith. It may be a better experience to buy from there and find somewhere nice to sit and watch London life drift by. This café has a reputation of serving one of the best coffees in London so maybe save it until you and your family have spent a couple of hours walking or exploring somewhere and are ready to eat and drink. Fancy smashed avocado and egg on toast? It’s here waiting for you.
Plan your week (half term ideas for kids)
I hope you are now as excited about May half-term as I am. Although these activities and eateries are not new, it almost feels like life is restarting. Social life can resume and we can mix inside. Culture is available and we don’t have to rely on indoor arts and crafts to entertain our children.
Don’t forget to make plans for this coming week. Even for places that are free, timed tickets may have to be purchased. Reserve a table where you wish to eat and make sure you prepare items for your geocaching. You do not want to be disappointed on your day.
Single mums, this is our kind of day. With the selection of activities, you can adapt to your budget and have enough information to create your itinerary easily. Your children will be delighted with the day and with you. But don’t forget to pamper yourself with this selection of ideas when you come home exhausted. Roll on half-term!
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