Children may be squealing with delight that school is nearly out for summer but with 6 weeks of entertainment ahead the purse strings of the people having to entertain them are doing a different kind of squealing! So, as part of our 'Holiday SOS Series' we’ve put together a guide of free things to do in and around London. From workshops in art galleries to city farm exploring, there’s something for the whole family that won’t break the bank…
Hackney City Farm
Opening Times: Open all year round, Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4:30pm. Closed every Monday, except Bank Holidays.
Price: Free! Donations are welcome to help the farm stay open and keep the animals healthy
Address: Hackney City Farm, 1a Goldsmiths Row, London E2 8QA
An unexpected oasis of green in the middle of an urban jungle, Hackney City Farm is a sanctuary of calm from the hustle and bustle of its surroundings. A community funded project, the farm has been open for over 20 years and offers children and adults alike the “opportunity to experience farming right at the heart of the city”. A range of animals can be spotted on the farm, including pigs, donkeys, goats chickens, sheep and rabbits. A life that many of us can only dream of, the animals are on rotation and spend some of their time in the city but also retreat to their country farm in Kent!
During your visit make sure you pop into ‘Get Loose’, the organic packaging-free farm shop that sells nuts, grains, pastas, pulses, tinned goods, eggs, herbs and oils. The farm’s chickens and ducks lay eggs daily and these can be purchased in the shop, the proceeds of which go towards maintaining the farm.
Changing of the Guard
Opening Times: The 45-minute ceremony takes place from 10.45am but be sure to arrive much earlier to secure a good viewing spot.
Address: Buckingham Palace, London, SW1A 1AA
The Changing of the Guard is an iconic London scene whereby the Old Guard (the soldiers currently on duty) line up in front of the palace and are relieved of their duties by the New Guard. The famous ceremony is accompanied by music played by a full Military Band which ranges from traditional military marches to songs from films and musicals! The troops involved in the Changing of the Guard may all appear to be wearing the same scarlet uniform and bearskin caps but there are differences in the colour of their bearskin plumes which indicate their regiment. Why not play a game of spot the colour with your children…
Grenadier Guards- White Plume
Coldstream Guards – Red Plume
Scots Guards- No Plume
Irish Guards- Blue Plume
Welsh Guards- Green Plume
Crystal Palace Park
Opening Times: Monday – Friday: 7.30am
Weekends and Bank Holidays: 9.00am (Closing times vary seasonally so check online)
Address: Thicket Rd, London SE20 8DT
Situated in South East London, Crystal Palace Park is famously home to over 30 dinosaurs! Thankfully, these dinosaurs are of the statue variety and were sculpted by English sculptor and natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. Whilst the sculptures are now perceived to be rather inaccurate, they tell the story of how science is built on the best evidence available at the time. Alongside the ‘Dinosaur Court’, Crystal Palace Park also offers a 1,100 square metre skatepark, a 160-foot maze, an urban farm, boating lake and museum!
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground
Opening Times: The playground is open all year round except 25th December. Summer opening times (May – August): 10.00 - 19.45
Address: Kensington Palace Gardens
Opened in memory of the late princess, the playground is inspired by the stories of Peter Pan and features a huge wooden pirate ship. Children are encouraged to explore their imagination through a sensory trail, teepees, intriguing sculptures and plenty of toys. A beach surrounds the pirate ship so even adults can let their imaginations soar and dream of an accompanying cocktail in hand! The Diana Memorial Playground is situated in Kensington Gardens, one of The Royal Parks where there is plenty more to see including the magical Elfin Oak sculpture made from the hollow trunk of an oak tree and carved with figures of fairies, elves and animals.
National Portrait Gallery
Opening Times: Open Daily 10:00-18:00, Friday Lates until 21:00
Address: National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London, WC2H 0HE
Arts and crafts workshops are taking place throughout the summer at the National Portrait Gallery. The calendar of events includes a “Design Your Own Doll” workshop to explore costume design and a workshop in mid-August called “Step into a Portrait” which focuses on photography and collage skills. You don’t even need to worry about food as children’s lunchboxes are available during school holidays which include a choice of sandwiches, vegetable sticks with hummus, a piece of fruit, juice and Mini Cheddars for £4.95. To ensure a smooth day ahead, the National Portrait Gallery website features a dedicated ‘Families’ section which showcases everything there is to know about visiting the gallery with little ones, including information on its family friendly facilities.