Cheap Family Days Out: South East London

Lettie Mckie
By Lettie Mckie Last edited 16 months ago
Cheap Family Days Out: South East London

Looking for cheap family-friendly fun in south east London? Here are some great days out that won't break the bank.

We're exploring places beyond zone 1 in this series. Also check out our cheap family days out in south west and south west London.

Severndroog Castle

See views across London from this 18th century tower on Shooter's Hill, Greenwich.

The castle — or folly, to be precise — was restored two years ago and is now run by local volunteers. On a clear day, you can see seven boroughs from the hexagonal Grade II-listed gothic building.

Families can visit the observation tower, take part in creative art workshops and storytelling, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings: the castle is situated along a winding path bordered with blackberry bushes and bluebell woodland. How very quaint.

Severndroog Castle, Castle Wood, SE18 3RT.  £2.50 per person from April-September on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Severndroog Castle

Bethlem Museum of the Mind

Opened by Grayson Perry in 2015, Bethlem Museum of the Mind is housed in an art deco building in Beckenham.

Art, artefacts and archives explore the history of mental health. The gallery has paintings and drawings (see Louis Wain's large-eyed cats, and the brooding, psychedelic characters of Stanley R. Lench) alongside ceramics and textiles and a rolling series of temporary exhibitions.

Families can explore visitor trails, and there are regular drop-in art workshops in half terms and holidays. Eye-opening stuff, but fun too.

Bethlem Museum of the Mind, Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, BR3 3BX. Wednesday-Friday and every first and last Saturday of the month, 10am-5pm. Free entry, suggested donation £2 per person.

Bethlem Museum of the Mind. Photo: Beth Elliott

Horniman Museum

Forest Hill's Horniman Museum is the museum in south London for under 11s.

Although not exclusively for kids, Frederick Horniman's eclectic collection of natural history and anthropology is wonderfully set-up for families, with multiple storytelling and craft sessions to accompany the exhibits.

Highlights include the extensive handling collection accessible in the hands-on base, an enormous stuffed Walrus who has his own Twitter account and the ever-popular aquarium, featuring underwater species from all over the globe (the luminous jellyfish are particularly spectacular).

Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ. Open daily 10.30am to 5.30pm. Museum entry is free; aquarium costs £4.40 (adults) £2.20 (children).

Hijinks at the Horniman. © laura_mtungwazi

Woodlands Farm Trust

An 89-acre working city farm on the border of Greenwich and Bexley, the Woodlands Farm Trust has the distinctive feel of the countryside.

The farm contains a variety of livestock and habitats including woodlands, ponds and hedgerows. Families can meet farmyard favourites from Shetland ponies to Gloucester old spot pigs to Aylsebury ducks.

Activities in the school holidays include a bee trail and pond dipping.

The Woodlands Farm Trust, 331 Shooters Hill, Welling, DA16 3RP. Open Tuesday-Sunday 9.30am-4.30pm. Admission free, donations welcome.

Pond dipping on a farm. Yes, this is London. © Megan Taylor

Emirates Air Line

A great way to see London from up high, without paying much, is a trip on the Emirates Air Line.

Crossing the docklands and Thames, families can have fun trying to spot the famous landmarks visible from the cable car including Canary Wharf, the O2 and the Thames Barrier.

There's also a Spy Mission Trail available to buy in advance online. One trail is enough for four-five people and helps turn the airline journey into a full day out in North Greenwich, with clues to crack exploring together both sides of the trip.

Emirates Air Line, Edmund Halley Way, SE10 0FR  Adult £4.50, child £2.30. Trails £6.99

Photo by Paul Shears in the Londonist Flickr pool

Crystal Palace Park dinosaurs

A long-time staple of family fun in Crystal Palace Park, these incredible Victorian dinosaur sculptures are a must for any budding palaeontologist.

Created by fossil collector Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins in 1854, they are the first known attempt to represent dinosaurs to scale as 3D models. Nowadays it's agreed they're not accurate, but they have a charm all of their own.

Kids can discover the same creatures that fascinated Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who visited the site several times, as well as have fun trying to pronounce names like iguanodon, hylaeosaurus and megalosaurus. Bringing a pair of binoculars along is encouraged.

Crystal Palace Park Thicket Road, SE19 2GA. The dinosaurs are free to visit and open daily 7.30am-7pm.  

Meet the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park. Image: Alex Pounds

Croydon Airport

London's first airport opens its doors once a month.

Used during the first and second world wars — and by multiple world-record breaking pilot Amy Johnson — Croydon Airport is a must for families with kids who love all things aviation. The 1928 terminal building was state of the art in its day and is now Grade II listed. When we visited, we learned some fascinating things.

Knowledgeable volunteer guides are a mine of information and kids will especially enjoying climbing the control tower.

Airport House, Purley Way, Croydon CRO 0XS. Open on the first Sunday of every month, 11am-4pm. Admission free.

Last Updated 17 May 2016

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And don't forget:

Greenwich Park with its excellent children's playground and boating pond and good cafes
Under One Roof in Woolwich Arsenal - lots of activities for children including a superb soft play space
Greenwich Peninsula walk and the Ecology Park within it. The Pilot is a good pub to relax and eat
Maryon Wilson Animal Park in Charlton - there is a good cafe in Charlton Park over the way and a fine pub The White Swan in Charlton Village
Danson Park in Bexleyheath