Things To Do In London In Half Term: May 2023

Things To Do In London In Half Term: May 2023
May half term in London: a young girl with her face painted, taking part in a craft activity at London Zoo.
There's a Spring Family Festival at London Zoo this May half term. Image: © London Zoo

May half term 2023 runs Saturday 27 May- Sunday 4 June for most London schools. We've selected some family-friendly events and things to do in London — however old your kids are and whatever your budget.

Reminder: at time of writing, national train strikes are planned for Wednesday 31 May and Saturday 3 June.

May half term events in London

May half term in London: Bhanu the Asiatic male lion at London Zoo
Visit the animals and take part in activities at London Zoo. Image: (c) London Zoo

CANAL MUSEUM TRAIL: The Canal Museum (fittingly situated on a canal basin at King's Cross) has a trail for kids, where they can dress up as a 'canal child' and get stuck into hands-on activities, like tying mooring knots, serving 'ice cream', and getting a selfie in a tractor. It's included in the museum entrance price. Open throughout half term

SPRING FAMILY FESTIVAL: Talks, art and craft activities, interactive game shows, music and workshops all feature in London Zoo's Spring Family Festival, taking place throughout May half term. The majority of activities are included in your zoo admission ticket. 27 May-4 June

KIDS LAB: As part of Chelsea Physic Garden's 350th anniversary celebrations, it hosts a one-day Kids Lab, aimed at age 5+ and their families. It's a chance to learn more about some of the different plants in the garden, including their textures. 30 May

DISCOVERY DAY: Head to Hyde Park for a Royal Parks Discovery Day event, whisking you back in time. Meet Queen Victoria, try your hand at calligraphy, and have a go designing a park of the future. Once you've finished the activities, seek out these other things to do in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. 30 May-1 June

May half term in London: a graphic of the Beano gang playing instruments
Celebrate 85 years of the Beano with a family concert. Image: BBC

ADVENTURES IN POMPEII: The excellent Sir John Soane's Museum runs a workshop for 7-10 year olds, based on the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. Find out how is was destroyed during an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, then build a mini model of the city, and bake your own Roman loaves. 31 May

CLASSICAL FOR KIDS: Introduce younger members of the family to classical music at the Royal Albert Hall's Classical For Kids concert. Aimed at 4-11 year olds, it's a chamber concert but in a relaxed setting, where moving around or making noise during the concert aren't frowned upon. This time round, the focus is on trombones. 2 June

DENNIS & GNASHER: Southbank Centre celebrates The Beano's 85th anniversary with a lively family concert. It features the BBC Concert Orchestra, plus animation, audience interaction, and, of course, Dennis and Gnasher. Age 7+. 3 June

Family-friendly exhibitions in May half term

May half term in London:  the titanosaur skeleton on display in a gallery at the Natural History Museum
Things get gigantic at Natural History Museum. © Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY: The Wildlife Photographer of the Year show at Natural History Museum is great for curious older kids and teenagers. It showcases photos of the natural world taken all over the planet, interspersed with videos and quotes from the photographers. Until July

BBC EARTH: The immersive BBC Earth Experience is up and running in Earl's Court. Voiced by David Attenborough, it's open to all ages (under-3s go free) and is a walk-through take on 2019 TV show, Seven Worlds, One Planet. Until 31 July

BRICK DINOS: The Lego-centric Brick Dinos exhibition is back at Horniman Museum, with creatures from the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods recreated in the tiny plastic bricks by artist Warren Elsmore. New for this time round is a Polacanthus model, displayed alongside the raptor-like Masiakasaurus — a life-sized flying pterosaur, the swamp-dwelling, crocodile-like Sarcosuchus — among others — plus hands-on activities such as a digging for fossils. Until 29 October

TITANOSAUR: It's great being a dinosaur fan in London right now — in addition to the above, Natural History Museum's anticipated exhibition, Titanosaur: Life as the Biggest Dinosaur has opened its doors, exploring the world of titanosaur Patagotitan mayorum — one of the largest known creatures to have ever stalked our planet. Get up close to the colossal creature, and learn how it survived on our planet. Until January 2024

Family-friendly London shows in May half term

May half term in London:  an illustration of the Gruffalo
Catch a stage adaptation of The Gruffalo © Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler 1999 – Macmillan Children’s Books

MUSICALS: A few of London's long-running musicals are great for family theatre trips, including The Lion King, Frozen and Matilda. Older kids and teenagers might enjoy Mamma Mia!, Wicked, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

SNAIL AND THE WHALE: Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s much-loved picture book The Snail and the Whale comes to life on stage at artsdepot in North Finchley. See the story of a tiny snail who hitches a ride on the back of a huge whale, told through music and storytelling. Age 4+. 27 May-1 June (relaxed performance on 31 May)

THE INVISIBLE MAN: There's mischief galore in The Invisible Man at the Unicorn Theatre, which has a stage technician and a musician waiting to start their show... but where is the performer? That's where The Invisible Man comes in... and has plenty of fun. Ages 5-11. 28 May-18 June

THE GRUFFALO: Oh no! It's a Gruffalo! Another London appearance for the work of dream team Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler comes in the form of The Gruffalo at Southbank Centre. If you've got kids of a certain age, it'll need no introduction, but this production is a musical adaptation of the original book. 1-4 June

DINOSAUR WORLD LIVE: Yet another treat for dinosaur fans: Dinosaur World Live comes to artsdepot for just three days. Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Giraffatitan, Microraptor and Segnosaurus are among the species represented by lifelike puppets, with a chance to get up close to them after the show. If you can't make it this time, the show's at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre later this summer. 2-4 June

Free things to do in London in May half term

May half term in London:  a young girl playing on an orange climbing frame that's shaped like a train
Find your nearest central London playground. Photo: Londonist

PLAYGROUNDS: If the weather's playing nice, few things bring a smile to children's faces like a playground — and they're usually free, so it's a win for parents and carers too. Check out our map of playgrounds in central London — there are more than you might think, and many are located handily near tourist attractions so you can burn off some excess energy on a day out.

FILM STATUES: If you find yourself in central London, and need something free to entertain the family, head to Leicester Square and let them hunt out these bronze sculptures of film stars. Sure, you might have to explain Gene Kelly or Laurel & Hardy to younger members of the family, but Paddington, Bugs Bunny and Mary Poppins will instantly charm them.

MUSEUMS: Plenty of London's museums are free entry all year round, and while you may have to pay for temporary exhibitions, there's generally plenty to entertain all ages in the permanent collections. Try Science Museum for aeroplanes and space, Natural History Museum for animals, and Museum of London Docklands for the Mudlarks interactive gallery. Check booking requirements before you go, and be aware that you may have to queue during school holidays.

MAKING MAPS: Cartography is the focus of half term at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Making Maps is a chance to explore the museum's own collection of maps and take part in activities including making your own passport, and learning how to navigate using an Ancient Arabic tool called a kamal. 27 May-4 June

FAMILY TRAIL: Southbank Centre runs a free family trail, One & Everything, which focuses on the different languages in use on our planet. Find out about mysterious scripts, secret alphabets and hidden stories on a self-led trail of activities designed for ages 5+. FREE, 31 May-4 June

Family-friendly activities in London in May half term

May half term in London:  a wooden waypointer sign reading 'Footpath to Pooh Bridge'
Delight the kids with a day  trip to the real Pooh Sticks Bridge. Photo: Londonist

SWIMMING: A kiddie favourite, London has plenty of options for swimming, whatever the weather. From an Olympic venue to local leisure centres, these are some of London's best indoor pools (we also have our pick of London's outdoor pools and lidos — depending how the weather's looking.)

ICE SKATING: London also has year-round ice rinks, including one slap bang in the middle of the Central line — so no need to wait for the festive season to get your fill of twirls and whirls.

DAY TRIPS: Fancy getting out of London for a day or two? Take a look at Beyond London section for inspiration. Particularly child-friendly is a visit to the real-life Hundred Acre Wood, as featured in AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh books. Wellington Country Park is also an excellent bet for energetic kids. Otherwise, wear them out by sending them searching for the dozens of frogs hidden down this back street, or the entire solar system within sight of the M25.

AUTISTIC KIDS: Looking for things to do over half term with autistic children? Check out our new guide, which includes museums, theatres, sensory rooms and more.

Last Updated 29 May 2023

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