Things To Do In London In Half Term: May 2024

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Last Updated 28 May 2024

Things To Do In London In Half Term: May 2024
Paddington Bear, holding a stack of marmalade sandwiches
The Paddington Bear Experience opens on South Bank during may half term.

May half term 2024 runs Saturday 25 May-Sunday 2 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.

Family-friendly exhibitions in May half term

A young girl in a princess dress looking at a display featuring Cinderella's glass slipper
The Disney100 exhibition is open until June.

DISNEY100: Aimed at fans of all ages, the Disney100 exhibition is still on at ExCeL Centre, featuring more than 250 artefacts spanning 10 galleries, celebrating the film studio's centenary. Costumes, props and artworks all feature, spanning from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to the latest Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel releases. Until 23 June

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY: Older kids and teenagers — especially those who love animals or are handy with a camera — might enjoy Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. It's one of our annual favourites, and this year more than 100 stunning snaps are on show from all over the world. Until 30 June

DINOSAURS: Forest Hill's Horniman Museum's current exhibition is Dinosaur rEvolution. It features five large animatronic dinosaurs, and highlights discoveries from recent decades which have changed the way we picture dinosaurs — with an array of colours, feathers, quills and spikes, instead of as scaly green reptiles. Until November

BIRDS: BRILLIANT AND BIZARRE: The next big exhibition at the Natural History Museum takes flight in time for half term, giving us a closer look at the only surviving dinosaurs. Birds: Brilliant and Bizarre delves into the world of birds, looking at how different species have evolved to survive, and how the way we live is affecting them. The museum describes it as 'a hoot for all the family'. 24 May-5 January

May half term events in London

A Paddington Bear themed gift shop, branded as 'Gruber's Antiques'
Take part in the Marmalade Day Festival at the Paddington Bear Experience

REPTILE RECORD BREAKERS: London Zoo celebrates the opening of its new exhibit, The Secret Life of Reptiles and Amphibians, with half term events challenging visitors to see how they match up to its residents. Head to the Main Lawn behind the exhibit to take part in activities testing out your skills against reptile record breakers. 25 May-2 June

PADDINGTON BEAR EXPERIENCE: In the latter part of half term, the Paddington Bear Experience opens at County Hall (near the London Eye). We're promised a multi-room, immersive experience where you can experience the Marmalade Day Festival, visit Paddington station, including a train carriage, and explore the Brown family's home at 32 Windsor Gardens. From 31 May

EXCITING SCIENCE: Take the kids along to Fairfield Halls in Croydon for Exciting Science, a live show which includes a recreation of a volcanic eruption, and turning a vacuum cleaner into a missile launcher, among other experiments. They'll be having so much fun, they won't notice they're learning something. Age 4+. 1 June

Family-friendly London theatre shows in May half term

A band performing on stage, with neon dinosaur signs behind them
The Colour of Dinosaurs comes to Wimbledon

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.

THE COLOUR OF DINOSAURS: Five musicians and a palaeontologist walk into a theatre (not the start of a joke) and use music, catchy songs and science to offer an insight into the world of dinosaurs. The Colour of Dinosaurs answers questions about what dinosaurs really looked like, and how they spent their time. Aimed at age 6-12. 11 May-9 June

PRINCESS AND THE PEA: Classic fairytale The Princess and the Pea is the latest show at the family-friendly Unicorn Theatre in London Bridge — but this one has acrobatics and clowning thrown in, keeping even the youngest visitors entertained by Hans Christian Andersen's story. Age 2+. 17 May-16 June

SPOT'S BIRTHDAY PARTY: Not to show our age or anything, but Spot the Dog was a huge hit back when we were kids, so we're thrilled to see the canine caperer still going strong. In fact, in his latest theatre show he's having a birthday party, with songs, dancing and interactive games. Takes place at Artsdepot in Finchley, recommended age 2-5. 25-29 May

ZOG: Based on the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Zog and the Flying Doctors comes to the stage at Kingston's Rose Theatre, telling the story of a sunburnt mermaid, a unicorn with one too many horns and a lion with the flu. Designed for age 3+. 28 May-2 June

GOLDILOCKS BALLET: Introduce younger members of the family to the art of ballet, with a ballet version of the story of Goldilocks at Sadler's Wells. Each performance is only 45 minutes long, and there's a chance to take photos with the dancers on stage after the show. 29-30 May

Free things to do in London in May half term

People riding through central London roads on bikes
Cycle on London's roads without the usual traffic. Image: Jed Leicester for London Marathon Events

PLAYGROUNDS: If the weather's playing nice, few things bring a smile to young 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 handily located near tourist attractions, so little 'uns can burn off excess energy on a day out.

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.

FREE MAZE: Ever been to the Brent Lodge Park Millennium Maze? The labyrinth is constructed of 2,000 yew trees, has been around for more than two decades, and is free to visit. It's a 10-minute walk from Hanwell station on the Elizabeth line, and there's a free playground and Hanwell Zoo (small entry fee) right next door.

FAMILY TRAIL: Southbank Centre launches the Mish Mash Family Trail, a series of interactive art installations designed to make you feel happy. Age 3+. FREE, 29 May-2 June. The same venue hosts a FREE family-friendly open-air dance party on 1 June.

RIDELONDON FREECYCLE: On the final Sunday in May, eight miles of roads in the city centre go traffic-free, opening up to cyclists of all ages and abilities for the RideLondon FreeCycle. Pass the likes of Holborn Viaduct, Piccadilly, Pall Mall, St Paul's Cathedral, Strand, Trafalgar Square, Victoria Embankment and Whitehall/central Westminster on two wheels, stopping off at two festival zones along the way. FREE, 26 May

NATURE ROADSHOW: Round up the troops and head for St James's Park (29 May) or Kensington Gardens (31 May), when Royal Parks holds Nature Roadshows. Follow a scavenger hunt, use binoculars to get a closer look at some of the creatures around you, and take part in interactive, nature-themed games. FREE, 29 and 31 May

Family-friendly activities in London in May half term

An outdoor pool
Take the plunge this bank holiday.

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. Or, if the weather's good, check out the lido scene.

ICE SKATING: London also has year-round ice rinks, including one slap bang in the middle of the Central line.

DAY TRIPS: Fancy getting out of London for a day or two? Take a gander at our 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 guide, which includes museums, theatres, sensory rooms and more.

TEENAGERS: Older kids and teenagers can be trickier to entertain, but have a read of our things to do in London with teenagers, covering everything from museums and exhibitions to shopping trips, a little-known neon art gallery, street art, and more adventurous days out.