London Fun: What to do with the kids this February half-term

Half-Term activities for kids in London

By Elisa Freeling

With recent news reports telling us that a February half-term trip costs up to 3.5 times more—and flights up to 9 times more—than during off-peak times, it’s no wonder so many are staying put over the school holiday. Luckily for us, we already live in a top-notch tourist destination. Why do tens of millions of tourists come to London each year? Cuz there’s always cool stuff going on. Take the kids to some of these awesome events this half-term:

Imagine Children’s Festival, Southbank Centre

When: all half-term
Cost: varies, with many FREE events

Featuring favourite kids’ authors, free performances and storytelling, a chance to meet Lego Master Builders and a family rave, the Imagine Children’s Festival has a packed week of fun on offer. Highlights include readings and live drawings from Waterstones Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell with Liz Pichon (of Tom Gates fame) and writer and illustrator Posy Simmonds; a circus for babies; and a chance to meet Rastamouse co-creator Michael De Souza’s new character Lil Bruv. Plus you can still explore the quirky world of Moominland (see our review).

The Robot Zoo, Horniman Museum

When: from Saturday 11 February 2017
Cost: £7 adult/£4 child (£17 family)

Learn how grasshoppers hop so high, race jet-propelled squids and shoot a chameleon’s tongue-gun at the Robot Zoo. Opening tomorrow at the Horniman, the exhibition displays oversized creatures built with various recognisable parts—hinges and tubes and even a fly-swatter—to reveal how animals see, eat, hunt and hide.

The Venerable Victorians, Fulham Palace

When: Wednesday 15 February, 11am­–3pm
Cost: FREE

Take the kids back to the 1800s at Fulham Palace. They can dress up as little Victorian ladies and gentlemen and create Victorian-themed crafts at this free family activity day.

Star Wars Identities at the O2

When: ongoing
Cost: £25 adult/£15 child/£60 family (peak prices)/under 5s free

Costumes, models, props and artwork from a galaxy far, far away—including R2 and BB-8, Boba Fett and Yoda, the Millennium Falcon and an AT-AT—are on show at the O2. The interactive exhibition explores the psychology of the saga’s characters, and allows you to create your own Star Wars hero.

Create With Clay, Islington Arts Factory

When: half-term weekdays, 11am–3pm
Cost: £110 for the week

Kids can get hands-on with their artistic side each weekday of half-term at Islington Arts Factory’s clay workshop. Their creations, from figurines to pots, will be glazed and fired to make a lasting piece of art.

The Magic Lantern Festival, Chiswick House

When: evenings throughout half-term
Cost: £16.50 adult/£10.50 child (advance tickets)

Now in its final two weeks, the Magic Lantern Festival lights up the West London nights to mark Chinese New Year. With the theme ‘Explore the Silk Road’, you’ll see giant glowing pandas and a 15-metre Houses of Parliament—check out our review here.

Play the Museum Game, V&A Museum of Childhood

When: throughout half-term
Cost: from £5

Create your own board game, dress as a chess piece and find the White Queen, or design your own game character with special powers at one of the museum’s half-term workshops. While you’re there, check out the exhibition Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered (see our review).

The Big Barbican Adventure

When: ongoing, 11am–6pm Mon-Sat; 12–6pm Sun
Cost: FREE

Get your free trail kit and embark on a do-it-yourself adventure to discover the secrets of the Barbican. It calls for cryptic clue-solving, drawing and games and takes you in, out and around the iconic arts centre.

60th Anniversary of the Cat in the Hat, Discover Children’s Story Centre

When: half-term weekdays (check website for times)
Cost: included with entry (£6.50 each/£22 family)

Celebrate the anniversary of everyone’s favourite mischievous feline at Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford. Create your own Cat in the Hat bow tie and hat—just in time for World Book Day dress-up! Read our review of the Centre here.

Elisa Freeling
Elisa moved to London a decade ago from San Francisco, where, in pre-children days, she was the managing editor at Sierra magazine. She lived in Brook Green, Notting Hill and Chiswick before settling in Northfields, where she lives with her book-loving daughter, architecture-loving son, and thickly moustachioed husband.

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