8AM – 8PM
9AM – 7PM
London SE1 7BH
Heading into London this summer and wondering how to entertain the kids on a budget? The school holidays can be expensive, but the good news is there are plenty of things to do right here in Waterloo and the South Bank that won’t cost you a thing! Yes you read that correctly! For FREE family activities read on…
A SPOT OF CULTURE
We appreciate that not all children love the arts as much as us grown-ups do, but the Tate Modern makes art fun and accessible to everyone!
This summer, the whole family will go dotty for Yayoi Kusama’s The Obliteration room!
This exciting installation, which opened on the 23rd July, invites visitors to transform a white apartment into a sea of colourful dots: UNIQLO Tate Play: The Obliteration Room is an interactive artwork for all ages. Visitors will be given a sheet of colourful ‘dot’ stickers to help bring the space to life.
As well as having a chance to cover every available surface in the space with bright circular stickers, families will be able to create their own work of art to add to an ever-growing garden in the Turbine Hall. Hours of fun and all FREE!
TAKE A SEAT
The round one? The slide one? The dipped one? The pointy one? The curved one?
What are we talking about? Would you believe us if we said benches? It’s true, around the South Bank you will find plenty of places to sit and admire the culture, all whilst sitting on a work of art itself!
Kids love the Jeppe Hein benches, they are fun to sit on and interact with, there’s none of the usual rules such as ‘don’t touch’ ‘don’t climb on that’ and ‘shhh’ – that can make art challenging for families with younger children!
Plus the adults get a few moments to rest in an otherwise hectic day that we’ve planned out for you.
Let’s end the culture section by taking you down Leake Street Arches, home of street art. Most children love to see these walls with some of the most creative street art you’ll find in London.
But it’s not just street art, the arches are also home to House of Vans. South Bank is probably the home of skateboarding in the UK, with the skatepark in the South Bank Centres Undercroft the oldest skatepark in the world! But in addition to that, House of Vans offers free lessons every Saturday morning, that’s so gnar! (Sorry *clears throat*)
TIME TO EXPLORE
If you are prepared to stretch your legs for a short walk (no more than 15 mins we promise) then turn right and you’ll come across two very different nautical delights – HMS Belfast and the Golden Hinde. It will cost money if you want to board them and look around in more detail, but just looking at the boats from the shore is a spectacle in itself.
We mentioned the artist Jeppe Hein earlier and he has another creation that is perfect for children in the summer months, his Appearing Rooms. Intrigued? You should be because on level 2 of the Southbank Centre, Riverside Terrace, you will find water fountains that appear, creating rooms for the kids to hide inside, before swiftly disappearing again. One word of warning – you will get wet, although we guessed you had already worked that out.
One further delight in the South Bank Centre is the rooftop garden, delightfully placed on top of Queen Elizabeth Hall. Kids will love the secret nature of a garden on top of a building and it has lots of wild plants and a gorgeous lawn, so it can be both fun and relaxing.
MORE GREENERY THIS WAY…
If you are looking for some downtime and to be surrounded by plants, flowers and all things green, then we have to point to the jewel in the crown within South Bank, Bernie Spain Gardens. Like the Riverside Walkway, this is another of the local delights maintained by the excellent Coin Street Action Group and they are named after its founder, Bernadette Spain.
One little gem we always advise families to head for is Jubilee Gardens. It has lovely relaxing lawns to stretch out on but if you are looking to tire out those youngsters then the enclosed playground is perfect. It has lots of things to keep them entertained, including an amazing climbing frame, suitable for kids aged 11+.
BUT IT’S RAINING!
Good shout, this is a guide for things to do in the heart of the UK, so rain is a distinct possibility, even in the summer. Aside from the aforementioned South Bank Centre and Tate Modern attractions, we have another indoor option for the family.
If you like film, then we have a rare treat for you because at the BFI South Bank you will find Mediatheque, free access to watch everything from vintage cinema to modern-day British classics. Thanks to lottery funding, the archive of films you can watch in one of the booths is constantly being updated.
WHAT ABOUT FOOD?
Don’t think we forgot about eating and drinking, we all know keeping the kids happy is helped when they have full tummies!
There are loads of affordable restaurants and cafes on the South Bank but if you really want to keep the costs down, bring your own packed lunch. There are plenty of green spaces you could eat in (see above), as well as the many spots along the river to sit down and enjoy the view.
If the weather is not as nice that day, then the Royal Festival Hall has a picnic area on the third floor and they are happy for people to bring their own packed lunches.
One final tip – you can just walk. We are so lucky to have the Riverside Walkway on South Bank, extended in the late eighties to allow you to walk along the river and take in so many amazing views. The London Eye, St Paul’s and Big Ben can all be viewed and ticked off the sightseeing list. Keep your eyes open and you might just spot a few of the fabulous street performers as well – another great experience for the kids.
Final plug for us….kids eat FREE this summer at BrewDog Waterloo!
Follow us on social media for the latest updates.
We recently told you all about the great activities going on at Leake Street Arches this festive time, which got us thinking - there is actually loads of cool stuff happening around the South Bank this Christmas, so why don’t...Find out more
London’s art lovers are in for an eight-week treat as The Sidings, as we're gearing up to host an exhibition consisting of a range of works by 43 eclectic, diverse and emerging artists! The On the Side exhibition opens on...Find out more
It’s Christmassssssss! I know it’s November but the second Halloween is over, everyone at The Sidings is only thinking about one thing, Christmas! As we prepare all our decorations and the centre is filling up with Christmas gifts, food and...Find out more