May Half Term 2021: The best things to do in London with kids

FOMO is back this May 2021 half term! In line with the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, from May 17 2021 museums, galleries, exhibitions, theatre, cinema and other indoor entertainment can reopen. Add in the places already opened – like outdoor attractions like theme parks, zoos and historic gardens – and I’m giddy with excitement!

Note: Summer half term this year falls from Saturday 29 May until Sunday 6 June 2021.

If you haven’t ventured out with the kids for a while, let me reassure you: London’s attractions are usually quieter than my local park! All have limited numbers, social distancing measures, enhanced hygiene routines and require face coverings unless you’re exempt. Yet they’re still welcoming and fun places to take kids, with plenty of special events and activities aimed at families. Plus there’s plenty of outdoor options, if that’s what you feel most comfortable with.

Here’s my pick of the best things to do over May 2021 half term with kids in London. There’s something for everyone with FREE and paid exhibitions, events, activities, trails, art, day trips and staycations to take with your kids this May and June. Don’t delay – book now to guarantee entry!


Family exhibitions

Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature.

You’ll have to be quicker than the White Rabbit to get half term tickets for V&A Museum‘s blockbuster show, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser. This immersive, theatrical show charts the evolution of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from manuscript to a global phenomenon. From 22 May 2021, Wednesdays to Sundays only. £20 adult, £15 child (12-17), FREE under 12s.

Discover how the natural world inspired mythical and legendary icons in Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature at the Natural History Museum. There’s plenty of digital and physical interactives for little hands to play with, alongside film props, historic specimens and dramatic set dressing. You don’t need to have seen the film to enjoy the exhibition. 17 May 2021 – 3 January 2022. £22 adult, £13.25 child, family from £38.50.

One of our 2020 highlights is back – Gaia at Old Royal Naval College. Step under Luke Jerram’s seven metre model of Earth floating underneath the magnificent painted ceiling, dubbed London’s own Cistine Chapel. Literally the most laid back experience – we enjoyed a lie down on the comfy benches whilst the free multimedia guide kept the kids entertained. 30 May – 1 July 2021. £13.50 adult, FREE children.
Read our review of Gaia at Old Royal Naval College here.

A subterranean exploration of sound and light, RYOJI IKEDA takes viewers on a sensory journey through 180 Studio’s labyrinth-like spaces. There’s a virtual experience akin to entering a black hole and a tunnel of strobe lighting. May 20 – August 1 2021, Thursdays to Sundays. £15 adults, FREE under 18s.

Walk through a forest in the heart of Central London for London Design Biennale. Forest for Change by Es Devlin will transform Somerset House courtyard with 400 trees of 23 different varieties, all native to the UK and Northern Europe. Just one of the installations by artists and designers from 6 continents. 1-27 June 2021. £22.50 adult, £11 child (12-18), FREE under 12s.

Van Gogh Alive, the world’s most visited multi-sensory experience, arrives at Kensington Gardens. Step inside the Dutch post-impressionist painter’s masterpieces and be surrounded by a vibrant symphony of light, colour, sound and fragrance. 4 June – 26 September 2021. £24 adult, £14.50 child (5-16), FREE under 5s.

Immerse yourself in the heart of the forest in Monkey Business at Horniman Museum. Discover how primates live, move, eat, play and interact and explore their relationship with humans. Dates tbc. £8 adult, £4.50 child, £18 family, FREE under 3s.

Heather Phillipson’s Tate Britain commission, RUPTURE NO 1: blowtorching the bitten peach, will be unveiled on May 17 2021. Expect an audacious, disconcerting and unforgettable project. FREE, booking required.


Family Favourites

Create your own board games whilst you explore London Transport Museum Depot in Half Term Family Fun. Receive a special activity pack and look out for the challenges, characters, vehicles and objects to collect on the way. There’s a spot the colour challenge for littlies and a Miniature Railway. 29-20 May and 2-6 June 2021. £15 adult, £7.50 child, discounts for local residents.
Psst: Use code ACTONEARLY for a 20% discount when you book before midnight on 11 May 2021.
Read our review of London Transport Museum Depot here.

Wonderlab at the Science Museum is in my opinion, the best fun families can have with their masks on. Get hands on with real scientific phenomena – play with forces on giant slides, see lightning strike before your eyes, or watch live science shows. Daily. £11 adult, £9 child, FREE under 3s.
Psst: Visit before 16 July 2021 and get a Wonderlab Annual Pass for the price of a day ticket.
Read our review of Wonderlab post-lockdown one here.

Explore the miniature world of The Very Hungry Caterpillar at ZSL London Zoo. ‘Munch’ through the giant food assault course, join in with interactive storytelling, make seed bombs for your garden and meet the Very Hungry Caterpillar himself! Discover other amazing bugs in the new Tiny Giants installation. Included with Zoo entry, from £26 adult, £16.90 child, FREE under 3s. 29 May-16 July 2021.
Read our review of London Zoo post-lockdown three here.

Kids rule! at half term at English Heritage properties nationwide. Watch performances, listen to storytellers and spend time as a family in the great outdoors. The nearest places for Londoners include Audley End, Eltham Palace and Gardens and Wrest Park. 29 May – 6 June 2021, trail included with entry price.

Newly refreshed Mudlarks Children’s Gallery reopens at the Museum of London Docklands. The hands-on, exploratory area (aka soft play) introduces the stories of London’s docks. Book a general admission ticket to the museum and add on your Mudlarks time-slot from 19:00 the night before your visit. From May 22 2021. FREE, ages up to 8 years old.

Good news klaxon! Recently-closed Florence Nightingale Museum will be open the first weekend of each month, starting with its Museum Open Days on 5 and 6 June 2021. See the actual lamp carried by Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War and her bad-tempered – now stuffed – pet owl, Athena, which she carried around in her pocket. £9 adult, £5 child, half price National Trust and Art Fund members.

Take a family friendly tour through Charles Dickens’ only surviving London home. Get up close to objects in the rooms, identify mystery items and play a Victorian parlour game in Charles Dickens Museum‘s May half term explorers. 31 May, 2 and 4 June 2021, 11:00 and 15:00. £6 per person, maximum 6 people per tour. Ages 5+.
Read about our private tour of Charles Dickens Museum after lockdown 1 here.

The full programme is still to be announced, but expect theatre, music, movies and workshops in Canary Wharf‘s Summer Family Festival. 29 May-28 August 2021.
Read our review of Crossorelle Gardens here.

Test your knowledge of Tower Bridge and take on your family members in their drawing challenge!  Activities take place in a dedicated space for families to have fun and feel safe. Included with entry. 1 June 2021, 10:00-16:00.
Read about our visit to Tower Bridge after lockdown 1 here.


Family friendly theatre

Secret World of Plants | What's on | Kew Gardens
The Little Gardener at Kew Gardens

Titana’s Dream Live at Fulham Palace 20 May – 6 June 2021. £21 adults, £15.50 child (under 12s), under 3s FREE. Outdoors.

Smartest Giant in Town at Little Angel Theatre. 28 May – 8 August 2021. Tickets on-sale from 12 May 2021. Indoors.

Noisy kids: Heroes and Villains at Royal Festival Hall. 29 May 2021, 12:30 and 16:00. From £15 adults, under 16s 50% off. Indoors.

The Snail and the Whale at Arts Depot. 29 May – 4 June 2021 at 11:00, 14:00 and 16:00. From £9, ages 4+. Indoors.

Horrible Histories Live on Stage at Hampton Court Palace. 29 May – 5 June 2021 at 12:00 and 15:00. £14 adult, £8 child, under 18mths in lap FREE. Palace admission NOT included. Outdoors.

Knight School: The Show at the Tower of London. 29 May – 6 June 2021, at 10:30, 12:00, 13:30 and 15:00. Included in admission. Ages 5-12. Outdoors.

The Little Gardener at Kew Gardens. 29 May – 6 June 2021 at 11:00, 12:30, 14:30 and 16:00. Included with admission. Outdoors.

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse at Puppet Barge Theatre. 22 May – 8 August 2021. Ages 3+. Indoors.


Outdoor Art

Explore the Secret World of Plants with unique art installations across Kew Gardens. Listen to water travelling up majestic oaks, pop your head into immersive structures, from native meadows and hedgerows to sand dunes and woodland, hear plants compose music via their naturally occurring ‘biodata’, and take a seat on a monumental rippling wave of wood. 1 May-19 September 2021. Included with entry, £15 adult, £5 child (4-15), FREE under 4s.

It’s your last chance to take the sculpture trail Wander Art through Mayfair! Expect Miffy style houses, pop-up plant shrines, sculptures and murals, with the artwork of twelve world renowned artists including Ricardo Cavolo, Emily Forgot, Yinka Ilori, Morag Myerscough and Richard Woods. FREE, just turn up. Until June 2021.
Watch our Reel from our Wander Art outing here.

Spend a day in the glorious Hertfordshire countryside exploring the work of Britain’s foremost sculptor Henry Moore in his former gardens and studios. Grab a map and wander through Henry Moore Studios and Gardens 70 acres of lawned gardens, meadows, woodland and sheep fields to find 21 monumental sculptures. Wednesdays to Sundays and Bank Holidays, until 31 October 2021. £6.35 adult, £3.25 child, £16.25 family, Under 5s FREE.


Teens

There’s not one but two striking exhibitions to enjoy at Saatchi Gallery. The brash, splashy world of Philip Colbert’s Lobsteropolis features cartoon lobsters and hyper-pop history paintings (19 May – 6 June 2021, FREE). JR: Chronicles features global art projects by the influential artist that bring together diverse groups of participants to create dialogue around critical social issues, from women’s rights and immigration to gun control. (4 June – 3 October 2021, £9 adults, £6 students).

Know your Air Jordans from your Air Force 1s? In Sneakers unboxed: Studio to street at Design Museum you’ll discover how trainers have become cultural symbols of our time. Journey through the design process, delve into the lucrative resale market and uncover the icons and collaborations which have shaped the sneaker scene. 18 May – 24 October 2021. £12 adult, £6.50 child (6-15), FREE under 6s.

Discover one of London’s best-kept secrets with Postal Museum tunnel walks. Get access to Mail Rail’s tunnels, tracks and platforms, exploring parts of the railway that aren’t accessible on the Mail Rail ride. Expert guides will tell the surprising stories about the underground railway from its construction in the early 1900 to the eventual closure in 2003. Various dates from 19 May 2021. £55 per person. Ages 12+.


Day trips and staycations

Learn how to fly, take swordfighting lessons with Sir Gadabout and breathe fire on the Zog and the quest for the golden star trail at Warwick Castle. Collect stamps to earn a gold star and meet the adorable dragon himself. A fun trail at a stunning site with an enthusiastic cast of knights on horseback, archers and princesses. Included with entry, from £17 per person.
Read our review of the Zog trail at Warwick Castle here.

Take a trip to Folkestone to find 84 works by 44 artists, including a pink floating cartoonish house, a real life mermaid, and the most spectacular setting for an Antony Gormley figure we’ve found yet. There’s 4 suggested routes to follow – we did the harbour parts of Route C. FREE, just turn up.
Read about our visit to Folkestone Artworks here.

Tumblestone Hollow is an epic new adventure playground inspired by the magical history of Stonor Park, one of Britain’s oldest family-owned stately homes. Nestled in the woods with stunning views of the surrounding Chilterns countryside, it’s a very special place to play. We even saw red kites swooping overhead!  £6.50-£8.50 adult and child over 105cm+, £4.50-6.50 child 92cm-105cm, FREE child under 92cm. 
Read about our visit to Tumblestone Hollow here.

Roam free at Wakehurst this half term. Bust out your best yoga moves, indulge in a spot of sky-watching and engage the senses with the smell of spring blossoms or the touch of a tree trunk on our new mindfulness trail. Included with entry. £14.50 adult, £7.25 young person (17-25), FREE under 17s and National Trust members.
Psst: Sound baths, noise and plant percussions workshops also running (£22 per child + 1 accompanying adult, ages 8+, must pre-book).


Online and at home

And for times when you can’t or won’t leave the house, here’s online events and activities to join in with. More will be added as they are announced.

Take a Holiday to Space with Royal Museums Greenwich. 1 June 2021, 11:00. £2 child.

Make your own paper peepshow with the V&A Museum. Inspired by the Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser exhibition.


I do hope this list helps you enjoy your May 2021 half term. I love seeing what you get up to, so please do let me know what you get up to. Comment below, tag me @museummum on Instagram or @museum_mum on Twitter. I’ll be posting our own half term adventures over on my Instagram Stories.

Want to say thanks? Please take a second to share this post with your friends, family, fellow parents and followers. WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, a mention in the playground… every share helps more people find more fun cultural activities to do.


Disclosure: Just like a journalist, I have been gifted free entry to many of these attractions for review purposes. I work at the Museum of London, although can’t take any credit for their half-term activities, and this blog is not associated with them.


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6 Comments

  1. May 5, 2021 / 8:12 pm

    What an INCREDIBLE round-up! So much to look forward to for the little ones and mums and dads. I’m off to explore the Secret World of Plants tomorrow and can’t wait!

  2. May 7, 2021 / 12:08 pm

    Your family-friendly round-ups are always such a brilliant resource! We will definitely have a look at making our own Alice in Wonderland peepshow.

  3. holidaysfromhels
    May 8, 2021 / 5:38 pm

    What a round up! We are heading to London at halt term so thank you! I am very much looking forward to seeing Miffy houses in Mayfair and inside a black hole. We caught Luke Jerram’s dark side of the moon in Bristol so the entire Earth is a natural next step. Can’t wait to get back out there! #CulturedKids

  4. May 8, 2021 / 9:07 pm

    Excellent round-up as always, so many great ideas to choose from! Looking forward to seeing a theatre show

  5. May 8, 2021 / 9:50 pm

    This is a great round up of activities – so much to choose from. I can’t wait to get back to London and love the idea that it will be quieter than normal. #CulturedKids

  6. May 9, 2021 / 10:45 am

    So many great ideas here – thank you! Problem is deciding which ones to do! Love the sound of the Alice in Wonderland show at V&A and we’re sure to go to Kew Gardens. So great to have options again after so long! #culturedkids

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