Are you full to the brim with turkey and plum duff? Is there very little blood in your alcohol stream? Have the kids overdosed on screentime and starting to re-enact Lord of the Flies?
Well it’s time you wrapped up in hats and scarves and took a family trip into the great London outdoors.
You know it makes sense and if you’ve got a dog they’ll thank you for it as well…
*Subject to availability: part closures to attractions mentioned due to COVID-19
Stroll across the Heath and pop into this English Heritage stately home. Buy some jam from the shop and treat yourself to a coffee in the Pump House café. Oh and don’t forget those wellies as the Heath gets very muddy and also has lots of hidden waterlogged moments.
The park is just 4 miles away from Central London and if you climb to the top of Parliament Hill, you’ll discover great views of London’s most famous landmarks. This is how you do sightseeing for free while enjoying the peace and quiet of a vast, beautiful green area.
If you, like many other parents, have found out that animals make every day out with the kids better, head out to Golders Hill Park.
One of the best views in London has to be earned and you pay by walking up a steep hill to get there. It can get quite busy at the top but it’s well worth the trek! Primrose Hill is right next to Regent’s Park if you fancy exploring further. Alternatively, head to Regent’s Park Road where you’ll find plenty of quaint cafes for a warming hot chocolate.
For a bit of activity, Marylebone Green Playground is a wonderland of climbing frames, seesaws, and sand pits divided into 3 themed zones. The park is the largest grass area in Central London available for sports so be sure to bring a bat and ball for a post-Christmas family game.
The birthplace of TV is set within nearly 200 acres of parkland and provides yet another stunning, panoramic view of London. The ice rink is open all year round and there’s a pretty decent pub and restaurant as well.
The palace has plenty of stories to tell…Not to mention the hidden gem – Ally Pally’s forgotten theatre! In 2018, after 80 years of oblivion, it reopened and now has plenty of shows on offer.
There’s so much to do in Greenwich we’ve given it an itinerary all to itself. Like Richmond, it’s home to both fallow and red deer so keep your eyes peeled. Again it’s on a hill which means visitors can enjoy amazing views across the River Thames once they’ve bust a gut to get to the top. Obviously you can combine your visit with a trip to the Royal Observatory (at the top) or National Maritime Museum (at the bottom of the hill).
They also offer a bandstand, a nicely equipped children’s adventure playground and entertainment. There are numerous refreshment points and full facilities including disabled access too so it’s not exactly into the wild, but has that same sort of feel once you’re out there.
Everyone knows the palace boasts the world’s oldest puzzle maze, but many may be unaware that there are over 650 acres of historic parkland they can visit when they go to Hampton Court.
While you indulge your regal fantasies children will love playing the Great Garden Game with stories to investigate, brought to life with amazing characters from the past. They can become modern-day explorers with help from the Time Explorers app, which will take them on an interactive journey around the grounds.
This wildlife haven down in Barnes has lakes, pools and meadows all set in scenic walkways that are great to amble along. It really is like being deep in the countryside in the heart of London and kids love it. There’s loads to do including spying on the wildlife from the purpose-built hides, taking a free guided walk with one of the wardens and then relaxing in the café.
They also have a great adventure playground, a Pond Zone and for those extra rainy days, an indoor Discovery Centre. In Explore, the outdoor adventure playground, they can swoop down the zip wires, traverse the climbing wall, play in the giant water vole tunnels and get soaking wet in the water games. (Though we don’t recommend this for you Christmas walk as you might be within the risk of losing your toes!!)
There is so much history to be found in the 22 mile labyrinth of tunnels. They have been used to make the bricks that built London, for the flints to fire the tinderboxes in flintlock guns; and in the Second World War, they were used by around 3,000 Londoners as air raids shelters. With a great mix of suspense and spookiness, they’re a great day out to get those limbs back in action in the post- Christmas haze. They’re a favourite of Kevin Bishop’s too.
There are also tales of smuggling and murder down in this darkness and it’s been said that certain spaces are haunted, or it could just be Chalky the cave cat. On this guided tour you’ll spend 45-50 minutes walking a mile through the dark and sinister-looking caves. Armed only with an oil lamp, you’ll be led around corners, cervices and cracks. These man-made tunnels cover 6 hectares and are perfect for the most intrepid of explorers.
As Film Critic Jason Solomons said in his Best Days Out “It’s a great free day out – you’ve got everything here and what’s more, you’re minutes from the centre of the city”. Visit the Diana Memorial Playground, take in the Serpentine, then stroll down to the Albert Memorial, cross the road and grab a coffee in the iconic Royal Albert Hall. Oh, and it’s worth mentioning you’re only a 15-minute walk from there to the V&A, Science and Natural History museums.
The Hyde Park Tennis and Sports Centre has tennis, lawn bowls and putting facilities available to hire (best arranged in advance) plus a family-friendly cafe. The Royal Parks provide fantastic ‘green’ routes in London, taking cyclists away from traffic and through some of the most attractive areas of the capital with some specially designated cycle routes within the Parks nice and safe for young ones.
Nothing beats a leisurely walk alongside a canal – the narrow towpaths force you to be friendly and greet people walking in the opposite direction. And if that wasn’t enough you’ll find yourself waving to all the occupants of the narrowboats and barges as they go about their everyday business.
Combine a walk along Regent’s with a trip to Camden and a walk along Grand Union with a bite to eat in Paddington Bowl. Finally, if you’re walking in the Olympic Park treat yourself and the family to a visit to The Slide at the ArcelorMittal Orbit.
If you fancy coming into town then take a wander along the Southbank. Visit the food market outside the restaurant Canteen if you’re feeling peckish. And check to see if there’s a free event in the Southbank Centre if you want to inject a little culture into proceedings.
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