School’s back, but that still leaves weekends for going out with the family. We’ve rounded up the best new openings, exhibitions and festivals to set your sights on.
We’ll add to this list as we hear of any additional happenings of interest to families. Contact [email protected] with any suggestions.
Museums And Galleries
BIG MUSEUMS: Many cultural venues reopened in July and August, but not all. The big museums welcoming visitors back this month include London Transport Museum and the National Maritime Museum on 7 September. The Transport Museum’s tickets last a whole year and, if you have one from before lockdown, it will be extended by another five months. The Maritime Museum, meanwhile, has extended its Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition. Elsewhere, other big attractions such as Bristol’s M-Shed, the Royal Armouries in Leeds and Newcastle’s Discovery Centre are also oiling the door hinges in preparation for reopening.
STATELY HOMES: Londoners will be glad to hear that Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath reopens on 2 September. This magnificent pile not only houses a free art gallery, but also has sumptuous grounds in which to stage a family picnic. Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing will also reopen from 10 September. The former country home of architect Sir John Soane had only recently reopened before lockdown, having converted into a sparkling new art gallery and community hub. It returns with an exhibition of contemporary art and photography inspired by William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress.
See our full list of museums with dates here.
Festivals And Entertainment
Coronavirus has forced the cancellation of so many festivals over summer, but autumn sees a brighter picture.
LIVE MUSIC: Fancy seeing a live performance from your favourite West End show? Every day, at 10am, performers from hit musicals will gather in The Garden at Centre Point -- a new space right next to Tottenham Court Road Tube, there to sing numbers from their otherwise cancelled productions. The 10-week showcase of free events will be the first time most of these performers have sang in public since lockdown began. “Performers including Emma Hatton, Laura Pick, Oliver Tompsett, Jordan Lee Davies, Luke Friend, Caroline Kay, Gabriel Mokake and Kayleigh McKnight from hit shows such as Wicked, Come From Away, & Juliet and Les Misérables will all be participating in the series”. Follow @centrepointldn or @dualitymusic_uk to get a daily tip-off.
RIVER: The annual Totally Thames Festival begins on 1 September. The month-long programme sees riverside walks, paddle sports, arts programmes, storytelling, talks and even a socially distanced children’s choir.
SNOOPING ROUND BUILDINGS: Open House London also takes place every September, and is a chance for families to explore the architecture of London. This year’s programme is scaled back on previous years, but still includes plenty of buildings you can snoop around -- from ancient churches to modern office blocks. Alternatively, sign up to one of the guided walks or virtual tours of historic buildings.
FLOATING CINEMA: Drive-in cinemas were all the rage (actually, pretty much the only rage) over this coronavirus summer, and the theme continues with OpenAire. Based in Paddington Square, OpenAire is a ‘floating cinema’, where you watch from a boat. It’s geared up to families with plenty of kids films including Toy Story, The Lion King and Frozen. (Or would you dare watch Titanic?)
GREENWICH + DOCKLANDS: If you’re over at the National Maritime Museum, consider looking into this vibrant arts festival, which runs through early September. Explore open-air sculptures and installations, or attend one of the live music, dance or theatre events. Be sure to check out Luke Jerram’s Gaia, a giant model of the Earth hanging in the Painted Hall (from the same artist who placed the Moon in the Natural History Museum).
DESIGN: London Design Festival also returns with a more limited programme of mostly outdoor events. Look out for thought-provoking installations in King’s Cross and a large ‘Hothouse’ in Stratford.
Exhibitions For Families
TREASURE: If your kids love the idea of buried treasure, then a trip to the Museum of London Docklands might be in order. The Havering Hoard, the largest haul of Bronze Age artefacts ever discovered in London, was discovered in 2018 and forms the centrepiece of this free exhibition, which runs until April 2021.
DOGS: From 19 September, Japan House in Kensington has a tantalising exhibition called Architecture for Dogs. Looking beyond the stereotypical slope-roofed kennel, the show pulls together dog-friendly designs from world-renowned architects and artists. It’s another free exhibition.
DINOSAUR: Remember Dippy the Dinosaur? For decades, the skeletal diplodocus was the first thing visitors to the Natural History Museum would see on entering, before he was replaced a few years ago by a blue whale skeleton. Dippy is now touring the country and, from 7 September, will be on show at Rochdale’s Number One Riverside centre.
Family Ticket Deals
From theme parks to walking tours, Kidadl has dozens of venues and family experiences to choose from. Browse our latest ticket deals here, and pick up a bargain.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.