We love our friends over at KidRated.com: the site that specialises in reviews by kids, for kids. Why spend hours trawling TripAdvisor or MumsyChat forums for sane advice about family-friendly activities, when you can hear it straight from the horses’ mouths: let’s face it, they’re the ones who really make the decisions anyway (‘because grown-ups can be a bit useless’).
So we’ve asked them to run down the 10 best half-term activities in and around London – as chosen by children. You’re (all) very welcome.
For those still reeling from the wallet-bashing Christmas gave us, a half-term visit to London’s highest landmark is well worth the trip as kids go free. The timed access to the Viewing Gallery cuts down on the queues so it never really feels busy and overcrowded, and kids rate it (ahem) highly. The lifts are breathtakingly fast and the guides are very friendly. Kids will love the digital telescopes that allow you to go back in time as you take in the fantastic views.
Bathing in the reflected glory of The Imitation Game’s Oscar nominations, a visit to Bletchley Park (just outside London in Milton Keynes) feels both topical and exciting. There is so much to see here a family can easily spend the whole day taking it all in. Highlights include authentic Enigma devices, a restored Bombe machine and a dedicated exhibit to the great Alan Turing. All the buildings and huts the code-breakers worked in have been lovingly recreated and, finally, in the main house you can see costumes and props from The Imitation Game. Under-12s go free, and visitors of all ages will love the snazzy iPod guides.
3 CELEBRATE CHINESE NEW YEAR
There are a host of events taking place around London for the Chinese New Year. Our favourites are the Chinese Shadow Firecracker workshop at the V&A Museum of Childhood, where kids can learn to make their own puppets(18 February; 10am–12.30pm and 1.30pm–4pm; free); Yeh Shen at the Polka Theatre – the Chinese version of the Cinderella story (18 February – 8 March). And of course the traditional Chinese New Year Parade through Chinatown and Trafalgar Square (from 10am, 22 February).
4 TAKE FLIGHT AT THE RAF MUSEUM
They may have been surpassed by Minecraft and Candy Crush, but once upon a time, Airfix models were the ultimate pastime for any self-respecting kid. Ok, so we tended to just sit next to our parents as they made them, but nothing could beat the unrivalled joy of seeing a collection of plastic bits morph into a plane or tank.
From 16–20 February, the RAF Museum in Hendon will be holding their popular workshops where kids can go and make their Airfix models. Entrance and attendance is free; the kits cost £3 each. Watch the KidRated review.
5 SEE SHAUN THE SHEEP AND BIG HERO 6
With the weather still on the wet, cold and miserable side, the cinema is always a safe bet, and there are two critically acclaimed films currently on release for kids this half-term.
Shaun the Sheep Movie sees everyone’s favourite woolly friend turn action hero after a mix-up leaves him, the flock and the farmer stranded in the city. This is classic Aardman fare, with fast-paced jokes delivered with pinpoint accuracy. As usual, there’s more than enough here to keep both kids of all ages and adults entertained. And some of the set pieces will have your heart in your mouth and you rolling in the aisles.
Disney’s Big Hero 6 promises to another emotional rollercoaster. Somehow this story of boy meets robot feels like a cross between Scooby Doo and Battle of the Planets. There are big themes, including death, time travel and the meaning of friendship, but a word of warning: remember the opening scene in Up? Well we’re in that sort of territory here, and younger kids may find it a little overwhelming. Watch the KidRated review.
6 ZOOM THROUGH LONDON ON A SPEEDBOAT
Our K-Raters have never given the London RIB Experience a bad review, and this is echoed by TripAdvisor, which makes it their Number One London attraction.
You’ll be hard pushed to find a better experience as you take in the sights bombing down the Thames in one of their ‘Rocket’ boats. It’s exciting, informative and with their hilarious guides, always fun. Watch the KidRated review.
7 ENJOY BATH TIMES
Even if the weather isn’t great, there’s a lot for families to do in Bath this half-term. Why not visit the Fashion Museum, where kids and grown-ups can dress up in crinolines and collars to know what it really felt like to be Victorian?
At the Roman Baths, you can get up close to really ‘old money’, palm a few denarius, and design a Roman coin of your own.
And, at the Victoria Art Gallery, join the Jurassic Jaunt, to walk in the steps of dinosaurs and create art inspired by our fossilised friends.
Plot up at The Bath Priory hotel where parents will feel treated, too: there are family-friendly suites (one with bunk beds), dedicated kids’ swim times, a high-tea sitting in the Michelin-starred restaurant, and Ofsted-approved babysitters to give you the night off.
KidRated loved the Tower Bridge Exhibition even before it had its new glass walkway installed. Kids will be fascinated by the engineering feat that goes behind the magic of making London’s most famous bridge open. Time your visit right and you could be there to see this actually happen.
The exhibition also includes photographs of other famous bridges around the world plus the other designs that were submitted and rejected for this iconic building.
As mentioned though, this half-term will be all about the walkway: so make sure you take your camera and give yourself an epic thrill.
9 SURVIVAL SKILLS AT THE EDEN PROJECT
Adventurous kids who love the Hunger Games now have a chance to test their own survival skills at the incredible Eden Project in Cornwall. With various different missions to choose from across the indoor rainforest, kids can pick up survival tips from real-life explorers and exotic animals, learn how to shoot a blow-pipe, and listen to stories of survival told by some great storytellers. With so many activities, your kids will finish the day ready to brave the desert, jungle or even the Antarctic. Book online now and you’ll get 15% off tickets, too.
Run by the Imperial War Museum, HMS Belfast is a museum ship permanently moored on the River Thames. Over the half-term week, they’re inviting kids to design their own tattoo T-shirts using traditional naval tattoos as their inspiration.
Not only will kids learn about the history and significance of these designs, but they’ll also explain the role the ship played in the D-Day landings. Plus they can explore the nine decks and discover what life was like at war and at sea. Watch the KidRated review.
MAKE A NIGHT OF IT
Top off your half-term thrills with a stay at a family-friendly London hotel or self-catering stay: here’s our pick of Smith & Family hotels in London…