The South Bank with kids, a thames-side slice of modern London offering many family friendly arts and entertainment activities including the iconic London Eye.
Where is it? - The South Bank is a 2-mile stretch along the riverside from Westminster Bridge in the west to Blackfriars Bridge in the east.
Quick history - The area used to be known as Lambeth Marsh and was inaccessible to the public until County Hall was built in the 1920s. The 1950s ‘Festival of Britain’ redefined the area as an arts district and gave it the name ‘South Bank’. There are a number of examples of 1950s-1970s Brutalist architecture along the South Bank including the Royal Festival Hall and National Theatre.
ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND - The Vaults, Launcelot Street, London, SE1 7AD
The critically acclaimed interactive theatre experience returns by popular demand to Waterloo Vaults this summer! Les Petits Theatre Company invite you to fall down the rabbit hole once more and join them for the magical, Adventures in Wonderland. Alice is missing in Wonderland and it’s up to you to find her. On walking into Wonderland you will be faced with tantalising decisions: ‘Eat me’ or ‘Drink Me’? Your choice will determine your path! On from May to September. This show is for children aged 5 to 10 years old with 11 year olds able to go to the adult version of this show, Alice Underground. There is a bar onsite selling alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks and bar food.
UNDERBELLY FESTIVAL - Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX
The popular Udderbelly Festival and London Wonderground have merged for 2017 to become the Underbelly Festival, on until 30th September 2017. This popup festival on the South Bank offers an array of shows at affordable prices including those designed for families. Choose from the groovetastic Monski Mouse's Baby Disco Dance Hall, magicians, comedians, circus performances, plays and even a pre-election politics event for kids aged 7+! There's a couple of street food stalls and a bar too.
Read our review of Monski Mouse's Baby Disco Dance Hall >>>>
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM - Lambeth Road, London, SE1 6HZ
The London branch of the IWM tells the stories of people’s experiences of modern war from WW1 to conflicts today. You can buy a special kids’ guidebook for £4 – ‘Explore! A Kid’s Guide to IWM London’ (for 7+) tells the stories behind some of the best know objects on display and is packed full of fun activities to keep children entertained. There’s weapons, tanks, espionage and also tales from everyday life. Discover how Londoners faced life at home during the Second World War through the story of the Allpress family. Learn how they coped with rationing, evacuation, war work and events on the home front from the London Blitz to VE Day. There is also a permanent Holocaust exhibition (not recommended for under 14s). There are regular family on some weekends and school holidays. Eat in the family friendly museum cafe or use the picnic room on weekends / school holidays.
SEA LIFE LONDON AQUARIUM - SEA LIFE London Aquarium, County Hall, Riverside Building Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7PB
Go on fascinating, underwater journey around the world’s oceans, SEA LIFE London Aquarium is home to one of Europe’s largest collections of global marine life. Walk over a glass window with incredible views into the Pacific display, complete with sharks, discover the sealife that life around the UK shores, see the rays in an Atlantic lagoon, head through a glass tunnel walkway which will make you think you are at the bottom of a tropical ocean! Meet penguins, seahorses, octopusses and a lot of fish (including Nemo of course!).
SHREK'S ADVENTURE - Shrek’s Adventure!, County Hall, Riverside Building, Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7PB
A fully immersive experience where you step into the kingdom of Far Far Away – the world of Shrek & his Dreamworks friends. Part of the experience is a thrilling 4D bus tour (not suitable for mums-to-be) which takes you on a virtual tour of central London and the Dreamworks films. There are also 10 live fairy-tale themed shows where you can visit Shrek’s swamp, find your fortune in the crystal ball, get lost in the Mirror maze and reveal your inner Ogre when needed. Shrek fans we love it! Pre-book tickets online for best prices and to beat the queues.
JUBILEE GARDENS PLAYGROUND - Jubilee Gardens Playground, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX
Jubilee Gardens Playground is a much welcome addition to the South Bank. It’s a small, enclosed wooden playground just behind the London Eye, allowing kids to let off some steam during trips to the area. There are some amazing climbing structures which are best suited to older children from 5-11. In addition, there are some animal themed rockers, adored by toddlers. Developed by the Jubilee Gardens Trust, the gardens also have a green area that’s great for picnics.
LONDON EYE - South Bank London Eye County Hall Riverside Building Westminster Bridge Road London SE1 7PB
Designed for the capital’s millenium celebrations and now an icon of modern London, at 135m the attraction is the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel. Rising above the Thames, right opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the experience allows you 360 degree views for miles. On a clear day you can see for 40 miles all the way to Windsor! Or take an evening ride to see the city lit up. The rotation is gradual, with gentle movement and the experience takes around 30 minutes. Interactive guides in several languages draw your attention to London’s landmarks. Folded down buggies can be taken on the ride (along with baby change bags) and fixed prams that can't be folded can be left in the buggy area in ticket hall.
BYRON BURGER - 41-45 The Cut, London, SE1 8LF
Home to ‘proper’ American-style burgers, this upmarket chain also has a Mini Byron menu featuring beef, chicken or veggie burgers or a main of macaroni cheese instead. Mains are served with cucumber and carrot sticks and choose an additional side and drink from the menu. The drinks option includes a ‘Shirley Temple’ cocktail – lemonade with a splash of grenadine for something a bit different! Puddings and milkshakes are available for an extra cost.
GIRAFFE - Behind the Royal Festival Hall, Riverside Level 1, London, SE1 8XX
A varied global menu of freshly cooked food with plenty of healthy (and not so healthy!) options. The chain came 3rd in the 2015 league table ranking the health of children’s food in the UK’s most popular restaurant, published by the Soil Association’s Out to Lunch campaign. Giraffe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. A comprehensive children’s menu is available and kids are offered colouring sheets and sometimes balloons too. Cocktails available for parents!
GOURMET BURGER KITCHEN - 119A Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8UL
The original “posh burger” place, GBK serves a variety of hand-crafted burgers cooked to order. Interesting sides, veggie options, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and a kids’ menu (suitable for under 12s) are all on offer. A colouring sheet and crayons are offered to little ones too.
PIZZA EXPRESS - 9c Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8YP
The perennial family favourite and it’s easy to see why – a tasty children’s menu offering baked dough balls, side salad, pizza or pasta, dessert and a Bambinoccino to match mama and papa’s cappucino (though Prosecco is also an option!) as well as a tasty Italian inspired adult options. Families are welcomed and the bright, buzzy surroundings and open kitchen suit kids and more refined diners alike.
WAGAMAMA - Riverside Level, Royal Festival Hall, London, SE1 8XX
The kids’ menu at this Japanese inspired chain offers 12 smaller sized meals with ice-cream or a real fruit ice lolly to follow. Kids can get a cococino drink for free (warm frothed whole milk with a sprinkling of chocolate). Wagamama came in at 5th place in the Soil Association’s Out to Lunch league table, being praised for offering creative and healthy choices and using lots of vegetables.
WAHACA - 119 Waterloo Road, London, SE1 8UL
Kids and parents can share fresh authentic Mexican street food small plates (our babies have!) or they can choose from their own menu which includes the fun of build-your-own-tacos. The carbon neutral restaurants have a bright, lively and noisy ambience and children are welcomed. Colouring sheets, pencils, highchairs and baby change facilities are usually available and gluten-free diets are catered for.