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Indoor Activities in North London For Families - don't let the rain spoil your fun!

The weather is proving as bad as we feared. But don't despair, here are some ideas of things you can do this holiday that are mostly indoor. We've left out the big museums in town as we suspect you already know all about them. Instead we've got some ideas of other things you can try a bit closer to home.

Local Museums and Attractions

 RAF Museum, Hendon

RAF Museum, Hendon is our favourite choice for a cold and wet day. The museum is free so you only have to pay for parking (£2.50 for up to 2 hours) although you can park on the road and walk or come by tupe to Burnt Oak. There is absolutely loads for children to do including an interactive gallery complete with airplanes you can sit in and experiments for older children to have a go at. The galleries are very large so there are lots of big spaces for children to run around in and there is also a reasonable cafe that sells children's lunch boxes and some healthy snacks. Our children love coming here and it is also interesting for adults even if it is only to marvel at the sheer scale of the planes.
Enjoying the lights at Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green is another fantastic option for bad weather. As you would expect, this is a great place to bring children of all ages. As well as the daily storytelling and other events, the fixed exhibits offer lots of opportunities for play and discovery. Our children liked the mini sandpit, light boxes, rocking horse and mini police car. They were less keen on looking at the toys in glass cases although we enjoyed this and felt very nostalgic. There is some metered parking available and a really child friendly cafe run by Benugo, with great food for adults too.

Bruce Castle Museum, Tottenham is a Grade I listed 16th Century manor house in 20 acres of parkland and now houses local history collections relating to the Borough of Haringey. They often have activities for families including this Easter lots of great free craft activities. See full timetable here.

Geffrye Museum, Shoreditch has lots of events for children looking at Homes Around The World.  Check out the listing for full details of the fantastic range of events including treasure hunts, arts and crafts and rhyme time.

Discover Children's Story Centre, Stratford has lots to do including an indoor and outdoor story trail. They also have lots of great events. Full details here. We've not been yet but we'd love to hear about your experiences if you have.

London Canal Museum, Kings Cross you can learn about the fascinating history of London's canals. They often have activity days for children including one this holiday on 10th April, where children can go on a canal boat ride. More details here.

Grant Museum of Zoology is the only remaining university zoological museum in London. It houses around 67,000 specimens, covering the whole Animal Kingdom. Founded in 1828 as a teaching collection, the Museum is packed full of skeletons, mounted animals and specimens preserved in fluid. Many of the species are now endangered or extinct including the Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine, the Quagga, and the Dodo. This holiday there is Easter Egg-Laying Animals - For the Easter holidays the Grant Museum is exploring the wonderful world of eggy animals.Part of the Humanimals Season at the Grant Museum. Admission is free and there is no need to book. Closed 5th-11th April.

Jewish Museum, Camden was recently nominated by The Telegraph as one of the most family friendly museums in the country. There's lots on for families here including frequent events, a family trail and three hands on galleries. More details here.

Willows Farm Village and Farm Park, Colney Heath, Herts

North Londom Mums headed to Willows Farm, just off the M25, following lots of recommendations and we were not disappointed! The village is large and offers a host of activities beyond petting animals- from playground activities for under 5's,  indoor soft play (Woolly Jumper's indoor play barn), to activity trails and walks. There are also a large range of daily shows- particularly during the summer holidays. The farm appeals to older toddlers and pre-schoolers and can keep them entertained for a good few hours. There are enough indoor activities to make this worth a trip on a wet day too.

Learning about germination the fun way, Kew Gardens indoor play area

Kew Gardens might sound like a place to visit only in good weather, but is actually great for all weathers. We came here in the height of summer but, this being England, it poured with rain so much that we didn't get to see many of the outdoor attractions at all. What we did see is the superb indoor play area which manages to be both educational and really fun, the excellent family friendly White Peaks Cafe, which has really good healthy lunch options for children, and the lovely hothouses. This is not a long drive from North London and there is ample parking. It is easily accessible by train too.

The Cartoon Museum, WC1 opened in 2006 and has lots of interesting exhibitions. They also have lots of great activities for older children.

St Albans Museum, is not too far from North London and has a lot for children to do and see including (we are told) a Thomas the Tank play table and dressing up clothes. There are activities running throughout the holidays.  We've not been yet so we'd love to hear your views and tips.

Soft Play 

Clown Town, Colney Hatch
This is the largest soft play venue we've visited and purportedly the largest in North London. It's size means there is loads for kids to do and because it is separated into two areas -for older and younger children - older children are likely to find more to do here than at some of the smaller venues. In off peak times they also run activities for children such as playdough and arts and crafts. We weren't so keen on the unhealthy food served here and the fact that it can get very busy and loud

Go Kids N20, Whetstone
This is a nice sized soft play venue where kids can play and you can watch them whilst drinking a coffee. There is plenty to entertain kids up to aged eight. We weren't so keen on the tv screens showing music videos blatantly unsuitable for children but otherwise this gets a large thumbs up as an easy place to go and chill out whilst the kids run around.

North London Toddler's favourite soft play venue, is this small cafe and soft play found in Alexandra Park (Muswell Hill end). It's large enough to keep the kids entertained for an hour or more, but small enough so that you can see them from wherever you are sitting and it also serves good food and decent coffee. Even better is that it also has a large outdoor space so that if the weather is good you and the kids can spend time outside too. Of all the soft play venues, this is the most pleasant for parents.

Sobell Safari Soft Play, Holloway
Sobell Safari is a large indoor playground designed for children under 10 years to play in a safe environment. There are three floors of fun including log ramps, ball pits, cargo nets, maze, tunnels and slides. There is a seating area for adults. It can get very busy so best to go outside of peak times if possible. There is no cafe here so do bring your own food or go elsewhere to eat.

Talacre Treetops, Kentish Town

A magical, multi-layered soft play centre for children - colourful, exciting, entertaining and educational space, all in one. Designed with children's safety in mind, above all it's great fun. Treetops is suitable for children from six months to 11 years of age and has dedicated areas for under twos and under fives. The centre also runs parent-toddler gymnastics, and indoor football, tennis and gymnastics for preschool-age children. There is a cafe offering healthy options for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Admission: £3.20 for under 5s, £4.20 for ages 5 – 11, concessions available.
Toddler World, Hendon Youth Leisure Centre
On Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings, this leisure centre runs a very affordable and relaxed soft play session for little people. Mats, slides, ladders and trampolines are laid out and children can roam around safely on the spongy floor trying out new things. There is no cafe here though and vending machines only sell unhealthy snacks so bring food or go elsewhere to eat. Its not luxurious but is good fun for children and not loud or stressful for parents!

Topsy Turvy World, Brent Cross
This is a members only club so you have to pay £10 to join. Once joined you will find this a pleasant place to come with plenty to entertain kids aged up to twelve and reasonably healthy food. In term time they have some really great free activities like Bake n Take and messy play which are good fun for the kids. For parents there is free wifi and decent coffee. There is a good separate area for really young children too.

Other Indoor Spaces and Cafes

Camden Arts Centre, Finchley Road is another favourite of ours because it is really interesting for adults as there is usually a worthwhile exhibition on , a really fantastic and well stocked bookshop, a good spacious cafe that has room to run around in and nice food and an outdoor area if there is any respite from the bad weather! Occasionally they have family days. There is parking on meters on the other side of Finchley Road or this is a reasonable walk from Finchley Road or Hampstead stations.

Arts Depot, North Finchley is very family friendly as it has a small soft play area adjacent to the cafe area so children can play while you relax with a coffee. The cafe is only open from 11am-2pm. The exhibition space is also close by and usually has interesting exhibitions.  On Sundays they often have free live music too and when we went to a Sunday concert, children danced along in the soft play whilst adults nodded their heads sedately. Parking is readily available nearby and lots of buses stop nearby.

Coffee and Twist has just opened in East Barnet and is a children's cafe. They have a soft play area and children's classes running. We've not been yet so we'd love to hear from people who have.

That Place On The Corner, Newington Green - this is a really great children's cafe that serves nice food and also has a children's play area including dressing up box, play house and a rocking horse. They have classes running too so check the timetable before you go.  It's really good so worth making a trip out of your way for.

Apples and Pears Massage Cafe, NW11 has recently opened and as well as being a massage cafe it has a very nice play area and arts and crafts for children. In nice weather there is a small bouncy castle too.  We had a lovely and relaxing Sunday morning coffee here whilst children played and did sticking and drawing nearby.

Peggy Jay Centre on Hampstead Heath has a 10 o' clock club and a 1 o' clock club. Free drop-in playgroup with indoor and outdoor activities, sandbox and play equipment, for children 5 and under. There are a few picnic tables outside if youve brought your own food.

Zebra Ceramics in Muswell Hill is our favourite pottery cafe. You can do hand and footprints of babies and children, paint mugs and other ceramics and there is also a small play area for children. It's very clean and bright and serves nice cakes and coffee. Ideal for wet weather. Book your place in advance. 

Other ideas are swimming or visiting your local library. We'd love to hear your ideas too so do share by leaving a comment below and help other parents. Have fun, stay dry!  

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Rebecca 8 June 2012 at 11:52 said...

Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London was fascinating (prob age 5+) for future doctors.

Also a bit out of London but the Natural History Museum in Tring and Gullivers Splash Zone in MK are worth a trip on a rainy day.

Anonymous 16 July 2012 at 11:30 said...

Don't forget Kids Club at Brent Cross every Sat. It's free too!

Anonymous 30 August 2012 at 21:11 said...

The babies area at Topsy Turvy World is good, they are strict about keeping walking age kids out, even siblings, so your baby isn't squashed. It's now £15 a year to join.

Unknown 4 January 2013 at 15:22 said...

I have found Clown Town in North London that has an indoor playground facility. I specially like their soft play equipment, which are very attractive and healthy for children.

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