40+ EXCITING THINGS TO DO WITH TEENAGERS IN LONDON
By Fiona Tapp
(Updated for 2019)
London is arguably one of the most exciting cities in the world. Home to world-class tourist attractions, music shows, fine dining and shopping.
But to your average teenager, meh, not so much.
Teenagers can be notoriously hard to please. It can seem like things they enjoyed just a short time ago are suddenly worthy of a seriously harsh eye roll. So if you’re trying to plan a day out with your teenage daughter or son, consider making them the expert and ask them “what's cool?”
If they’re reluctant to share take a look over our list of things to do with teenagers in London and be prepared to elicit that most rare sighting, a teen smile!
1.Go To A Candy Making Class
Take a Spun Candy confectionery class and learn the science and craft involved in bringing hard rock sweets - an iconic British candy - to life. Classes last from 60 - 90 minutes and you can choose to make your own lollipops, flowers, sticks of rock or even your own face out of candy. Everything you make is vegetarian, GM, gluten and gelatine free. We took tweens and teens to a class and they (and we) had a fabulous time.
2. Shop ‘til They Drop
Most teens are happy to spend their parent's money as long as you can find a store to match their personal style. Teenagers can spend hours in Oxford Street’s Topman or Topshop where over multiple floors they can have their hair and/or nails done and find a huge variety of concession, vintage and high street fashions. For the alternative crowd, hit up outdoor markets like Camden, Covent Garden and Spitalfields.
3. Visit A Gruesome Museum
When it comes to teens, anything strange, gross or gruesome holds particular appeal. So skip the traditional museums and instead take a trip to The London Dungeon or the Clink Prison Museum to see how crimes were punished in the past.
Or for some really unusual exhibits visit the Grant Museum of Zoology home to a huge variety of animal specimens including a jar of moles and a Quagga skeleton (a rare type of Zebra extinct since 1883.)
4. Spy on a Real Trial
Teens 14 years of age and over can make a trip to the Old Bailey and listen in to a real-life court drama. Young people interested in a career in the law may even find this day trip educational. Be advised - you cannot enter the court with a camera phone. You can book a tour of the Old Bailey and other London courts here.
5. Look Over London
For an impressive view over London check out the Sky Garden 525 feet up. As the highest public garden, it boasts panoramic views of the capital and is a great free place for teens to see just how spectacular the city looks from above. Although entry is free you do need to reserve a ticket.
6. Start a business together
We are huge believers in entrepreneurship; the job your teen ends up doing might not even exist yet. The creativity and business ideas they come up with might surprise you. Give them a head start with our three day video training course on finding their passion then monetising and growing it. Sign up for your free videos here.
7. Up, Up and Away
For the truly adventurous book a 90 minute walk over the top of The O2 building. Dressed in fetching boiler suits or body warmers in summer, you and your teen, after watching a safety video, will be clipped into a wire and follow a guide to the very top of the structure for breathtaking views and a real sense of achievement.
8. Go For a Slide
Visit the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and then let the bravest among you take a slide down the world's tallest and longest tunnel slide where you might just reach speeds of up to 15 miles an hour! The ArcelorMittal Orbit is 250 foot high and features 12 thrilling twists and turns.
9. Tour a Stadium
Footie fans will be beside themselves at the opportunity to check out the players dressing room and walk the tunnel onto the pitch just like their favourite players on the Wembley Stadium Tour.
10. Sk8er Teens
Come watch your teen do tricks on their board at BaySixty6 covered skate and BMX park in Ladbroke Grove. Your teenage daughter might particularly appreciate the “girls only” skate times where she can practice without the boys stealing the limelight.
11. Have a Techy Dinner
When your kids are older you can finally enjoy a meal in a nice restaurant again without worrying about them having a tantrum or flinging their food around. Inamo restaurant will particularly appeal to the teen crowd as it has an innovative and unique way to order.
Choose from the Soho, Camden or Covent Garden branches and see how quickly your teens can master the interactive projections on the table that allow you to change the mood, order your meal and even play games.
12. Go For a Drive
Drop your teens off at Young Driver for road safety lessons for 10-17-year-olds in controlled zones. The dual controls ensure the trained instructor can always take over as your child gains important road skills.
13. Take the Stairs
Challenge your teen to climb the 311 steps inside the Monument to the Great Fire of London and look out over the capital.
14. Get a Makeover
Take your teenager for a total makeover to try out some new colours and products by visiting a range of different beauty counters across the city. Most major department stores offer free makeovers or makeunders depending on your teen's tastes.
Encourage your kids to volunteer for a range of causes that will make them feel all warm and gooey inside and also look good on their developing CV. Try to choose options that are aligned with your daughter or son's interests or future career aspirations. If they are inspired to enter broadcasting for instance, consider signing them up to volunteer at a radio station; Reprezent Radio and Roundhouse Radio both accept younger people.
16. We All Scream for Ice Cream
Kids of all ages love ice cream, but skip the cornet and flake for a futuristic ice cream made with liquid nitrogen at Chin Chin Ice Cream in Camden, Soho or Street Feast. The ice cream sandwiches are amazing!
17. Bunker 51
Head to the Docklands where an old nuclear shelter has been turned into a laser tag and paintball emporium. Those over 12 will graduate from the junior paintball lower impact equipment to something a little more serious, parents beware.
18. High Ropes Course
Get above the treetops at Go Ape (various sites around London). The course takes 2-3 hours including a zig-zag bridge, stepping stones and a 50m zip line to really up the adrenaline factor.
19. Jump About
Head to Croydon where you’ll find Oxygen Freejumping trampoline park where your teen can bounce around on over 100 trampolines. They can also explore 14 different zones and play games like Dodgeball and Aeroball, they can even have their birthday party here! Wherever you are in London, there's a trampoline park near you. Check out our faves here.
20. Check out the Waxworks at Madame Tussauds
Selfie obsessed teens will be excited about getting their picture taken with their favourite celebrities even if they're not real. Be sure to get the bonus ticket to see the Alien experience and expect to hear a few screams!
21. Become a Snooker Legend
Sign your teen daughter or son up for a lesson with a master player; John Woods is a qualified World Snooker Grade A coach who has competed in EASB and World Snooker events. On Saturdays from 10am-1pm, he holds a junior coaching workshop in Kings Cross, where kids can learn the basics.
22. Visit An Art Installation
London is home to some of the best art in the world and there’s something for everyone’s tastes, from the weird to the wonderful. Try street art at God’s Own Junkyard or the Leake Street graffiti tunnel under Waterloo Station (the largest legal street art area and home to original Banksy works). Check out our other art-centric places to visit here.
23. Learn To Draw At The Royal Drawing School
Kids aged 15 to 18 can join the Royal Drawing School’s Young Associates programme, while younger kids between 10 to 14 who love to draw can join weekend or after-school drawing clubs. The Royal Drawing School also offers one week holiday courses in the Easter and Summer school holidays for young artists aged 11–15 years. Every first Thursday of the month, during term time and the holidays, there is a free life drawing session, in collaboration with Time Out and the Whitechapel Gallery between 6.30-9pm.
24. Visit A Museum
Head to SW London and visit one of the capital’s many museums or galleries. Once kids leave primary school, their visits to a museum become few and far between so feed their culture and their soul at a museum. We like the Red Arrows in the Fly 360° interactive 3D flight simulators at the Science Museum.
25. Have An All Day Breakfast
Most kids love cereal so indulge their sweet tooth (leave your healthy eating habits at the door) at Cereal Killer Café in Camden or Brick Lane. If they’re on social media, prepare to be ignored as the café is pretty much made for Instagram. The food isn’t bad either.
26. Visit a Royal Park
Choose from one of London’s six Royal Parks – each special in their own way:
The Green Park
The Regent's Park + Primrose Hill
St James's Park
These parks are great for a general walk around, a picnic (there are supermarkets, cafes, coffee shops and takeaway spots available close by) and some offer rowing on their lakes, which is harder work than it sounds!
27. Go To The Market
Chose a market, take some cash and see what you can find. Our favourites are:
Camden Lock Market
Covent Garden Market
28. Visit Boxpark
With Boxpark pop-up malls in Croydon, Shoreditch and Wembley, there’s a park not too far from you and with independent stores, good food and seasonal events, the parks are a retail destination in their own right. The park in Shoreditch feels particularly teen-friendly.
There are almost 20 farms and zoos in the capital, some of which offer work experience and volunteering opportunities.
This only works if the weather is on your side (or you’re feeling very brave) but there are over 20 different outdoor pools, lidos, fountains and paddle/splash areas to visit when everyone needs a bit of a cool down.
Another semi-weather specific activity (some rinks are only open over Christmas/New Year), ice skating is a lot of fun and they can reward themselves with a hot chocolate when they’ve had enough on the ice.
32. Go To The Theatre
When your kids were young you probably went to the theatre more regularly than you do now. But there’s more to theatre than Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol and Panto. There are plenty of shows suitable for older teens; try Thriller, Wicked, or Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap. Find more teen-friendly suggestions here.
Choose from workshops and courses for participants aged 11-25 covering music, creative media and performing arts, music production, filming and editing, journalism, drama and circus skills. Teens can also audition for the Roundhouse Choir or Music Collective or develop their radio, circus and DJ skills.
Try Art Assassins - a peer-led group of 13- to 19-year olds that meet every Thursday and show the inner workings of a contemporary art gallery.
Join BAC Homegrown - a creative programme for 12- to 25-year-olds, held on Thursday evenings. Join a drop-in workshops led by professional theatre-makers and musicians who help attendees develop their and talk about what’s in like (and possible routes into) working in the theatre.
The New Voices Club gives young writers, producers, actors and directors the chance to fellow theatre lovers through social events, masterclasses and workshops run year-round by industry professionals.
Join Somerset House Studio Days (for kids aged 13-18) for workshops exploring painting, drawing, design, printmaking and sculpture. Or join a Career Day (age 14 to 18) and find out what a career in the creative industries is really like via workshops, activities and talks. You’ll also have the chance to speak to inspiring artists and creative professionals and leave with loads of tips and advice about the industry.
Art, music, photography, poetry and dance workshops, led by well-known artists, which explore different aspects of portraiture; all inspired by the gallery’s collection and exhibitions. Sunday Sessions are held on the first Sunday of the month or try a holiday workshop which usually culminates in a performance or private view.
Take advantage of the Entry Pass - a membership scheme for 16-25 year olds that offers £7.50 tickets to NT shows, free pre- and post-show talks and backstage tours, and exclusive access to a range of theatre-related workshops.
Discuss, make, critique and explore art curated exclusively for 18−25 year olds. Working collaboratively with artists, teens can discuss art platforms and new media in response to exhibitions at Tate Britain and Tate Modern.
Young people aged 15 – 18 can present their own concert at Wigmore Hall. Facilitated by a mentor, the young people lead the project themselves, taking responsibility for selecting the repertoire and the theme of the concert, as well as the budget, devising and implementing their own marketing plan, liaising with the artists and co-ordinating logistics.
42. See London From On High At Tower Bridge and The Monument
Get a whole new perspective on London at these two (Instagram friendly) attractions. Start at The Monument and climb the 311 steps - wear comfy shoes - to the top of Sir Christopher Wren’s design which commemorates the Great Fire of London that devastated the City of London in 1666.
At 202 feet high, The Monument is the tallest isolated stone column in the world and although the climb isn’t easy, it’s worth it for the amazing 360 degree views of London. Plus, you get a certificate after your descent (expect wobbly legs) which deserves pride of place on your mantle. Or the kids’ social media accounts.
From there it’s a 15 minute walk to Tower Bridge. Thankfully there are no steps involved; a short elevator ride takes you 42 metres above the River Thames where you can – but don’t have to - walk over the famous glass walkway for a bird’s eye view of London.
Try and plan a visit for when the bridge will be raised. Alternatively, download the Augmented Reality ‘Raise Tower Bridge’ app for a full 360-degree panoramic video of the Bridge being raised from inside the Exhibition.
Budding engineers will love the Engine Rooms where explains the original workings of the Bridge and houses the coal boilers and steam engines that kept the bridge functioning.
Tickets to The Monument and Tower Bridge start at £8.70 for an adult and £3.70 for a child. Save by booking in advance rather than on the door.
What’s your favourite way to spend a day with your teenager in London?