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London Design Festival

The Best Family Events in London this September

29 August 2017 Eva de Valk

It’s September, which means it’s almost time to pack the kids off to school again. Fortunately London Calling is here to ease your way through the last few weeks of the holidays with our family fun roundup.

The last month of summer is celebrated with lots of water-based fun, starting with the annual Totally Thames festival. This month-long party in honour of our most famous waterway offers a wide range of activities that will see everyone, from the youngest to the oldest family members, catered for. The Cutty Sark is livened up each weekend by a cast of characters from her seafaring days, while flotsam weaving workshops take place right outside on 2 and 3 September. You can go sailing in all sorts of vessels, see performances in Brunel’s tunnel shaft, or experience the Thames Barrier annual test closing on 10 September.  

On the first weekend of the month, the Thames has to share the limelight with the more modest Regent’s Canal. Sunday 3 September sees the Angel Canal Festival return to the City Road Lock area, complete with market stalls, live music, boat trips and a regatta. If, after that, you’re not quite boat-raced out yet, head down to any spot along the Thames the week after for the Great River Race. On Saturday 9 September, 330 crews (of varying levels of athleticism and commitment to fancy dress) will be rowing the 21.6 miles from the Isle of Dogs to Ham House in Richmond. Cheer them on from one of the bridges, or join the riverside festivities in places like Putney and Richmond to make a full day of it. You can find estimated arrival times at various landmarks here. 


Angel Canal Festival. Image courtesy of Angel Canal Festival

If you prefer your weekend entertainment high and dry, not to worry: we’ve got you covered as well. The freshly opened Postal Museum is launching its much anticipated main attraction, so from 4 September you’ll be able to finally take a ride on the Mail Rail. Although, in this case, we should be talking about low and dry, since this outing will take you into the tunnels that run deep beneath Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant sorting office. You’ll learn more about the history and secrets of this obscure part of the postal service on a 20-minute ride on one of Mail Rail’s miniature trains. You can buy combination tickets that include entry to the museum and a train ride, or pay a visit to the museum only if you’re not a fan of darkness or small spaces.


Postal Museum. Image courtesy of London Postal Museum

The institution that is Open House Weekend returns to our fair city on 16 and 17 September, and has a number of family-friendly properties to poke around in. Visit an adobe village in Hounslow to see for yourself how you can make a ‘playscape’ out of rammed earth, let the kids explore some heavy-duty machinery at Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility, or take a tour of the Brixton windmill. Also on the programme this weekend are activities such as building a bridge or creating your own future London skyline. While Open House Weekend literally has hundreds of properties you can visit, be aware that you might have to queue and/or book in advance for the most popular ones. 

Also kicking off on the 16th is the London Design Festival, which runs until Sunday 24 September. While it might not be the first option that springs to mind for a family outing, the festival usually features a range of unusual projects that curious minds of all ages will appreciate. A couple of this year’s eye catchers are Villa Walala, an immersive installation that looks like an adventure playground on crack; Transmission, a 20 meter long sculpture of folded fabric; and Reflection Room, a walk-in ‘coloured light experience’. As per usual, the heart of the festival is at the V&A, but other events and installations are scattered throughout the city.  


London Design Festival Reflection Room. Image courtesy of London Design Festival

Finish off the month with some more ‘high culture’ at the Royal Opera House, which sees the return of Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice in Wonderland ballet. The show, which opens on 27 September, features wonderfully fantastical designs that will make for a suitable introduction to ballet for children ages five and over. Tickets to the early shows are selling quickly, so get in there while you can! 
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