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October is a great time of year to visit London: with the oppressive heat of the summer having long gone, and the bitter chill of winter yet to arrive, the city really comes into its own in the autumn. It is, as John Keats wrote, "the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness". And indeed, London’s big parks are beautiful at this time of year, as the leaves all change colour from green to vivid orange and brown. October also encompasses the school half term as well as Halloween, so there’s lots going on if you’re looking for things to do and activities for the whole family.
London offers many great options for day trips, overnight stays or a longer holiday if you want to extend your visit. But with so much to see and do, just what are the best things going on during October? Dig out your warmer coats and pack everybody's scarves and gloves just in case: here’s our round-up of the exhibitions, shows, museums and open-air events taking place across the city.
There’s lots here to keep families and children of all ages entertained.
How to keep the kids entertained this autumn in London
Natural History Museum - South Kensington
One of the most beautiful landmark buildings in London, the Natural History Museum is home to hundreds of exhibitions that are split into five main categories: zoology, botany, entomology, mineralogy and palaeontology. There are currently over 70 million plant, animal, fossil, rock and mineral specimens in the museum, including some collected by Charles Darwin himself. And, of course, there’s the deservedly popular collection of dinosaur skeletons that all children love, as well as the huge Diplodocus that towers over the central hall. In the colder months, there’s also an open-air ice rink in the front gardens. Like most museums in the UK, it’s free to visit.
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Diwali, the Festival of Lights Celebration - Trafalgar Square
Diwali—the Festival of Lights—is celebrated by Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities across the world. The word Diwali means ‘row of lamps’, and represents the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. In London, the focus of the celebrations is an annual event in Trafalgar Square that takes place every October. There’s free entertainment, music and dance displays, food stalls and a range of activities especially for children. The normally grey and concrete Trafalgar Square is transformed with colourful light displays and traditional decorations. Celebrations are free and open to everyone.
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The Ski and Snowboard Show - Earls Court
For more than 40 years, Earls Court Exhibition Centre has been home to the annual Ski and Snowboard Show that takes place in October. Visitors can have free ski and snowboard lessons (suitable for all levels) and enjoy a skate around the ice rink. There is also the opportunity to try tubing and curling. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you can partake in a spot of alpine food and wine tasting. Need some new skis for the season? There are over 250 different stands at the show too. The good news for families is that children under 11 get in for free, and there's a crèche as well as a pop-up cinema. It’s the coolest event in town by far.
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Jack the Ripper Walking Tour - Whitechapel
In the cold and dark autumn of 1888, a sinister serial killer was on the loose on the streets of Victorian London’s impoverished East End. The killer came to be known as Jack the Ripper, yet his real identity remains unknown to this day. If you’re looking for a Halloween-themed activity for older children, why not book yourselves on a Jack the Ripper walking tour? There are a number of different companies operating the tours, so I’d advise you to do your research and book beforehand. You’ll be taken through winding back streets and alleyways to visit crime scenes, locations and buildings related to the murders. Go at dusk for an authentic experience. Warning: not for the easily scared or faint hearted.
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Halloween at The London Dungeon - The Southbank
Looking for a spook-tacular family experience for Halloween? The London Dungeon is one of the most popular London tourist attractions and really comes into its own at this time of year. Via a series of performances, displays and rides, The London Dungeon presents the more macabre and gory elements of 1,000 years of the city’s history (older children will love it). Events such as the Black Death and the Gunpowder Plot are recreated, with actors portraying a variety of more ghoulish characters, including Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd. It’s now in a new location near County Hall and the London Eye.
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Natural History Museum, London © Walter Lim
Diwali festival in London © S Pakhrin
Ski and Snowboard Freestyle La Plagne France © Robert van Dijk
Jack the Ripper walks © Jose Maria Mateos
London Dungeon ©
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