Looking for things to do when it’s raining in London? From crazy golf to vintage bowling, social darts, board game cafes and the famous Kensington Museum triple
Words: Keegan Strandness & Victoria Purcell
1 Go Trampolining
Londoners have gone nuts for trampolining with trampoline parks launching all over London. Flip Out London has huge trampoline parks in Brent Cross, E6 (Barking Road) and Wandsworth. E6 is the newest and largest of these with rows of inter-locked trampolines, a giant super-slide, indoor caves, 100-metre indoor potholing zone, 12 themed climbing walls, plus a laser maze, cyber tower, ninja warrior course and dodgeball – all spread over three floors. For actual real kids (under 5s), there’s also an enchanted castle themed soft play zone with building blocks, play tunnels, balance beams, slides and a ball pool.
Check out Oxygen Freejumping in Acton, too, which has 150 interconnected trampolines, a mega airbag to practice your moves, a super squishy foam pit to leap into, ninja warrior course, volleyball and dodgeball courts, plus Little O toddler trampolining sessions with adult supervision.
2 Indoor Crazy Golf
Crazy golf is having a moment – and long overdue, for us kids of the 70s and 80s! Swingers is a triple threat, with street food, amazing drinks and competitive socialising, and the vibe is 1920s country golf club. It has two venues: It has two venues in, the City and near Oxford Circus. The original 16,000 sq ft venue in the City has two bespoke nine-hole crazy golf courses, five cocktail bars, three street-food vendors, a two-storey clubhouse with gin terrace and nightly DJs.
Junkyard Golf Club on Brick Lane has a more east London vibe, with four crazy golf courses so you can putt your way through all sorts of bizarre holes – think UV garage, scrapyard slides, circus freaks and jungle bathtubs. You can also grab a snack from the main bunker bar, from hotdogs to salted caramel popcorn, as well as novelty cocktails like the Ribena Turner and Hotling Ting.
Check out Plonk, too, the new kid on the block that’s bringing crazy golf to pubs! Find it at The Duke of Edinburgh in Brixton, The Four Thieves in Battersea and the Victoria Tavern in Islington (there’s one in Hackney too, but it’s alfresco).
3 Social Boardgaming
Get out of the house, get your mates together and nerd out over some quality boardgames. Many of London’s best pubs have a good selection of boards, but up your gaming at London on Board, a friendly social board game club for anyone – novices and veterans – aged 18 and over. The group gets together almost every day of the week and meet-ups are free to attend; bring your favourite game, or learn one that someone else has brought along. All meet-ups are scheduled online and you can RSVP on the group website (locations vary).
The there’s London’s first ever board game bar, Draughts Board Game Cafe in Hackney. Crowdfunded into life, the cafe has a huge library of over 800 board games. For £5 each, you and your friends can spend the night playing your favourite board games, from Hungry Hippos to Cards Against Humanity. There are also tournaments, themed evenings and workshops led by professional board game designers, as well as high quality food, snacks and a range of local craft beers, ales, ciders, and wines. Look out for the new cafe due to open imminently in Waterloo!
4 Learn to Skateboard at House of Vans
The House of Vans, a free community space below the arches of Waterloo station dedicated to Vans and the skate culture it embraces, leads free learn-to-skate sessions for all ages every weekend with pads, boards, helmets and a locker provided. There’s also a cinema room that hosts free screenings across a wide spectrum of genres, from family friendly to box office blockbusters and foreign language films, exhibition space and cafe serving up all-American classics.
Arches 228-232, Station Approach Road, Waterloo SE1; houseofvanslondon.com
5 Do the South Kensington Museum Triple
Take cover from the harsh elements in one of Kensington’s many world-class, free-entry museums. All are located near Exhibition and Cromwell Road, so it’s easy to spend the day exploring the lot of them. Visit the dinosaurs or investigate the Earth’s birth and ecology at the Natural History Museum, appreciate some of London’s most historic Art and Design artefacts at the Victoria and Albert Museum, or delve into the genius of technology at the Science Museum.
Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road SW7 5BD; nhm.ac.uk
Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road SW7 2RL; vam.ac.uk
Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington SW7 2DD; sciencemuseum.org.uk
6 Relax at the Electric Cinema
Relaxing at the cinema is an age-old outing, and there is obviously no shortage of venues in the city. The Electric Cinema, however, is a cut above – taking the notion of comfort and amplifying it to the extreme. Not only does this cinema provide a selection of luxury leather armchair and footstool combos for general seating, and a spread of couches in the rear, but one can also find six double beds stationed in the front row – that’s right, beds. So weather the storm and snuggle up with your complimentary cashmere blanket while you watch a film at the cinema that makes you forget why you even left home in the first place.
191 Portobello Road W11 2ED; electrichouse.com
7 Take the Fuller’s Brewery Tour
Have you ever wondered where your beer comes from? If not, perhaps a raging rainstorm will persuade you to find out. Take your pub trip one step further and tour Fuller’s Brewery, which brews award-winning beers including London Pride, ESB, Chiswick Bitter, London Porter, Bengal Lancer, Honey Dew and 1845, plus bottled beers like the brewery’s Brewer’s Reserve and Vintage Ale ranges. There are 25 tasting tours a week costing £10.90, with a 20% discount available for existing Fuller’s Fine Ale Club members. And at the end why not enjoy a lunch, or at least a pint, at The Mawson Arms, which is housed on the same site – it would be rude not to. Tours run from Monday-Friday at 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm. The Mawson Arms is open from Mon-Fri, 10.30am to 8pm.
Chiswick Lane South, Chiswick W4 2QB; fullers.co.uk
8 An Historic Eating Experience at The Troubadour
The Troubadour is one of west London’s most popular alternative destinations, combining food with history and atmosphere. This raffish café was conceived in the 1950s and has hosted musical gigs for talents including Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Jimi Hendrix. Monday id comedy night, Tuesday is Jimi Hendrix night and there’s plenty more going on from songwriting circles to jazz and live DJs. The bistro-style food is delicious – The Troubadour was even recognised as Les Routiers’ Café of the Year 2014. It’s quite a popular joint so it may require a little advanced booking, but the experience should be well worth it.
263-267 Old Brompton Road SW5 9JA; troubadour.co.uk
9 Dive into a Giant Ball Pool
Split over two floors, Ballie Ballerson in Shoreditch boasts an impressive ball pit with over 200,000 plastic balls as well as foam toys, rubber rings and a DJ playing funk, bass and techno tunes. Play fight with your mates in a giant ball pit where light, art and balls to produce mind bending visuals, before heading upstairs to the graffiti-clad bar and dining space for pizza, fries, craft beers and nostaligc cocktails like the Skittle Sour and Bounty Curly Wurly. On a weekend, check out their bottomless brunch deal.
97-113 Curtain Road, Shoreditch EC2A 3BS; ballieballerson.com
10 Skate, Bowl, Dine and Ice-Kart at Queens
If you’re looking for an all-in-one entertainment venue, Queens Skate Dine & Bowl recently had a major overhaul to offer 50,000 sq ft of ice skating, bowling and – most recently – ice karting. Yep, that’s go-karting on ice! There are two cafes, too, with food provided by the delicious denizens of street food, MEATLiquor, plus an awesome retro video arcade. So if it’s raining cats and dogs outside, you can hide away all day and long into the evening at Queens.
17 Queensway, Bayswater W2 4QP; queens.london
11 Shop, Eat & Drink at Greenwich Market
Nothing beats the rainy day blues like a proper shopping spree. Regarded as one of London’s best covered markets, Greenwich Market is open seven days a week and offers a wide array of independent, boutique and designer shops, with top notch street food to boot. The new glass roof will keep you dry, pop-up shops keep things fresh, the updated flooring will keep those buggies rolling and the new food court has a handy pavilion to keep the rain. Regular family friendly activities and workshops also take place at the market, but you also have the nearby Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory for even more indoor fun.
12 Let’s Bowl!
On oldie but a goodie, a trip to the bowling alley never fails to while away a couple of rainy hours. As well as the aforementioned Queens, you have Bloomsbury Bowl – which has karaoke rooms and Ray’s Pizza Diner – Hollywood Bowl at the O2 Arena Greenwich (which also has an arcade and some new virtual reality experiences), Surrey Quays, Finchley and Dagenham, All Star Lanes in Brick Lane, Holborn and both Westfield centres. And if you like to keep things cheap and cheerful, check out Palace Superbowl in Elephant & Castle and Orpington, or MFA Bowling in Lewisham.
Stylish bowlers should head for The Ham Yard Hotel near Piccadilly Circus, which has a spectacular basement bowling alley called The Croc. The original 1950s bowling alley has monochrome bowling ball returns with original features such as hand warmers and visible return runs, solid maple bowling lanes, vintage bowling shoes and bowling pin lamps. Bowling here is £20pp.
13 Play Darts
Darts has been given the a Millennial makeover at Flight Club, a social darts hangout with venues in Shoreditch and Bloomsbury. The venues are cool, there are cocktails and craft beers, as well as sharing plates, pizza paddles, burgers and salads. Oh yes, and darts, with fast-paced multiplayer games, dart-tracking technology, instant scoring (no maths, phew!) and multiple throw lines to level the playing field. There’s weekend brunch packages with bottomless pizza and prosecco, too. Singletons can even go Speed Darting on Mondays.
14 Journey Across The Great Map at National Maritime Museum
Journey Across the Great Map in an interactive family adventure at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Grab a touch-screen tablet from the museum and step into the giant atlas at the centre of the museum. Use your tablet to explore distant lands, discover treasures from all around the world, uncover stories of female pirates and track currents and winds from live data. The giant atlas is right next to the cafe, so grown ups can take a seat and enjoy coffee and cake while keeping an eye on proceedings if you don’t fancy joining in.
Park Row, Greenwich SE10 9NF; rmg.co.uk
15 Butterfly House at the Horniman Museum, Forest Hill
It’s always sunny at the Horniman Museum and Gardens Butterfly House, a specially planted tropical indoor garden where you can immerse yourself in hundreds of free-flying butterflies. See species from around the world, look out for rare butterflies like the Horniman’s Swallowtail, and watch them hatch out in the puparium as you learn about the life-cycle and behaviour of these beautiful creatures. The Butterfly House is open throughout the year and complements the Horniman’s current Living Collections – including alpacas, jellyfish and bees in its Animal Walk, Aquarium and Nature Base – and its historic Natural History collections. Tickets are £6 for kids and adults, or £15 for a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children), including a 10% Gift Aid donation.
100 London Road, Forest Hill SE23 3PQ; horniman.ac.uk