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…
Lead image: Swingers
Words: Keegan Strandness, Victoria Purcell, Zita Whalley
1 Play Shuffleboard at Electric Shuffle
Electric Shuffle arrived in London Bridge this August, bringing the fast-paced game to Bermondsey Street. Shuffleboards have been enhanced by vision technology, so it’s not your traditional game. Don’t feel like playing shuffleboard/are a poor loser take a breaK? That’s fine too, because there’s a bar area where you can eat salt and pepper squid, arancini balls and buffalo chicken bites, while quaffing cocktails or a number of brews. Book a game, try the brunch menu (Thursday to Sunday) or catch a comedian, DJ or band. Shuffleboard sessions tend to book out, so book in advance and early, although you can try your luck with a walk-in. Children are welcome before 5pm, and shuffleboard players must be over 18. There’s also a sister location in Canary Wharf and semi-private shuffleboard playing areas.
For 6-10 people it’s 60 minutes and for 11-16 people shuffleboard games last for 90 minutes; price for a 90-minutes game is £10 per person; 10 Bermondsey St, SE1 2ER; electricshuffle.com
2 Gravity Southside Indoor Entertainment Centre, Wandsworth
Set over three floors, this newly opened indoor entertainment centre is rammed-packed with fun things to do – whatever the weather is doing. There’s a go-kart race track, a 14-lane bowling alley with augmented reality, a golf course that sees you putt against iconic New York sights, and an e-sports gaming arena which has the best games on the latest consoles. If that doesn’t keep you busy enough, There’s shuffleboard, a digital darts zone, old school arcade games and something called the electric gamebox which is a ‘hyper-immersive 60-minute adventure’ which will remain a mystery until you actually try it out. Rest your feet at one of the three bars – a sports bar, a New York-style cocktail bar and a Japanese street bar and noodle kitchen.
Sunday to Thursday 8.30am-11pm, Friday to Saturday 8.30-12.30; Wandsworth High St, SW18 4TF; gravity-uk.com
3 Go Trampolining
Londoners have gone nuts for trampolining with trampoline parks launching all over the capital. Flip Out London has huge trampoline parks in Brent Cross, Croydon, 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 a 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.
4 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: on in the West End, near Oxford Circus and the other in the city, near Bank. 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 Jaffa The Putt and Tropic Like It’s Hot.
Check out Plonk, too, which has five locations around London – but not all of them are undercover. For rainy days, head to either the Camden Market outpost or the one at Peckham Levels. There’s also a Plonk at South Bank, Horniman Museum and London Fields but they’re outdoors.
5 Social Board-gaming
Get out of the house, get your mates together and nerd out over some quality board games. 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).
Then there’s London’s first ever board game bar, Draughts Board Game Cafe in Dalston and Waterloo. Crowdfunded into life, the cafe has a huge library of over 800 board games. For £10 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.
6 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. It hosts 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 puts on 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
7 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
8 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, On Portobello Road and in White City 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; 2 Television Centre, 101 Wood Lane, W12 7FR; electriccinema.co.uk
9 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. You can just have a mosey around, or you can upgrade the experience to a tasting tour – why not?
Tours run Tuesday to Friday at various times; Tickets from £18.25; Chiswick Lane South, Chiswick W4 2QB; fullersbrewery.co.uk
10 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 is 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; troubadourlondon.com
11 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 with 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 nostalgic cocktails like the Skittle Sour and Hubba Hubba Bubba. On a weekend, check out their bottomless brunch deal.
97-113 Curtain Road, Shoreditch EC2A 3BS; ballieballerson.com
12 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 glass roof will keep you dry, pop-up shops keep things fresh, the updated flooring will keep those buggies rolling and the food court has a handy pavilion to keep the rain off. 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.
13 Let’s Bowl!
On oldie but a goodie, a trip to the bowling alley never fails to while away a couple of rainy hours. 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 Tolworth, 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 Orpington or Lewisham Lanes.
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.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one entertainment venue, QUEENS in Bayswater offers 50,000 square feet of ice skating and bowling. There are two cafes, too, with food provided by the delicious denizens of street food, MEATLiquor, plus an awesome retro video arcade.
If bowling and pool is more your style, American-style alley with retro vibes Rowans might be the place to go if you’re in Finsbury Park and it start raining ropes. Good for families as well as bunches of friends, there’s also karaoke, and the option to boogie your socks off on a Friday and Saturday night.
14 Play Darts
Darts has been given the a Millennial makeover at Flight Club, a social darts hangout with venues in Shoreditch, Bloomsbury, Victoria and Islington. 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.
15 Explore Everything at the Royal Museums Greenwich
Whether you’re just a big kid or an actual child, the Royal Museums, in particular the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory, have plenty to occupy curious minds with should the sky open up (and even if they don’t). Discover epic voyages of the past, uncover stories about female pirates and track currents and winds using live data. You can also star gaze in the planetarium while watching one of the galactically brilliant shows that are regularly put on.
Park Row, Greenwich SE10 9NF; rmg.co.uk
16 Enjoy the Butterfly House at the Horniman Museum
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 £14 for a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children), including a 10% Gift Aid donation.
100 London Road, Forest Hill SE23 3PQ; horniman.ac.uk