Explore Gillespie Park Nature Reserve
A nature reserve off a busy inner city area, it boasts an amazing 244 plant species and 94 bird species, while 24 types of butterflies have been spotted there. Toddlers will love looking for frogs, newts and dragonflies in the ponds, and if you are lucky, you might even see a heron! The meadows are covered in wildflowers in summer, attracting a variety of insects. Woodlands and hedgerows come alive with birds such as goldfinches and tits. Rangers are on site, so they can answer your little one’s questions, while a number of courses are run all-year-round. Events for children include bat walks, dawn chorus walks and pond dipping.
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Make history come alive at the Islington Museum
Islington Museum offers fascinating permanent collections and a calendar of events including children’s activities, exhibitions, family walks and talks. Permanent collections hold over 500 objects and documents that cover nine themes on local and social history: childhood, food and drink, fashion, leisure, healthcare, radicals, caring, home and wartime. Education packs to use during your visit are available. Leaflets and information on self-guided walks can be downloaded from its website. Facilities include a cafe and toilets, and admission is free.
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Meet the animals at Freightliners Farm
A registered charity and non-profit organisation, Freightliners Farm is a small farm in an inner city setting that houses a wide variety of animals, including rare-breed pigs, goats, lambs, cows and chicks, pretty gardens, a cafe and a classroom for activities. The pretty gardens include a kitchen garden with herbs and fruit trees – and you can even buy some of their produce, including honey from their own beehives. And if you and your child are green-fingered, you can join its Wednesday afternoon gardening club. Entrance is free, but donations are welcome.
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Walk in the footsteps of footie legends
What could be better for young footie fans than a visit to this interactive museum and a tour of the stadium? During your tour you will see all the areas that are crucial for the game, from walking down the players’ tunnel to a seat in the first team dressing room to visiting the Directors Box and the Press Conference facilities. And if you are keen on football yourself, why not book a Legends Tour? You will be shown around by a football champion who will share his thoughts on the current team and reminisce about his playing days –you’ll also get a personalised signed photo of your tour guide and a limited edition Legends Tour gift to take away. All tours include a visit to the interactive museum, which houses fascinating exhibits including Michael Thomas’ boots from Anfield ’89, Charlie George’s 1971 FA Cup final shirt and Alan Smith’s shirt from 1994’s European Cup Winners Cup Final. Tour dates are released one month in advance, so check the website for up-to-date details.
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Park life – rain or shine
The largest park in Islington, Highbury Fields has a fab children’s playground with a big sand pit and water play features. It even hosts a popular drop-in for parents at its bandstand.Facilities include a cafe, an enclosed, dog-free picnic area and toilets. And if your child is into sports, there is plenty to do with a full-size pitch, a netball pitch, 11 tennis courts (most floodlit) and the adjacent Highbury Pool and Fitness Centre.
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Discover the wonders of London’s waterways
At London Canal Museum you can learn about the history of London’s canals, see the inside of a narrowboat and find out about the people who lived and worked on the waterways and the cargoes they carried. Housed in a former ice warehouse, your child will love peering down the Victorian well that stored ice imported from Norway and learn all about the ice trade and icecream making. Children’s activities run at this quirky heritage museum.
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Go on a softplay safari
Sobell Safari is a big and bright indoor playground designed for children under 10 years of age. Offering three floors of safe fun, it features log ramps, ball pits, cargo nets, swings, a spooky maze, tunnels and slides. A dedicated area for toddlers under three means you don’t have to worry they will get trampled by older children. There is a seating area for grownups, but children needs to be supervised. Basic snacks and refreshments are available from vending machines. Children’s parties are welcome. It gets very busy at half term periods, so one-hour sessions might operate.
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Make waves at a leisure pool
Archway Leisure Centre’s pool is ideal for a fun family swim – every day there are sessions where all the water features are on in rotation, including a wave machine, river run, flume and bubble jets. And the waves are on for five minutes every half an hour. Happily for your little one, the flume is on all the time and there is no limit to the number of rides your child can take.
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Browse a street market, or three!
Islington has several markets running different days of the week, making shopping less stressful if you are pushing a pram or stroller. Chapel Market, in the heart of Angel is the largest. On nearly every day (except Monday), it sells fruit and veg, travel goods, jewellery, household items and food to take away. On Sundays it’s the place to go for organic and specialty foods at its popular farmers’ market. If you are keen on antiques and vintage items, head to nearby Camden Passage, open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. And if you hop on a bus, you can take in Whitecross Street Market, a general market open Monday to Saturday that offers specialist food stalls on Thursdays and Fridays.
When it’s cold, windy and rainy, there is nothing better than going to see a show. If you are not keen on a family movie, you can take your child to a puppet show at the Little Angel Theatre or perhaps a musical at the Young Actors Theatre. Both theatres put on productions aimed at young audiences and also offer workshops in performing arts.