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Things to do with kids in Canary Wharf

There are plenty of things to do in Canary Wharf. But, it’s fair to say that at first glance, the area doesn’t appear particularly child-friendly. Canary Wharf was once solely packed with glistening skyscrapers, corporate offices, and high-end restaurants!

However, the influx of residential development has led to plenty of families now calling the docklands home. As a result, if you scratch beneath the surface, there are a surprisingly varied list of child-friendly days out in Canary Wharf.

In this guide, there is a mixture of free and paid days out. On a budget? We also have an ideas list of completely free things to do in Canary Wharf too.

So, here are 8 ideas to keep the kids entertained in Canary Wharf.

Boat ride on a budget!

There are a range of boats for hire in Canary Wharf — from floating hot tubs, to electric GoBoats. However, some operators require a minimum age of 12, and it is fair to say that self-driving boats, and looking after children can be hard work!

On the other hand, a great (and significantly cheaper) alternative can be taking the Thames Clipper — now branded Uber Boats — into London. These boats run frequently, even on weekends, and a child return ticket from Canary Wharf to Westminster costs as little as £6.10 with a travelcard.

All the Uber boats have inside and outside seating, are pram-accessible, and have free toilets with baby changing facilities. In addition, there are also small cafés onboard.

canary wharf with snaking thames boat ride to tower bridge
  • On the weekend, a journey from Canary Wharf to Westminster takes 30-minutes, and passes a huge number of sights in London.
  • Stop off and stretch your legs while switching to the opposite side of the Thames to catch the return journey of similar length.
  • The Uber Boats slow down to a sightseeing pace for the packed central London section, speeding up between Tower and Canary Wharf.
illuminated bridge thames river

Ideally, time the return journey for after dusk and watch Central London’s bridges light up in a spectacular array of colours courtesy of a new project, Illuminated River.

Complete the Canary Wharf kids art trail

Scattered with public artwork across the estate, Canary Wharf houses London’s largest outdoor art collection — we’ve compiled a full guide to the Art Trail here.

The entire trail takes around 2 and a half hours to complete, with over 75 pieces — ranging from sculptures, to interactive visual displays.

At the end of 2020, the Canary Wharf Group compiled an art trail for children.

This children’s art trail guide is a selection of 12 pieces, and the group provide a guided map.

  • The Canary Wharf kids art trail is a great mixture of interactive exhibits, neon-lighting, and large-scale art.
  • Specially selected to be engaging for kids, this shorter version of the trail doesn’t require an art degree to appreciate!
  • Navigating the 12 exhibits at a leisurely pace will take approximately 45 minutes – 1 hour.
  • Make sure to bring a pen and print the guide off beforehand!
  • There are spaces for kids to tick off the exhibits as you see them, and also space to sketch your version of your favourite at the end.
A neon art exhibition by Eve De Haan in Canary Wharf shopping centre
DON’T CRY OVER SPILT MILK pop-up art exhibit in canary wharf with see saw for children and adults!

A nice thing to highlight about the art trails on the estate is that they are continually updated. With each iteration of the popular Winter Lights exhibition, one or two lit sculptures from that year are normally retained as permanent exhibits.

In addition to the formal art trail, the estate has a large portion of pop-up art events, many of which are great for kids:

  • Previous examples include a multicoloured pop-up basketball court
  • A pop-up exhibit including a see-saw in Canada Square shopping centre (yes, adults were allowed to play on the see-saw too!)
  • If you are considering the children’s art trail, it’s worth checking the group’s What’s On page beforehand to see if there are any child-specific pop-ups to visit at the same time.

Go Ice-skating!

A winter highlight is ice skating at Canary Wharf’s pop-up ice rink in Canada Square park. After a few years absence, the ice rink has returned for 2021-2022.

Family tickets (2+2 or 1+3) cost £49.50, a £10.30 saving over buying individual tickets. Skate aids — designed to help children stay on their feet — are available to rent for free, but they are on a first come, first served basis.

Keep an eye on opening dates — normally the Canary Wharf ice rink opens in November or September. This year’s ice skating event runs for 18 weeks, until the 26th of February. Tickets must be booked online.

Bring a picnic to the outdoor theatre

We’ve looked to create a summer events calendar which caters for everyone

Lucie Moore, Group Arts + Events Manager at Canary Wharf
outdoor picnic at westferry circus free theatre show

Another longstanding, family-favourite event in Canary Wharf are the outdoor summer theatre sessions.

Hosted in Westferry Circus park, Canary Wharf’s outdoor theatre is a completely free event, with no tickets or pre-booking required.

  • Held in summer, performances normally run every Monday throughout July.
  • Keep an eye on the group’s Whats On page for 2022’s performances
  • Children are welcome, with shows ranging from Shakespeares classics to Beatrix Potter adaptations.
  • Midweek performances are held at 7pm, lasting around 1 hour 30 minutes.
  • Pack a picnic — or grab something to bring from Canary Wharf’s growing streetfood scene!

Try kids Parkour

Parkour combines the discipline and flexibility of martial arts, with the athleticism and movements of obstacle training. The result is a pretty impressive way to move around urban environments — not to mention a great way to keep fit and make friends!

Generations London Parkour is one of the UK’s largest Parkour schools. In 2021, they set up a kid’s friendly Parkour space by Canary Wharf, at the bottom of luxury rental development Sailmakers. This is known as Parkour School.

An ultra-modern space, specifically designed for kids parkour, the Parkour school is an excellent place to burn off steam for kids in Canary Wharf. Their highly rated classes are divided into four age groups: Micro, Mini, Junior and Youth, covering kids aged 1 – 13.

The group offer one-off sessions, monthly passes, and also host children’s birthday parties. Kids over 13 are also welcome, but classes for over 13’s are held nearby at their Chainstore Gym & Parkour Academy.

Animal petting at Mudchute farm

One of Canary Wharf’s best kept secrets — an escape to the countryside and London’s largest urban farm — is only moments away.

Mudchute park and farm is easily accessible on foot from Canary Wharf, less than a 30-minutes walk.

Equally, the farm is a 6-minute, 4-stop ride on the DLR to Mudchute station.

Just turn up, no tickets are required, and explore the range of animals from Llama’s to rare-breed pigs.

  • Community ran, there’s a great reasonably priced café, baby changing facilities, and toilets onsite.
  • There is also a small farm shop for stocking up on some fresh produce available, and also to purchase snacks to feed the animals.
  • Some smaller paths can get muddy, but there are plenty of paved routes around the animals and the feeding pens, so sturdy pushchairs are fine.

Mudchute farm is a great day out with kids — near Canary Wharf — and completely free!

Under 8’s sessions at Docklands Museum

Museums are always great for a free thing to do — and the Docklands Museum is no exception. They aren’t always child-friendly, though, and exploring endless artefacts can be less interesting for younger kids!

The revamped Docklands Museum has aimed to tackle this by creating an interactive experience solely for children. Branded as Mudlarks, the Docklands’ museum does an impressive job at accommodating kids and young families:

  • The Mudlarks gallery is a section of the museum solely reserved for under 8’s and their parents with interactive exhibits
  • There are free online and offline games to print and play at home
  • The museum hosts children’s birthday parties on Saturdays — £12 each for a 75-minute private session
  • Activity sheets to add another activity and keep kids engaged at the museum can be printed at home and brought with you
  • Tickets for the Mudlarks Gallery need to be booked at least one day in advance but are free.

see saw and sound scape childrens play area near canary wharf
childrens climbing frames and play area near canary wharf at The Madison
The Madison’s child-focused pocket park

Children’s parks and play areas

There are plenty of parks and green spaces near Canary Wharf. One of the great things about the Isle of Dogs area is that the list of parks is continually improving.

  • After the original 1980s redevelopment, the area surrounding Canary Wharf focused on low-rise office buildings
  • Any ground-level space was dedicated to carparks or paved areas, with limited attention paid to greenery and children’s play area.
  • With the explosion in new residential developments, developers have agreed to implement pocket parks and outdoor children’s play areas, alongside the new homes.
  • The majority of these new outdoor play areas and pocket parks are public access, and free to use for anyone — regardless of where you live!

We’ve compiled a list of some larger walks and green spaces, but for children’s play areas, two new developments pocket parks stand out:

pocket park at the Madison
  1. The Madison. In this pocket park, kids have been prioritised. There is a climbing frame, balancing logs, a rope walk and more.
  2. Harbour Quay Garden’s boardwalk and waterside pocket park, is another excellent place near Canary Wharf to go with kids. Featuring giant artworks that are the final point on the children’s art trail, this green space has a sound sensory area for kids, Alice in Wonderland themed sculptures, and winding pathways. The park is easy to find — it’s located at the base of towering circular skyscraper One Park Drive.