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Best family-friendly weekend trips from London

Looking for a family getaway a stone’s throw from London? We’ve got the best locations for a weekend trip with kids within two hours of the capital, as recommended by Mumsnetters.

By Poppy O'Neill | Last updated Sep 23, 2022

A family of five walking together in the countryside

There’s so much for families to do in London, but if you're looking for a break from the bustle, we've got the lowdown on the best destinations for a weekend getaway with the kids. 

We’ve kept our roundup to locations within a two-hour drive or train ride from central London so you can get the most out of your precious time away. Mumsnetters are on hand with their top picks for trips that’ll have you back in time for the Monday school run. From Windsor to Whitstable, we've got recommendations for beach breaks, culture-packed weekends and country escapes. 

What are the best weekend trips from London?

1. The Cotswolds

A couple walking on the Cotswold Way

Best for a rural getaway | Search for hotels in the Cotswolds 

"Broadway is pretty and has a brilliant playground and you can walk up the hill to Broadway tower. Stow-on-the-Wold and Burford are also nice. Not too far from Cotswold farm park & Cotswold wildlife park. Good soft play in Bourton-on-the-water & nice stream to feed the ducks, although town can be a bit touristy in summer" - recommended by Mumsnet user, rosesandsalvia

Packed with chocolate-box villages and picturesque countryside, the Cotswolds is a quintessential English holiday destination. Covering a huge 800 square miles, the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty runs through five counties and you’ll find everything you need for a family getaway. 

Staying near the Roman city of Cirencester is a great choice for lots to see and do with children. The city itself has plenty of history with a museum, an amphitheatre and a Roman villa open to visitors. A little outside the city you’ll find Cotswolds Water Park and Cotswolds Country Park and Beach. If you’re looking for opulent homes to wander around, be sure not to miss Sudeley Castle and Blenheim Palace.

For a more free-range holiday, Bourton-on-the-Water is a Mumsnet favourite spot for the most beautiful country walks and views in the Cotswolds.

Distance from London: 73 miles 

Editor's picks: best family hotels in the Cotswolds

2. The New Forest

two New Forest ponies at sunset

Best for natural beauty | Search for hotels in the New Forest

"New Forest is lovely. See the ponies!" - recommended by Mumsnet user, MunsteadWood

The New Forest boasts beaches, wildlife and of course wild ponies. Aside from its natural beauty, you’ll also find Peppa Pig World for little ones and the New Forest Water Park for older and more adventurous kids. 

Mumsnetters recommend staying somewhere rural, like the hilariously named Sandy Balls Holiday Village, or Beaulieu for a picturesque village location. 

Naturally, the forest itself is the main draw for this area, and bringing or hiring bikes is highly recommended. A weekend can easily be spent simply exploring the idyllic woodland, clifftop walks and open moors. 

Distance from London: 88 miles

Editor's picks: best family hotels in the New Forest

3. Windsor

Windsor castle from a distance

Best for sightseeing | Search for hotels in Windsor

"There's loads of family-friendly activities, depending on ages. Dr Choc's chocolate workshops, interactive children's tour and activities at Windsor Castle, places to run around and play in Windsor Great Park, Extreme Motion trampolines and mini golf - and lots of the restaurants and cafes have nice child menus" - recommended by Mumsnet user, TourismAngles

Just a short jaunt from London, Windsor is a charming town soaked in royal history. Windsor Castle is the town’s most famous landmark, and it’s open to visitors all year round. 

In Windsor’s old town you’ll find cobbled streets, plenty of places to eat and medieval sights to see. The Thames runs through the town and cruises or rowing boats are available for hire. With Legoland and Thorpe Park just down the road, it’s a lovely place to make a weekend of it after a hectic kid-focused day out at a theme park. 

Distance from London: 25 miles

Editor's picks: best family hotels in Windsor

Macdonald Windsor Hotel
Holiday Inn Express Windsor
Holiday Inn Express Windsor

Budget base just 10 mins from central Windsor

Book now
Hampden Apartments Windsor
Hampden Apartments

Modern apartments, handy for Windsor and Legoland

Book now

4. West Wittering

the sand dunes at West Wittering beach

Best for a beach break | Search for hotels in West Wittering 

"West Wittering. It's just south of Chichester with its beautiful cathedral and great theatres. Outstanding beaches, East Head, Chichester Harbour AONB, great places to eat, Fishbourne Palace (Roman remains), beautiful Bosham and Alton Tours well within an hour's drive" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Notwiththeseknees

A 15-minute drive from the Roman city of Chichester you’ll find West Wittering. The sandy beach has clean, shallow water, sand dunes and a cafe serving posh grub. If the weather’s on your side, you and the family can while away a weekend very happily playing in the sand. If you want to explore a bit further, head to Chichester for culture and history, Bognor Regis for traditional seaside fun or Bosham for an ice cream by the water. 

West Wittering beach is very popular, so leave plenty of time to get there, and be sure to book your parking in advance. 

Distance from London: 86 miles

Editor's picks: best family hotels near West Wittering

The Fox Goes Free Chichester
The Fox Goes Free

Country pub with rooms near Goodwood

Book now
Chichester Park Hotel
Chichester Park Hotel

Budget base in Chichester with a pool

Book now
West Wittering beach huts
Houses and cottages near West Wittering

Search for family-friendly holiday lettings

Book now

5. Hastings

the funicular railway at Hastings

Best for seaside fun | Search for hotels in Hastings

"Just outside Hastings is Pett Level beach which tends to be quiet and I can recommend the Two Sawyers pub for food which is nearby and has a big garden. Rye is worth a visit and so are Camber Sands and St. Mary's Bay for sandy beaches. St Mary's Bay is lovely and has the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch narrow-gauge railway train which is fun. Also Romney Marsh is close by which might be worth a visit" - recommended by Mumsnet user, TheThreadisMildlyAmusing

Hastings is a charming and quirky seaside town with an artsy feel and plenty of history. Kids will love exploring the smugglers caves or ogling sealife at the aquarium. Be sure to take a trip down the cliffs on the town’s famous Victorian funicular railways. West Hill lift runs between traffic-free George Street and the top of West Hill and offers amazing views over East Sussex and the channel. The East Hill lift takes you from Rock-a-Nore in the old town up to Hastings Country Park, which is perfect for an afternoon exploring with kids. 

Distance from London: 70 miles

Editor's picks: best family hotels in Hastings

6. Portsmouth

A view of Portsmouth historic dockyard and Spinnaker tower

Best for a budget break | Search for hotels in Portsmouth

"Portsmouth - cheap hotels to stay and easy to get around by bus. Portsmouth historic dockyard, southsea amusements and mini golf, hovercraft to Isle of Wight, Spinnaker Tower. Beach if good weather" - recommended by Mumsnet user, mongoosebaby

"Yy to Portsmouth. There’s enough for the weekend just with the dockyard and Spinnaker Tower. It's compact so easy to walk around and you can always do a day trip to the Isle of Wight" - rated by Mumsnet user, Notagoodnight

This vibrant coastal city has lots to offer visiting families. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is home to the wreck of the Mary Rose, as well as Nelson’s Victory, which is open for visitors to explore. Take a trip up the Spinnaker Tower or catch the hovercraft for a day on the Isle of Wight. If you’re looking for a more low-key weekend, there are plenty of great playgrounds and places to grab a cup of tea and a bag of chips. Stay on Portsea Island for the best of the city, or use the park and ride to explore on public transport.  

Distance from London: 75 miles

7. Colchester

Colourful houses in the Dutch quarter of Colchester

Best for family-friendly attractions | Search for hotels in Colchester

"Colchester is the oldest recorded town with the castle and surrounding parks, Roller World, Colchester zoo, high woods country park and Mersea Island" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Nevercan

Thought to be Britain’s oldest town, Colchester in Essex is also home to one of the UK’s best zoos and a great family-friendly castle. Just a short drive away you’ll find Mersea and Brightlingsea beaches, which are perfect for a day of ice creams and sand castles while the sun shines. 

For rainy days, there’s Go Bananas soft play and the East Anglian Railway museum. Don’t miss the magical Wyvernwood adventure park - a fairy and wizard themed woodland wonderland. 

Distance from London: 68 miles

8. Birmingham

the centre of Birmingham

Best for a cultural break | Search for hotels in Birmingham

"I went for a weekend with my two kids to Birmingham and they still talk about how good it was! The Science Museum in particular was excellent" - recommended by Mumsnet user, BigmouseLittlehouse

Less than two hours by train from London Euston, Birmingham has something for everybody. The vibrant city centre has ultra-modern science museum Thinktank, National Trust-restored industrial workers’ houses, plus the stunning Botanical Gardens with glasshouses, an adventure playground and a children’s discovery garden. Chocoholics won’t want to miss Cadbury World, and further afield you’ll find plenty of green spaces and historic buildings to visit, including Shakespeare’s birthplace, Cannock Chase Forest and Sandwell Valley Country Park.

Distance from London: 119 miles

9. Whitstable

beach huts at Whitstable

Best for a traditional seaside escape | Search for hotels in Whitstable

"Whitstable is lovely, but yes very pebbly beaches, not the sort of beach you can lie out on! It's not far from Margate or Broadstairs which are both sandy beaches, Broadstairs in particular is lovely. I can recommend Blean Woods nearby for nice walks, routes are marked and some are suitable for buggies. Fallen down trees to climb on etc. so great for kids" - recommended by Mumsnet user, SaladIsMyFriend

Head over to Whitstable for a retro weekend by the sea. There’s a shingle beach which is brilliant for crabbing, paddling and of course fish and chips. Browse the quirky independent shops on Harbour Street and sample the town’s famous oysters at Wheeler’s Oyster Bar. Venture out of Whitstable and you’ll find Margate’s and Broadstairs’ sandy beaches, the rich history of Canterbury and Blean Woods nature reserve. Pick a place to stay by the beach, or head inland for the beautiful Kent countryside. 

Distance from London: 59 miles

10. Center Parcs, Woburn Forest

Center Parcs in Woburn Forest

Best for an activity-packed weekend | Book a stay at Center Parcs

"We've been going since my youngest was a tiny baby (he's now 13). Our nearest is only a 40-min drive away though, which makes for a useful proper long weekend - we used to be able to pack up early on Monday morning and still get them to school.

Pros for me when they were young - we could use the holiday club so we could actually have a few hours' respite, all facilities are child friendly (soft play areas in restaurants for example, plenty of high chairs), we could spend hours at the pool and playgrounds" - recommended by Mumsnet user, EmmaStone

Center Parcs at Woburn Forest was built with family breaks for Londoners in mind, so it’s no wonder this is a Mumsnet favourite for a quick trip away. School holiday prices can be eye-watering so a term-time weekend minibreak is a wise choice. Set in rural Bedfordshire, you’ll find all the things that make Center Parcs such a great family destination, including the subtropical swimming pool dome, a spa and kids’ activities to make sure every member of the family has an amazing time. 

Distance from London: 40 miles

Where should I go within two hours of London?

There are lots of options for a getaway within two hours of London. If you’re looking for a country break, the Cotswolds has stunning scenery and a 102-mile walking trail. Head to Birmingham or Portsmouth for a city break, and Whitstable or West Wittering for some sea air. 

Where’s nice for a weekend break from London?

Quirk, history-filled locations like Hastings and Colchester are great bases for a weekend away from London. Soak in the small-town charm and venture out to seaside resorts for a paddle and an ice cream. 

What’s the best family-friendly destination for a weekend trip from London?

The Cotswolds is the best destination for a family-friendly weekend trip from London. Recharge your batteries in this charming Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, one of Mumsnetters’ favourite parts of the UK.

How we chose our recommendations 

Because we know that there's nothing like a real recommendation, we first headed to the Mumsnet forums to find out which destinations within easy reach of London were being recommended for families. 

We then did some online research, looking at which locations for family-friendly weekends away had won accolades or been featured in 'best choice' lists, and what customer reviews said about them. Having collated all that information, we then narrowed our list down to the best family-friendly weekend trips from London. 

Why you should trust us 

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.