Things to do with kids in Croydon: leafy parks and local arts

Our Local editor shares her tips for a day out in one of London's greenest boroughs. 



Before we get going, let's fuel up - where can we grab a bite to eat?

Head to Croydon on a Thursday and you'll find The World Food Market at Platform, a community space next to East Croydon station which showcases local artistic talent. It's also worth making your way to Surrey StrEatery - a new indoor food hub in the heart of Surrey Street market. Food and drink is prepared on the spot using locally-sourced ingredients.

For a coffee or light snack, try the nearby Matthews Yard, where you'll also find a gallery showing the work of local artists and a studio theatre that often hosts film, comedy and live performances.

For fine dining, the Restaurant Quarter – where you'll find Albert's Table and Afters ice cream parlour – is just a 10-minute walk from East Croydon station.


Right, now we've got energy to burn…

You're never far from a green space in Croydon – in fact, there are 127 of them! Some Mumsnetters' favourites are South Norwood Country Park, Coombe Wood and Wettern Tree Gardens, which are all perfect for a scenic stroll.

Kids will love the life-size dinosaur sculptures at Crystal Palace Park – first-time visitors who aren't expecting prehistoric company in leafy South London are in for a very big surprise!


What about if we're looking to enjoy a bit of culture?

It may be outside the bustle of central London, but Croydon is a cultural centre of its own. Fairfield Halls, just one of the arts hubs, houses the Concert Hall – which is often said to be the best in London – the Ashcroft Theatre and the Arnhem Gallery, as well as a cafe, restaurant and several bars. Family film showings during school holidays are as little as £2, and the centre hosts everything from classical performances to comedy.

Across the road you'll find the Croydon Clocktower, a self-contained arts complex which is home to the Central Library, a cinema, gallery and, of course, a cafe. The Museum hosts a wide range of free activities for families and adults, and the cafe hosts free jazz events on Thursday lunchtimes.

Next door is the Spread Eagle, which certainly isn't your average pub. It houses its own intimate theatre and if you go at the right time, you might spot a couple of celebrities. 

Croydon also loves a festival. There are at least 15 taking place across the borough from March to November, including the Croydon Performing Arts Festival in April and May, the Croydon Heritage Festival in June and the Crystal Palace Overground Festival in July.


And what is there to offer history buffs?

Croydon is full of architectural surprises – on a regular residential street in the Shirley area is a 160-year-old windmill that's often open to the public. In the centre, there are the 400-year-old Whitgift Almshouses and the Croydon Minster – the only Minster in London – where six Archbishops of Canterbury are buried.

On Purley Way is the old Croydon Airport building. Visit on an open day to find out about Amy Johnson's record-breaking flights from Croydon, as well as the airport's role in British aviation history.


It's about time we rested our brains and indulged in some retail therapy. Where to?

You'll find all manner of high-street stores on Purley Way, from John Lewis to Ikea. The centre of Croydon has two shopping centres - The Whitgift and Centrale - with another, the trendy Boxpark, set to be built within a year. There are also plans to build a Westfield centre in the next few years.


We love it. So much so, we want to stay! Where should we settle down?

Croydon is very popular among families. Our Local Talk board is often buzzing with requests for tips on where to live, and the areas around South Croydon, Purley, Coulsdon and Sanderstead usually come out top – Sanderstead boasts three Ofsted Outstanding or Good primary schools, and a number of new schools are planned for the borough over the next three years.

Transport links in Croydon are excellent too, with the average journey from either central London or Gatwick Airport being 17 minutes. There are 15 railway stations throughout the borough as well as the London Overground, which runs to North London via Canary Wharf.

The Thameslink service makes getting out of London easy, too, with trains running up to Bedford or down to the South Coast. Croydon's tram network is one of the most extensive in England, running from Wimbledon in the west right over to Beckenham. So you've no excuse - come and visit!


About the Local editor, Helen

"I moved to Croydon in 2004 from Zone 2 and have lived in both east and south Croydon. It was only when my first child arrived in 2006 that I started to explore Croydon more extensively - it's amazing how much there is to do here.

Mumsnet Croydon is somewhere parents can find useful information about activities, services, and local schools as well as having a bit of chinwag, too. You can join fellow Croydon MNers by joining Mumsnet Croydon, signing up to our Local newsletter, or following us on Facebook and Twitter."


Images: Dave Pinkney, Ian Wright/Wikipedia, Peter Trimming, Flickr

Last updated: about 3 years ago