Things to do with kids in Barnet: a wonderfully green community arts scene
Whether you're a local looking for inspiration or you're visiting with the family, make the most of your time by reading our Local editor's pick of where to go and what to see.
At the northern edge of the capital sits this historic borough with plenty to see and do. It's home to London's oldest tree, is the birthplace of the Oxford English Dictionary as well as, erm, George Michael.
We have to ask, is there a link between Barnet and, well, yer barnet (hair)?
Yes! The cockney rhyming slang for hair is barnet after Barnet Fair
- the largest free festival in London. This year the festival had
over 22,000 visitors.
The festival sounds great! Are there any other community places for the whole family to enjoy?
One of the boroughs key cultural hubs is the artsdepot in North Finchley, which hosts a range of theatre, music, dance and free visual art exhibitions in its gallery.
Ten Grand Arcade is another community gem, home to the Hasler Gallery in partnership with Middlesex University and the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MODA).
We hear Barnet is known for its green spaces. Where do you recommend we go to enjoy the great outdoors?
The Dollis Valley Greenwalk is a 10-mile riverside walk and cycle path from Mill Hill to the northern fringes of Hampstead Heath. Most of the route is moderately flat and surfaced, so suitable for pushchairs and fantastic for scooting!
Darlands Lake Nature Reserve, Arrandene Open Space and Featherstone Hill are other lovely open spaces to explore nearby.
All that fresh air has made us hungry! Where are the child-friendly eateries?
On Barnet's High Street you have one of the biggest former coaching inns, the Red Lion - a Toby Carvery serving good value food.
Ye Old Mitre Inne, built in 1658 and mentioned in the diaries of Samuel Pepys, sells local beers and tasty bar snacks. And on Barnet Road at Ganwick Corner there's the Duke of York pub, serving delicious food and featuring a large beer garden complete with swings and a tractor.
Award-winning pub The Clissold Arms in East Finchley holds regular events for the little ones such as Al's Little Singers.
East Finchley cafes include Boyden's Kitchen, and in Barnet The Old Courthouse Park has its own cafe. There's plenty to keep the kids entertained as there's a bouncy castle, play area and free tennis courts.
There are also lots of good restaurant chains in the area including Ask, Monkey Nuts and Pizza Express in Whetstone as well as Carluccio's in Barnet. Tootoomoo Whetstone serves delicious pan-Asian food, and on weekdays between 5-7pm you can grab an exclusive Mumsnet Barnet 15% off their a la carte menu.
The weather's looking a bit iffy - where can we go?
You could try the recently opened Everyman in Barnet. The Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley is another place with an indie feel, and throughout the summer they offer discounted kids' club tickets on a Saturday.
You could visit a soft play centre: there's Go Kids N20 on the High Road, Clown Town in Friern Barnet and Topsy Turvy World at Brent Cross Shopping Centre.
The borough is also home to the RAF Museum, formerly the Hendon Aerodrome. Visitors can gaze at over 100 historic full-sized aircraft and there are free family events all year round.
And where should we head for some retail therapy?
If you think you can persuade the kids to keep using their legs, why not visit Barnet Market? It's on every Wednesday and Saturday from 7am until 3pm, with stalls selling freshly baked breads and cakes by the local Victoria Bakery, as well as clothes, vinyl and other interesting wares.
In addition to the Brent Cross Shopping Centre there's also The Spires Shopping Centre - but there are also lots of lovely independent retailers in Barnet such as Patisserie Joie de Vie and the traditional sweet shop Hopscotch. Also worth visiting is Ruby Blu in Southgate, a beautiful vintage-style card and gift shop.
Right, you've made us spend all our money and now we need some free stuff to do!
You've still got all the fabulous parks and playgrounds in Barnet to explore; Oakhill Park on Barnet's Church Hill Road and Friary Park on Friern Barnet Lane both have great play areas, cafes and more.
In addition Golders Hill Park - which is part of Hampstead Heath - boasts a variety of leisure facilities plus a cafe, water gardens, free zoo, butterfly house and a children's play area.
Belmont Children's Farm in Mill Hill is also brilliant. The farm was very recently saved from closure and allows kids to really get up close to the animals.
We'd really love to spend some more time here. Any other great days out nearby to recommend?
You could monkey around at the Go Ape centre in Trent Park, or if you're visiting between June and October there's fruit picking on offer at Parkside Farm in the neighbouring borough of Enfield.
And finally, can you let us know Barnet's best hidden gem?
The pasta at the small family restaurant La Rugoletta on Church Lane in East Finchley is lovely, and as it's tucked off the High Street you can escape the hustle and bustle while you enjoy a delicious bolognese or carbonara.
And what do other locals have to say?
'Finchley is lovely... definitely young-family-central, and Church End especially is fab.' Borntobake
'If you're fit enough, walk up the steps to the Church Tower of St John Church which boasts incredible views over London and Hertfordshire.' Charlotte Antoniou
'Long Lane Pasture is open 9-5 at weekends only, and is a sort of nature reserve, with bees, butterflies, meadow, wild flowers. It's actually a proper hidden gem.' bonzo77
Share your own recommendations on the Barnet Local forum - and you can also find Mumsnet Barnet on Facebook and Twitter.
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Last updated: almost 3 years ago