The Best Family Entertainment in July

Eva de Valk

July gets off to a healthy start with Regent’s Street’s annual Summer Streets, that sees the road go traffic-free between Oxford and Piccadilly Circus. Taking place on the first four Sundays of the month (1 – 22 July), the festival will offer a host of free activities laid on by the local shops and restaurants. including live music, exercise classes, food stalls and a wide range of games and workshops such as hair-braiding tutorials and tea leaf reading.

Artwork of Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey from Walt Disney’s Fantasia which provided the inspiration for The Vaults presents Sounds and Sorcery celebrating Disney Fantasia.

The week after sees the opening of what might well be one of the most ambitious immersive experiences this year: the Disney Fantasia inspired Sounds and Sorcery at The Vaults. A hybrid between concert and art installation, this event will require visitors to don a pair of headphones while exploring the tunnels underneath Waterloo station. Each space will reveal a new surprise, from a fairy-filled magical forest to a sorcerer’s lair. The original film soundtrack will guide the way past 3D projections and light installations, all aimed at making this an exciting and otherworldly concert experience for all ages. Sounds and Sorcery will run from 3 July until 30 September; tickets start at £30 for adults, with discounted children’s tickets available.

Big Fish Little Fish Family Rave

Possibly the only event this month that will rival The Vaults for noise and colour is Pride, which is happening on 7 July. While you might want to avoid the crowds and the more, ahem, risqué happenings at the actual Parade, there is always a good line-up of kid-friendly activities at the family stage on Golden Square. This year’s programme includes a bespoke family dance party by ‘family ravers’ Big Fish Little Fish; cabaret from Pride’s Got Talent winners Busty & Ginger; and an LGBT-adapted bedtime story with Pop ‘n’ Olly.

Baby Lame via

More free entertainment can be had on the Southbank, where the National Theatre’s River Stage Festival returns for five weekends of fun. Each weekend is curated by a different organisation: 13 – 15 July the stage belongs to The Glory, proponents of London’s alternative cabaret scene; 20 – 22 July it’s home to HOME, Manchester’s contemporary art centre; and 27 - 29 July dance theatre Sadler’s Wells is in charge. Naturally this has lead to a pretty eclectic line-up, which includes family-friendly drag cabaret The Baby Lame Poop Show, a sing along with Britain’s Got Talent star Lorraine Bowen, a supersized team version of Battleships and an under-fives dance workshop.

Family Day: Rex the corgi's adventures around the Palace

This is also the month Buckingham Palace unlocks its doors to the general plebs – sorry, public – for the annual summer opening, which this year includes a special display of 100 artworks personally selected by the Prince of Wales. There’s also plenty to admire to the lavishly kitted-out State Rooms themselves, and the Royal Collection Trust do a lovely family audio guide aimed at under-twelves, in which children explore the palace with guidance from Rex the corgi. The State Rooms can get very crowded at peak times, but you can end your visit on a relaxing note with a stroll through the palace gardens. Buckingham Palace is open to the public from 21 July until 30 September; adult tickets are £24 and family concession tickets are available.

© JP MASCLET Marawa's Majorettes perform as part of 'Circus Sampler' at Somerset House

End your month on a literal high with Circus Sampler at Somerset House, two weekends of contemporary circus, hip hop and music. An extended party for the artform’s 250th birthday, the first weekend (28 and 29 July) will include tight-wire and Chinese pole work from Far From the Norm; hip hop and circus meets football and European politics with Union Black; and synchronised hoola-hooping and roller skating (with a chance to give it a go yourself) with The Majorettes. Should we really be discussing the second weekend (4 and 5 August) in a July feature? Not really, but if we didn’t there’s a chance you’d miss out on Cascade, which features 30 jugglers performing alongside and in between the 55 water jets of the fountain in the courtyard… So that’s the start of August sorted as well!

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