If you are looking to spend the day outdoors - and who wouldn't, when the weather has been so glorious the last few days - Queen's Park is the place to visit. This 30-acre park lies in the North West London area of Kilburn and is perfect for a family day out, with its playground, children's zoo, friendly café, sports facilities, and regular community events.
Queen's Park first opened to the public in 1887 and was given its name to honour Queen Victoria. The park was laid out between March 1887 and June 1887 by Alexander McKenzie, who was a notable figure in Victorian park design (he also designed Finsbury Park, Southwark Park and Albert Embankment Gardens). The land that forms Queen's Park was previously part of a 100-acre site that was used as a showground for the Royal Agricultural Society in 1879. The show was hugely popular, attracting over 187,000 visitors, but unfortunately, it wasn't as financially successful as the organisers hoped. As a result, some of the land was offered to the Corporation of London and turned into a public park.
In its early days, Queen's Park had two central circular areas for recreation and sport, as well as a gymnasium (now the playground), refreshment lodge, tennis courts, pavilion, nine-hole pitch and putt course, two greenhouses (which were demolished in 1970), and a drinking fountain (which was also destroyed). The bandstand was built in the late 1800s and still stands to this day. It was constructed from ironwork supplied by Walter Fariane & Co. of Glasgow and became Grade-II listed in 2000.
Queen's Park is a fantastic place for getting some exercise and increasing your step count. With tennis courts, table tennis, a pitch and putt course and numerous walking paths, Queen's Park have plenty of options for keeping in shape whilst enjoying the outdoors. Anyone who wishes to play tennis at Queen's Park can simply turn up and pay at the tennis hut at the rear of the café. There are six tennis courts in total and they tend to be the busiest on weekends and in the summer.
If tennis isn't your thing, you could go for a run around Queen's Park or challenge your friends or family to a game of table tennis (the tables are right next to the café). Alternatively, you might prefer to take advantage of the golf course. This is tucked away behind the café and is open all year round. Bring your own club and balls or hire some from the hut near the café. What I like about the miniature golf course at Queen's Park is that it is home to a couple of willows, which are my favourite trees.
The grassy areas in the centre of the park and surrounding the bandstand are ideal for throwing a Frisbee, kicking a ball around, or practising yoga. You can even bring a Hulahoop with you or do some skipping.
Children are really spoiled for choice at Queen's Park. They'll love the petting zoo, where they can come up close with farm animals like rabbits, goats and sheep. The playground is also popular amongst local kids, particularly on the weekends and during school holidays. It has a selection of equipment that will enable them to play, explore and let their imagination run wild (the tyre swings and zip wire are favourites for older children). In the summer, your little ones will enjoy playing in the sandpit or splashing around in the paddling pool (although it didn't seem to be in use when I visited the park in May and September).
At the Harvist Road side of the park, you'll find the ornamental garden, which was created in 1966. This is a tranquil place to discover new plants or read a book. The garden was looking a bit bare when I visited Queen's Park back in May, but there were a few palm trees and some more flowers have grown since.
The woodland walk is situated at the north end of the park. It aims to teach local school children more about the natural environment that they wouldn't normally see when living in a city. There have been insect safaris, bat walks and tree identification walks. Stag beetles and birds are some of the creatures that have been spotted in Queen's Park woodland.
Of course you'll come across adorable squirrels on your trip to Queen's Park!
You'll be pleased to hear that Queen's Park has its own café, so you won't have to go traipsing around the local area trying to find somewhere to eat. That being said, there are a number of good cafés along and around Salusbury Road, such as Dark Habit, Milk Beach and Gail's Bakery. The latter is great for picking up picnic supplies - but there are a number of other options nearby, like Planet Organic and M&S. The café in Queen's Park is open from 8am to 4pm and offers both indoor and outdoor seating. On the menu, you'll find a selection of sandwiches, sweet and savoury crepes, and snack items. There is ice cream and ice lollies from Lickalix available in summer. Inside the café is a range of soft and alcoholic drinks, as well as kiddie snacks, chutneys and jams. The café is currently owned by The Urban Leisure Group, who also owns a number of pubs and restaurants around London, such as The Alice House (which has branches in Queen's Park and West Hampstead), The Elgin in Maida Vale, Ask For Janice in Farringdon, and Heist Bank in Paddington.
As with most community parks in London, Queen's Park is host to several events throughout the year. The funfair takes up residence in the park a few times a year, usually on Bank Holidays and during school holidays, and is popular amongst local children and teenagers. Come to Queen's Park in September for the annual Queen's Park Day, in which the park will be taken over by funfair rides, stalls, live music and other entertainment. Take part in the cake and jam competition, go for a donkey ride, learn ballet, or enter your four-legged friend into the fancy dress dog show. There is also Queen's Park Book Festival, which attracts bookworms from near and far. Authors who have attended the festival in the past include Bernardine Evaristo, Howard Jacobson and local resident Zadie Smith.
With all that's going on in Queen's Park, you won't want to leave. Head there with your friends, kids or significant other next weekend.