Things to do in London
Location : London, England, tube zones 1-3
As our kids have got that little bit older, trips to London are a breeze and really enjoyable for Josh and Emma. Being close to London, we tend to drive into town on a Sunday and spend all day running around parks, tourist attractions, boat trips and museums before grabbing some dinner and heading home exhausted.
The Sunday trip to London has become a bit of an institution in our family now. There are not enough weekends in the year to do everything we want to do in the city though. Travelling up there on a Sunday is a breeze.The traffic is light and you can find places to park for free (check out parkapedia.co.uk) in the residential areas. The trains are also quiet if you don’t want to drive.
Toy shops, aquariums and attractions
We normally get the all-day / all zone tube (London Underground) tickets to get around. The kids go free on the tubes on a Sunday so for around £20, you have unlimited use of the underground network for a family of four. We use this to visit the London Eye, the London Aquarium, Hamleys (giant toy shop), Harrods and to explore further afield for dinner.
If you have Merlin passes (we get these free via Nectar points) the London Eye, Aquarium, Madame Tussauds and London Dungeons are all free to get into. If you mix this with a free dinner for everyone at Pizza Express courtesy of Tesco Clubcard vouchers or Nectar rewards you really are onto a cheap day out. Check out this post for more details on using loyalty cards for free stuff.
Use your smart phones to locate restaurants. Google maps makes it so easy to find the popular places, Pizza Express, Wagamamas, Yo Sushi, Pizza Hut McDonalds, Costa and Starbucks. All totally kid friendly.
Bus tours, boat rides and The Tower
Give the open-top bus tours a go if you want to see more. You can jump on and off of these if you wish, using them as a way of getting around between places or do as we did, sit there relaxing and enjoy a couple of hours of seeing all the great sites pass by from the comfort of your seat. The commentary was great and I finally got to see all the tourist attractions in one day. We used “The Original London Sightseeing Tour” company.
Last time we were up in London we went to see the poppies that filled the moat around the Tower of London in remembrance of the sacrifices in World War One. We have also discovered trails around some of the artistic seats that have been created to celebrate some of the great children’s books of the last century. There has even been a trail of painted life-size cows dotted around the city. There always seems to be some sort of on-street trail to discover. Add this to a walk around Hyde Park and pasta for dinner and you have yourself a full day.
If you want another example of a great day’s itinerary, start at Hyde Park catching the tube down the Embankment Pier where we jumped on the river boat service and sailed down to Greenwich. This is a superb way to see the city from a different angle and take in some of the river history. At Greenwich we visited the historic market where the food stalls sell all manner of exotic food. After lunch we jumped on board the Cutty Sark which is dry-docked near the river Thames. The kids enjoyed discovering the history and exploring this massive ship. Standing on the deck it’s easy to imagine you are sailing up the Thames with a hull full of tea from India. We used the tube day ticket to return to the car after dinner at the Greenwich.
Great museums with plenty for the kids
A considerable amount of the museums in London open their doors for free which makes it ideal for shorter visits with younger kids, without worrying about getting your moneys worth. Here are what we have checked out.
The Natural History Museum
Our first trip to London was to the Natural history museum. This can be a day trip in itself due to the amount of stuff in there. We tend to have a few hours in the museum then head the few hundred metres north to Hyde Park to break the day up.
The enormous collection of dinosaurs fascinates my two, especially the animatronic full size T-rex guarding the exit of the exhibition. The large display of full-size animals (whales, elephants, buffalo etc.) is a real eye opener too. The rest of the museum has all manner of animal displays, fossils, science exhibits and aquarium. Josh and Emma love it so much we re-visit it every six months or so.
When the weather is good we walk from the museum to Hyde Park for a walk or skate around. We have taken the kids in-lines and scooters a couple of times. It’s safe and mostly flat to zoom around. You can walk around the lake located to the west end of the park and even try the pedalo hire if you want to take to the water.
The Imperial War Museum
Not one for the pacifists out there but a fascinating part of UK history. This is another great museum,this time with rockets, World War Two aeroplanes, guns and a spy exhibition. There is even a mini submarine and a mock up of the nuclear bomb they dropped on Hiroshima.
The re-creation of the WWII war front, the mock houses and air raid shelters give the kids a great view into 1940’s Britain.
The cafe sells the usual cake, kids cheese sandwiches and quiche. The Americans out there reading this may be a little disappointed with the food choice so it’s best to save yourself for lunch elsewhere.
The Science Museum
This is a mixture of everything science. There is so much here my kids always find something of interest. The space exhibits always go down well, especially the full size lunar lander and finding out how astronauts pee in space. You will also find exhibits on communications, early computing, biology, physics, chemistry, engineering and the environment. This might all sound a little dull, but the sheer amount of physical stuff in there fascinates my kids. They walk around constantly looking wide-eyed and saying “what’s that? what’s this?”. There is a lot for one day, but being free, it’s great to call in for a couple of hours then head off to some of the other sights. Any longer and the kids suffer museum fatigue.