London With The Kids!

London

So you’re ready to take a BIG trip with your little ones, but where to go? Many expert travelers suggest London where the language barrier is minimal and fun. Kids of all ages love the castles and towers, museums and parks, and of course the double decker buses.

Here are some suggestions to make your trip easier:

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LONDON PASS


Available for 1,2,3, or 6 days and includes 60 + attractions. Never wait on a line and enjoy perks along the way, even at free sites. (All Hallows by the Tower Church is free but with this pass you also get a special guided tour.) Some of the most kid-friendly sites are included in the pass: London Zoo, London Brass Rubbing Centre, Chistlehurst Caves, the Cartoon Museum, Pollock’s Toy Museum, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, London Bridge Experience.

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Kid-Friendly Badge (Red & Blue)

MUSEUMS


Most are free and many cater to children. At the Horniman Museum, set on 16 acres, there are many hands-on activities, a nature trail, beehives and aquarium. The Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood has Legos, activity stations, games and a sandpit alongside historical toys on display. The Science Museum has more than 50 hands-on exhibits. (These are all free, as are the Tate, Tate Modern and the British Museum.) The London Transport Museum charges a fee but kids can ride on real buses and trains.

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TOURING AROUND


Don’t miss the Changing of the Guard (free), daily at 11:30 at Buckingham Palace. (Go early to get a good spot. It gets crowded in good weather.) Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, and the London Eye are all icons of the city. (There is a steep charge at the London Eye – about $30 for adults – but free street performers are always around there.) Double decker buses cost around $3.50 to ride (sit upstairs for the best views) and can take the place of pricier bus tours. Beautiful parks are free too and great for picnics (Hyde Park, St. James).

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SPECIAL ACTIVITIES


Unique walking tours include a Jack the Ripper walk, ghost hunting and a Harry Potter tour. Harry Potter Studios can also be visited where the films were made. To avoid the charge in Westminster Abbey, go for a service when it’s open for free. The highlight for many families is a Thames River Boat Cruise (included in London Pass). Day trips outside of London are always possible to Windsor, Hampton Court, etc.

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PREPARE FOR THE TRIP


Parents: do some research on line or at the library, call the British Tourist Board for free maps and brochures

With the Kids: Watch a Harry Potter film, practice Cockney slang (“apples and pears” are the stairs, “storm and strife” refers to a wife!) Older children can look at maps, learn the money system (British pounds). Younger ones can read the adventures of Paddington Bear.

Any experienced travelling parent will tell you – the more prepared you are, the easier the trip.

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Most of all, be open to an adventure and make some memories with your children or grandchildren.

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For more information about London, CLICK HERE.  Cheers!!

13 comments

  • The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens has a Peter Pan theme with a huge pirate ship, beaches and sculptures, swings, chutes, tepees and more. Kids can climb on everything and the playground is clean, well-kept and totally free of charge. A small coffee shop sells snacks, coffee and light lunches. Great to work off some energy after visits to museums, etc.

  • The Bank of England Museum is fun. See ancient gold bars and hear about their ghosts. Built in 1694 and free. Before you go, download free activity sheets. Open M – F, 10 – 5, closed weekends and holidays.

  • If you are in Hyde Park, find the Serpentine Gallery and nearby there is a lake (also called the Serpentine) where you can picnic and rent pedal boats. People swim in the lake but beware: it’s cold!

  • Stepney City Farm is a working farm in London’s East End and free to visit. Open 10 – 4 Tues. to Sun. and late some Wednesdays. Try Sunday brunch in the cafe and let your little ones interact with gentle animals. There are also demonstrations by potters, blacksmiths and woodworkers. Special tours for the visually impaired can be set up ahead of time (suggested donation for that is 1 pound pp). Saturdays there are craft classes for children. A nice respite after a few days in the city.

  • James and Jessica

    Thanks so much for your great ideas. We just got back and followed many of your suggestions. Saved lots of time and money and our kids (7 and 9) loved everything. Riding the regular buses, we saw all the monuments we would have seen on a tour that was much more expensive. People were so nice to us, pointing out things we would have missed. Can’t wait to try this again!

  • For a LOT of fun, try the Duck Boat Tour which starts near the London Eye. “Ducks” are refurbished WW II vehicles. Start on land and see the famous monuments, then jump into the Thames River for a view of London from the water! Tour lasts about 75 minutes, times vary so check website, guides are fun and knowledgeable. (Not recommended for children under 3, but older kids will love it.)

  • Save money by staying in what the Brits call a “poshtel” (a luxury hostel). Upon arrival in London, immediately buy the “Oystercard” (3 pounds and then load money on as you need to) for transportation, good on buses and the tube. (Buses are cheaper but the tube is faster.) Also, travel after 9:30 am which starts the off-peak time. There are lots of free walking tours, many with themes – check on line – but tip the guides who volunteer their time and knowledge to keep them going.

  • Mark and Cathy

    Make time to ride the double decker buses for a bird’s eye view of the city (of course, sitting upstairs). Steps are located behind the driver’s seat. Free tube (subway) maps are available at all stations and lines are color-coded to make them easy to follow. Engage your kids in mapping out your routes. Remember that the trains do NOT run 24/7 so plan accordingly. Staying in a bed and breakfast on the outskirts of the city and riding in every day saves a lot of money since hotels in London can be very pricey. Our kids LOVED riding the train, something we rarely do at home.

  • Be EXTREMELY careful crossing streets in London. We Americans are trained to look left first but there you must look right. Sounds so easy but we saw many near-accidents. Surprisingly, the kids caught on to this better than the adults in our group.

  • An entire day in a museum might overwhelm a child. But an hour in the morning and then again after lunch might be a good schedule. In between, go to other sites. If the museum has hands-on activities (like the Science Museum), kids are more apt to want to stay. Many children enjoy the Tate Modern and the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood.

  • Don’t miss the Imperial War Museum (near Westminster Abbey and free) which explains British military involvement since WW I in a way that even children can understand. Holders of the London Pass get free guide books worth 4 pounds each. WW II buffs will love all the info about Winston Churchill.

  • Too windy or rainy to stay outside in London? Try the London Dungeon tour (90 minutes, best for older kids) with live shows, underground rides and special effects. Located under the County Seat on the South Bank. About 20 pounds per person. Many other museums here are free like the Tate and the Science Museum but the dungeon they will never forget!

  • Many manor houses may be visited (for a price) but the gardens are often more enjoyable and less expensive. The kids can be outside and run around while parents enjoy the plantings. Children under 5 are almost always free.

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