Last year while Pretty Handsome Guy was in London for business, we decided this was a perfect opportunity to turn his business trip into a pleasure trip for myself and the boys. Being in London for a month was wonderful because we had time to truly experience the city. But, we also had to get the kids out each day to wear them out. We went out everyday and explored much of London’s tourist attractions and then some. On average we walked about 15,000 steps per day, so if you go, bring good walking shoes (and an umbrella or rain coat. London is known for their dreary weather.)
I’ve put together a list of sixteen of our favorite activities to do with kids while in London.
16. Glass Elevator at SouthBank Center – This new art and restaurant center has a clear elevator in the center that is sure to amuse the old and young alike. I won’t give it away, but if you are nearby, stop in and take the glass elevator from the bottom to the top floor. You might just kill half an hour riding it up and down.
15. Science Museum:
Allow a day for the Science Museum. There was so much to see and do here and many interactive activities. If you have less than a day, go to the lab on the fourth floor where all the fun and interactive games are. There’s also a great space exhibit where your little one can put on real astronaut gloves and try to assemble a bolt. In the basement is a younger child play area and Google exhibit.
14. Regent’s Park – A traditional English garden with beautiful flowers and an entire garden dedicated to roses. The park has two playgrounds and is home of the London Zoo. We didn’t go to the Zoo so I can’t tell you if it was good or not. If you’ve been leave a comment below.
13. Tower of London:
My boys loved the Tower of London, England’s oldest medieval castle. Although I think they enjoyed watching their Grandmother’s horrified face as tales of gruesome deaths were told. The mint is near the entrance and is a great hands on learning location about the history of England’s currency. The crown jewels are also located at the Tower of London but there was no way my two boys would wait in line for an hour or more to see them.
12. Tower Bridge:
Across from the Tower of London is the spectacularly decorated bridge (most incorrectly thought to be the London Bridge.) Walk across the bridge. If you have time and eight pounds you can tour the Tower Bridge museum.
11. London Transport Museum – Located in Covent Garden, the Transport Museum was surprisingly a fun afternoon destination for us. Hop in the driver seat of a double decker bus or control a virtual Underground train. This was a real fun look at the history of London’s famous transportation.
Food, shops and street performers provide enough entertainment for kids and adults alike. Although some of the performers can be a little crude, luckily the language barrier helped keep my kids from understanding some of the jokes.
Walk in this museum and your jaw will drop when you see the huge translucent ceiling. Head straight up to the floor where the mummies are and your kids will enjoy learning about mummification techniques and see lots of real mummies.
A special thanks to one of my facebook fans for this recommendation! Head to the basement of this church and choose a brass plate to create your own rubbing! Knights, dragons and more are available and cost an average of 5 pounds depending on the size you choose. Then have lunch on top of “dead people” in the crypt. This is sure to thrill the kids. Afterwards head out to Trafalgar Square for a photo opp with the giant lion sculptures.
7. Coram’s Fields - has a few playgrounds and two zip lines which are sure to thrill your daredevils. Also a small petting zoo and field for a game of football (soccer) or just chase. This is a casual location that feels less crowded than the touristy royal parks.
6. Hyde Park – Playground and pigeon chasing – London’s largest and more substantial park award goes to Hyde Park. There are more gardens, monuments and trails than you can imagine. Rent a paddle boat, eat ice cream, feed the swans, and more. Plus, there are loads of pigeons to chase! (My son is an expert pigeon hunter — actually a scarer —according to him.)
5. Ride atop a Double Decker Bus:
This is a definite kid (and adult) pleasing activity on a nice day. Take a tour of London from the second floor of a double decker bus. If you ride on one of The Original Tour buses, ask the driver for a kid’s activity packet and he (or she) should be able to give you one to keep the kids entertained the day after your excursion.
4. Diana Memorial Fountain – if the weather is warm and sunny, head over to the Princess Diana fountain in Hyde Park and witness hoards of kids splashing and playing in the memorial fountain. Although signs ask you to only dip your feet in, I think Princess Diana would approve of all the children running, playing and thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Also in Hyde Park is the Diana Memorial playground which has a pirate ship, playgrounds, musical finds, gardens and much more. Access is through a gate and only when accompanied by a child. There’s also a small café next to the playground where you can grab a bite to eat.
2. Jubilee Playground by the Eye:
A relatively new playground located at the base of the Eye. This has to be one of the coolest natural playgrounds I’ve seen. Large logs have been stacked for the kids to climb over and under. A net below insures safety if (and when falls occur.) For the less adventurous, there are swings as well.
1. London Eye:
One cannot truly see London until you’ve been in the London Eye. The kids will love riding over the city in a clear glass pod. If you are afraid of heights, you might want to skip this one. But,then again the rotation is very slow and there is a bench in the center to sit and observe.
Food for Americans:
Seek out the ice cream with flake in Hyde Park and sold by other vendors around the city. This is a British treat. If you’ve never had it, it’s simply soft serve ice cream with a stick of chocolate flake in it. The kids thought this was the best treat on a hot afternoon.
If you want to try something new but also need to cater to picky eaters), head to My Old Dutch on High Holborn. This is a pancake place like no other. The “pancake” is the size of a pizza platter and can be ordered with everything from pizza toppings like cheese and meat, to the more traditional berries and breakfast style toppings. Plus, they have gluten-free pancakes!
Finally, if you are missing traditional American style burgers and fries, Five Guys is now open in Covent Garden. Or The Diner on Shaftesbury has a delicious American grill menu!
Things to skip: The Aquarium (if you’ve been to the Monterey Bay aquarium, the Baltimore Aquarium, or other great aquariums), skip this one. I thought it was dismal compared to some of the great aquariums in the US. Right next to the Aquarium is The London Dungeon. Unless your kids are teenagers, this is probably too scary for kids. King’s Cross Railway Station has a Platform 9 3/4 which is a fun photo opp for Harry Potter fans. But, the line is usually long and the gift shop filled with Harry Potter souvenirs next to the platform is overpriced. Finally, Westminster Abbey is fabulous, but too many things that you can’t touch makes it a stressful destination for parents.
Save a British Pound or two: If you are going to hit up two or more of the Merlin attractions (The Eye, Madame Tussards Wax Museum, The London Dungeon, London Sea Life Aquarium or the River Cruise), you can buy combo tickets for them at a discount.
If you’ve been to London and have more to add to this list, or if you think I missed something amazing, please let me know in the comment section below!