Reader Question From Cindy:
My husband and I are taking our primary-school-aged daughters to London for three weeks in August and we’d love any tips you may have for activities we could do as a family.
“The Tower of London is a great place for families as it’s both educational and entertaining. If your kids have bundles of energy, then I would recommend the London Dungeons [a tourist attraction which recreates various gory and macabre historical events in a gallows-humour style] as it will keep them on their toes! There are also great museums that children will love such as the Science Museum, Natural History Museum, and London Transport Museum. Also, you have to visit Hamleys toy store on Oxford Street. Parents beware: You might have trouble getting them to leave!”
In addition to Tanaka’s great list (added at the bottom of our list), you may also consider these suggestions:
- Walking tours – these are magnificent. I loved the Harry Potter one and there’s a great Beatles tour. You pick what suits you and get a totally original perspective of this quirky city. Pack their scooters if you can and you’ll be able to walk a lot further without them complaining.
- Kew Gardens – offers some great adventures.
- The London Eye – a giant ferris wheel.
- UPDATED Parks: Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath, Bushy Park, Regents Park, Richmond Park and others, to see ducks, possibly some deer and squirrels. You may also be able to hire bikes and cycle around some of these. The open air theatre in Regents Park has “Peter Pan”, but once again it’s not cheap. Actually, most of London’s expensive, so be prepared.
- Harrods’ toy department.
- A double-decker bus ride.
- A visit to London’s grand train stations like St Pancras, Paddington (see the Paddington bear statue here), and King’s Cross’s platform 9 and 3/4 for the 11am Hogwarts Express, of Harry Potter fame.
- A hop-on-hop-off bus tour to see the major sights – top floor, of course! Get your bearings, see London’s remarkable sites, rest your jet-lagged bodies while being dazzled, too.
- A London cab ride.
- Rainforest cafe in Piccadilly.
- UPDATED Greenwich Park and Observatory, accessed via a boat trip on the Thames River. In Greenwich is the Cutty Sark, the last of the clipper ships. It is an award-winning attraction.
- Boat ride from Parliament to Hampton Court Palace for a picnic in the gardens and maze play then train back.
- Legoland in Windsor, not far from Windsor Castle.
- Trafalgar Square.
- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
- Have tea with the Queen! Well, sort of. Head to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard, or to do a tour. You may not actually have tea with the Queen but you’ll see where Her Majesty has hers.
- The Diana memorial, which we’re told has splash pools for some summertime cooling off (BYO bathers) and a playground.
- UPDATED The West End theatre district for a show. Last-minute tickets from ticket booths to big, live shows such as “The Lion King” or “Matilda”. The West End is wicked! Before you go to the theatre, have a burger at Byron’s, everyone raves that it’s the best.
- Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.
- UPDATED Walk over Tower Bridge for the view of London. Tower Bridge is always interesting. It is the only one to ‘open up’. A list of ‘Bridge Lift’ times can be found here. And there’s an interesting museum on the bridge.
- Royal mews – for the horses and carriages.
- Brass rubbings under the St Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square.
- Something to get rather than something to do: A London Pass – londonpass.com
- Sea Life centre.
- London Zoo.
- Bekonscot Model Village.
- The Making of Harry Potter/Warner Brothers Studio Tour – Book early!
- Cereal Killer Cafe in Brick Lane.
- Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).
- National History Museum – My pick for kids and adults, alike. The dinosaur fossils have to be seen to be believed so give yourself a few hours to truly enjoy it all. There’s a great gift shop, too.
- London Dungeons. This could be a little too gruesome for little girls!
- The Tower of London. Ditto!
- Hamleys – Not your average toy store. There are demonstrations and magic and they can play with toys – and you can walk out empty handed. We’ve also heard that a store called Kidzania (at Westfield London) is great for slightly older children.
- Science Museum.
- London Transport Museum in Covent Garden.
- NEW The Southbank. Everything is there, including a film society building, Tate Modern (take a boat from here between the 2 Tate’s) The London Eye, a great space for kids to run and during the summer there is so much for kids to do. Very ‘young person friendly.’
- NEW Carnaby Street is great for shopping. Kids love it.
Have a wonderful time Cindy, and please write a story for us about your trip, including any other tips you gather on your travels.
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Read Catriona’s previous responses to Travel Questions here.