London for Kids



  • My wife and I eventually decided to not go to Cairngorm (if a mancunian says it rains a lot there, I don't think a pair of wellingtons will be sufficient), and instead decided that we would bring the kids to see London while it is still available.

    So, with two kids who this summer will be almost 7 and 11, what are absolute musts while in London the first week of July? What is overrated and can be skipped?

    Any hidden gems that you might share?


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    Natural History and Science museums are always good, but they will be a bit crowded at that time of year. They're also both free entry, which is a bonus.



  • The V&A is also quite close.



  • @Mikael_Svahnberg said in London for Kids:

    So, with two kids who this summer will be almost 7 and 11, what are absolute musts while in London the first week of July? What is overrated and can be skipped?

    Wouldn’t that rather depend on their interests? If they like dinosaurs the Natural History Museum would likely be a good place to visit, but if they don’t and are more interested in (military) aircraft then the RAF Museum is probably a better choice — for example.



  • @Gurth You are right, but at the moment I just want a wide spread of ideas. I see this as an opportunity to widen their interests. So if you argue that the RAF museum is really excellent, has plenty of things that activates the kids, etc. etc., I might consider it even if they have not expressed that much interest in magnificent men in their flying machines before.

    @Jaloopa The natural history museum is pretty high on my list -- I was quite impressed when last I was there (15 years ago) with their interactive displays that really engaged kids. Bummer that Dippy is no longer meeting the visitors, though.



  • The V&A might be a bit too high-brow for young kids, although that depends on what they like (the reproduction of some monuments, including bit of the Trajan column, are quite spectacular!), how you can explain things to them and so on. But let's say that usually kids that age are more fascinated by dinosaurs and volcanoes than scraps of old cloths and pottery fragments. I love the V&A, but maybe not for kids.

    I'd go for the Tower. It will be overcrowded but there is something that always works with medieval castles, armors and jewels. Generally speaking, you'll be in the full swing of the tourist season, so expect a lot of people and queues everywhere (well, that's Britain anyway...). Try to buy tickets in advance if you know where you're going...

    Skip the London Eye, in my experience it's not really worth it. London is not a city that has some nice structure visible from above (unlike, say, Paris with its hills and large avenues) so while kids will probably enjoy being up in the sky, I don't think it's worth the queue and price. Go to Tower Bridge instead, it's more interactive (you get to walk along it, there are some models showing how the bridge works etc.) and while the view isn't as impressive as from the London Eye, it still is "from above".

    Of course you want to go walk around Big Ben and Parliement Square, but I wouldn't bother with Westminster Abbey (unless, again, you think they might be fans of fan-vaulted gothic ;-)).

    Most kids love Harry Potter, so a visit to the studios will make a nice fun trip.

    If they like boats, Greenwich is nice (add the observatory to see the Greenwich Meridian in real life and some nice old clocks and scientific apparatus, if they are science geeks in the making), but it's far from the centre so you probably need to plan a full day for that. The HMS Belfast, meh... it will entertain them, but you can probably see similar ships in about any port of the world. Forget about the zoo or the aquarium, it's just another zoo or aquarium.

    In all my years in London I never managed to go to the transport museum, I don't know whether it's worth it? Covent Gardens in itself is a nice area, go there to watch a couple of street artists, some of them are very entertaining. But that's really hit or miss, I've been there at times when there are none, or really crap ones...

    Speaking of transports, when you have time take a bus instead of the tube, from its starting point if possible: if you get the front row on top, you get a scenic view while resting a bit between two activities. Being in the front of a double-decker that makes a tight turn makes even traffic jams look interesting (the first couple of times...)! Another good one is to take the river boat, e.g. from the Tower up to Big Ben or a bit further either way, just to get a river trip.



  • I remember the London Dungeon being pretty fun but this was almost 30 years ago when we had to make our own entertainment.


  • sockdevs

    @remi said in London for Kids:

    In all my years in London I never managed to go to the transport museum

    There's a transport museum?



  • @RaceProUK That's kind of why I've never been to it. I always "discover" that it exists when reading some guide book or other, but never think of it when looking for something to visit...

    But, while a lot of old buses and trams might not seem very sexy to non-transport-geeks, if presented correctly (i.e. mostly, if there are at least a few that you can climb aboard and touch, rather than just being 5m away behind a rope!) they can be a lot of fun for kids. Big cars and exposed cogs and wheels, old things that don't exist anymore... I went last Christmas to an auto museum and while the presentation was very, very old-school (you might say it's fitting for old cars...), it was still very entertaining for the kids.



  • @RaceProUK said in London for Kids:

    @remi said in London for Kids:

    In all my years in London I never managed to go to the transport museum

    There's a transport museum?

    0_1491298805338_85f4912f709897a23ee6de62662e6c54.jpg

    :trollface:


  • sockdevs

    @remi said in London for Kids:

    I went last Christmas to an auto museum

    That reminds me: I need to find the time to go here at some point.



  • @RaceProUK I need to get there some day, but that's probably not quite suitable for children :beers:



  • @remi thank you for a detailed answer. I wanted to wait with replying until I had more time to write something. I also wanted the question to simmer a bit to see what might turn up.

    We are currently considering:

    Places we'll give a miss this time:

    • Windsor Castle
    • Globe Theatre
    • London Zoo
    • London Eye
    • London Aquarium

    More Questions:

    • Any particular shopping streets/districts that we should visit?
    • Book shops - any particular area or any particular shop?
    • Any places to eat you'd recommend?

  • sockdevs

    @Mikael_Svahnberg said in London for Kids:

    Any particular shopping streets/districts that we should visit?

    Regent Street & Oxford Street


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @Mikael_Svahnberg said in London for Kids:

    Any places to eat you'd recommend?

    My favourite restaurant in London is My Old Dutch, in Holborn. Savoury pancakes for mains and sweet pancakes for dessert.



  • @Mikael_Svahnberg said in London for Kids:

    Book shops - any particular area or any particular shop?

    Waterstones just off Piccadilly Circus? There used to be another large bookshop directly opposite it too, but it’s been 15 years since I’ve been in London.



  • @Mikael_Svahnberg said in London for Kids:

    I've never been and wax statues look a bit creepy to me, but it's certainly high on most tourist attractions lists!

    I almost mentioned it (as well as Windsor) in my list, and I think if you like castles (of the non-medieval type) they are both great places. They make for nice trips outside the centre as well, which varies a bit things. I vaguely remember that there are boats going (close) to Hampton Court, that would probably be worth it.

    Check which parts of the palace will be open to visitors. When the queen is away (in summer, but I don't know the exact dates) you can visit quite a few big rooms, but the rest of the time it's only a couple of side rooms and some art gallery, I think? (not sure, that has changed a lot in the last few years I believe)

    Places we'll give a miss this time:

    • Globe Theatre

    While you are at the Tower, you can cross the bridge (even if you don't visit it, I think it would be a shame not to cross it!) and walk a bit along the south bank, which in itself a very nice area. Depending on how much walking you want to do, you can easily go back up to the Globe (OK, the exterior is not really spectacular).

    Which reminds me, there is also the Golden Hind not far away, which you might want to see (and climb aboard). And I personally love continuing the walk to the Tate (the building itself is quite impressive and they always have one art piece/performance in the main hall -- I am no fan of modern art but since you can just pop in, have a look and get out immediately, it can be interesting even for kids?) and up to the London Eye. That makes for a long walk, but you can pick shorter bits.

    This also reminds me that your list is missing St Paul. Getting up into the dome and to the whispering gallery is fun (although with all tourists I'm not sure it will be quiet enough to get the whispering to work, but the church itself is worth it). This can be easily added as a kind of side-trip on a south bank walk.

    • Any particular shopping streets/districts that we should visit?

    I am partial to the south bank, you can easily make it a full day walk with some visits along the road. Camden is in my opinion overrated now, and much too busy in summer for my comfort (especially with children). I like Notting Hill, you can get a mix of quiet posh residential streets (nice houses) with busier areas.

    • Book shops - any particular area or any particular shop?

    The only one I know is the Forbidden Planet. Its top floor with all toys and geek stuff (and the assorted geeks looking at it) is very entertaining. Lower floor has a huge lot of comics and SF/fantasy books. Not entirely kids-friendly (don't think there is any kids section), but not really adult-only either (there are a few scantily clad figurines and books, but it's not the main focus, there is really everything).

    • Any places to eat you'd recommend?

    Not specifically, but I think there are two types of cooking that are worth trying: pubs (not so much for the food itself, although fish & chips is a classic and the adults should at least try once a pint of ale, but pick one with nice wooden interior a bit outside the tourist areas and you'll have a nice lunch or dinner -- be aware that some pubs don't accept kids though, so you may need to ask before going in!) and indian restaurants (basically any will do, and many have lunch menus that are very cheap).


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @remi said in London for Kids:

    Camden is in my opinion overrated now, and much too busy in summer for my comfort

    Yeah, Camden isn't too different to any other street market, just bigger than lots.

    @remi said in London for Kids:

    indian restaurants (basically any will do, and many have lunch menus that are very cheap).

    Brick lane is an experience in itself, but it makes choosing a particular restaurant difficult as they all have lots of awards and loud touts outside



  • @Jaloopa said in London for Kids:

    @remi said in London for Kids:

    Camden is in my opinion overrated now, and much too busy in summer for my comfort

    Yeah, Camden isn't too different to any other street market, just bigger than lots.

    I know this will sound like hipster talk, but I really think that it changed a lot in the last 10-15 years, and has indeed become much like many other markets (although the setting under the railway arches still makes it quirky). Without going back to a time when it was a punk area where you wouldn't send any tourist, at one point it was gathering some unique shops (punks and goths and the old Cyberdog... a weird mix !), and it has now become much tamer and less distinctive.



  • @Mikael_Svahnberg You should definitely eat some beef with @lucas1 while there and create a thread about that.





  • @loopback0 I think I'd have to know what atuthentic means, first. :restroom:



  • @Mikael_Svahnberg I really liked the Science Museum when I last visited. You don't have a chance of getting into the Natural History Museum on a weekend.

    I also visited the British Museum when I was a kid and thought that was ace. Mainly because of all the sarcophagi. But maybe that was the exhibit at the time.

    Even shopping can be interesting if your kids are old enough. I saw a lot of tween/teenage girls having their pictures taken with male models (it was all harmless fun) outside some of the flashier brands that are sold near Liverpool street.

    Brick Lane can be interesting but the last time I went was 2007 so I dunno how kid friendly it is.



  • @lucas1 thank you. You're the second person mentioning Brick Lane so I have to look that up...



  • I also quite like the London Dungeon ... it is total garbage but in a good way. It is like a shit horror movie / scary ride things vibe with lots of facts about how we used to kill people brutally. I probably have a mental age of a 12 year old when it comes to that stuff so I loved it. The tour took about 30-40 minutes when I was there. It is mostly just a bit of fun.



  • @lucas1 said in London for Kids:

    Brick Lane can be interesting but the last time I went was 2007 so I dunno how kid friendly it is.

    On Brick lane, it is where there is some real London English culture going on. It is about a 5 minute walk from Liverpool Street. There are a lot of hipsters and fixie skidders

    But I've been there a few times and it is mostly just a bit of a Bazaar.



  • @RaceProUK I was getting Oxford Street mixed up with Liverpool street.


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @lucas1 said in London for Kids:

    Mainly because of all the sarcophagi. But maybe that was the exhibit at the time

    No, they have a pretty big Egypt display permanently.

    The British Museum is really good, but realistically, you can't see everything in one visit. If you go there, decide which exhibits you want to see and go there first. I like the Japanese area, and the Greek and Egyptian but if there's a particular period your kids are into then there's probably something relevant



  • London also has the Lego Store on Leicester Square.



  • @Jaloopa I've been there twice and I liked it when I was younger because of the "mummies".

    I would like to visit again because I have a genuine interest in history now. I am reading through at the moment "The Life and Legacy of Genghis Khan".



  • @loopback0 Yup, that isn't bad as an adult either.



  • @lucas1 Exactly. Winner all round.



  • I went to the natural History Museum as a kid. The only thing I remember is the mortal terror and the resulting two-decade phobia.

    But I was much younger than your kids, I'm sure they'll be fine.



  • @CarrieVS
    Plus, any kids that were spawned and raised by @Mikael_Svahnberg are already going to be pretty messed up, it's not like a few old bones can make things worse ;) :trolleybus:



  • @izzion said in London for Kids:

    it's not like a few old bones can make things worse

    It wasn't the skeletons, it was the moving and (to a toddler) lifelike model.



  • @Mikael_Svahnberg said in London for Kids:

    Book shops - any particular area or any particular shop?

    They're mainly clustered around Charing Cross Rd. Foyles is the gigantic one. There are a bunch of specialist and rare books dealers on the opposite side of the road just north of Leicester Square, and a bunch more on Cecil Ct just east of Leicester Square.

    Also, +1 to everything @remi says, and Hamley's is also a good call.


    Edit: *snerk*
    0_1491618199295_screenshot.png



  • @RaceProUK said in London for Kids:

    @remi said in London for Kids:

    In all my years in London I never managed to go to the transport museum

    There's a transport museum?

    The one thing I remember from my London visit is that there's a museum for virtually anything you can think of.

    Then again, Berlin has the Deutsches Currywurst Museum, so you could say they're pretty evenly matched.



  • @clatter said in London for Kids:

    Edit: *snerk*
    0_1491618199295_screenshot.png

    Nice... looks like :baby: is sending me a message. Does that mean I don't even need to formally join that group, I'm already a member?



  • @anonymous234 said in London for Kids:

    Deutsches Currywurst Museum

    Perfect fit for Brugges' Friet Museum



  • So... Oyster cards. How do they work for kids under 11?

    I get how I'm supposed to use them at the barriers for the tube, and when getting onto a bus. I also get that as long as the kids are with me, under 11, and less than four they travel for free. But how do they get past the barriers at the tube?



  • @Mikael_Svahnberg There is a separate barrier with a guard at almost every major tube station where people with large items, disabled etc go through. Also if you aren't sure just ask an employee they will tell you exactly what you need to do if you are lost or confused on what to do.

    Personally I wouldn't use an oyster card, because they fuck up and you can get a £20 fine at least (in my friends case a court appearance because he used his girlfriends oyster card instead of his because they mixed them up). With a paper ticket you have evidence you bought it on the day and it avoids hassle.



  • @lucas1 said in London for Kids:

    @Mikael_Svahnberg There is a separate barrier with a guard at almost every tube station where people with large items, disabled etc go through.

    :-) I like the inference that kids are essentially large disabled items.

    Ta!



  • @Mikael_Svahnberg As long as you aren't late at night (I am sure the underground is closed past a certain time) just ask if not sure. Most guards are quite helpful unless they are fining you.



  • @Mikael_Svahnberg On thing that I forgot to mention.

    If you are travelling on a Sunday as that is the least busiest day of the tube, certain lines will be under maintenance. Replacement bus are normally provided, but it is worth keeping in mind.



  • @lucas1 said in London for Kids:

    @Mikael_Svahnberg On thing that I forgot to mention.

    If you are travelling on a Sunday as that is the least busiest day of the tube, certain lines will be under maintenance. Replacement bus are normally provided, but it is worth keeping in mind.

    Thanks. It will be monday to thursday, IIRC.

    ... So given earlier posts in this thread you now know when to keep your eyes open for me. I will look for a gorilla in a red Trump-cap.



  • @Mikael_Svahnberg HAHA :D, I will look out for a man with a bowler hat and monocle.

    I live about 120 miles from London but travel there semi-frequently. Mainly to visit uni mates.



  • @lucas1 said in London for Kids:

    @Mikael_Svahnberg HAHA :D, I will look out for a man with a bowler hat and monocle.

    Fun fact: when that picture was taken I was holding my Coke in my hand. Kudos to @abarker for finding it outside the picture frame.



  • @Mikael_Svahnberg said in London for Kids:

    So... Oyster cards

    If you have a contactless credit or debit card, try that and you might not even need an Oyster card.

    @lucas1 said in London for Kids:

    Personally I wouldn't use an oyster card, because they fuck up and you can get a £20 fine at least

    Oyster/contactless is cheaper, and I've never had issues with it and don't know anyone who has. Issues are rare, I'd imagine.



  • @loopback0 said in London for Kids:

    Oyster/contactless is cheaper, and I've never had issues with it and don't know anyone who has. Issues are rare, I'd imagine.

    You haven't had issues. I have. Paper ticket cannot be disputed with guard. Oyster card requires you arguing the fine. FUCK THAT. I rather pay more.



  • @loopback0 said in London for Kids:

    Oyster/contactless is cheaper, and I've never had issues with it and don't know anyone who has. Issues are rare, I'd imagine.

    Yes, that would also be my advice and experience. And if you have ask the guards to get your large bulky items through the gates, you'll have some arguing to do anyway, so whether or not you have issues with Oyster (which I never had, nor anyone that I know -- which isn't to say it never happens, just that it's really not that common), you'll be spending a bit of time there...

    So personally I really wouldn't bother with paper tickets. But as long as you're aware that they are much more expensive than Oyster, well, to each his own. :shrug:


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