London with kids
What do do in London that will make the whole family happy
First off: Skip the obvious sights that seem aimed at famlies but are, in fact, a snore.
The Changing of the Guard bored me to tears at age 11 (still does), and Madame Tussaud's is a way, way overpriced house full of waxy mannequins of famous people the kids probably never heard of anyway. The London Dungeon is an overpriced, lame attempt to make history ghoulishly fun (think: mediocre haunted house exhibits).
Much more exciting would be a Beefeater tour of the Tower of London (lots of good bloody history to recount, and they try to make it particularly entertaining for the lads and lasses).
You must, of course, make a pilgrimage to Kings Cross Station to look for Platform 9-3/4, from which the Hogwarts Express leaves in the Harry Potter books. (The station, showing a whiff of whimsey, has sliced a lugagge trolly in half and planted it in one out-of-the-way brick wall as if in the process of going through.)
Take a boat ride out to Greenwich to see the magnificent Cutty Sark clipper ship, then picnic and play on the grassy lawns of the city park leading up to the now-free Royal Observatory where they can set their watches by the official Greenwich Mean Time clock and have fun jumping back and forth between hemispheres on the Prime Meridian.
The Churchill War Rooms are pretty cool—the underground bunker from
They might also enjoy romping about the stalls of Portobello Road flea/antiques market on a Sunday, climbing to dome of St. Paul's to gaze out over the city—or do the post-millennial version, a ride in the massive Thames-side London Eye Ferris wheel.
And you know, even though it's a museum, all the mummies and gigantic Persian statuary and the cool mummified dude from the bog and the glasses of glittering Celtic gold and other awesome stuff inside the (totally free) British Museum tend to be a highlight of a London trip for kids of all ages.
When it comes to meal time, pub grub is a perennial favorite.
Also check out Belgo Centraal (sausages and mashed potatoes, roased chickens, and other hearty Belgian grub served at communal picnic tables by waiters dressed as monks); Pollo (cheap, heaping platters of spaghetti and other classic Italian favorites); and maybe Wagamama (if they like Ramen, this is the real thing).
Here are tours focused specifically on entertaining the tykes:
- Harry Potter Walking Tour of London including River Thames Boat Ride
- Warner Bros. Studio: The Making of Harry Potter with Luxury Round-Trip Transport from London
- British Museum for Families
- A World of Stories, The National Gallery for Families
- LEGOLAND® Windsor Admission with Transport from London
- Dinosaur Hunt: Discovering the Natural History Museum
- Jack the Ripper Tour and London Ghost Walk