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Ideas for London based trip in July with young kids

Hello - I am looking for ideas and suggestions on a London based trip with my spouse and 2 children - ages (4) & (1.5).

We will be traveling in late July of this year coming from New York area. We will be spending 9 nights flying in and out of LHR.

We would like to have a maximum of 2 ‘home bases’

9 days feels like too much time for London so looking for suggestions on a 2nd ‘base’.

I am not interesting in driving or renting a car this trip.

Bath seems to be an appealing option.

I’d love to spend some time in the Cotswolds but it does not seem feasible without a car - any suggestions or ideas on how to get a taste of the countryside?

In terms of interests when traveling with our kids we like to take our days slow and not pack too much into a single day. Taking breaks to hit a park or just walk around.

Also any suggestions for how to spend our time in London/appealing neighborhoods to stay that are close to major sights would be appreciated.

Thank you!

Posted by
357 posts

You could easily spend nine nights in London and have plenty left to do, but assuming you definitely want two bases, I'd recommend York. It's great for kids and adults alike - the Jorvik Viking Centre, York Minster, National Railway Museum to name but a few spots. 2.5hrs by train from London. You could hire a car in York and take a drive to the Yorkshire Moors for a taste of countryside.

In terms on London neighbourhood, much of this will be driven by budget. The closer to the centre, the more expensive. Places like Covent Garden, Bloomsbury, Mayfair etc all very central, as are Kensington, Chelsea - I could go on, but again, budget is the key.

Posted by
199 posts

I also think you could just stay in London the whole time and not run out of things to do - especially if you like to take your days slow. We were in London last year for the same amount of time, had very busy days, and still didn't see everything. I wrote a trip report about our time that might be helpful; you can find it by clicking my name and it should show all my previous posts.

For London, and with kids that age, I would definitely hit the London Zoo. It was one of the highlights of the trip! We especially liked the lemur exhibit, where you get to walk among the lemurs. The Transport Museum has enough hands-on activities for the 4-year-old. The WonderLab in the Science Museum was also fun, as is the Natural History Museum (although be warned that some of the exhibits need some updating!). I would consider skipping the British Museum, which was so crowded it was almost impossible to move at times, but perhaps others can suggest better times to go when it's not so crowded. We stayed in the Premier Inn London County Hall and thought it was a great location. It's right by the London Eye and across the Thames from Big Ben and Westminster. You are very close to two Tube stations that connect you to five different lines. Don't forget that you can do easy day trips to Kew Gardens, Hampton Court and Windsor from London.

If you really want to get out of London, I, too, would suggest York. I wanted to go when we were there but we just didn't have the time. We did a day trip to Bath instead. The boys thought the Roman Baths were cool, but after that - there wasn't much to interest them. We kinda just wandered around the rest of the day, killing time before our (pre-purchased) train back to London. This was fine for a day, but I can't imagine what we would have done if we'd stayed several nights. York seems to have a lot more things that would appeal to kids.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
1102 posts

Greenwich is good for kids. The Naval museum has a great play area (paid extra) that they would enjoy. There’s a good play park in Greenwich too.

You’re going to be in London during the U.K. school holidays so pretty much every museum will be offering children’s activities which are often free. Look on their websites for more information.

The South Bank always has street entertainers that children love and there’s a carousel down there too.

I actually do think you’d find 9 days in London a lot with such small children unless you based in a nice family friendly suburb and took some days very easy. Central London is busy and full on. You really have to be in high alert with such young children to keep them safe on transport and in the crowds and traffic.

Posted by
12 posts

Crystal Palace Park might be a nice option with the kids. There are dinosaur statutes (they actually date from 1854) set in the gardens, a nice hedge maze, playgrounds and plenty of space to roam and play.

Posted by
4420 posts

I agree London and York. If they like cats, the four year old can look for buildings that have cat statues in the Shambles area. If it's still in business, there is a glass shoppe in the Shambles that has a map of the statues. I enjoyed Jorvik even though people says its something of a tourist trap, so I think your 4 yr old would love it.

I suggest that you take the boat from Westminster Pier to Kew Gardens. Lots of room for the kids to run around.

I've been to Brighton and wasn't impressed. If you really wanted to go to Brighton, you can easily do it as a day trip from London. Staying in London the entire time is not a bad idea. When our daughter was 4, my husband did a month's sabbatical in London and we went to museums during the day while he was working-the Natural History Museum and British Museum are really interesting for a 4 yr old, but limit the British Museum visit to 2 hours.

Cotswolds would be better when your younger child is 5 because then you could take a Mad Max day tour from Bath. Or if one parent is willing to stay in Bath with the two kids while the other parent takes the tour you could do that. Bath doesn't strike me as being as interesting for children as York.

Posted by
8800 posts

Parks are one of the best things about London and its diverse neighborhoods.

Been going to and enjoying since Nixon was President.

Countless places for you to explore with the young ones.

Brighton with its pier and rocky beach
Crystal Park Dinosaurs
Battersea Park Children’s Zoo
Mudchute Farm
Take a city cruise on the Thames
Cable Car ride over the Thames
London Transport Museum
Puppet Barge on the Thames
The variety of buskers performing in Covent Garden
Check the Tower Bridge lift times
Princess Diana Memorial Playground near Kensington Palace
Check Feeding times for the Hyde Park Pelicans

Posted by
16651 posts

Our son and his family joined us in London for a week in May, 2016 when our grandchildren were ages 22 months and 4 yo. We had an apartment near Tower Bridgge on the south side of the Thames, and the kids loved being able to run and play in the open area of the Thames pedestrian path (The Queens’s Walk), especially around the London City Hall. There was a water feature with a “river” and spray jute’s that has since been removed, but it is still a nice open area, with Potters Field Park right behind.

The places around London that they especially enjoyed were (1.) The playground in St. James Park, and the lake and waterfowl there; (2). Kew Gardens, where they could run around and play, especially the Treetop Walkway:

https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens/whats-in-the-gardens/treetop-walkway

(3). The wading pool in the courtyard garden at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and lunch at the cafe there. This was closed during the pandemic and remained so for awhile, so I had to search for information on the current status. According to this list of wading and splash pools around London, it is open in 2024 (see #21 on the list). Museum entry is free.

https://kiddoadventures.com/2024/04/25/over-90-of-londons-best-paddling-pools-includes-splash-pads-fountains-lidos-more-2024-guide/

https://www.loc.gov/resource/vrg.12952/

The Princess Diana fountain (#2 on that list) was not open when we were there, so the kids did not experience this one. But it is open now, and highly recommended by others.

The kids (and we and their parents as well) enjoyed boat rides on the Thames and the London buses for getting around; the Tube not so much (too noisy and often difficult to access with the stroller).

We took them to the London Transport museum but the exhibits and activities did not interest them (they are geared toward slightly older children), so that was a waste of time and money for us.

Based on our experience, I would recommend the South Bank/Southwark area, or just across the Millennium Bridgge near St. Paul’s: or the neighborhood just south of Hyde Park/ Kensington Gardens (not sure if that is Kensington or Knightsbridge). They can look for laser ice apartments in these areas, such as Marlin Queen Street (close to St. Paul’s), Native King’s Wardrobe (pricy), The Harrington Residences (South Kensington), or others. It is easy to search for apartments on booking.com to find options, then go to the property’s own website to book.

Posted by
3803 posts

The London parks are great for kids.
My favorite is Regents Park.
https://www.royalparks.org.uk/visit/parks/regents-park-primrose-hill/things-to-do

There are lakes where the kids can see swans, ducks, birds of all kinds.
Hire pedal boats and go for a ride on the lake.
https://www.royalparks.org.uk/visit/parks/regents-park-primrose-hill/boat-pedalo-hire
There's even a hedgehog breeding facility.

There are 8 cafes or kiosks in Regents Park. One kiosk serves ice cream.
https://www.royalparks.org.uk/visit/parks/regents-park-primrose-hill/food-drink

There are 4 playgrounds in Regents Park.
Plus, at the northern edge of the park, there is the London Zoo (already mentioned earlier in this thread by Allison).
https://www.zsl.org/

To the north of the zoo, there's Regents Canal, where one can either take a boat ride along the canal
or simply walk the canalside path to see the narrowboats moored there. People live aboard the narrowboats, some of which are quite colorful, with back porches decorated with pots of flowers.
For canal boat rides:
Jason's Trip: https://www.jasons.co.uk/
London Waterbus: https://www.londonwaterbus.com/

Posted by
3803 posts

In London, you may wish to stay in an apartment near one of the parks.
Here's a mews apartment near Hyde Park (the third one down the list):
https://www.londonperfect.com/blog/2015/04/london-perfect-mews/

I do recommend London Perfect for apartment rentals.
Just keep browsing. There are lots of choices.
https://www.vacationperfect.com/rentals/london/?_ga=2.255670920.1276251196.1695239074-1166923150.1695052174&_gl=1*2coc9b*_ga*MTE2NjkyMzE1MC4xNjk1MDUyMTc0*_ga_ZHJM6MPT56*MTY5NTMzMDM3OC42LjEuMTY5NTMzMDU5Ny4wLjAuMA..

For your second location,
you can get to the Cotswolds without a car. This would be a peaceful place to take walks, get some fresh air and sunshine.
You can take the train from London to Oxford and then onward to the small village of Moreton-In-Marsh.
There are several lovely old inns and hotels here.
You could take a short taxi ride from Moreton onward to Bourton-On-The-Water, if you wish.
This is a lovely village with the River Windrush running through the center. The river is small, so it looks more like a mountain stream. Children and adults can wade in the water or sit on the riverbank to watch the ducks float along.
There are lots of hotels, inns, B&B's, cafes and shops in Bourton-On-The-Water. Plenty of walking trails outside the village.
This is a very family-friendly place.
Near Bourton is Birdland, a zoo of birds, with penguins, parrots, and more to amuse the children.
https://www.birdland.co.uk/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birdland_Park_and_Gardens

Posted by
3803 posts

You wondered in your original post: "I’d love to spend some time in the Cotswolds but it does not seem feasible without a car - any suggestions or ideas on how to get a taste of the countryside?"

There are tour companies that will give you a one-day tour of the Cotswolds. This means you can use one village as your home base, but get a look at some of the others and a look at the countryside. One tour I recommend is GoCotswolds. We have been on this tour several times and been very pleased. It has the highest possible rating on Trip Advisor. https://www.gocotswolds.co.uk/product/cotswolds-in-a-day/

The other possible second location you mentioned was Bath. I do love Bath and believe you would enjoy it. Bath has beautiful Bath Abbey, the Roman Baths and many lovely parks where the children could play. Bath has lots of good restaurants; important on a vacation.
With the children, I think you might enjoy the Cotswolds more.

Another second location I will suggest is Windsor. You can easily go from London to Windsor by train or bus. Windsor is a lovely small town with, of course, a really nice castle! It sits beside the River Thames. There are boat rides, ducks, swans, and more to amuse children. Windsor is a small town with cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, good hotels, good restaurants, and lots of open space for walking. The Long Walk is on one side of Windsor Castle and affords lovely views of it. You may see deer and wildlife there.
The good thing about Windsor is it's a short taxi ride away from Heathrow airport. When it's time to leave, take a short taxi ride to the airport.

On the subject of getting to Heathrow....there is a coach (bus) that runs from Bath train and coach station directly to Heathrow airport. So that is something to consider if you're in Bath as your second base.

I have hotel recommendations for all the places I've mentioned, if you need them.

Posted by
1 posts

Hello!

For your London trip with young kids, staying in family-friendly neighborhoods like South Kensington or Bloomsbury would be ideal, as they're close to major attractions and parks. In London, consider visiting places like the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and the Diana Memorial Playground.

For your second base, Bath is a great choice. It's accessible by train from London and offers a mix of history and relaxation. While visiting the Cotswolds without a car can be challenging, you might consider taking a guided day tour from Bath to experience the countryside.

Taking it slow and enjoying parks like Hyde Park or Regent's Park can make your trip enjoyable for both you and the kids.

For more ideas on planning your trip, check out this guide: https://www.parkcitylondon.com/how-to-plan-a-fun-london-literary-tour-for-kids/