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London with Kids

We're visiting England and Scotland in late August with our two younger daughters, ages 9 and 14. We'll kick off that trip with 5 full nights in London. It's been years since I've been a tourist in London. Do the major sights require pre-booking these days? What are some destinations or other recommendations that would interest our kids in or near London? Also, is the Harry Potter Warner Bros studio tour worth the hassle of getting there? That being said, their website is showing fully booked at the moment for our dates in town anyway.

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356 posts

We had our kids (10 yr. old girl and 15 yr. old boy) with us when we visited York and London in March. Pre-booking, as a general concept, is a good idea. Some places it is essential (e.g., Tower of London).

A handful of things that our kids loved in London, in no particular order:

  1. Tower of London (some of the stories on the tour are a bit gruesome for kids)
  2. Play time at Trafalgar Square and visit to Piccadilly Circus - after dark makes it even more fun
  3. Outdoor play time in Holland Park (I'm sure Hyde Park or some other park would do just as well - we were staying near Holland Park so it just worked for us)
  4. Photo opp @ Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross
  5. Greenwich (e.g., Greenwich Market for lunch, Cutty Sark and Painted Room at the Old Royal Naval College)
  6. Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street
  7. Climb to top of the dome at St. Paul's (this is pretty scary for those afraid of heights at some points)
  8. Lake Street Graffiti Tunnel near Waterloo Station.

They didn't appreciate the Churchill War Rooms as much as I had hoped. We skipped LondonEye as it was really expensive given what it is.

There's an endless list but finding some "kid-friendly" items like this made our trip even more enjoyable.

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273 posts

If your kids are Harry Potter fans then it is definitely worth a trip to the Warner Brothers studio tour. I took a tour bus from Victoria Station that went directly to the studio parking lot (and showed the movie on the way) and then had plenty of time on my own to take the tour and see everything before catching the bus back - it wasn't very expensive and it was an easy way to get there and back. It was a highlight of my trip to London! My kids found the London Eye to be interesting as well for the great overview it provides of the city. And I suggest asking your kids to do a little research to figure out what would interest them so that you are sure to incorporate things they would enjoy. You could also look at getting tickets to a play - there are some smaller theaters with interesting shows that aren't very expensive and it's a great experience for them.

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421 posts

Many museums in London are free. Which is great for families as you can pop in for just an hour or so and then leave if your patience runs out. British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum. Check out their websites. I think they all have "kits" for kids with treasure hunts or such. And they have docented tours of certain collections which are also free.

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11350 posts

We had to pull our kids out of the British Museum. They also loved Westminster Abbey and a self guided tour of Harry Potter’s sites including Platform 9 3/4, Tower of London too. They did not want to leave London to go to Paris, the second half of this trip! After the trip ended, they still loved London best.

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421 posts

A good resource of events and activities is TimeOut London online. They at least used to have a special kids section. Two other things that were highlights for kids who visited us were a kind of puzzle/scavenger hunt/treasure hunt in Covent Garden I got either on an app or on line. And the shopping and clowns/acrobats/buskers in Covent Garden market. Not sure what has happened with them since Covid but is fun.

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373 posts

We saw the Harry Potter play at The Palace Theater. It was spectacular! It is a two part show, but quite enjoyable. If interested, purchase tickets now as they sell out fast. I also would recommend The Churchill War Rooms. The layout there would interest even a 9 year old. They take reservations now. I wasn’t really impressed with my visit to The Cutty Sark ship in Greenwich but kids there seemed to love it. If you go, hit the family friendly Trafalgar Tavern for lunch.

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3806 posts

Day trip out of London to see a castle.

Windsor Castle--a short train ride out of London. Do the tour inside, including seeing the magnificent Doll House, then walk around the outside to see the beautiful exterior walls.
Buy tickets here at the official website: https://www.rct.uk/visit/windsor-castle
Take a walk on the Long Walk. Walk around the town of Windsor with its cute cobblestone streets. Walk down to the river, cross the bridge, feed the ducks, take a short boat ride. There are lots of good restaurants and cafes in Windsor, as well as an ice cream shop. Quick train back to London. This trip is easily done on your own, or you can do a tour from London.
https://evanevanstours.com/tours/day-tours-from-london/windsor-tours/

Warwick Castle--take the train from London to Oxford and continue on to Warwick. You can easily walk from the train station to the castle. Today, Warwick Castle it is run by an entertainment group, so its website looks "Disney-esque" but don't be fooled. This is a real medieval castle with a ton of history that goes with it. They have medieval jousting, falconry displays, hawks and owls for the kids to see. The castle is filled with suits of armor, weapons collections and more. https://www.warwick-castle.com/
If you don't want to take the train on your own, go with a big bus tour, such as Evan Evans or Golden Tours.
https://evanevanstours.com/tours/day-tours-from-london/warwick-castle-shakespeares-birthplace-oxford-the-cotswolds/

Leeds Castle--To the southeast of London out in the countryside is lovely Leeds Castle, remodeled by Henry VIII for a hunting party he once had there. The best way to get out to Leeds Castle is to take a tour with either Evan Evans or Golden Tours.
https://evanevanstours.com/tours/day-tours-from-london/leeds-castle-canterbury-cathedral-dover/

Normally, I am not a fan of the big bus tours, but they do serve a purpose.
https://evanevanstours.com/tours/london-tours/
https://evanevanstours.com/tours/day-tours-from-london/

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366 posts

My kids loved the London Eye and the Tower of London, and they were about your kids' ages when we visited London in 2018. My youngest just loved riding the tube!