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London with kids- tips please!

Planning on June - 5 days in London, then heading to Paris. We're familiar with Paris, but would love some tips, can't misses, and advice for getting the most out of London (and surrounding) with young(er) kids in tow (i.e. things that won't make them exhausted or bored). :) Our children will be 8 and 12.

Posted by
3111 posts

These are the things our granddaughters loved 2 years ago when we visited London for a week and they were essentially the ages of your children:

Two family friendly West End musicals
Princess Diana playground
Hampton Court Palace
British Museum, 6th and 7th grade social studies friendly
Science Museum
Thames boat ride
Harry Potter walk with
London Eye views
Upper floor double decker riding
Kew Gardens

We didn't go to the Tower of London with them this time, too crowded the last time the oldest was 8 and we took her.

We didn't do any away day trips with the girls because our time was too short.

I'm sure your kids will have a great time, especially if you know their specific interests and include them in the planning. Enjoy!

EDIT: take a look at Time Out London online in the next couple of months to see if there are any local June kid events scheduled.

Posted by
221 posts

That's a good list Mona!

My 7/9 yo niece and nephew also love the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. In addition, they also like:

Museum of London (Barbican for everything there especially the Romans and Victorian street, Docklands for Sailortown)
Maritime Museum in Greenwich
Riding at the front on the top of a double decker bus (I still do this, and always miss the periscope to look down on the driver)
Climbing onto the lions in Trafalgar Square (my sister was less than impressed but they liked it!)
Watching the street performers in Covent Garden
Matilda the Musical
London Transport Museum and "driving" the buses and tube trains
Seeing the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum

Posted by
1172 posts

We are going in July with our 12 and 9 year olds.

What we have on our list that has yet to be mentioned:
- Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace
- Harry Potter Studio Tour
- Hamley's toy store
- Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Posted by
69 posts

I wholeheartedly agree with the Leavesden Harry Potter Studio Tour. If your kiddos love Harry Potter, this will be an awesome experience for them. The tour last at least 3 hours, but it's at your own pace so if your kids get bored, you can move quicker. If they love HP, they won't get too bored though. They have a cafeteria (and Starbucks). It includes sets, props, interactive opportunities (making a flying video, sitting on the Hogwarts express, etc.). You can get bus transfers from London and book tickets in advance (on website). I would allot a good half day towards this experience. We went two years ago (no kids), but I'd take my niece and nephew in a heartbeat.

The Tower of London is pretty great for kids, too. They seemed to have more exhibits geared towards children than I had remembered. You can also walk just around the corner to the Tower Bridge experience, which has a skywalk.

Also, I'd suggest looking into a London Pass if you're going for that long. It's a pretty good deal with entry to most of the places mentioned that aren't already free, including Hampton Court or Windsor Castle. If you get this, remember, it also includes a river cruise from Big Ben to the Tower of London.

Posted by
3428 posts

When we took our kids at those ages, they LOVED the Tower of London and also Windsor Castle. Our son (then 9) especially enjoyed the weapons displays. They also love musical theatre (got to see CATS and Grease). I also can second a visit to Hemley's
toy store. Covent Garden Market was fun for them too- but that was more than 20 years ago now and it has changed some. But any good market should be fun for kids those ages. Just remember to break things up- some 'structured' things like The Tower or museums, some slightly less (like markets) and some total down time- parks, naps, sitting and people watching.

Posted by
4684 posts

Please don't encourage people to climb on the lions at Trafalgar Square - it's happening so much that the sculptures are in danger of collapsing.

Posted by
13086 posts

The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace involves huge crowds, and small people like me (5'2") cannot see anything over the people in front. I assume your children are my size or smaller? You would have to arrive very early to get a spot near the front so they can see--so there would be a lot of waiting around.

I recommend the changing of the Queen's Lifeguards at the Horseguards Parade ground instead:

The crowd is usually small enough that nearly everyone is in the front row.

Afterwards, pay the small entry fee to visit the Horseguards Museum. Lots of interesting detail about the horses and the guards. ( Maybe bypass the last room which covers wars and the death of some horses in an IRA bombing, if you feel your children are too young to handle this). They have a former stable room with uniforms (including hats) in child sizes they can don and pose with a horse head statute.

And if you are going to the Olympic Park, consider a swim in the beautiful Olympic pool (bring suits).

We were there for lap swimming in 2014 and there were very few people. It looks like it is more popular now, as they offer the opportunity to "book a session" on the web page.

Posted by
3111 posts

@ Lola, we did both guards with the girls 2 years ago. We happened to walk past Buckingham Palace about 10-15 minutes before the ceremony started and within minutes of the music playing people were leaving so we and the girls could move right up to the iron bars. I think people who'd been waiting a long time had grown tired and left, this was in July.

The girls had to see the Queen's Horse Guards because they had been so fond of the Madeleine in London book when they were little and it featured a "retired" horse from the guard.

Posted by
2658 posts

If your children does have cameras, get them disposable ones so they can take their own pictures. Both of my girls love that when they were young. Also, they probably enjoy Hamleys toy store on Regent Street, it opened 1760.

Posted by
3186 posts

Harry Potter studio tour, Natural History museum(dinosaurs) and I know you can do this at home, but our college daughter insisted on going to the zoo the last time we were there and we loved it. Because of all the countries that used to be in the British Empire, they had fish and snakes I have not seen in zoos in U.S.