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Spring Break - Grandson First Trip London

End of March/early April taking 15 year old grandson first trip to London. I have been often but taking grandson who loves military history. Any suggestions? I realize Churchill War Room & Imperial Museum top of list. I also will book a tour of the Guardsmen Museum - they have a day an evening not sure which is more in depth as to military history etc.

Will do Stonehedge and my question is Windsor really worth a visit? Was thinking taking tour of Cambridge or Oxford as he pay future do a summer study program there.

Thank all of you!
diane

Posted by
12196 posts

Do not miss the HMS Belfast, a battleship moored in the Thames near Tower Bridge. You can visit much of the ship, including the engine rooms, and learn how the ship prepared for and engaged in an important battle. Lots of climbing up and down ship ladders.

https://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/hms-belfast

You can get a combined ticket with the Churchill Rooms or Imperial War Museum (I forget which it was).

Posted by
5969 posts

See the film "Darkest Hour" before going, to tie into the War Rooms visit.

Posted by
2290 posts

My husband and I spent an entire day of our vacation in the Imperial War Museum - and I wasn't indulging him in the least!

I have not been to the Army Museum, but it looks good. I love walking in the Chelsea neighborhood.

https://www.nam.ac.uk

Posted by
62 posts

Wow! Terrific he will absolutely love that visit! Any other suggestions?

Posted by
62 posts

Technically we have 5 full days (not including arrival morning from US. We arrive am and will allow that whole day for rest. May take in Off/On Bus and maybe the Eye - but keep it simple so he is rested and ready for the next full 5 days. So Imperial War, Churchill War Rooms, Guardsmen Museum, HMS Belfast, and if weather permit boat ride up Thames to Greenich which I read has a national Maritime Museum. Are there other military type of places to visit? Thank you

Posted by
6567 posts

My hat is off to you for introducing your grandson to foreign travel. It is a shame most travelers are using the Eurostar to cross the English Channel to France as taking a ferry puts D Day into perspective a little better.

You know if will be difficult to make future trips without him.

Posted by
239 posts

Go up the Northern Line to the RAF Museum in Hendon. It's terrific. I tried the newly re-opened National Army Museum and was a little disappointed. It isn't as good as it was before the re-launch, but still worth a visit; and like all national collections in the UK, entry is free.

Posted by
2290 posts

We took the train to Greenwich to see the Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark. I was surprised that I didn't remember it, until I realized that was how we spent the half day waiting to check into our hotel.

As I recall, the scope was broader than just military history, and there was a lot about Nelson.

https://www.rmg.co.uk/national-maritime-museum

Posted by
2023 posts

Great suggestions--I would add Sherlocks Holmes museum and Hampton Court Palace.

Posted by
8889 posts

Dover Castle. The castle has many layers of history, WW2 back to a Roman lighthouse. And you can see France (and realise yes, it is that close). If you have time on the way back stop in Canterbury to see the city walls.

Portsmouth, for the dockyards, Victory and Mary Rose.

Windsor no, not military, just "royal".
Stonehenge no, it is boring, and not military.

If you had a car, I would suggest a castle or a hill fort. A hill fort is like something out of Mad Max, where they lived for defence before the Romans came, and again after the Romans left in the dark ages. Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillforts_in_Britain

Posted by
62 posts

RAF Museum - thanks Pete! Actually my father was lead US B52 D Day Invasion - he was pilot of that first plan you see in those old film formations. Gives me more perspective too - not sure if I can this trip take in Normandy? Your thoughts?

Posted by
12196 posts

At the Imperial War Museum he will learn about Alan Turing and the codecrackers at Bletchley Park.

https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/how-alan-turing-cracked-the-enigma-code

He might want to watch the movie The Imitation Game before the trip.

There is more on the Enigma Machine at the Science Museum in South Kensington; also great exhibits on the history of communications and computers in general.

And then he might want to visit Bletchley Park, where the code breaking work was done:

https://www.bletchleypark.org.uk

Edit: The Codebreaker exhibit at the Science Museum closed in 2013. But there are lots of other exhibits of interest at the museum.

https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/what-was-on/codebreaker

Posted by
62 posts

Sorry - he was a commander of B52 but not of course WWII. He led the B24 on D Day. We have the original flight plan.

Posted by
62 posts

Is a visit to Normandy possible? In a day trip from London and back? Worth the effort?

Posted by
62 posts

Thank you - so will pass on Normandy - summer we can do that. So in summary: Imperial War Museum; Churchill War Rooms; HMS Belfast; The National Army Museum, and others: RAF Museum in Hendon, Maritime in Greenwich, Bletchley Park.

Will have him watch Darkest Hour and The Imitation Game (code breakers)

Any other thoughts?

Posted by
4366 posts

Portsmouth, for the dockyards, Victory and Mary Rose.

Plus the D-Day museum (just been revamped but I've yet to visit), the Royal Marines Museum, Explosion! museum, Royal Armouries Museum (plus the other hill forts), Southwick House where the D-Day invasion was planned and you can visit the Golden Lion pub in Southwick which often hosted Churchill, Eisenhower and Montgomery.

Portsmouth Harbour can be reached by train from Waterloo in around an hour and slightly longer (but cheaper) from Victoria.

Posted by
62 posts

Emma. great thoughts! Your right - trip to Cambridge/Oxford not this time. Should he want to attend summer program which they have prior to HS he can see all then. I agree also need to add other things - we will do the British Museum but I spend little time as will show the basic Rosetta Stone and he brought up with my influence on Egyptian stuff - so we will breeze through there as well as the Elgin Marbles. He goes to a Christian School so will take in The British Library to see Guttenberg Bible. Will try and get in a Shakespeare play if at Globe they have something so will try and balance out other than just military.

All comments here so fantastic! Would not know what to do without all your suggestions! Keep them coming!

Posted by
62 posts

Emma. great thoughts! Your right - trip to Cambridge/Oxford not this time. Should he want to attend summer program which they have prior to HS he can see all then. I agree also need to add other things - we will do the British Museum but I spend little time as will show the basic Rosetta Stone and he brought up with my influence on Egyptian stuff - so we will breeze through there as well as the Elgin Marbles. He goes to a Christian School so will take in The British Library to see Guttenberg Bible. Will try and get in a Shakespeare play if at Globe they have something so will try and balance out other than just military.

All comments here so fantastic! Would not know what to do without all your suggestions! Keep them coming!

Posted by
62 posts

JC - wonderful suggestions D-Day museum and Soputhwick House whre D Day planned. Every year when the class shares a WWII hero he always shows picture of his great grandfather - along with copy of actual D Day invasion flight plan as he led the B24's

Thank you!

Posted by
62 posts

JC - the D Day Museum was closed last March 2017 for renovation and open is in Spring. Do you know the dates? We will be there first week April but cannot find out when it re opens? Thanks

Posted by
511 posts

If you don't mind a long train ride the Tank Museum in Bovington is spectacular. One of my sons made this his "must see" and I was surprised how engaged I was. Five hours just flew by. tankmuseum.org
If you go you'll probably get back to London around supper time so don't plan anything else that day.

Have you shown your grandson this thread? Invite him to browse websites and make some selections. For example, maybe either Greenwich or Portsmouth but not both in the same week unless he's passionaletly interested in ships. Ditto Portsmouth and Bovington - two long train rides.

If it were my trip I'd include either Windsor or the Tower of London if he wants to see a castle.

If you decide to visit Cambridge or Oxford as a day trip, then maybe drop Portsmouth and Bovington and Windsor because there's so much you can see in town without spending precious vacation hours traveling from place to place.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
62 posts

Yes - great idea of having him google to see what he finds interesting. I love the Tate Museum but did not think he would like that but will tell him to take a peek - asking him to do some research is terrific! The Tank Museum will take a look at too - know it would be a whole day due to train ride etc...

He is a major Call of Duty type so The Army Museum and the HMS Belfast as a hands on actual ship top of list.
Thanks to all of you!!!

Posted by
1128 posts

I'm a huge supporter of London Walks and they have WW II themed walks, along with many other walks. They're 10 Pounds and just show up, no need to book in advance.

London walks

Posted by
4366 posts

JC - the D Day Museum was closed last March 2017 for renovation and open is in Spring. Do you know the dates? We will be there first week April but cannot find out when it re opens? Thanks

Sorry, I can't give you anymore info than the site itself. Spring 2018 is a bit ambiguous, probably for a reason and I suspect the first week of April might be stretching it. The local news site would usually announce an impending opening date but there's been nothing on there.

Even if it isn't open Portsmouth's still worth visiting, the Historic Dockyard itself will consume hours of time and I suspect your grandson will enjoy Action Stations https://www.actionstations.org. My boys, 10 and 13, love it there and a boat tour around the harbour, taking in all the naval ships and submarines as well as the history of the port should interest him (and you!).

He'll probably really enjoy the Royal Armouries Museum at Fort Nelson https://royalarmouries.org/visit-us/fort-nelson/, even though it's on the outskirts of Portsmouth and would rely on a bus or taxi to get there (a taxi from the city centre should cost around £10) it's free entry and is fantastic for military enthusiasts. It's about a 5 minute drive from where I live and my boys never tire of it, particularly exploring the tunnels.

Posted by
3418 posts

Personally, my kids loved Windsor. The weapons display might intrigue your grandson, as it did my son. If you do the Tower of London, there is a small, separate museum that is the history of one of the military units of the British army. One time, my husband and I decided to see it. It is very inexpensive (at that time only about 50 pence- though that was about 20 year ago). As we went through the various exhibits, we realized this was the 'infamous' Red Coats of the American Revolution!!! What a treat to see their perspective. Of course there were plenty of other interesting tidbits, too. I personally thing that the Tower of London would be ideal for your trip. Allow about 4 hours and plan to arrive very early- just before opening.

Posted by
90 posts

Another vote for the RAF museum if your grandson is interested in planes. That was my son's favorite place. He also enjoyed the Tower of London not for military reasons so much as just the sheer interest of the place. I would echo others that on this trip I would not put a priority on Windsor, so many other amazing things to see on your list already. have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
206 posts

Have you got the Household Cavalry Museum on your list? It’s located at Horseguards and is very close to the Churchill War Rooms.

Posted by
14323 posts

I'll echo what Chris said - it's a long way to Stonehenge to see very little. A day trip to Bletchley Park is highly recommended. Check for guided tours. I was there several years ago and you had to sign up for a tour on arrival. The guide was someone who had worked at Bletchley when it was still a military facility - in the 1960's - so he had many interesting anecdotes. At the Churchill War Rooms, take some time to watch the video interviews with people who worked there.

Posted by
62 posts

Cannot thank you all! I've taken all your recommendations - and especially the DUCK Tour I completely forgot! My grandson would love that as it is so much fun!! plus the Cavalry Museum...

I've decided that we both will embark on this trip as "Investigative journalist" - put our hats on, see those fillms prior to visiting and like the HMS Belfast will make sure he reads history prior to all places we go! Truly an adventure and as many times I have been to London think this will be the best trip ever thanks to all of you! Thank you Rick Steves Team for being so patient with my request and allowing so many to help me plan a wonderful adventure!!

Posted by
23 posts

Hi Diane,

First of all, thanks to your father for his service! Part of Bush Park, next to Hampton Court Palace, was used as a U.S. air base during World War Two. It was called Camp Griffis and, from there, General Eisenhower planned the D Day invasion. It might be refreshing to rent bikes and ride around there.
It sounds like a fantastic trip with your grandson. I hope you two have a great time.

Kind regards,
Laura

Posted by
62 posts

Thank you Laura - will note that place to visit. Good also re no tuck tours right now! Uber is accepted, right? I remember few years back taxi companies were trying to prevent them from operating in London. And no worries, grandson is very unique at only 15 years old he gives me often a history lesson on WWII so I will of course allow him to just enjoy and do whatever he likes! I take your wisdom to not put too much into a day - will do one or most two major things but allow lots of time to just stroll and walk throughout this amazing city!

Posted by
26 posts

if you are in Greenwich, just go UP the hill to see the Prime Meridian and astronomy exhibits...it's a climb, but a surprise perspective that London is not all flat. When I took my daughters (then 9 & 11), we caught a double decker bus (across from our hotel near the British Museum) to Greenwich for the Maritime and the Meridian, strolled past the Cutty Sark, and then a boat back to the Tower of London. We had the Crown Jewels nearly to ourselves because it was afternoon and past the busy tour times. It was a long day but oh so worth it!