5 days in London with adult children

We'll be in London in December for 5 or 6 days with our adult children..20, 21, 27. We've never been to London and looking for suggestions for must-see/do things for them. If you have experience travelling with this age group, then you know that they have a limited tolerance for all-day museum excursions. They're all very active and great travellers and I'd really like to make the visit to London interesting and fun for them. We'll have just left from visiting Israel for a week so they might be ready for something a little lighter! Any suggestions appreciated. Thanks!

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
161 posts

At their age, don't you think they should be able to decide for themselves what they would like to see and do?
Give them a guide book.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Hang at Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly Circus. I've seen many interesting, entertaining and fun street performers at all of those places and there's world-class people watching. Also enjoy the scene walking along the South Bank of the Thames from Westminster Bridge to the Tower of London. Here's a cool map and podcast you can download and listen to ahead of time to get a sense of what you'll see. They may not care for museums, but the Tate Modern, which is along the route, might grab their attention for at least a short visit. http://www.dk.co.uk/static/cs/uk/11/travel/podcast.html For matinee or evenings, let them choose which musicals or plays they'd like to see. Tons to choose from, all top quality. Spamalot is hilarious, true British Monty Python comedy; you'll split your sides laughing. Get reduced-price tickets at TKTS in Leicester Square: http://www.tkts.co.uk/ Give them Oyster Cards and let then go off on their own and seek out what interests them. They're certainly old enough, and London is generally safe. Only explain the basics about protecting their valuables by using a moneybelt. They'll hate it but it's worth it to totally avoid having your pockets or daypack possibly picked in crowded Tube trains or public spaces.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Also, pick up a copy of Time Out London when you arrive (or check it out online), so they can see for themselves what's happening and participate in deciding what they want to do, either with you as a family group or on their own. http://www.timeout.com/london And then there's the pubs... http://www.fancyapint.com/ And, of course, 'there's an app for that'. :) Also, Portobello Road in Notting Hill, and Camden Market for some definite edge. (Afterthought: Gah! Just realized you'll be there in December, which could mean gloomy, drizzly cold weather. You'll need to have a Plan B for indoor activities if the weather is miserable for spending longish periods outdoors.)

Posted by David
Basingstoke, England
46 posts

Without knowing their interests or gender for that matter it is difficult advise but a visit to a football (or as you might call it soccer)match will open a window on English culture that an all day exposure to some of the more worthy museums would not. The season will be well underway and the fixtures have already been published.

Posted by allison
oakland, california
60 posts

David and Rose,
Such great suggestions! As it turns out, they're all athletes (water polo) and would LOVE to watch a game. This will absolutely be on our list! We'll take the weather into consideration, but as December is the only time we can travel together as a family, we'll make the best of it. I'm all ears for anything else that comes to mind. We're already finding the two websites (Rose) interesting! Many thanks..

Posted by Marty
Rockville, MD, USA
70 posts

This might not work for your family, but we take turns being Julie the Tour Director - each day a different family member is in charge of planning the sightseeing and meals. One son chose a bus trip across town to Kings Cross Station (platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter fame), a few hours at the RAF museum in Colindale, and a play (Matilda) while the other one scheduled a very long day trip to the Tank Museum in Bovington. I picked Greenwich, which is maybe three museums on one site and a cruise on the Thames to get there. The planning is at least half the fun - we all meet in a restaurant with wireless and laptops and people share their thoughts about what they're choosing (so we don't all pick the London Eye), check train schedules, etc. It works best if people are willing to experience odd things (I wasn't bored at the tank museum till after the fifth hour), knowing that their turn will come. Have fun!

Posted by allison
oakland, california
60 posts

Thanks Marty! This is another great idea. Our list is starting to take shape! Many thanks to all..

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7819 posts

Well no ,, I had no idea adults all had limited tolerance for musuems, but yes, some adults are not interested in museums.. actual children ,, say under 12 or 13 often have limited endurance for that sort of thing, although my 11 yr old and 13 yr olds did absolutely fine.. Frankly I made my kids each find three things they wanted to see in each major city we visited,, I suggest you make your grown ups do the same, its sweat equity in a being taken on a nice trip by parents,, and yes, I made my kids contribute their sweat ! Most people regardless of age ( if over say 8 or 9 at least I guess) enjoy visiting the Tower of London, and the British Royal Musuem. Also , all of you will likely enjoy a bike tour with Fat Tire Bike Tours,, its a great way to get the lay of the land and very fun and easy cycling, really,, its not an athletic activity at all, but definitely fun.. I hadn't been on a bike for decades before I tried one.

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2001 posts

Pre or post Christmas? Would they like to participate in this annual 10K for charity? http://www.doitforcharity.com/doitforcharity-santa-run-2013.aspx?c=359&ad=charitypage
Do they like theatre? A panto is always fun and you all can secure 1/2 price same day tickets at the Half Price booth in Leicester square. Ice skating rinks will be available. Are they shoppers? The East London design show in Shoreditch is in December. The Spitafields Winter Festival is great fun. The International Horse show is in December. Would they enjoy an insider tour of pubs and history of drinking? http://www.insider-london.co.uk/london-pub-tours-drinking-tour/ LOADS of stuff for "Kids" their age. Have them look at Timeout magazine as Rose suggested. VERY informative as to what's going on where. Great city. You will ALL have fun.

Posted by allison
oakland, california
60 posts

International Horse Show! Theater! Ice skating! Soccer games! Pub visits/tours! This is why I love this forum. Many thanks!

Posted by Claudette
huntington beach, ca, usa
468 posts

I just took my 16,21 and 23 yr olds to London and they loved it! It was their first time there. The older ones loved the pubs, of course, so they wandered off to SoHo by themselves pub hopping. If they're Harry Potter fans, a trip to the studios in Watford Junction is a must. We also went to see a couple of shows. "We Will Rock You" because we all love music by Queen and "Mousetrap" for the history of it. If they're Dr Who fans, there's a shop/museum somewhere in London. I can get the details for you if you're interested. Also, they really enjoyed the London Eye. At first, they didn't want to go because it was "touristy" but I was able to get 2 for 1 tickets so I made them go and we all really enjoyed it. Afterwards, we walked along side the Thames River because I wanted to cross the Millenium Bridge and had a nice pub dinner of fish and chips along the way. We did that on our last evening in London and it was a nice way to end our stay there. There is so much to do in London that doesn't have to involve museums. We also did a daytrip to Windsor Castle and they found that fascinating. There was a neat little pub by the entrance where we had our first pub grub. They have adventurous palates so we had no trouble finding food. These are kids that loved the steak tartare and escargots in Paris!

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3194 posts

Don't know if your 20-somethings are into dance music clubs, but London is one of the meccas... Easy to Google to get names, a few top ones recommended by my 23 yo son... Ministry of Sound, Fabric, Sankeys...

Posted by allison
oakland, california
60 posts

Thank you, everyone!!! Incredibly helpful! We're all really starting to look forward to this trip. Are there any hotels that you were really happy with?
Many, many thanks...

Posted by George
Independence, KS, USA
532 posts

It might be too late but check out the Royal Albert for Christmas programs. They have marvelous choices plus a wonderful restaurant onsite prior to any performances. We spent several nights at Trafalgar Square enjoying Christmas carols from groups from all over the UK that come to sing at the huge tree, donated by the citizens of Norway as thanks for liberating them in WW II. Mince pies and hot mulled wine are available too. Did I mention the hot mulled wind.... probably did... :-). There are Christmas markets around London with all manner of Christmas treats, one being chestnuts roasted on an open fire. If you hung out with Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest you might welcome them, but for us, I'd have to be pretty famished to eat them... Check out Borough Market website for all manner of great stuff. The grilled cheese if worth the trip. Be sure and take in evening vespers at either St. Pauls or Westminster Abbey, both are quite moving even though we are not church people. Christmas time in London is one of our best memories.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
644 posts

I suggest a trip out to Windsor Castle, just a short train ride away; on the outskirts of London, overlooking the Thames River. You could see Hampton Court Palace, also. A longer train ride away is Warwick Castle. Stunning and very grand, with suits of knight's armor and a weapons room.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
644 posts

Hi Allison! In your last post, you asked, "Are there
any hotels that you were really happy with?" If you post this as a completely new question, you'll get a lot of answers. Probably nobody noticed it here, because they were too busy concentrating on the original question. Repost as a new topic, and I bet you get about a dozen answers right away!

Posted by allison
oakland, california
60 posts

Good point, Rebecca. I'll re-post the question. Thanks!

Posted by George
Independence, KS, USA
532 posts

You really must check out the offerings at the Royal Albert. We were enthralled with a Christmas program that included the Royal Trumpeteers, and the royal Philharmonic orchestra where we sang all the old ditties and the orchestra played all the seasonal selections. It was one of our most moving Christmas experiences EVER. We dined in the posh cafe at the Royal Albert prior to the performance, worth every farthing, pence, pound and we had complimentary wine with dinner. Don't miss it.

Posted by Dana
Des Plaines, IL, USA
25 posts

We were in London for 10 days at Christmas in '11 with our children age 23 and 20 at that time. We stayed at a great hotel, Le Meridian Picadily, great location. Check prices on booking.com. One of the highlights was ice skating at Sommerset House. I bought the tickets in advance and everyone thought it was a good idea, but after a long day of traveling I had to literally drag my family there, we had such a good time and both kids thanked me over and over for insisting that we go! Both kids enjoyed the Christmas Eve sevice at Westminster Catheral, my son even snapped a picture of him and his sister in front of the Cathedral. And we do not attend church regularly. Greenwich was a highlight, some great easy sightseeing and some great pubs. London Eye was good. We went to a soccer game, but I think that was when we were there in October one year, but attending a soccer game is an EXPERIENCE! Tower of London was good in December, festive! On Friday night the National Gallery is open late, we all enjoyed walking through there before dinner one night, it is free, so we only spent a little over an hour and we all enjoyed it! We also did a day trip to Oxford that was a highlight! Enjoy it is so much fun traveling with your kids when they are in their twenties!

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
678 posts

Early December, the Trafalgar Square christmas tree goes up and then there is carol singing in the evenings until Christmas. I was trying to find details for this year but seemingly they won't be published until September. However, I did find this, which has some more ideas, including some sport related ones: http://www.londontown.com/London/December-in-London-2013

Posted by Bob
Bristol, UK
277 posts

Just to clarify, Westminster Cathedral is a big Roman Catholic church. Westminster Abbey is the big Church of England (i.e. Protestant) church near Parliament Square and the House of Commons. Both are impressive buildings, but the Abbey is medieval while the Cathedral is nineteenth-century. The Abbey is the more famous and more visited. It may look like a cathedral, but is not the seat of a bishop, which is what defines a cathedral in the Church of England.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7953 posts

'Cathedra' is a bishop's throne/seat. It's also how a catholic cathedral becomes such.

Posted by Maria
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
73 posts

We just got back with our 20 and 18 year old. It was fantastic. I suggest going on tripomatic and having them pick the sights they want to see. Then work a schedule around that. That's what we did. We walked a lot and were out from early in the morning til late at night so much to see and do. We just went to one museum. The national museum and met at trafalgar square so that we didn't all have to stay if we were done with it. Oh yeah, and they wanted to visit the science museum so I shopped while they visited. Phones are very important. were blessed with great weather. Let me know if there are places or info in particular you would need.