This week’s “See the World” we are visiting the beautiful city of London! Hopefully you had a chance to see Kilkenny, Ireland last week and Jasper, Alberta, Canada the week before. If you missed last year’s “See the USA” series, you can find that here. This week we have the amazing Karilyn from No Back Home sharing her top 5 family friendly things to do in London. Come see what she has to share!
London is a top notch city for young and old, with an abundance of things to keep everyone in the family happy for days on end. The difficult part is narrowing down what you can actually do during a visit!
London Transport Museum
The London Transport Museum is a superb attraction with something for everyone. Kids of all ages will love the collection of buses, trains, trams, and subway cars as well as the myriad of hands on activities. For the youngest visitors, there is a play area with dress up materials, a bus the children can ‘drive’ and more. For older children there are extremely informative exhibits with details about the design and building of London’s tube systems as well as information on the other types of transport seen around the city. Don’t forget to pick up the fun scavenger hunt sheet to keep kids engaged throughout the exhibits. Look in all of the little nooks and crannies for the old train simulator. It is super cool for both kids and adults. Be warned, the very cool museum shop at the exit will also suck you in.
Tower of London
The Tower of London is a site on every visitor’s must see list. However, you might be skeptical (like me) thinking it might prove to be a bit boring. That is where you will be mistaken! Go early as it is always busy and for good reason. Start your visit with a free hour long Beefeater tour that will give you a good deal of background information about the gory history of the Tower. If you (or the kids) get bored, it’s easy to break away and continue on your own. Thankfully the funny guides are pretty good at keeping visitors hanging on their every word.
Before entering the Tower, pick up a free Family Trails booklet to keep the kids even more engaged during your visit. Of particular interest are the resident ravens, the Crown Jewels, and watching the Busby guardsmen marching in front of the Jewel House. Want to bring a hilarious version of the Crown Jewels to life before or after your visit? Have the kids read Gangsta Granny by David Walliams.
Experience the Theater
London is synonymous with the theater and contrary to what you might believe, it can be visited with kids of all ages. From kid focused productions at places like the Unicorn or Polka Theaters, to big budget shows on the West End, there is something for everyone. There are so many shows happening that families should have no problem finding something suitable. Some family favorites are Lion King, Annie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, STOMP and Wicked. Discount tickets to many shows can be purchased on the same day on the TKTS website or at the booth in Leicester Square.
London is the home to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, which is also an excellent place to introduce your kids to a wonderful part of history in this open air theater.
Get Magical with Harry Potter
Harry Potter mania is hard to avoid while visiting London even if you have kids who haven’t read the books yet. Go ahead, immerse yourself in the world of magic and mystery. From film sites in and around the city to Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross station, Harry Potter is everywhere. Have your photo taken pushing a luggage cart through the station wall before visiting the souvenirs shop to purchase all your favorite HP goodies. Head out to the Warner Brothers Studio in Leavesden where the Harry Potter movies were filmed for a peek at sets, costumes and more. Another option is to take one of the many tours in the city from short walking tours to all day bus tours.
One of the most popular attractions in the UK, the London Eye, is something worth waiting for. It is the world’s largest observation wheel, providing spectacular views over the city and River Thames. Arrive early as the line become long quickly. Or better yet, purchase your tickets in advance to reduce your wait time. Tip: Let the littles know in advance how slowly the wheel moves so they do not get too impatient waiting in the sky!
There is so much to do in London, that a list of 5 doesn’t even scratch the surface. Even though there are a ton of attractions to visit, some of the best times can be had walking around aimlessly soaking up the feel of the city or relaxing at one of the many creative playgrounds located through the city. A favorite for kids of all ages is the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. For more on what to do in London, see our other recommendations here.
Karilyn Owen is the founder of No Back Home, a family travel blog based out of Los Angeles, California. Karilyn and her almost 7 year old love to explore the outdoors and urban culture, seeking out the beauty wherever they find themselves. From road trip adventures to off the beaten path destinations across the globe, Karilyn and her son enjoy sharing their adventures with other families in the hopes to inspire more exploration at home and abroad.