I wasn’t born in London. But I lived in London from when I was five until I was seventeen, and then again from 21 to 35, and London feels like my (and is my son’s) home town.
So here’s my recommendations for five things to do with the kids if you’re visiting London.
1: Go On A Boat
One of the best ways to experience London is on the Thames. Kids will love the amphibious river tours that depart from the London Eye — vehicles drive into the Thames, turn into boats, tour the river, and then transform again. Alternatively, taking a river bus to Greenwich is a cheap option. From February 2012, you’ll be able to spend the night on a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s pirate ship, the Golden Hind, while the warship HMS Belfast and the tea clipper Cutty Sark will be open for tours in spring.
London Duck Tours
2: See Something Gross
The London Dungeons, by London Bridge, offers a gross and gory tour of the horrors of old London that boys, in particular, will love — it’s halfway between a haunted house and a history show. The Old Operating Theatre offers live demonstrations of 19th century surgery (no anaesthetic!) every Saturday. And the Hunterian Museum houses a collection of bizarre medical specimens and wildlife based on a nineteenth century collection.
Old Operating Theatre
3: Visit A Free Museum
London’s museums are free and famous. Dinosaur fans will love the skeletons, fossils and animatronic dinos at the Natural History Museum. The Science Museum, right by it, has interactive areas for little kids and tweens-teens. The British Museum provides an insight into ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece; the Museum of London gives onto a Roman wall; the National Gallery and Tate Modern hold world class art collections; and the Imperial War Museum is great for weapons buffs.
Natural History Museum
Museum of London
Imperial War Museum
4: Go Skating in Winter, and Swimming in Summer
During the winter, London offers open air ice skating in atmospheric venues from Somerset House to Hampton Court to the Natural History Museum. In summer, outdoor swimming is a great adventure. The bathing ponds on beautiful Hampstead Heath are open to kids aged eight and over, but the lido nearby on Parliament Hill is open to all.
Somerset House Ice Rink
Natural History Museum
Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds
London’s most famous maze is in the gardens of Hampton Court Palace, built almost five hundred years ago by Tudor power broker Cardinal Wolsey. Kids of all ages love the high green hedges, set among dazzling gardens and a royal park with deer in it too. Maze obsessives might want to check out the Crystal Palace maze too, not to mention the giant dino sculptures and the adventure playground.
Hampton Court maze
Looking for more inspiration? Check out five things to do with kids in:
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New York, USA
Sunset Coast, Michigan, USA