When someone asked me the other day which places to visit in London with her kids, it brought back memories of our kids’ first visit. Here are some of their all-time favorite activities (they’ve been several times since then) that are suitable for most families to try.
The Churchill war rooms
Part of the Imperial War Museums, the Churchill War rooms are a good resource to explore and teach your kids not only about a great statesman but about Britain’s pivotal role in WWII. Our boys were mesmerized by the battle maps, newspaper clips and the underground BBC makeshift studio displayed.
Speakers’ Corner Hyde Park
A symbol of free speech and true democracy, today’s corner is less about politics and more about off-beat topics and outlandish antics. The Sunday we attended we saw a preacher warning passersby of the second coming, a man on top of a ladder claiming rights for short people and another defending bestiality. Though quite a noisy place, my teen autistic kid felt right at home and was ready to chime on how he would rule the world if we hadn’t proceeded to stop him.
Entwined in the lives of monarchs, statesmen, military men; poets, and men of the cloth – the Abbey is a London must-see. Since there are many interesting areas to explore you should map out the places you want to see ahead of time. Our son a pre-teen at the time couldn’t get enough of the story about Queen Elizabeth, I, and how she finally solved her ‘sibling rivalry’ by getting buried over her sister Mary Queen of Scots in the Lady’s Chapel section.
The London Tower has, hand down, the most attentive and patient guides we’ve ever met during our world travels. The Beefeater, we had on that snowy day was nothing short of a modern pied piper. He had a group of thirty people (my kids, including) listening to his riveting stories for over two hours while answering my son’s questions. A great tour to take with older kids is the nightly key ceremony -just be advised the tickets sell out rather quickly so you need to book several months in advance.
Even though for most tourists, Harrod’s represents the ultimate London shopping experience, my own kids actually fell in love with its food venues. Their two favorite Harrod’s spots are: the cheese stalls in the extensive food court as well as the Georgian Room for their High Tea homemade sconces, clotted cream and petal rose jelly.
Unlike some of their European counterparts, this museum is a well lit with ample seating spots, which make it a pleasure to walk around. As expected our kids enjoyed checking out the exhibits, especially of ancient Egyptian feline mummies buried along side their masters and were truly disappointed when it was time for them to leave -four hours later.
Over the years, we’ve taken many walking tours in multiple cities but none as memorable as the one tracing the killing rampage of Jack the Ripper. If your kids are in the older teen group age and like listening to gory stories, this is the tour for you. After assembling the group by the early evening hours the guide proceeds to take you to different locations the murders occurred. The combination of walking the dark streets and descriptions of the victims’ injuries make the tour so real; you start looking over your shoulder by the night’s end even though you know these crimes happened over a century ago.
The Changing of the Guard ceremony
There are actually several places around London that you can witness the changing of the guard depending on what their schedule is that day. However, even if you miss it, you can still take your kids to St James Palace and take that traditional picture with the guard in which he stands with that frozen glossed over look no matter how hard you try to look funny and make him smile.
Overall View of the city
We have two favorite places to view the city from, each with its unique features and accompanying atmosphere. The first, clearly not for the faint of hearted lot, involves climbing over 500 stairs (total of 1,000 up and down) to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral . The reward is a 360 degree spectacular view of the entire city along with well deserved lifelong bragging rights
The London Eye is pricier (even though they do provide a disability discount and fast pass) but more sensory friendly supplying you with priceless views at different levels as the ferrous wheel turns. As expected our own kids enjoyed the Eye better as it was less physically challenging and supplied them with a more ‘theme park’ adventure feel.
A West End show
No visit to London is complete without attending a show on the west end. For more affordable tickets try looking online for sales or head on the Leicester Square the day of the [performance to catch some last minute deep discounted tickets. Over the years, we’ve all ended many shows but none more memorable than the performance of, Billy Elliot,when a cute little mouse decided to steal the spotlight by continuously running between the audience rows looking for remains of intermission sold ice cream cones.
What do you and your family like to do on your London visits-feel free to add to our list.