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There are so many things to explore, miles of museums and entertaining ways to experience London with kids. Here are a few ideas for your first or next family trip to London:
See London on a Double Decker Bus
For Londoners, the double decker bus is just another way to get around the city. For families with kids, the double decker bus is a cheap, easy, safe, and fun way to learn about London and skip the expensive tours. You get to ride with the locals and there are so many that you can take them to almost any destination. Two of the buses No. 15 and No. 23 will take you past many of the major London landmarks, including Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, past St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tower of London. For extra fun, you can take the buses at night where you can see the city all lit up. Make sure you pack a map, snack and sit upstairs in the front. Consider buying a pass so you can ride around all day for a set price. Children under 11 ride free.
Your kids will never forget their visit to Hamleys. It’s truly an incredible and unforgettable experience. First, the shop is just beautiful with toys and goodies as far as the eye can see. And its 7 floors of magic will keep everyone busy and looking for that special toy to take home. Get in touch with your inner child and make the most of the overwhelming number of fun things to try. Make sure you take a break and try the cupcakes, they are out of this world!
This is one of the must-see events during your family trip to London. The Changing of the Guard takes place every day from May to mid-July at 11:30 a.m. After mid-July, the schedule changes to 11 a.m. on alternating days only. Know the schedule and go at least an hour early. Your kids will love watching the elaborate ceremony of footguards marching in red tunics and Beefeater hats, all set to traditional music. There is also an official app available from iTunes that is designed specifically for tourists that will help you answer the 110 questions your kids will ask during the ceremony.
When you get home, your kids will tell you this was one of the top moments from the whole vacation. The Yeoman Warders (commonly known as Beefeaters) stand guard and give enormously entertaining tours of the Tower of London. You will swear they are all trained in theater, they are so good at making history come alive… and they are ridiculously funny too! Make sure you see the Crown Jewels (photos do not do them justice) and the armory with its impressive collection of armor, swords, guns, and other weapons. Arrive early to beat the crowds and wear comfortable shoes, its a really good time and you will enjoy exploring the history of this place with the Beefeaters.
Thames RIB Voyages
If your crew is looking for something different, Thames RIB Voyages is a great way to amp up the adrenaline and see more of London. The speed boat (up to 35 knots) experience will have everyone smiling and seeing the city from an entirely new perspective. The schedule operates hourly from the London Eye, 7 days a week all year round. The trips are really exhilarating and with funny guides and getting splashed in the face, the tour provides a very memorable trip down the river Thames. Go ahead, put your hands in the air and enjoy what is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip.
If you like some scary fun mixed into your family fun, then you will love London Dungeons. Probably not too good for really young children or those who scare easily, but for everyone else its a screaming good 90 minute journey through 1000 years of London’s dark past. You walk through the Dungeon moving from one show to the next. The shows are all based on bits of London history like Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd, Guy Fawkes, and the barber of Fleet Street. You’ll also pass through a torture chamber, plague-ridden homes and the Whitechapel Labrinth where Jack’s out and about and looking for his next victim. It’s so much more fun than another boring museum tour. Try booking your tickets online in advance, the London Dungeons are very popular that way you can visit when you want and get access to the priority entrance.
There are so many museums in London that you have to be very selective and spend your time wisely. The Science Museum has been a local favorite for years and it’s the #1 popular destination for school groups who visit London. The exhibits and galleries are really unique and hands-on, like rocket ships, live science shows, and of course the massive IMAX theater. There are special activities and galleries designed for younger kids under 5. Favorites are the Pattern Pod, Launch Pad and Garden (for the little ones). Plan to spend several hours to a whole day at the Science Museum and arrive early. The museum is free and you can bring your own food if your wallet needs a break.
We’ve all seen the London Eye in countless photographs of the skyline. Take the time for you and your family to relax and ride the Eye. Definitely not a thrill ride, but a great way to see great views of London, including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, The Tower of London, and other major landmarks. The London Eye is 418 feet high and one trip around takes roughly 30 minutes. Buy the double ticket so you can do both the day and night experiences. Nothing like seeing the sights all lit up at night. Buy your tickets online to save money and time. Bring a map so you can identify all the monuments and landmarks as you spin through the air.
Want to see one of the finest views in all of London? You can climb the dome at St. Paul’s Cathedral and do some exploring along the way. The view is just stunning and on a clear day you can see for miles. Climb up the dome to the Whispering Gallery and try out its unique acoustics where a whisper on one side can be heard 100 feet away. Then you’ll climb another 271 steps to reach the Golden Gallery at the very top of the dome where the really good views can be seen. All together its 528 steps and one of the best moments of your trip will be reaching the top! Try to tackle this one early in the day and its goes without saying that you need appropriate footwear and maybe a rest before you head onto your next adventure.
Entertaining and a really good time, be sure to plan a trip to Harry Potter Studios. Especially if you have die-hard Harry Potter fans in your bunch. It will seem a little expensive and far away, but well worth the journey. The authenticity, level of detail, costumes and exhibits will leave you feeling like you just visited the magical world of Hogwarts and learned some closely guarded secrets about how the films were made. Favorites are the Great Hall, Dumbledore’s office, Harry’s Nimbus 2000 and Hagrid’s motorcycle. And the Ministry of Magic will blow you away! To get there, consider taking a train from Central London to Watford Junction where a double decker Harry Potter bus will take you to the studios. Buy your tickets online in advance.
Meet some of the most iconic and legendary characters on this adorable little barge near Little Venice. Once you board, the lights are dimmed and the show transports you to a imaginary world that is so unique and visually interesting that you’ll swear the marionettes are alive. Your younger kids will be thrilled and even some of the older kids will love the beauty and magic of the stories and characters. Expect to see Brer Rabbit, Scrooge, Little Red Riding Hood and of course the Three Pigs and the Wolf. The barge seats roughly 50 people so make sure you plan ahead, show can sell out quickly.
Have you taken your kids on a family vacation to London? Share your favorite things to do in the comments section.