Friday, April 29, 2011

Traveling with kids: 9 things to do in London

I can't help but think about London, England today. I'm not big on royal stuff, but all the hoopla surrounding William and Kate's wedding is getting to me. To quote my inner trekkie: "Resistance is futile! You will be assimilated!"

I worked in a small town just outside London many, many years ago back in the dinosaur age called the 1980s. I've also visited the city a couple of times since then, but never with my kids.

So, if I could take my kids to London, what would we do? Here are some things I'd definitely consider. 

1. Visiting the British Museum - The British Museum is my personal, all-time, favorite museum. It's also free to visit. For my kids, I think the big, massive, collections like the Egyptian and the Assyrian sculptures, including the Balawat gates, would hold their interest. Also, just hanging out in front of the museum on that great big staircase or in the courtyard is kind of cool. Good place for a snack break!

2. Watching dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum - This museum is the place to go if you have dinosaur-crazy kids (and who doesn't?). Even visiting as an adult, I felt kind of blown away by the experience. Lots of skeletons, dinosaur models and more for kids and parents to wow over. Also, the building itself is a sight to see with all its towers and peaks and carvings.

3. Hanging out in Regents Park - Like Hyde Park, this park is really big with lots of trails to walk and things to see. This would be a great place to take the kids for a picnic or just to run and hike around. It also houses the London Zoo, where A.A. Milne was inspired by a bear to write about Winne the Pooh.

4. Riding a double-decker bus - My car/bus/truck/train/plane/vehicle-in-general crazy son would definitely enjoy a ride on one of London's double-deckers. I've taken a ride in the open-topped bus, and it would definitely make for a good sightseeing tour of London with children. Remember to bring hats, gloves and scarves if you're riding in the open. Or sunscreen, sunhats and sunglasses, depending on the season: London can get very hot in summer.
Map of Zone 1, London Underground.
5. Riding the tube - The tube, or underground, is the easiest way to get around London, and I know my kids (especially my son) would love it. His only complaint might be that there's "nothing to see!" since the underground is, well, mainly underground. If the weather is good, walking with a good map would be my preference when getting around London, but kids' legs sometimes get tired quickly and the tube can always get you where you need to go pretty fast.

6. Crossing the Tower Bridge - The Tower Bridge is one place I've actually never visited, even though I've spent quite a bit of time in London. I don't even know why I've never gone there. Just being there to see when they open or close the bridge for the ships would be a big hit with my kids.

Peter Pan himself.
7. Visiting Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens - My daughter is a huge, huge fan of Peter Pan (mainly the old Disney movie) and even dressed up as Peter for Halloween last year. So we would definitely have to visit Kensington Gardens to see Peter himself. This park also has playgrounds and a pond for model sailboats.

Mmmmmm...
8. Eating some nice pastries in Covent Garden - Covent Garden is an awesome place to visit no matter what your age is. The market is full of good stuff and simple knickknacks (I still have some huge, colorful very 80s earrings from there), there are good restaurants, and always lots of people to watch. It's just so full of life and things to see (and buy!). When I first visited London, this was my favorite place to go for a cup of tea and pastries. Lots of cafés to choose from too! I'd love to take my kids here to munch (messily) on a chocolate éclair!

Photos thanks to Wikimedia Commons.

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