London is a young person’s city. The age profile is lower than any other part of the UK. It’s full of schools and large cars and undeveloped knees on permanent display. Most of what I’ve visited on this tour so far is anathema to the under teens. Maybe a few places would amuse for a moment or ten but many would receive an eye roll, a ‘whatever’ expression and a well developed sulk. Or was that only my children?
So for this post I thought I’d offer a few obvious and a few less obvious ideas for youngsters. I’ve avoided sports venue though most do tours if you are so inclined and find the cost of actually attending a game or match or whatever too much. Personally for the cricket nut Lord’s is the best of any…
Anyway, moving on…
Somerset House and King’s Cross are two places, in the summer, where you can run the gauntlet of water torture.
They do get a bit more exciting than this. Honest. They are free, most importantly.
Olympic Park – Now the Queen Elizabeth Park
Out in east London the park contains the Orbit
which has the largest helter skelter in it (much to the original designer’s chagrin – Anish Kapoor, eat your heart out – which opens this summer, and acres of parkland where many events, at lot free, take place during the summer months. The park is still being converted away from the Olypmics but even so it is worth a visit.
If you can’t stand the idea of wandering through the biggest shopping centre in Europe to get there, avoid arriving via Stratford station and catch the tube to West Ham and follow the Greeway in. It’s a 15 minute wander and a much better way to get there. You’ll also pass the viewing pod with the best bacon and egg ciabattas. All free apart from the Ciabattas.
Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green
Another tube run to the east, but if you want to engage the children there’s lots to do and I guarantee you’ll find a memory jogger from your own youth.
At present there’s a stunning and poignant exhibition on forced child migration that took place from the UK to Canada, Australia, NZ and Zimbabwe between the 1890s to the end of the 1960s.
An appalling stain on the reputations of all countries involved.
If you are at King’s Cross already try the pond dipping at Camley Road or the farms at Mudchute (on the DLR) or in Crystal Palace Park.
Of course the Natural History museum caters for these but also Crystal Palace park
with its full scale Victorian versions.
This park is glorious, but come by train and stop at the Brown and Green cafe next to the ticket office. Bacon and egg soda bread rolls to challenge the pod ciabattas! Both are free (the parks and museums not the food)
Do your little ones like the grim and the gruesome?
Well, try the Hunterian museum that is in the Royal College of Surgeons on Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
The pickled body parts and anatomical freak show will open your eyes. It’s free but it would be tasteless of me to suggest where to head for food after. You’ll probably not want to.
London Docklands Museum
This is a small gem – again free – nestling in an old building on the edge of Canary Wharf;
it has the history of London’s docks.
But it far from dry and dull with imaginative exhibitions and explanations.
And Canary Wharf is worth a visit for the cluster of buildings and Birleys salt beef cafe (on the Lower ground floor underneath the central tower). Divine.
There are plenty of other places. Most large museums and galleries are free. A lot put on sessions for children especially during the school holidays. Check Time Out and see what’s on. You’ll be amazed. If there’s one place to head for it is
The South Bank
Start at London Bridge
or the Tower (and cross Tower Bridge) this stretch of the Thames path runs to St Thomas’ Hospital in the west. Variously you will pass (or be within a few minutes of)
The City Hall
best on a Thursday thru Sunday with lots of nibbles to taste and exotic burgers – Ostrich is a fav
today was a salt beef sarnie
The Golden Hind,
Sir Francis Drakes 16th Century ship (a replica)
Winchester palace, in ruins
The Clink Prison – a Victorian prison
Vinopolis for the history of wine making
The Globe theatre, a replica of how Shakespeare would have been originally performed
The underpasses at Southwark Bridge
Gabriel’s Wharf with its range of cutesy shops and eateries
The OxO tower
The National Theatre, the British Film Institute, the Hayward Gallery
and the skate board park
The Udderbelly comedy tent
The London eye – big wheel
County Hall with
The London Dungeon
The Shrek exhibition
The London Aquarium
And across Lambeth Bridge, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
The finest of the walks alongside St Thomas’ hospital
with a touching memorial stone to the victims of BSE – ‘mad cow’ disease.
And finally the Garden Museum
And Lambeth Palace, home the the Arch Bis of Canterbury.
It’s a days wander if you call in anywhere. But it is car free and the best way to dip in and out of London while seeing the skyline and appreciating the extraordinary meander of the Thames as you walk.
There’s an obvious venue I’ve left out. Perfect for all ages. It’s for tomorrow. Anyone care to guess?
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