What you will see: London Eye, London Dungeon, London Aquarium, Shrek’s Adventure and a meal at Namco Funscape
Dragging your kids around London can be a total nightmare if you don’t do it right. London is a huge place and they can quickly get tired and start whining and crying and then it’s no fun at all. So this day does away with all the travelling. All four of these attractions are next-door to each other.
The London Eye stays open until late so it’s possible to do all four attractions in one day, but we recommend the London Eye and just two others – it’s up to you which ones you choose. All four attractions are owned by the same company and they offer combo tickets to save you some money. Even greater savings can be had if you buy your combo tickets online before you arrive.
The London Eye is quite exciting for a child, but it’s also a great way for parents to show them some landmarks without having to drag them around town. You can just take them to top of the wheel and point out places like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s (allow for 30-45 mins queuing, and 30 mins on the actual wheel). Read Craig’s review of the London Eye
If you want to do the London Dungeon then bear in mind you’ll get a timed ticket, so you may have to return later in the day. There’s also an age limit for the kids: it’s too scary for anyone under 12. There are also some height restrictions on the rides, so you definitely need to check their website first. Craig has been inside a couple of times and didn’t see anything too terrifying, but it is extremely dark and there are lots of very loud bangs and screams throughout so read his review beforehand (allow for 30 mins queuing, and 1½ hours inside).
The London Aquarium has got some penguins and a crocodile, an underwater sea tunnel, plus a gigantic shark tank that spans two floors (allow for 1½-2 hours). Read Craig’s review of the London Aquarium
If your kids are into Shrek then try Shrek’s Adventure next-door, where they can meet all of the goofy characters from the movies. Bear in mind that they do timed tickets in here as well, so we recommend booking a time online beforehand so it doesn’t interfere with the rest of your day (allow for 1½ hours).
When your kids get hungry you might like to try the McDonalds inside Namco Funscape (next to the London Aquarium). It’s a bit like an indoor funfair with three floors of arcade games, driving games, some ten-pin bowling lanes and even a full-size dodgems.
What you will see: Waxworks at Madame Tussauds and animals at London Zoo
For a long time Madame Tussauds was the most popular visitor attraction in London, but it seems to have dropped out of the Top 10 now. You wouldn’t know that from the queues outside, though – they are huge! We definitely recommend buying your tickets in advance otherwise you could be standing outside for an hour (allow for 30-60 mins queue time, and 2 hours for the visit).
Your children will probably recognise more celebrities than you do because it’s full of pop stars, movie stars and animated film characters. They probably won’t enjoy the Royal Family and politicians so much, but the Spirit of London ride is quite fun:you board a time-travelling taxicab and motor past five centuries of the city’s history (height restrictions apply, so check their website first). Read Craig’s review of Madame Tussauds
Depending on how lucky you got with the queue it could be as early as 11.30 AM or as late as 12.30 PM by the time you get out. If you have very energetic kids then you could take a 25-min walk through Regent’s Park to London Zoo. Otherwise you can catch the number 274 bus from Dorset Square to Primrose Hill (25 mins ride, plus another 5 mins walk at the end).
Allow for a further 3-4 hours at London Zoo. There are no rollercoasters or rides or anything like that, it’s just a plain zoo with lions and tigers, giraffes, zebras, Gorilla World, Rainforest Life, the Aussie Outback, plus Penguin Beach and a walk-in aviary. They also have plenty of lizards and snakes and a tropical aquarium. Read Craig’s review of London Zoo
What you will see: Dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, and space rockets at the Science Museum
This is probably one of the most popular itineraries for families: a day trip to the big museums. There are actually three big museums that we recommend visiting, but only two of them are suitable for kids: the Natural History Museum and Science Museum. The Victoria & Albert Museum is best left for the adults.
The Natural History Museum is great if your kids are interested in dinosaurs. They used to have a full-size Diplodocus skeleton in the entrance hall but that has given way to a diving Blue Whale now. But they’ve still got their robot Tyrannosaurus Rex striding around a misty swamp that swings its head around and roars.
The Natural History Museum is called the ‘dead zoo’ because it’s full of stuffed animals: lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos, polar bears, pandas, dodos, eagles… everything! It’s almost like going to a real zoo, except everything in it is dead (allow for 2-3 hours). Read Craig’s review of the Natural History Museum
The Science Museum covers everything from the earliest steam machines to the Apollo moon landings. But it’s the space stuff that will really interest your kid: they’ve got a full-size mock-up of the Eagle lander that took Neil Armstrong to the moon, plus a lot of iconic space probes like Sputnik and Britain’s own Beagle lander.
Our favourite part of the museum is an airplane hanger halfway up the building, but what makes this place really great for kids (and husbands) are all the flight simulators and push-button displays they can fiddle around with. They’ve also got an IMAX cinema showing 3D movies (allow for 2-2½ hours). Read Craig’s review of the Science Museum
What you will see: The Shard, Golden Hinde, burgers at Borough Market and HMS Belfast
This family day out begins with a climb to the top of London’s tallest building: The Shard. Be advised that this is the highest observation deck and might be too scary for very little kids (it even scared the pants out of us!). The viewing levels have got floor to ceiling windows and the highest level has even got a few spaces that are open to the sky. If your nerves are up to it then allow for 1-1½ hours. Read Craig’s review of The Shard
The rest of the day has got a bit of a boat-theme to it. You’ll find the first one a quick 10 mins walk away, just past Southwark Cathedral. It’s called the Golden Hinde II, and it’s a perfect replica of the Elizabethan pirate ship that carried Sir Francis Drake around the world. Your kids can clamber over every inch of it: stooping through the deck full of cannons, lying in the captain’s bunk, and making their dad walk the gang-plank (allow for 1 hour). Read Craig’s review of the Golden Hinde
If you want to stop for a bite to eat then we recommend Borough Market – a busy indoor market with lots of lively food stalls. You can get some nice smokey flame-grilled burgers and hot dogs in there (allow for 30-45 mins eating time). Read Craig’s review of Borough Market
You can walk around the entire boat: the gun decks, mess deck, missile rooms, captain’s quarters, and even into the little doctors surgery and operating theatre. And the whole place is staffed by waxworks: you’ll walk into a room and they’ll be plotting courses on the radar, peeling potatoes in the kitchens, and playing cards in the bunks (allow for 2-2½ hours). Read Craig’s review of HMS Belfast
What you will see: Piccadilly Circus, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!, Rainforest Cafe, followed by a cinema in Leicester Square or the BFI IMAX
Start in Piccadilly Circus and show your kids the famous neon lights and fountain, then head straight into Ripley’s Museum of Believe It Or Not for 1½ hours.
This place is a cross between Madame Tussauds and the Guinness Book of Records. They’ve got waxworks of the world’s smallest and tallest man, shrunken heads, two-headed goats, five-legged sheep, robot dinosaurs, knitted cars, suits made out of sellotape… if it’s weird then it will be here. They’ve also got a torture chamber filled with a gruesome punishments and a smoking electric chair. Read Craig’s review of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not
It should be time for lunch for when you come out so we recommend the Rainforest Cafe (thirty seconds down Shaftesbury Avenue). There are plenty of McDonalds and Burger King-type restaurants around here as well, because this busy part of London is tourist-central.
You can spend the afternoon watching a blockbuster movie in one of Leicester Square’s big cinemas. There’s bound to be something decent on because the Empire, Odeon, and West End Vue have got twenty-two screens between them.
Or maybe you’d prefer the BFI IMAX Cinema instead? You can find that at the other end of Waterloo Bridge (20-25 mins walk). If you don’t fancy walking it then just catch the 176 bus from Charing Cross Road and it will take you straight past Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column, up the Strand and across Waterloo Bridge (25 mins ride). Read Craig’s review of the BFI IMAX Cinema
What you will see: A trip on the driverless DLR train, a ride on the cable car, and a show at The O2 or a boat ride back to Big Ben
This 1-day itinerary relies upon there being a suitable show playing at The O2, so check their website before you go. Everyone thinks of it as a live music venue, but they have a plenty of kid-friendly events as well. In the past they’ve had shows like Disney On Ice, Walking With Dinosaurs and WWE Wrestling. They also host a few tennis tournaments and NBA games.
Assuming that there’s something decent on and you’ve already bought yourself a ticket, start your day by catching a train to the Excel Centre. Sound boring? Nope! Because this is one of those driverless DLR trains that run on an elevated monorail. And there are no cabins at the front either, so if you’re quick you can grab the plum seat right up against the windscreen. We recommend boarding the train at Tower Gateway because you won’t have to bother changing trains halfway through the journey. The journey to Royal Victoria will take about 20-25 minutes. Read Craig’s review of the DLR
When you exit the station you should see a cable car strung across the Thames. If this is the first time you’ve seen it then we will forgive you a little tremble because it is extremely high, and it also shakes a little bit as it goes along, but trust us: your kids will love it. The view from the top takes in everything from the Thames Barrier and skyscrapers at Canary Wharf, to the planes coming in to land at London City Airport (ride time 5-10 mins). Read Craig’s review of the cable car
Option 1: Show at The O2
When you reach the other bank you’ll see The O2 straight ahead. There are a couple of decent restaurants outside the dome but we recommend heading inside for a meal because there are lots of nice restaurants underneath the rim of the tent. Note: Even if you don’t have a ticket for a show then you’re still allowed to have a walk around inside and use the restaurants.
Option 2: Boat ride back to Big Ben, passing underneath Tower Bridge
If there aren’t any family-friendly shows playing then how about doing some gentle sightseeing on a boat ride back to Westminster? The Thames Clipper service run a 60-min ride past Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Shard and St. Paul’s Cathedral, all the way back to Big Ben and Parliament. Read Craig’s review of the Thames Clipper
<< Drag table for the travelcard prices >>
|Cash||Oyster & Contactless||Travelcards||London Pass|
|Peak||Off-peak||Peak||Off-peak||Anytime||Off-peak||Just pass||With Oyster|
|Train (z1)||£4.90||£2.40||£2.40||£7||£7||£13.10 (z1-4)||£13.10 (z1-6)||£35.10 (z1-2)|
|Train (z1-2)||£4.90||£2.90||£2.40||£7||£7||£13.10 (z1-4)||£13.10 (z1-6)||£35.10|
|Train (z1-3)||£4.90||£3.30||£2.80||£8.20||£8.20||£13.10 (z1-4)||£13.10 (z1-6)||£41.20|
|Child aged under-11 and accompanied by an adult, or with a 5-10 Zip Oyster photocard|
|Bus & Train||free||–||–||–||–||–|
|Child aged 11-15 with a Young Visitor Discount applied to their Oyster card|
|Bus & Train||–||Half the adult fare||–||–||–|
|Child aged 11-15 with an 11-15 Zip Oyster photocard|
|Train (z1)||£2.40||£0.85||£0.75||£3.50||£1.50||£6.50 (z1-4)||£n/a (z1-4)||£17.60 (z1-2)|
|Train (z1-2)||£2.40||£0.85||£0.75||£3.50||£1.50||£6.50 (z1-4)||£n/a (z1-4)||£17.60|
|Train (z1-3)||£2.40||£0.85||£0.75||£4.10||£1.50||£6.50 (z1-4)||£n/a (z1-4)||£20.60|
Note: For Oyster and contactless ‘off peak’ is outside the hours of 6.30-9.30 AM and 4-7 PM (Mon-Fri). For travelcards it’s after 9.30 AM (Mon-Fri) and all day Sat-Sun. Prices are based on what time your journey begins – not when it ends
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