Chessington World of Adventures is a theme park with rollercoaster rides and a zoo. It’s a bit like Alton Towers I suppose, but close enough to central London to get there and back before teatime. You can do the entire park in around six hours.
The theme park is split into ten themed areas including the Mystic East, Forbidden Kingdom, Pirates’ Cove and Land of the Dragons. Popular rides include the Scorpion Express (a classic runaway mine train), Dragon’s Fury (a log flume with a big drop that will get you soaked) and The Vampire (a hanging rollercoaster that whips around the top of trees).
They’ve also got an aquarium and a zoo with over 1,000 animals in it including monkeys, gorillas, tigers and lions. One of the best rides in the park is the Zufari, where you ride around in a safari-style jeep amongst the rhinos and giraffes. Check out Craig’s review on his blog to see what it’s like.
Hours: Closed (middle 2 weeks of Jan); 11 AM to 6 PM (1st and 4th week of Jan, Feb-Mar, last 2 weeks of Apr, first 3 weeks of May, Sep-Nov, first 3 weeks of Dec); 10 AM to 8.30 PM (first 2 weeks of Apr, last week of May, Jun-Aug, last week of Dec) – Cost: Adults £26.00; Children £21.00 (3-15); Infants free (under-3); Family ticket £94.00
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When parents take their kids to London the first thing they want to do is show them the sights. They want to show them where the Queen lives and where the PM works, so they end up sitting on a sightseeing bus for two hours or dragging them around the streets all day rushing from place to place, and having no fun whatsoever. But we think there’s a much better way to show them the sights… a ride on the London Eye. If you take them up here then you can point out all the landmarks whilst they’re having fun.
And one of the best things about the London Eye is that it only takes a half-an-hour (or an hour with the queue), so you’ll still have plenty of time to do lots of other things after.
If you take our advice then you will book your tickets online in advance so you can skip the worst of the queue, and book it for your very first morning in London. The reason we say that is because a) it’s quite an exciting thing to do, and you want your children’s first day in London to be memorable, and b) you can see all of the landmarks and get yourself excited for what’s to come later.
Craig has written a review of the London Eye on his blog, and included some photos of the view.
Hours: 7 AM to 11 PM (Mon-Fri, Apr-Sep); 8 AM to 11 PM (Sat, Apr-Sep); 9 AM to 11 PM (Sun, Apr-Sep); 7 AM to 9 PM (Mon-Thu, Oct-Mar); 7 AM to 11 PM (Fri, Oct-Mar); 8 AM to 11 PM (Sat, Oct-Mar); 9 AM to 9 PM (Sun, Oct-Mar); Note: The ride closes during heavy winds and thunderstorms – Cost: Adults £4.50; Children £2.30 (5-15); Infants free (under-5)Talk about the cable car
This won’t be everybody’s idea of a fun day out (for some people it will be a terrifying day out!), but if your child can handle the height then a ride on the cable car is another great way to keep them entertained. And the really great thing about the cable car is that it’s extremely cheap. Let’s be honest: family attractions in London can be incredibly expensive. Some of them can are very close to being a rip-off. But for the price of a single train ticket you can take your kids up here and give them something they’ll remember forever. This is the one they’ll be talking about on the plane back home.
Now… before you ride it remember to read Craig’s review on his blog. It is genuinely nerve-wracking if you have a fear of heights because it’s dangling from a wire, which means it does tend to shake about a bit. You don’t want to take your kid up there and have them freak out. But the chances are your kid will love it whilst it will be you who is freaking out!
If you’re going to try it then we recommend catching a DLR train from Bank to Royal Victoria first. These are automated trains with no cabin at the front, which means you can sit your kid directly behind the front window as it hurtles along the elevated track. Read Craig’s review of the DLR to see what it’s like. The cable car will then take you across the river to The O2, and you can catch a Thames Clipper boat back to central London.
Hours: 10 AM to 4 PM (Mon-Sun, Nov-1st week of Feb); 10 AM to 5 PM (Mon-Sun, middle 2 weeks of Feb); 10 AM to 5.30 PM (Mon-Sun, last week of Feb-Mar); 10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun, Apr-Oct); Last entry 1 hour before closing – Cost: Adults £25.00; Children £19.50 (3-15); Infants free (under-3)
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Taking your kids to London Zoo is another popular day out. It’s not the cheapest day out, but you can easily fill up three or four hours in here.
London Zoo is a proper zoo – there are no rides or rollercoasters. You’re here to see the animals and that’s it. But they’ve got a great collection including lions, tigers, monkeys, gorillas, hippos and giraffes. The only animal that’s missing is an elephant.
They have a couple of walk-in exhibits where you can get close to the creatures. Rainforest Life is our favourite… you walk into a steamy room full of tropical plants and vines and all the monkeys are leaping around on the branches by your head. When you walk into the Snowdon Aviary and Blackburn Pavilion you’re surrounded by birds.
They’ve also got an aquarium and a reptile house, and put on some animal shows with penguins and trained-birds.
Read Craig’s review of London Zoo to see what it’s like inside.
Hours: 10 AM to 5.30 PM (Mon-Wed); 11 AM to 6.30 PM (Thu); 10 AM to 5.30 PM (Fri); 10 AM to 7.30 PM (Sat-Sun); Last entry 1½ hours before closing – Cost: Adults £30.00; Children £24.00 (3-15); Infants free (under-3); Family ticket £108.00
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The London Dungeon is definitely one for the kiddies (I have yet to meet a single adult who enjoyed it!). The problem for adults is that the cast members are always grabbing people out of the audience to take part in the scripted scenes, which means you might end up having to do a bit of acting. Your kids will probably love seeing you up there pretending to scream whilst fake flames curl around your feet, but you will probably be glad when it’s all over.
But anyway… apart from that there is a lot to recommend. They lead your group from scene to scene and tell you the gory story of London’s grisly history. They’s got a couple of very short rides inside as well: one of them is a time-travelling taxi cab that’s a lot of fun. Read Craig’s review of the London Dungeon for a full run-down.
Note: Your child needs to be 12 or over.
Hours: During school term (Mon-Fri): 9.30 AM to 8 PM; During school holidays and weekends: 8.30 AM to 10 PM; Closed (2nd week of Nov); Last entry 3-3½ hours before closing; Note: These times are a rough guide only as they vary greatly - check their website first – Cost: Adults £39.00; Children £31.00 (5-15); Infants free (under-4); Family ticket £124.00Talk about Warner Bros. Studios and vote
If your child loves Harry Potter then how about a day-trip to the Warner Bros. Studios to see all the costumes and film sets? Don’t bother if they didn’t enjoy the movies, though, because that’s literally all there is: film sets, props and costumes. There are no rides or anything like that.
These are the genuine sets that they used in the movies. You can see see Platform 9¾, walk through the Great Hall at Hogwart’s, the Gryffindor common room and into Hagrid’s forest hut. You can even walk up Diagon Alley and see all the shops! Read Craig’s review to see what else he saw.
Note: The gift shop is absolutely amazing and if you want to buy some Harry Potter presents for Christmas then there’s nowhere better. If you don’t fancy the train trip out to Watford then try the little Harry Potter shop at King’s Cross station. You’ll find it next to Platform 9¾ (seriously – we’re not joking!).
Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM (Sun-Fri); 10 AM to 6 PM (Sat) – Cost: Adults £26.00; Children £20.80 (under-16); Family ticket £92.66
If your kid doesn’t like Harry Potter, then how about Shrek instead? Shrek’s Adventure will take them into the magical kingdom of Far Far Away onboard a DreamWorks Tours bus. Unfortunately the guide is the cheeky donkey (bad news if you’ve seen the movie!). That’s where the adventure begins, because you’ll end up in Shrek’s swamp and discover a mysterious crystal ball…
They’ve really got to love the movie to come here, though – your kid needs to know the characters to get the most out of it.
If you want to give it a go then we recommend buying a joint ticket with some of the other attractions on the Southbank. There are four children’s attractions that are literally right next-door to each other (within a two-minute walk), so it makes sense to do them all on the same day because you’ll get cheaper tickets. The attractions that you can combine are: Shrek’s Adventure, London Eye, London Aquarium and London Dungeon (you can also combine Madame Tussauds, but that’s a tube ride away). All you have to do is visit each attraction’s website and look for the combination tickets at the checkout.
Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Fri); 9.30 AM to 7 PM (Sat-Sun); Last entry 1 hour before closing – Cost: Adults £26.00; Children £21.00 (3-15); Infants free (under-3)
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Parents love taking their kids to the SeaLife London Aquarium because it’s educational (they always want their kids to learn something on a day out!). But it’s also a lot of fun. It begins with a scary walk across a glass floor on top of the shark tank – you can see them all swimming about below your feet), then you ride a lift down into the bowels of the building where you’ll find all the tanks.
They have some really big tanks in here – the shark tank is three stories tall! You start at the bottom and as you wind your way up through the floors you can view it from different levels. Another tank is filled with a the skeleton bones of a big Plesiosaur, and when you walk though the underwater tunnel you can see all the flatfish gliding over your head.
Further into the aquarium are some big turtles and crocodiles, and a North Pole zone where you’ll find a family of penguins standing on a snowy cove.
Check out Craig’s blog for a complete review.
Hours: 10 AM to 5.50 PM (Mon-Sun); Last entry 20 mins before closing – Cost: Free
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The Natural History Museum is another educational day out for families. It’s probably best if your kid is into dinosaurs (if they prefer space then try the Science Museum). They used to have a big skeleton in the entrance hall but that’s gone now – you have to head into the Dinosaur Hall where you’ll find a Stegosaurus, Triceratops and Pterodactyl. They’ve also got a robot T Rex swinging his big head around a misty swamp, aiming cacophonous roars at the trembling kids by his feet.
The museum doubles up as a zoo – a dead zoo. They have as many animals as London Zoo, but all of them are stuffed. You can see lions, tigers, elephants, a giraffe, a hippo, rhino, polar bear… every animal you can imagine. They’ve got a case full of birds, insects, creepy crawlies… everything!
Read Craig’s review of of the Natural History Museum.
Hours: During school term: 10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun) – During school holidays: 10 AM to 7 PM (Mon-Sun); Last entry 45 mins before closing – Cost: Free
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This museum is a good choice if your child has an interest in space. They’ve got space rockets dangling from the roof and full-size replicas of the Beagle 2 Mars lander and Huygens module that landed on Titan. Best of the bunch is the full-sized replica of the Eagle lander that took Neil Armstrong to the moon.
Read Craig’s review of Science Museum on his blog.