February Half Term in London – Part One

London Eye

Florence and her friend enjoying the view on the ‘London Eye’

Living in the capital City but not originally being from here perhaps means I have an appreciation and love for London that true Londoners might overlook.

I relish our tourist attractions and am in awe every time I see the famous sights such as ‘Big Ben’ and the ‘Houses of Parliament’; I simply just love this City and delight in taking my two year old daughter Florence to see as many things she will enjoy here as possible and there’s loads! I find it hard to fathom then that so many people in England haven’t even visited London themselves let alone taken their children? How can people live in a country like this which is so small without even having come for the day to their capital? Public transport links from most places are very good and often very cheap deals can be found so I think it’s criminal really! Especially when there is so much on offer and something to suit every pocket! These streets might not actually be paved in gold but the memories that can be created with your children in London are platinum and priceless so what are you waiting for? With the Olympics round the corner its history in the making and you can’t afford to let your children miss out!

People think that London life, to really enjoy it, is for childless working adults who have time (and money) to take advantage of all London has to offer in entertainment but let me tell you that if you look through a child’s eyes there’s more to do here than I would imagine anywhere else in the whole land and when so much of it is free, including public transport for children (adults – check out pay as you go Oyster Cards for great savings on the tube and London buses) then there really should be no excuses. Get on line, check out your local train companies and see what deals they’re offering; I think you might be pleasantly surprised and once you’re here the day needn’t cost you any more because we have the best museums with FREE entry I have ever found and if you pack a picnic it’ll make the day super affordable! Of course there are things you can pay for from the relatively cheap right through to having a real treat and splashing out; this is the first instalment in my series of selections of the best we have on offer in London this half term from all spectrums! Get thinking, get booking and get your children to their Capital City cause they’re gonna love it!

BEST FOR FREE

Coram's Fields Sandpit

Digging in ‘Coram’s Fields’ sandpit

Coram’s Fields, Holborn – Central Line or Russell Square – Piccadilly Line, www.coramsfields.org/

I can’t shout about this hidden gem enough! Open all year round from 9am till dusk, ‘Coram’s Fields’ is a 7 acre playground in central London and should not be missed by any visitor to the area with a little one to entertain. In the summer months your children will have a ball splashing in the water areas but that doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy the whole experience right now because there’s so much to do here in this tranquil setting you won’t be able to drag them away! From the extensive playground to the mini farm they will be entertained for hours and imagine having all that space to run and jump around in while you watch over them from one of the many benches. They also have a children’s centre where you can drop in for play sessions no matter where you live, just check out the website for times. There’s always loads going on here, I doubt you’ll be disappointed with your choice to visit! ‘Coram’s Fields’ is a charity and relies on donations to keep running and what a worthy charity it is!

What else is in the vicinity?

Beach Huts Southbank Centre

Checking out one of the beach huts in the summer at the ‘Southbank Centre’

A short journey by bus or tube or even a fairly light walk could see you heading for the ‘Southbank Centre’  where there’s always treats in abundance for visitors of all ages. We constantly go back to see what’s going on and it’s always lively and full of fun, be it in the height of the Summer holidays with fountains to run in and out of or Christmas time and ablaze with twinkling lights for the festive markets, the ‘Southbank Centre’ is the place to be! This half term (from 10th – 26th Feb) they are playing host to the ‘Imagine Children’s Festival’ amongst many other things and here you can have all the fun of the fair at the ‘Imagine Children’s Funfair’. With this being a FREE event there’s no reason not to let the children enjoy the traditional carousel and vintage fairground activities, including an Austin J40 kiddies’ ride and original 1950s helter skelter and hoop ‘la stalls! Also close by to Holborn is the beautiful ‘Somerset House’ (www.somersethouse.org.uk) and here all throughout the year a program of events for families to enjoy together run at the weekends. During half term they are excelling themselves and offering their young visitors the chance to join in with various different family workshops. One on offer is ‘Imaginary Menagerie’ where your little people can construct their own weird and wonderful beasts and mythical monsters after exploring the sculptures and paintings of such creatures in The Courtauld gallery. (For dates and times see the website).

BUDGET TREAT

Monsterville at Discover

Adding to the collection of work in ‘Monsterville’ at ‘Discover’

Discover Children’s Story Centre, Stratford – Central, Jubilee, DLR and East London Lines, £4.50 Adult/Child £16, Family of four, Under 2s FREE

I write about ‘Discover’ so much I feel like I’m their ambassador but I can’t help it, it’s just SO good! Based around books and with the bones of the museum being focussed on the story trail this place could be mistaken for somewhere quiet to read but please! Save that for the library because at ‘Discover’ they bring your children’s favourite books to life! Jump, dance, play, climb, sing, hop and of course… read! Do literally what you like here and let your kids run wild! From outside in the wonderful story garden where there are slides, climbing walls and giant musical instruments as well as tree houses, space ships and much more to inside where you can get crafty, hide in tents and press buzzers and buttons while performing in a puppet show, running over a trip trap bridge or dancing on lights in the floor there is something to keep every child occupied. Choose a book and run with that theme, choose lots of books and combine them or make up your own stories to play games around, whatever your fancy you’ll be thrilled to bits you came. I take everyone I know and will continue to do so because having been once you’ll be going back for more and buying an annual pass (These start at just £25) because it’s one of the BEST things to do in London! Downstairs is where they have an exhibition which changes every so often. For the moment it’s ‘Monsterville’ where monsters from books bring the area to fever pitch as the children run round fishing, have their ‘monster’ hair done in the beauty salon and serve up yucky treats from the ice cream parlour! Half term might be your last chance to catch the wondrous ‘Monsterville’ because as of March it’ll be changing so don’t miss out! Spend an hour, spend 3 or spend the whole day. During half term the brilliantly entertaining team will be hosting various different activities including many story telling events, art and crafts and special workshops with authors and illustrators so do check out their website for more info!

A SPECIAL DAY OUT

The London Aquarium, tickets from just £14.95 and can be booked either in person at the box office or on line at www.visitsealife.com/london and The London Eye, tickets from £17.01 for adults and £8.91 for children and can be booked either in person at the box office or on line at www.londoneye.com, Waterloo – Jubilee, Northern, Bakerloo and Waterloo and City Lines

London Aquarium

Meeting creatures in the rock pool at the ‘London Aquarium’

For an extra special treat why not head along to the Southbank and take the kids to the ‘London Aquarium’ followed by a trip on the ‘London Eye’ to show them the skyline of this beautiful City? The ‘London Aquarium’ is great on a crisp day as it provides a much needed break from the cold and with all the delights inside it’s truly not just a place to warm up. Yes it is fairly pricey but we are talking ‘treat time’ here and there’s lots on offer to keep little minds entertained and interested. Touch fish in a rock pool, visit the penguins and see all manner of sea life including a giant shark tank which you can literally walk through! It’s also a good place for tiny tots because of the brightly coloured fish and ease with which they can freely and safely walk around with you. When you’re finished with the fish the ‘London Eye’ is just a stones throw away and packages can be bought to combine the activities. As an adult it’s fascinating to see the architectural changes from different eras marking out London’s most famous buildings and for a child what better way to learn about the structures of importance such as ‘Big Ben’, the ‘Gherkin’ and the ‘Houses of Parliament’ than from a birds’ eye view. Safely encased inside your pod the children can roam around taking in London from all angles while you sit back and do the same. A wonderful trip and one which will be remembered!

Well I hope I’ve given you something to think about here for ideas of things to do during February Half Term in London.  I’ll be back with some more ideas for London days out with your little ones very soon. Until then I hope you’ll enjoy planning your days out in the big smoke!

Ruth

Ruth Davies blogger at http://rocknrollerbaby.livejournal.com

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