Tag Archive for London

February Half Term in London – Part 3

So, I’m back for the last time to talk about my family’s favourite days out in London.

There’s no time like half term than to indulge your children and bring them to their Capital City for the day and you don’t have to spend a fortune (although you certainly could if you wanted) because London really does have the best selection on offer for absolutely free. Lots of places, museums in particular ask for no more than a donation that suits your pocket so it really does make it viable to travel from further afield and grasp with both hands all we have to offer families here in London! I’ve talked previously about free things, something for a modest budget and a total treat and in this instalment it’s no different but I may just have saved some of the best till last…

BEST FOR FREE

The Science Museum, South Kensington – District Line, www.sciencemuseum.org.uk

We go to the ‘Science Museum’all the time and never get bored, we sometimes while away hours upon hours trawling round everything and going back to the bits we love the most and other days we just pop in to have a play in the ‘Basement’ which is set up especially for under fives. With a whole area for them to play, explore and try out experiments suitable for their age it’s a fabulous day out in itself forgetting that there are floors upon floors and displays upon displays of other things to keep the little ones (and the big ones) entertained. While you’re there check out one of the ‘Bubble’ talks which are not only fun, interactive and educational but suitable for children of all ages.

Playing with water at the ‘Science Museum’

Playing with water at the ‘Science Museum’

Upstairs the ‘Launch Pad’ is also designed for little minds but slightly older ones this time. With lots of hands on experiments as well as more ‘talks’ there really is something for everyone. For the rest of your time there my favourites have to be the human body exhibition, the area where your photo can be taken and aged up down or changed in sex and I simply love the household goods from  bygone times not least because there is a ‘Baby Daisy’ vacuum cleaner donated to the Museum by my own Grandmother on view.

What else is in the vicinity?

When visiting the ‘Science Museum’ why not check out the ‘Natural History Museum’ next door. A stones throw away and with a world of entertainment for little ones it’s certainly not one to be missed and it definitely won’t be forgotten. Dinosaurs, stuffed animals, fossils… This really is for any little explorers you might have and despite it not being as hands on and interactive as The Science Museum it’s still a great day out for the children! A short walk away from both museums is the ‘Princess Diana Memorial Playground’, a playground like no other you will have ever been to.

On the warmest October day ever in the ‘Princess Diana Memorial Playground’

On the warmest October day ever in the ‘Princess Diana Memorial Playground’

In Hyde Park and right next door to ‘Kensington Palace’ it’s a lovely central location from which you can start or finish your day. In summer children can splash about in the water feature but in winter it’s like an enchanted garden, a BIG one. There may be a small queue in busier times but it’s worth the wait and your offspring, no matter how old they are will NOT be disappointed! From a giant pirate ship to Tee Pee tents, tunnels and tree houses, this place has it all!

BUDGET TREAT

The National Army Museum, Kids’ Zone £2.50 per child (under 2s FREE)

Sloan Square – Circle and District Lines,

www.nam.ac.uk

Now this is one we haven’t actually been to ourselves yet but I have it on very good authority that it’s a wonderful experience! With the majority of the museum and its exhibitions being completely free of charge and only having to pay for the Kids’ Zone it’s a very inexpensive day out and I hear the children love it! It’s one we’ll be visiting in half term that’s for sure as it would appear that it’s suitable for absolutely all ages from tiny babies to adults!

Having a splashing time in the grounds of the ‘Chelsea Hospital’

Having a splashing time in the grounds of the ‘Chelsea Hospital’

At the moment there is the popular ‘War Horse’ exhibition which explores the hugely popular Michael Morpurgo novel alongside touching real-life stories of war horses and the men who depended on them. Featuring exclusive content from Michael Morpurgo, the acclaimed stage production by the National Theatre and the Spielberg-directed film, this hands-on, interactive exhibition is one for all the family and one I’m particularly looking forward to! Of course there’s so much more to this museum with an extensive program of events and activities complementing their permanent galleries and for the children not only is there the ‘Action Zone’ where older ones can get interactive bringing history to life but the aforementioned Kids’ Zone for the tiny ones. As stated this is chargeable and is hugely popular so a slot MUST be booked in advance to avoid disappointment. This new children’s play area explores aspects of army life from camping to clothing. It includes a dedicated soft-play space for babies, plus arts and crafts, dressing-up costumes, books, interactive toys and panels. Worth a visit I think don’t you?! When you leave don’t forget to pop down the road and take a walk round the ‘Chelsea Hospital’, home to the Chelsea Pensioners.

We took a fabulous walk round the grounds there in the summer, it’s free to get in and beautiful so don’t miss it! It’s quite moving to see the elderly gentlemen taking the air and enjoying their well deserved retirement.

Having a splashing time in the grounds of the ‘Chelsea Hospital’ last summer.

A SPECIAL DAY OUT

Lollibop’s Mini Disco, Ministry of Sound, Elephant and Castle – Northern and Bakerloo Lines, 12-5pm £10 pp or £15pp on the door (for ages 3 – 10 years), Booking line 0844 844 0444 or online with Ticketmaster,

 www.lollibopfewtival.co.uk

The ‘Lollibop Festival’ comes to London once a year in the summer and is the only festival entirely dedicated to little ones. Just as with an adult festival there is live music, dancing, food and attractions galore and do you know, it was one of the best days out we have ever had so when we left after our magical day knowing it would be another year before we could experience some ‘Lollibob festival’ glory again it was with a little sadness in our step.

Florence at ‘Lollibop Festival’ in the summer

Florence at ‘Lollibop Festival’ in the summer

Imagine our delight then, when we heard about the disco they are specially hosting for this half term! Kick off the kid’s holiday with a banging start and head down to what will undoubtedly be a brilliant day out for the whole family! DJ’s Dick and Dom will be pumping out the tunes while special appearances will be made by favourites such as Scooby Doo! Plus there’ll be loads of activities during the day such as beat boxing and hula hoop workshops, dance games, live music, story telling, bubble shows and entertainers! If it’s even a smidgen of just one hour’s worth of the normal festival it’s gonna be a sure fire winner and you’d be mad to miss it if you can help it!

So there we have the last of my top picks for half term and don’t forget all the best of the rest London has to offer from City Farms dotted all over the place with FREE entry, ‘Kids AM’ film screenings at ‘Vue Cinemas’ across the Capital (costing from just £1.50 per ticket for adults and children, www.myvue.com) and all the other wonderful and FREE museums of which there are plenty… It’s also worth looking to see if your train operator offers two for one entry on many attractions as so many do and then you can take a real treat to affordable in one easy step! Just get googling and come to your Capital City!

Ruth

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

February Half Term in London – Part 2

Museum of Childhood

Pretending to drive a police car in the ‘Museum of Childhood’

Well, as you may have realised from my previous post, I’m passionate about taking children out in London, showing them the sights, teaching them the history behind this beautiful City and showing them what London in 2012 has to offer!

Besides the upcoming Olympics there is a tremendous amount to be enjoyed with children in our Capital City but with the games approaching what better time is there to bring your children to London and sample the delights on offer! The summer will be truly hectic and while it will surely be fun and exciting I think February half term could be just the time to come and experience a little bit of London life. I have been writing about things to do for free, something for a small budget and a blow out treat and I hope you enjoy my selections for this, my second instalment.

BEST FOR FREE

The Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green – Central Line.

This is a great little place to stop by and feed your own nostalgia as well as being given the opportunity to show your children what you were playing with when you were their age. With so many toys from other eras it’s a treasure trove of interesting finds but it doesn’t stop there. There is always an exhibition or two which will capture your little ones attention (at the moment it’s ‘Magic Worlds’ where children can delve into the realms of fantasy, illusion and enchantment with the major new exhibition revealing how magic has been embraced for hundreds of years) and a program of events which are full to the max for half term. There are of course the regular features too like the rocking horses, a little ones play area and a sensory zone! Plenty of interactive play to wear the children out and thoroughly have a good time!

What else is in the vicinity?

After the ‘Museum of Childhood’ why not hop on the tube a couple of stops to Stratford, home of the Olympic stadium and the new ‘Westfield Shopping Centre’ which also has surprisingly great facilities and play areas for the kids as well as a brilliant viewing platform of the work in progress for the games. You could pop in for a bit of retail therapy before taking the kids to your next stop of the day. Next try out the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) which is actually a bit of a treat in itself and I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t like to sit at the front and pretend to be driver! Either alight at the next stop, Pudding Mill Lane, and take a walk along the Green Way where you will be able to view the stadium up close in all it’s amazing glory or just watch as it goes by from the window of the train and head on to West India Quay, home to the ‘London Museum of Docklands.

Building a dam at the ‘London Museum of Docklands’

Building a dam at the ‘London Museum of Docklands’

I always head here when in the area because it’s a simply fascinating museum and you can book a slot for their magical soft play area for the children to have a run around in. It’s actually a little bit more than just soft play with lots of hands on and interactive games and display, our favorite being the real river where you can build a dam; you could easily spend more than just your allotted hour which is why we go back time and time again. While you wait for your time slot neither you nor your children will be disappointed with everything else on offer and will enjoy learning about the history of the docks in the extra special way that it is provided!

A BUDGET TREAT

Thames Clippers, various routes, Adult fares from £3, children from £2 and under 5’s FREE.

Us with friends enjoying a ‘Thames Clipper’ trip

Us with friends enjoying a ‘Thames Clipper’ trip

Not to be used just by commuters and passengers who have to travel this fun boat on the Thames acting like a bus service can be used to travel from destination to destination and really become an attraction of the day itself! It’s really easy to hop on and hop off and your usual tube pass can be used with a top up fee making it incredibly easy too! If for instance you want to travel from the ‘Southbank Centre’ to the ‘Tate Modern’ why not hop on a ‘Thames Clipper’ instead of the tube or bus! Enjoy a scenic trip down the Thames and let the children have an experience they will remember as they watch the famous landmarks from a different view point! I loved taking Florence on the Clipper and the friends we travelled with had just as much fun as us. If you’re looking round some of the free things in London it’s an inexpensive way to really spice up the day and give it an extra twist. Buy a day pass and use it for your entire trip or just hop on for one ride only, either way it’s something that bit more unusual than your average public transport and not something you’ll do every day! Unless you’re a commuter of course!

A SPECIAL DAY OUT

The Tower of London, Tower Hill – District, Circle Lines and DLR, ticket prices start at (individual rates) of £19.80 for adults, £10.45 for children between 5 and 16 (under 5’s are free) and £17.05 for concessions, packages are available.

Possibly not a great one for the very tiny, as steps are in abundance here but if you’re seasoned sling wearers like us then it shouldn’t prove a problem and the little ones will find just as much to enjoy here as the big ones so don’t let the steps put you off if you can cope! We love walking past the Tower as often seems to happen living in London but hadn’t been inside before and when recently we finally did we realised we had been missing out! It is steeped in history with something to capture all imaginations and stimulate an interest in the ‘Tower of London’.

My family enjoying our day out at the ‘Tower of London’

My family enjoying our day out at the ‘Tower of London’

It is a brilliant day out! I’d say 3 hours is probably about the best amount of time to allocate when visiting with children as there is enough to capture their attention for that long but it is tiring due to the walking and stair climbing so too long might be a bit over the top for young ones. Visit the gory bloody tower, take a tour with a Yeoman Warder (or Beefeater as they’re more popularly known), check out the Royal Beasts exhibition and see the many beast sculptures throughout the tower. Watch live enactments of historical scenes, see carvings on the walls left by prisoners and get to visit the crown jewels and try to make the soldiers who guard them smile (impossible)! Walking round the battlements and looking out over London is a lovely experience for both old and young and I really do think that if it’s history, fun and something totally special to London that you’re after then here is the place to be!

So that was my second lot of choices for fabby days out with children in London but if nothing has caught your eye just yet, do come back and read the third and final part of this series soon.

Ruth

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

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