The inside scoop on London with kids!
Zoey Goto is a writer and a born and bred Londoner, who lives in central London with her husband and their two young daughters. Having worked in the London fashion industry for years, she had thought she knew the city pretty well. However, since having children she has discovered a whole new side to her beloved city. Zoey now enjoys spending her weekends exploring family-friendly London with kids, discovering the wealth of activities on offer. Here, she gives Twist a rundown of her favourite London jaunts for kids.
Visit A World-Renowned Puppet Theatre
The Little Angel Theatre in Islington is the oldest puppet theatre in the UK and has become something of an institution amongst London parents. The venue is charmingly intimate and the shows are always of a fantastic standard, managing to captivate even the youngest audience members. There are also family gala shows where you can tour backstage and meet the puppets. It’s a really magical place to
introduce children to the rich history of puppetry performance.
Price: Varies depending on production
Address: Little Angel Theatre, 14 Dagmar Passage, London N1 2DN.
Be a London Zoo Keeper for the Day
London Zoo is one of our family’s favorite places to visit, because with over 17,000 animals, there is so much to see and no two visits are the same. They have also recently opened up some great crowd-pleasing attractions such as the Indian themed Land of the Lions area or the walk-through lemur area, which a general ticket will gain you entry to.
However, if your kids are keen zoologists in the making, it might be worth making the visit extra special by booking onto one of the many tailored experiences. These range from spending the day at the zoo academy (age 8-10, £175) or being a junior zookeeper for the day (age 11-15, £170) to meeting and feeding meerkats (£54 plus entry ticket). The onsite café has packed lunches for children and there is also a play park, face painting, a bouncy castle and carousel to keep the little ones entertained.
Price: General entry ticket online advance adult £24.30, child (3-15 years) £18, children under 3 are free.
Regent’s Park NW1 4RY. Tube: Camden Town, Baker Street or Great Portland Street.
Breakfast Like It’s 1988
If you were born in the 80s or 90s, then stepping into the Cereal Killer Cafe is a stroll down memory lane. There are now two cafes – one in Camden Stables in North London and one on Brick Lane in East London – serving over 100 varieties of nostalgic breakfast cereals, including classics such as Lucky Charms and hard to find niche cereals like the marshmallow flavored Rice Krispies. Although they just serve breakfast, the cafes are open all day and make a fun place to visit for a novelty snack. Children love the interior, decorated with retro cereal boxes and vintage care bear toys, while adults can sit back and reminisce about the days when we were allowed to eat all our weekly sugar allowance in a single bowl!
Price: Bowls start from £3Address: 192a Brick Lane, E1 6SA, Nearest tube: Russell Square, Holborn or Euston. Or Stables Market, Mezz 2, Chalk Farm Rd, Camden Town, NW1 8AH, Nearest tube: Shoreditch High Street or Liverpool Street
Ahoy There! Lunch Aboard a Ship!
R.S. Hispaniola is a really lovely place to eat if you want to be at eye level with the comings and goings of the River Thames. The boat is situated opposite the London Eye and the window seats give a ring-side-view of the tour boats and speedboats whizzing down the river. The restaurant offers a good value kid’s deal for £10, which includes a main course and side, soft drink and ice cream, plus a nautical themed colouring sheet. The adult menu has an emphasis on fresh British produce, and includes a deliciously Willy Wonker-esque chocolate mousse with popping candy. Although the boat is moored, there is much gentle swaying as the other boats pass, which our children find wildly exciting! They also offer high tea and have two outside decks, should you be blessed with some good British weather.
Price: Children’s meal deal £10
Address: Victoria Embankment, London WC2N 5DJ.
Nearest tube: Westminster
Let their imaginations run wild at Kidzania!
If your children love imaginative role-play, then Kidzania is the place for them! It’s a stage set town where kids can try out over 60 different fun and educational experiences such as being a pilot, vet, reporter, firefighter, fashion stylist or TV presenter. There is a café in the center where parents can grab a coffee while the children take part in the activities and an early years area for younger siblings.
Price: from £18
Address: Westfield London, Ariel Way, W12 7GA.
Tube: Shepherd’s Bush
Have high tea on a vintage bus
London has some great options for kid-friendly high tea, from the Mad Hatter’s Tea at the Sanderson hotel to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired tea at One Aldwych. But if you want to try something truly unique, then the B Bakery bus tour is a must! The classic Routemaster double-decker cruises around the sights of London, taking in Big Ben, Harrods, The Royal Albert Hall and Downing Street, on a tour that takes around an hour and a half. While you sit in little booths and spot the sights, the lovely staff serve up a spread of miniature sandwiches, quiches, cakes and scones. All the food is from the regarded B Bakery in Covent Garden, who specializes in French patisserie. A great afternoon tea, whilst seeing the sights of London – this is multi-tasking at its very best!
Price: £35 for children, £45 for adults
Address: Depart from either 8 Northumberland Avenue, off Trafalgar Square WC2N 5BY or Victoria Coach Station, depending on which tour you book.
Watch a movie al fresco
Going to the cinema with young children can be stressful – asking little people to sit still for over an hour, the constant snack and toilet breaks, whilst also trying to stay quiet, can be tough on everyone. Thankfully, Luna Kids Cinema has come to the rescue by creating a super-relaxed and family friendly movie-viewing experience.
The outdoor screenings are held in beautiful London parks, with the audience sitting under a futuristic canopy to protect them from the elements. There is also a baby station with changing tables, microwaves and highchairs, as well as food and drink stalls, toilets, deckchairs and bean-bags to lounge on, plus lots of outside space so the kids can let off steam. We recently visited to watch Toy Story in the sunshine and it was by far the most enjoyable family cinema visit we’ve had to date!
Price: Tickets starting at £12.50 for adults and £7.50 for kids
Address: Hampton Court Palace and Dulwich Park
When: July to September
Go Retro Bowling!
If you’re looking for a rainy day activity that will keep both kids and adults entertained, then head to Bloomsbury Lanes for a dose of nostalgic family fun. There are 8 bowling lanes (with bowling frames for the kids) and 4 karaoke rooms, all decorated in a cool 1950s style. After scoring a few strikes, take a booth overlooking the lanes at London’s best American diner – Ray’s Pizza. The tasty menu is packed with milkshakes, pizzas, salads, and award-winning burgers. Note that children are only allowed before 7pm on Friday and Saturday and 8pm Sunday to Thursday.
Price:1 lane per hour (up to 6 people) – £45
Address: Underneath the Tavistock Hotel, Bedford Way, Bloomsbury, London WC1H 9EU. Nearest tube: Russell Square, Holborn or Euston.
Walk Along the Treetops at Kew Gardens
London has some truly beautiful and tranquil green spaces, hidden in pockets around the hustle and bustle of the city. Noted examples are Kensington Gardens with its wonderful Diana Memorial Playground, Hampstead Heath’s wild swimming ponds and Richmond Park, which has pony trekking and a deer park. But if you want to really immerse the family in nature for the day, then a visit to Kew Gardens is a fantastic option. Children can explore the underground world of badgers in a giant warren sett, look for bananas and waterlilies in the Victorian glasshouses, or just let off steam on a woodland walk. The star of the show is the perhaps the treetop walk, where you can walk 18 meters above the ground, taking in amazing views of the treetops and the vast gardens. Although I am slightly terrified of heights, on a recent visit even I managed to get around the length of the walkway – the trick is not to look down!
Price: Adults from £16, children from £4
Address: Kew Gardens, Richmond TW9 3AB. Nearest tube: Kew Gardens
Family Fun Theater at the Underbelly Festival
The Underbelly Festival in London’s South Bank runs throughout the summer and is jam-packed with affordable circus, plays, music and children’s entertainment. Popular shows include Monski Mouse’s baby disco, which is guaranteed to get both adults and children up on the dance floor. This high-energy music session is so fun that grown men have been known to willingly crawl around on the floor, growling, with their kids on their backs. There is also the whimsical and beautiful Metta’s Little Mermaid and the completely bonkers Aliens Love Underpants show, adapted from the book. Post-show, there is a nice outside dining and drinks area, and just a short walk away is the Royal Festival Hall, which has some great water fountains for the kids to play in.
Price: Tickets from £8.50
Address: 30 The Queen’s Walk, Lambeth, London SE1 8XX, Nearest tube: Waterloo.
When: April – 30 September.
Make Science Fun at the Wonderlab
Managing to be both educational and engaging is always a tricky balancing act – but the Science Museum have nailed it with their interactive Wonderlab exhibit. With over 50 hands-on exhibits, kids can test gravity on giant slides, see lightning strike before their eyes and watch dramatic experiments taking place at the chemistry bar. The entry ticket also gives you access to the science shows in the theatre, where experts demonstrate how astronauts are launched into space and how explosions can help us in our everyday lives. It’s a fantastically stimulating space, which makes science come to life for kids.
Price: Child day passes £8; adult £10, free for under 3s.
Address: Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD
Have Supper with a Gorilla!
If you were to ask my children what their favourite restaurant is, I can guarantee the answer would be the Rainforest Café! This Covent Garden restaurant has become a winner with children due to the theatrical jungle theme, which includes animals dotted around the room that spring to life at unexpected moments – it is quite literally impossible to have a dull meal here! The kid’s menu is extensive, ranging from simple pasta dishes to sparkling volcano desserts, accompanied by mocktails served in elaborate plastic palm trees. Every 20 minutes, the lights dim and a fake thunderstorm rips through the restaurant, complete with lightning flashes. The Rainforest Café offers more than just a place to eat – it’s a totally tropical experience that the kids will never forget!
Explore London’s Underground Tunnels!
The Postal Museum opened its doors in 2017 and this little gem of a museum is rapidly becoming a favorite both with local parents and tourists. The main attraction is the Mail Rail ride, where you can ride in a little train through the original underground tunnels that were once used to transport London’s post around the city. It’s a really fun and quirky activity, which highlights the secretive, behind the scenes workings of a city. The museum galleries also have lots of interesting exhibits that tell you about the history of the postal service. Younger children love the fantastic Sorted! play zone, where they can pretend to deliver mail throughout a mini-town using pulleys, slides and chutes. Sessions at Sorted last for 45 minutes and are for children up to the age of 8. There is a good café onsite and the museum is within walking distance of Coram’s Fields, which is a great play park to spend an afternoon in.
Price: Children from £10.45, Child with Sorted! Entry £11.95, Adults £17.05
Address: 15-20 Phoenix Place, London WC1X 0DA
Experience a night at the Museum
London is packed with amazing, family-friendly museums to fill your days with. But for a truly unique experience, you can now stay overnight in many of these famous venues. My eldest daughter and I recently attended the Dino Snores sleepover at the Natural History Museum (£60, ages 7-13), where we spent a fun-filled evening exploring the dinosaur exhibits on a torch-lit tour, before bedding down in the great hall. Just down the road, The Science Museum also organise a science night sleepover where you can get hands-on with the exhibits (£55, ages 7-11), The V&A Museum of Childhood host a magical storytelling sleepover (£45, ages 6-12), while the British Museum organize a Young Friends Sleepover where you can hit the sack amongst the Egyptian mummies (£45, ages – 8-15).
All the museum sleepovers only happen a few times a year and are insanely popular, so try to coordinate your London visit with one of them and be sure to book early. Check the museum’s websites for event dates throughout the year.
This is a guest post from fellow Twist Traveler, Zoey Goto. Zoey is a London based journalist (GQ, GQ Style, Elle, Escapism magazine) and author of the book Elvis Style: From Zoot Suits to Jumpsuits. She lives in central London with her husband and their two young daughters. We invite guest authors to post travel-inspired stories on the Twist Blog monthly. If you are interested in sharing your travels at home and abroad with us, please email us at [email protected]
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