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Advice from Americans please - what to do with first time visitors

Advice from Americans please - what to do with first time visitors

Nov 13th, 2004, 07:34 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
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Advice from Americans please - what to do with first time visitors

Help and advice needed please - I have three American friends coming over to stay in Jan - we are en route to Austria to go skiing. They will have one and a half days in the UK before we all leave for Austria , and one day with us before they leave to go back to the USA. None of them have been to Europe before. We are picking them up from Heathrow at 0700 in the am on the Thurs. - and we leave for Austria at 0930 on the Sat. During that time they want to "do" London! I never go there and need some help in planning what to do as they have asked me to plan their itineray. We live near Brighton and therefore are only 30 mins away so a day trip up is no problem. There is so much to see I was wondering if I could get advice from Americans who have been in the same situation . I was thinking of a river cruise on the Thames, with a visit to the London eye and perhaps a open top bus tour with Theatre in the evening ?When we get back from Austria I shall show them around Brighton so that's not a problem - its just how best to spend the limited time in the Capital.
Also ,I thought we would include the following culinary experiences during their stay ( not all on the same day ! - a typical English breakfast, lunch in our local Pub, a fish and chip supper and perhaps a traditional Sunday roast at home with the family when we get back.Any thoughts /additions please ?? Many thanks
Chrissie_Novelle is offline  
Nov 13th, 2004, 07:52 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi chrissie,

Have you looked at the suggested tours of London at www.fodors.com?
ira is offline  
Nov 13th, 2004, 07:53 AM
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Put them on a Big Bus Tour. With one day in London that's the best way to get a proper overview of what the City has to offer. They can hop off at all of the sites they have more than a cursory interest in. They'll figure out what they want to come back and explore more next time.

Depending on their budget (and the weather), the London Eye might be fun as well.
Grasshopper is offline  
Nov 13th, 2004, 07:54 AM
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I am from Ohio and have been to London 6x. 3 of those times traveling with "novices". In every case, they all seemed to enjoy jumping on a "Hop On,Hop Off" bus tour which you can catch near Hyde Park. The guides are funny and somewhat informative but it gives you a great overview of the city.

Other highlights: Tower of London, with the self guided tour. St Paul's and lunch at the Ye Olde Cheeshire Tavern in "the City" proper.

The Food stalls at Harrods are a lots of fun and we all enjoyed Churchill's War rooms in Whitehall.

The Victoria & Albert Museum is wonderful - save for if its raining.

We enjoyed wandering around Covent Garden and just dropping into an interesting looking pub for "a pint" and then back out again.

Personally, since Cleveland has a fantastic theatre district with top productions all year long, we opted not to see a show but your friends might find that a real treat.
MWM1 is offline  
Nov 13th, 2004, 07:57 AM
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Exactly what to reco depends on the people involved - who, how many, ages, where they're from, what their interests are.

For me, the London basics include the Tower and the British Museum and perhaps Westminster Abbey. (I have always found those tour the city bus rides a huge waste of time - you don;t get to really see anything - and you're insulated from any real contact with the environment.)

As for the food, I and I know a lot of other Americans - don;t get a "real english breakfast" - not to be offensive - but (at least as provided in most hotels) its kind of yucky since most everything seems either half-cooked and greasy or overcooked and cold - you might want to explain it to them in detail before organizing it. (Not to say you can;t get a good breakfast in English hotels - I've had many - just not the "traditional" English.) The other food choices sound fine.
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 13th, 2004, 08:05 AM
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Chrissie, I think your original idea sounds fine. The only thing I would do is ask whether your friends would rather spend their time on the open top bus tour or walk around London, going into Westminster Abbey, the Tower, the British Museum, or any other attractions you want. You will be at the London Eye, from which it is a short walk to the buildings in Westminster. We enjoyed walking from Westminster Abbey through the park to Buckingham Palace. Depends on the weather in January, I suppose.
Nikki is offline  
Nov 13th, 2004, 08:11 AM
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Keep in mind your visitors will be dealing with a time change adjustment. Depending on where they are coming from, this could be as much as 8 hours. I always have aggressive plans for my first day in London and my body gives out faster than my plans. Fresh air helps.
Grasshopper is offline  
Nov 13th, 2004, 09:20 AM
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I'd probably ditch the river cruise. In Jan. it will likely be very cold -- too cold to be out on deck and inside on most of the cruise boats you really cannot see much due to the steamed up windows. Same goes for the open top tour buses (they have stops everywhere BTW not just at Hyde Park). I usually recommend these tours for first time visitors -- but unless you are VERY lucky weather-wise it would be too cold up top and too fogged up downstairs. Sitting huddled in scarf/heavy coat/gloves with rain or freezing temps is not a pleasant way to get over Jet Lag.

The London Eye, walk across the river from there to Parliament/Big Ben, then Westminster Abbey. A nice lunch, then one of the big museums (Only IF they are "museum people" though). The National Gallery, or the V&A, or the British would probably be best.

Then a Black cab ride (most Americans find London taxis a real treat) to somewhere for a pre-theatre meal followed by a play/musical.

That would be a pretty full day. If they aren't museum-types, the Tower of London would be terrific - but it does require several hours to do it justice.
janis is offline  
Nov 13th, 2004, 09:55 AM
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Are you meeting them with a car?

Given that it's January, I have to think that the open bus tour and possibly also the Eye options need to be made weather-dependent (and what time does the Eye even open on a weekday in January?)

For first-timers, my approach has typically been to get some of the icons of London handled right away. And if it's a decent morning, and you don't mind driving into central London at rush hour, then you might think about replicating a first-morning-in-London walk that I've done several times.

I start at Waterloo, then walk up to the river and let the view of Westminster hit me like a brick. Over the Westminster Bridge, past Parliament, then up Whitehall all the way to Trafalgar Square. Usually there are numerous gents on HM business buzzing around, your friends can see Horse Guards, Downing Street, all that, and you've handled some of the main sights in the context of a nice one-hour, morning-after-the-plane walk. Find someplace for coffee or a late breakfast, then hop the bus back to the car (where I assume they've left their bags), on you go.

The rest of the day, and the next, should be impromptu IMO, based on their energy levels and own desires. Probably some shopping (although they will be floored by UK <-> US prices) or one of the museums, or hit ye olde Harrod's food halls, or a big church or two. Or maybe head out to Hampton Court, which has the advantage of being dry and (sort of) warm, as well as historic and beautiful.
Gardyloo is offline  
Nov 13th, 2004, 10:34 AM
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Plan on the full English breakfast for the second day. Eat light until your body clock is reset.

Rather than spending £15 a pop for a "hop-on/off" bus tour, get one £5 guide book and all-day unlimited bus passes for £2.50 apiece; the tourist bus map is at

Robespierre is offline  
Nov 13th, 2004, 02:56 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
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I'm in the DC area and have the same problem....in fact when visitors come to town is the only time I really see the "sights". Usually plan what I think is interesting, keep it short, simple but thorough enough.

Stick with local stuff, fish and chips a pint or two or perhaps after a full day 5 or 6 They'll appreciate that more.
Traveler863 is offline  
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