London – five days with two teen boys

Old Jul 29th, 2013, 03:40 PM
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London – five days with two teen boys

Hi all

Travelling on my own with two sons (12 and 14).

Arrive London 07:30 Friday 13 Sept. after long flight from Australia. Leave for Paris on Eurostar following Wed. morn. So five nights in London.

We're active (even me), not gallery-mad. First time in London for the boys. Here's what I've been thinking. Any suggestions/hints greatly appreciated.

Staying at Marble Arch near Hyde Park (14-yr-old wants to keep up his running training).

Heathrow Express?

Are there still those 2-pound double-decker red buses for a couple of hours trouble-free sightseeing on the first day?
Wander through Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens on the first day to hopefully catch some sunshine and adjust to time change. Nothing major this day.

Scattered through remaining time:

Warner Bros Harry Potter studio (this is a must)
Anyone done the themed Harry Potter walk? Or should we just do this ourselves.
Natural History Museum
Tower of London (a distant relative scratched his name on a wall)
British Museum for Egyptian antiquities and Rosetta Stone
St Paul's – climb to top and down to catacombs
Westminster Abbey
Is London Zoo worth it? I know Harry Potter reptile house would be a drawcard
Anyone done Fat Tire bikes?
12-yr-old wants to see a 'super car' showroom (yes, really)
Catch a great show one night using 1/2 price on-the-day tickets

Also would like advice on:
cheap eats (not McDonald's, etc.)
public transport
what to combine with what so we don't end up doing too much backtracking
smm_18 is offline  
Old Jul 29th, 2013, 04:05 PM
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I'll bite...

some of your ?'s we have done... and loved them!

Muggles Walking Tour - very well done. My HP fanatic loved it (I was taking a photo tour at the time). This - combined with the studio tour - is fun. I absolutely recommend taking the tour - so much random and fun trivia was learned.

London Zoo - we voted no. I figure we can see a zoo anywhere...

Fat Tire Bike Tours - great. We ended up with a private tour due to timing and loved the flexibility that it afforded. Very fun way to go through the city! Might do this earlier in the trip so you get a sense of the city.

eating? We ate in a lot (apartment), but one easy recommendation is the Cafe in the Crypt at the bottom of St. Martins in the Fields. Not a hidden place as the lines get long, but a neat place to eat and affordable.

adding something to your list:
Up at the O2 - climbing the O2 arena. We did this and loved it.
http://www.theo2.co.uk/upattheo2

Admittedly, it is expensive, but is one of the favorite things we all talked about. We combined this with a visit to Greenwich and the Prime Meridian and the Cutty Sark. Made a nice day.

go read my trip report and it may help give you a sense of how we travel and worked things out...

have fun!
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 04:34 PM
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Hampton Court (train from Waterloo station) and the London Eye come to mind.
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 05:32 PM
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For inexpensive kid-friendly eats try Ponti's Italian Kitchen, Pizza Prezzo, Wagamamma noodles, DimT (Thai). They each have several locations in London-- google them and note the locations that may be near your hotel or daily activities.
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 06:01 PM
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A couple of quick comments: Do NOT take the Heathrow Express. Obscenely expensive and you'd still have to queue/pay for a cab at Paddington. Book a car service instead justairports.com os one of the best. It will be door to door and cost half what the HEX/Cab would.

Those £2 hop on hop off double decker tours are more like £30 now. (but you can use regular London buses with your oyster card).

The zoo is not worth a visit on such a short visit IMO.

And you MUST pre-book the Harry Potter WB tour.
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 06:08 PM
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Thanks for your responses.

surfmom – will definitely do Muggles tour now! And, yes, agree with zoo and probably no need just for reptile house considering other HP activities.

Glad to hear Fat Tire bikes good, too, though probably would take group option if we have the time. Planning to do this in Paris as well, maybe at night.

Had never heard of O2! How ignorant. Will run this idea past them and if super keen may just do despite expense. I figure these things are worth it to make the trip memorable.

Some great ideas. Have had a squiz at your trip report - fabulous!

Thanks Michael and gh21 for some top ideas.
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 06:11 PM
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I replied before I'd seen janisj's response...

Thanks for the tip re Heathrow Express.

And yes, well it was about 30 years ago on my first ever trip that I caught one of those buses!

And is an oyster card something we should be using for the five days?
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 09:30 PM
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Hi again smm_18

Moving on from your Swiss planning, eh?

surfmom has some good suggestions. Here are our trip reports to London if that helps:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...andparents.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-with-kids.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ahl-museum.cfm

We liked the zoo but it was part of an 8 night stay (so a nice break) but as you and others have noted, probably not worth it on your shorter stay.

We really enjoyed Greenwich. Tower of London is a must. Natural History and the Science museums are also nice.

I think we saw a Ferrari showroom near Harrods -- could be mistaken. A quick google could confirm.

You will want Oyster cards or paper travelcards (for 2for1's). That's a whole 'nother subject. Search here for lots of info.

Good luck.
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 09:53 PM
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If going to Hampton Court, use the oyster card. There is a maximum daily charge which varies depending on whether its first use on that day is before or after 9:30 a.m. Given the cost of the train ride, plus taking the Underground to Waterloo station, one comes out ahead with the oyster card.
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 10:20 PM
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For five days, it's more likely you would save a
bit by getting a 7-day travelcard for zones 1 and 2, and you wouldn't have to worry about whether you need to put more pay-as-you go money on the Oystercard. You would use the Oyster for either PAYG or 7-day travelcard, and if you do go for the travelcard option, the trip out to Hampton Court would need an add-on for the additional zones.

Likewise, you can get reductions for the youngsters but you will need to apply at least a month in advance for special photocards for them.
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/default.aspx

As janisj points out, the hop-on hop-off tourist buses with commentary are now run as (competing) commercial operations and cost a lot. But if you can do without the commentary, you can use the ordinary scheduled buses to drive by a lot of places (and with the youngsters' Oystercards they'd be travelling free). Use the bus map in the TfL visitor guide:
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/gettingaround/15101.aspx

You've got a full enough set of ideas already, but a couple more - a river trip, and maybe a ride on the Docklands Light Railway (driverless trains, so kids of all ages can sit at the front).
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 11:47 PM
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Greenwich is great. Cool thing to be able to say you straddled the Prime Meridian! Buses in London were very slow. We tried the double decker idea but got off and walked to the underground. Loved the underground! Fast and took you where you wanted to go. Harrods was cool. We thought about a toy museum (our children were a bit younger) but no need once we went there! Huge Knex display. Tower of London was definitely worth a visit.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 03:43 AM
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River cruise to Greenwich and seeing the sunset there is definately out of the ordinary. Your kiddo might want to go for a run there, too, if you don't have any connected plans for the night.

As to restaurants, there's an ok Italian place on the opposite side of St. Paul's called Strada and another Italian family restaurant I don't recall the name of. Google should help you though.

Make sure to have a clear walking route when looking for the on-the-day sales for your show so you won't lose time when there's none left for the first show.

Check out Scoop's Gelato for the best ice-cream experience in London. Ben's cookies are definately worth a shot as well.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 04:25 AM
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Thanks everyone! Yes, well spotted indy_dad. Moving on from the complexities of Swiss train travel. Must admit my eyes glazed over on reading there are different options for travel in London. I just can't bear to look into that at the moment!

You write great trip reports, thanks! I had a panic attack reading that you booked Harry Potter tour 5 months in advance. Never occurred to me I'd need to do this so far ahead. I've done so well with Eurostar, TGV etc too!

Greenwich seems a popular choice. And thanks for the river trip and light rail idea, PatrickL. You too MaloBalo. Thanks also for the ideas for eating!

CarolineF: Harrods, yes, sounds good!
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 04:54 AM
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Madame Tussauds and the London Dungeon are places that will thrill kids those ages - and they are at the very top of paid admission places in London for all ages - give the kids a treat even if you consider them - those sites - to be tacky!
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 05:17 AM
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Not exactly a showroom, but there is a Lotus F1 team shop in Regent Street at Piccadilly.

When we were there in December there were a couple of F1 cars (replicas??) in the shop which created some excitement for our teenage son - although the Renault and Mercedes shops on the Champs Elysee and the Ferrari shop just off via de Corso were probably better!

http://www.lotuscars.com/au/news/cor...ndon-calling-0
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 05:30 AM
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For anyone seriously into Lotus (or cars), they also have factory tours available at their factory in Norfolk:

http://www.lotusdrivingacademy.com/hethel/factory-tour
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 07:08 AM
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Hi, smm_18.
Maybe look into the "Pompeii" exhibit at the British Museum. Tickets are going fast... not that there isn't plenty of other things to see, but the exhibit looks very moving.
HOpe you have a great time!
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 07:34 AM
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Two boys and neither the Cabinet War Rooms nor the Imperial War Museum?

What kind of momma are you?
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 07:47 AM
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Hampton Court Palace is a gem for all ages - have kids do some reading up on Henry VIII and his life at Hampton Court - once there try to navigate the Maze - you can also incorporate a Thames boat ride at least one way to the palace from Richmond or Kingston or even London at times - taking the method of transport Henry often did.

The nice thing about Hampton Court is that it is not just a stuffy old palace but comes alive with things like folks in period costumes performing music of the times in various rooms - the most complete Tudor kitchens anywhere, etc.

http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 08:32 AM
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<i>you can also incorporate a Thames boat ride at least one way to the palace from Richmond or Kingston or even London at times</i>

My understanding is that the boat ride takes four hours and will not give enough time for a palace visit of more than a couple of hours, which is insufficient in my opinion.
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