London with 3 Kids?

Old Oct 14th, 2006, 07:32 PM
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London with 3 Kids?

I have been to London several times before I was married, but now my husband and I would like to go. The question is do we take the kids? We would go in the Spring, so our kids would be nearly 10, 8, and almost 2. I would like to hear from folks who have done the trek with ninos!!
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Old Oct 14th, 2006, 08:44 PM
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Absolutely! London is great for kids. I would definitely rent an apartment instead of staying in a hotel though. You would get much more space than in a hotel room, for less money. Plus you would have a kitchen. Not that you'd want to do any major cooking, but being able to cook fix light breakfasts or late night snacks is a big advantage w/ children - especially if any of them are picky eaters. Plus having a washer/dryer is a Godsend.

The Natural History Museum, Princess Diana playground, river boat trips, Hampton Court Palace w/ its maze and a hundred other site are perfect for children
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Old Oct 14th, 2006, 10:51 PM
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We did it with 10, 7 and 5 to Rome. But I've lived in England and we'd love to go there someday with the kids. A great choice.

The question I'd ask: If it's the only trip over the pond you plan to make with the children, I'd wait two years.

Why? A 4-year-old can often handle going without naps, is potty trained, and might actually be impressed by the castles etc. And the older two won't be teen-agers yet, still young enough to enjoy hanging out with their parents.

But: if it's a now-or-never situation, I would definitely go for it. Your older two will gain so much from the experience. For the little one, carry a small ball or outdoor toys, there are lots of greenspaces to let your toddler run. Chase the pigeons at Trafalgar Square.

I would cook dinner in -- we did it in Rome, and it was no big deal. Way better than eating out with kids.

Let us know how you decide.
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Old Oct 15th, 2006, 01:53 AM
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Good advice from 5alive. OK there are things to do with kids, but I found taking a toddler just in to my own town center hard work. It would be nice if you are in the position of being able to give you and your other half a nice brerak on your own. You know your own kid's, but I never took my kids to London at that young an age it would be too much and I live in the UK. Trying to take a 10 and and 8 year old around these places suggested would be fine, but a toddler has different needs as 5alive has said. I learned from my mistake I took a 7 year old and a 3 year old across the pound the other way. The 3 year old was too young to appreicate it. He was out of a buggy but we ended up having to hire one as it was getting too much for him. I then found the 7 year old missed out on a few things as we had to cater for the younger one. I wished I had waited for a year or 2 first. Now I need to be careful here I know there are things for kids in London, but the rest of Europe are far more kiddie friendly. In Spain, Italy, Portugal etc etc they love kids and most resturants cafe bars etc welcome them with open arms. You see lots of families eating out with all age groups.While things have improved a lot the UK, and I mean the big cities, have still do not seem to get this family thing yet. I think they put up with kids as opposed to welcome them with open arms.
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Old Oct 15th, 2006, 10:04 AM
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If your kids play soccer take them to a game. Buy a soccer ball and let them kick it around one of the parks. Feed the ducks in Hyde Park. Get tickets to the Ceremony of the Keys that closes the Tower of London each night. Get a seat on the front of the top deck of a double decker bus. Enjoy!!!!
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Old Oct 15th, 2006, 11:34 AM
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There is tons to do with kids in London. I took my 4 and 2 year olds this summer. I got a book on family things to do in London and we were not bored. My 4 year old loved the castles in the environs. Two year old not as into everything but he still had a great time. He didn't really slow us down--he is an easy traveller and was able to sleep in strollers on long days out.

I agree with crazychick about UK not being as kid friendly as other European cities though. Mainly for the younger kids--like age 2.
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Old Oct 15th, 2006, 12:24 PM
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We took a two-year old in 1972 and we had a great time. He loved looking at all the different cars, riding in the top of a double-decker bus, the canal boat, staying on a farm in the lake district, the Tower of London, changing the guard at Buckingham Palace.

We read a book called "This is London" by Miroslav Sasek. It was written in 1959 and I believe it is still available on Amazon. He had it memorized before we left and what quite happy to see the real thing.

Preparation is key. We also kept a nap in our schedule. That worked well for all of us.
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Old Oct 15th, 2006, 12:57 PM
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I took my two kids to London for 9 nights last June. My son was 9, and my daughter turned 7 while we were there. There is a huge amount for the kids to do. It has history that kids that age are starting to understand, the pomp and ceremony that everyone loves, great parks, and wonderful museums with kids programs.

That being said, I think the 2 year old will probably dictate the timing of where you go and when, unless he/she is extremely amenable and sleeps well in an umbrella stroller - which I would definitely bring.

My kids "best" list included:

Tower of London
Hampton Court Palace
London Eye
Natural History Museum
Science Museum
Brass rubbing at St.Martin in the Field
British Museum
Covent Garden
Borough Market (eating their way through)

Less appreciated were the Imperial War Museum, Museum of London and two London Walks we took.

Every museum and castle we went to had a special workbook, activity or prize for the kids. The tube was convenient, clean, and free for them.

We all really enjoyed London. The kids told me it was more interesting for them than the next five days we spent in Paris.
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Old Oct 15th, 2006, 09:20 PM
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I had my 10 year old nephew to stay when I was in London - all he wanted to tdo was ride on the tubve and go to the top of a big building.

The rainnforest cafe also went down well.

I'm not sure how practical it would be but you could hire a nanny for a day to look after the 2 year old if you wanted to do something with the older kids. Or to look after all 3 if you and hubby want some time alone.

Something not intended as a tourist attraction but may suit your little one is a visit to a city farm.
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Old Oct 16th, 2006, 02:53 AM
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Five years ago I looked over what parents here on Fodors had said, and added ideas of my own, notes on places where children can meet animals, and notes about nearby tube stations. Here is the result. I shall welcome updates and improvements.

Ben Haines, London
[email protected]

Southern Band

At Windsor, Legoland, river boat ride, and the Castle. For children aged 5 and 8 half a day each was the right length. Train from Waterloo.
The maze at Hampton Court. Train from Waterloo
A phone call or e-mail to the Science Museum at South Kensington in London (phone 020 7938 8111: web site address [email protected] ) would get you a list of their activities for bright children, or they may be listed in "Kid's out in London"
The Natural History Museum, South Kensington. Museum,
Visiting London with children or teens, make sure you go to the Victoria & Albert, one of the most beautiful museums I've ever seen in the world. Head for the British History section, where they have "discovery areas" where children can learn by doing, and study areas to learn in depth about artifacts and way of life in the past. Our kids (ages 14, 13, and 10) absolutely loved this experience.
The Princess Diana Memorial Playground--next to Kensington Palace, an elaborate playground, with a pirate ship, totem poles, teepees, sand pits, jungle gyms, etc.
Princess Diana's gowns on display in Kensington Palace
Round Pond, Bayswater
Squirrels in Hyde Park
Serpentine, the lake near Hyde Park Corner, with boats
Harrod's Toy Department, Knightsbridge tube.
Your children will love the escalator, with Egyptian theming, and the food hall.
Our kids (ages 14, 13, and 10) absolutely loved this experience. They hated Harrods (not far from the V&A), but enjoyed shopping on Carnaby St., and in Covent Garden, as already mentioned
National Army Museum, Chelsea, Sloane Square and a bus: rather a way to go, so perhaps you should sadly miss it.
The Imperial War Museum. WWI & II exhibits: you can clamber on tanks and in warplanes, Lambeth North.
The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace, to see the Queen’s state coaches. Victoria
St James Park, Westminster
The Cabinet War Rooms (and hearing Churchill's speeches), Westminster
At Piccadilly: Hard Rock Café, Rock Circus (wax museum of the history of rock & roll), Planet Holywood (for the James Bond room)
Art galleries in London have great skill and experience in letting children enjoy themselves. Web sites well worth a visit are the National Gallery on Trafalgar square the National Portrait Gallery, just north east of the National Gallery Tate Britain, south of Victoria and west of Westminster
The London Eye (big wheel), Westminster. There is a good photo guide for 2 pounds, with labelled photos of the views in each direction. A tiny playground at the base of the wheel was great for my 5-year-old to let off steam after the ride on the wheel.
London Aquarium, Westminster Bridge.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum, Charing Cross
St Martin in the Fields for brass rubbing, Charing Cross.
The London Transport Museum (and the tube simulators) Covent Garden. It is not big, we spent about an hour there, then had lunch in the cafe, from which you can look down into the museum, if you go up to the upper level. Children are free to enter the museum, adults about 6 pounds. The guide-book has some simple activities and puzzles for younger children, which were useful on the train trip home.
Shopping and watching the buskers in Covent Garden
Thames boat tours from Embankment to Tower.
St Bartholomew the Great, Barbican
The Museum of London, St Paul's. A phone call or e-mail would bring you their programme of Family Events, which are varied and active, with any amount of simple talks, role-playing and dressing up., and 020 7600 3699. Parents have specially mentioned their Blitz display.

The top of St Paul's Cathedral
Southwark Cathedral.
A good lunch is upstairs at the Market Porter pub in Borough Market. They welcome children. Since pub portions are large you might order for the boys one main dish and two plates - the pub has no objection, and this leaves space for pudding.
Below the south side of London Bridge main line station is the Old
Operating Theatre, reasonably exciting. And from there it is five minutes under the station to H M S Belfast, a whole ship to explore.
To go right up to see London. By lift, free, Guys Tower in Guys Hospital, London Bridge tube. By stairs, and you pay to enter, the Monument or the Dome of St Paul's.
Over the river is the Tower. I think you can buy tickets for it the day before in any tube station. It gets crowded, so you want to arrive at opening time, nine Tuesday to Saturday and ten Sunday and Monday. If there is a queue (line) for the Crown Jewels you can miss them. The time you get to view them is usually short, and there are older and finer crown jewels in Edinburgh, Budapest and Vienna. People on Fodors forum mention the good humour of the well-informed beefeaters. These lead tours but are not "tourist guides". If the Queen were to sleep in her palace of the Tower they would be responsible for her safety.
Tower Bridge.
The Tower Hill Pageant
The Ragged School Museum. You can phone: from time to time they do a re-enactment of a Victorian schoolroom using visiting children as Victorian pupils. The children's reactions are hilarious. It will show them how lucky they are.

Greenwich, by train from Charing Cross or London Bridge. Or by Docklands Light Railway, “which is very convenient from central London. My children like riding in the front car of the driverless Docklands Light Railway to get there”. In winter the boat trip from Embankment or the Tower is cold and long, and it's not too warm in April. In fact, better go on a hot day in summer. At Greenwich: the Cutty Sark,, the National Maritime Museum with hands-on rooms (captain your own sub), the Meridian, and the Observatory,

With a bag of nuts bought beforehand feed the squirrels beside the flower gardens in the top end of Greenwich Park. Nearest station is Blackheath, reached from Victoria and from London Bridge.

Northern Band

Portebello Road weekend market, including army equipment and antique guns. Notting Hill Gate tube
The London Zoo, Camden Town.
Canal trips that go past the London Zoo to Camden Lock and back. You need good weather (a parent: “wait 5 minutes and it will come”).
The Camden Market, Camden Town.
Madame Tussaud's, Baker Street. Popular with many children: I find it expensive and pointless.
The Virgin Records Megastore (open until midnight or thereabout), Oxford Circus.
Shopping in Carnaby Street
Hamley's Toy Shop, Regent Street, Oxford Circus. Five floors of toys: bring your credit card.
British Museum, Holborn. This has an audiotour tape with colour guide book which my son loved following like a scavenger hunt - we stayed in the Museum for over two hours (a record for him) and he still remembers it as great fun. The best rooms for children this age are not the boring old Greek and Roman rooms, but downstairs the Egyptian mummies and Rosetta Stone and upstairs the Roman British Room and the next door Anglo Saxon room, with gold hordes and a ship burial. (If you read them the bit about Grendel's mother from a translation of "Beowulf" at breakfast the day you go you'll have them in the mood). Not far away are early twentieth century radio sets.
Another parent writes: The British Museum -- not too long a visit. Mine like the Egyptian rooms in particular.
Good lunches Mondays to Fridays are north of the museum, in the MacMillan Hall of the University's Senate House, and for spicy Asian and Mexican food (if they let you in) the students' refectory of the School of Oriental and African Studies on the north east corner of Russell Square. Or children liked The Spaghetti House, Russell Square.
Coram's Fields, Russell Square. A special park and playground, east of Bloomsbury, where Captain Coram, founder of the Childrens' Hospital and of the fields, laid down the rule that adults might be admitted only if accompanied by a child.
Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood.

For people aged 5 to 7: a few oddments of detail

Watching grown men sail toy boats on the Round Pond. Bayswater.
Boating on the Serpentine. Nearest tube Hyde Park Corner
Feeding the Queen's ducks with bread. The pond in St James Park. Combines with the Horse Guards. Westminster.
Seeing fish. London Aquarium. County Hall, tube Westminster.
Climbing into trams, busses, and bits of tube trains. London Transport Museum, Covent Garden.
Walking along streets in the sky. The Barbican

Things to Miss. For children aged 4 to 10 these are many.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, except that some little girls like the
dresses, and like talking with their mothers about them

Buckingham Palace: a large and dull building. Most of the year you can't
enter, and in high summer it's expensive. If you want a good palace, try St
James Palace, between Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly. But there's no
great point. What you can do is inspect the guardsman. Has he polished his
boots ? Cleveland Row. Tube Green Park
On the other hand: "My son loved Buckingham Palace. Someone was waving a handkerchief from one of the windows of the palace, and he was convinced it must be the Queen".
The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. The change at Horse Guards
Parade at eleven (Sundays at ten) is easier to see, less crowded, and more
fun. But again, not specially worth while. While we adults thought the Changing of the Guard at Buck Palace was boring, children aged 14, 13 and 10 really liked it.

St Paul's Cathedral. Looks like an overblown Duke's living room, and costs a lot. Even Westminster Abbey is a drag, crowded, hard to see things, and hard to understand unless you've read a lot of English history. If you want to see a church, the most atmospheric is the twelfth century St Barthomolew's the Great, St Paul's tube, and the most open and pleasant is the fourteenth century Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge tube.

Animals for children to pet. If you show this list to your hotel staff they can tell you which is nearest.

The page has a list of community farms and gardens, copied here, and has a map that you can print out but must then enlarge. Central and eastern boroughs of London with two such farms are Camden and Tower Hamlets, and with one are Lewisham, Hackney, Newham, Greenwich, and Lambeth. Each city farm has farm animals, used to meeting children and other humans, usually in school groups. I have seen city children enchanted.
City Farms & Community Gardens: City Farms and Community Gardens comprise a very varied collection. Each has their own unique opening times, size, public facilties & services and type and number of animals in their collection. You should check with the individual farms prior to arranging your visit. Some sites are far more developed than others and most are also looking for volunteers.
*Brooks Farm Skeltons Lane, Leyton, London, E10
0208 539 4278
*Coram's Fields 93 Guildford Street, London, WC1N 1DN
0207 837 6138
*Deen City Farm 39 Windsor Avenue, Merton, London, SW19 2RR
0208 543 5300
*Freightliners City Farm Sheringham Road, Islington, London, N7 8PF 0207 609 0467
*Hammersmith Community Gardens Association Hammersmith, 07890 514 050
*Hackney City Farm, 1a Goldsmiths Row, Hackney, London, E2 8QA
0207 729 6381
*Hounslow Urban Farm, Faggs Road, Feltham, TW14 0LZ
0208 751 0850
*Kentish Town City Farm 1 Cressfield Close, Grafton Road, London, NW5 4BN
0207 916 5421
*Mansfield Outdoor Centre Manor Road, Lambourne End, Essex, RM4 1NB
0208 500 3047
*Newham City Farm King George Avenue, Custom House, London,
E16 3HR
0207 476 1170
*Spitalfields Farm, Weaver Street, London, E1 6HJ
0207 247 8762

*Stepping Stones Farm Stepney Way, London, E1 3DG
0207 790 8204

*Surrey Docks City Farm South Wharf, Rotherhithe Street, Southwark, London SE16 1EY
0207 231 1010
*Thameside Park City Farm 40 Thames Road, Barking, RG11 0HH
0208 594 8449

*Vauxhall City Farm 24 St Oswald's Place, London, SE11 5JE
0207 582 4204
The London Zoo has an area where children handle animals.

ben_haines is offline  
Old Oct 16th, 2006, 05:43 AM
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I think everyone else had done extensive posting for attractions etc.
If I may pitch in, you might want to be prepared to split the kids between you and your husband. What interests the older two children may not be for the 2yr old, and vice versa.
Springtime is a good time--not too hot, daylights are getting longer--but weather can be hard to predict. You might want to have a back-up plan for indoor activities.
I'd recommend visiting some of the castles and palaces outside of London (Heaver Castle etc) and boat rides on Thames River. Near to London Zoo is Primrose Hill, a wonderful park where the oriinal 101 dalmatians story is based.
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Old Oct 16th, 2006, 07:50 AM
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Excellent information from Mr Haines as usual!
I don't know if London Duck tours has been mentioned; my kids enjoyed this;
They are near the London Eye, and the London Aquarium is there too, which your two-year old will enjoy (the others as well probably!)
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