The London Eye

We took the kids to the London Eye a few weeks ago and it was a huge hit! It’s funny how sometimes these really ‘touristy’ things are actually quite nice to do (I feel the same way about the Bus Tour).  Anyway, it’s a fun way to see the sprawling city (25 miles, actually), and the kids really enjoyed the ‘ride’. The queue seemed long, but it moved really quickly, and before we knew it, we were up 135 meters in the air.  It takes 30 minutes to go around, which really seemed like the perfect time to be inside a glass bubble. I really recommend the experience!

Click here for visitor information and opening times.

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The British Museum

The British Museum, founded in 1753, is dedicated to the history of the world’s different cultures. The collection includes a large and impressive section devoted to ancient Egypt, and it is here where you will find the famous Rosetta Stone, treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb, a piece of the Sphinx’s nose, impressive Eqyptian sculptures, and real mummies (which never cease to impress my kids!). We also love the Medieval Europe gallery and the section for Ancient Greece and Rome. The museum is absolutely stunning and certainly worth a visit. It’s also (rather surprisingly) very geared for families with a Children’s Multimedia guide, free activity backpacks and designated family trails. There’s also the Ford Centre for young visitors on the lower floor which has feeding and changing rooms for babies.

Check out the Family Visits section of the website, which lists all the different activities available for children, as well as the Young Explorers page which has online games and other interactive and educational activities. (more…)

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Tricycle Theatre

The Tricycle Theatre, located in Kilburn (North London), is a publicly subsidized performing arts venue most well known its ground-breaking, politically charged performances. They specialise in presenting plays which reflect and promote the cultural diversity of its community.  The venue includes both a large theatre and a 300-seat cinema as well as smaller studios for workshops and other small plays.  They also have a Children’s Theatre Programme which puts on some of the sweetest little shows for kids, often with the use of puppets, live music, storytelling and singing…and with an added ecological or social message to their stories.  We recently went to see The Three Billy Goats Gruff and it was great fun! (more…)

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The London Duck Tours

london duck toursIt’s not until friends or family visit that you think to go to some of the more obvious places the Capital has to offer. I love those weekends when I become a tourist in my own home – I’m constantly surprised by how much fun some of our ‘tourist’ attractions are. Over the years we’ve built up a list of some of our favourite things to do with visitors, but since we now have kids (and so do many of our guests) we have a sure-fired winner: the London Duck Tours. A vehicle that not only travels on land but also on water – the splashdown (when you enter the water) is worth the ticket price alone!

The tour takes in some key London highlights (Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and The London Eye) but it’s the tour guides who make it (ours got the whole ‘duck’ quacking when it saw another duck – the kids were in hysterics and couldn’t stop talking about it for days)! It is cheesy but brilliant — but you have to be the sort to throw yourself into these things — not for those who embarrass easily. (more…)

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Kew Gardens

DSC_0096When the girls asked me to write for Babyccino one of my first ideas for a post was Kew Gardens. We got to know the Royal Botanical Gardens when we moved down South and immediately became members. We now go every couple of weeks and still love it just as much — it is such a great place for kids.

Apart from being a huge space to run around with fascinating trees, flowers and plants, there is also a dedicated indoor children’s area called Climbers and Creepers. All the zones have an educational element relating to plants and their habitat and have been so cleverly thought out to cater for a really wide age group (quoted as age 3 – 9 but there are great touchy-feely bits too which are good for babies).

On the other side of the gardens is the Treetop walkway (designed by the architects of The London Eye) which is 18 metres up in the air and 200 metres around — giving you an opportunity to see the tops of the trees and those who inhabit them. At ground level there is a tunnel with an exhibit giving insight to what happens under the trees (good for any bug and creepy-crawly enthusiasts!). (more…)

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Bushy Park

Bushy Park is the second largest of the Royal Parks. The park and in particular the grand promenade ‘Chestnut Avenue’ that runs through the centre of it, were designed by Sir Christopher Wren (of St. Paul’s Cathedral fame) as the entrance to Hampton Court Palace (more on the palace soon).

The park is also a deer Park but has a more formal-grounds feeling to it than its neighbour Richmond Park. We love the new Pheasantry Welcome Centre, pictured, (which opened last summer) and has a great café backing onto the Woodlands Gardens (which is a section of the park closed off to dogs but great for small children, with a large duck pond and plenty of tree-stumps to climb). Another top-spot is by the car-park near The Diana Fountain, where there is a model boat pond with some very impressive boats to go and watch terrorising the ducks. (more…)

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The Polka Theatre

Did I ever tell you I wanted to be an actress when I was a kid? I know, I know, it isn’t such a strange ambition but I was pretty serious and headed off to stage school when I was 11 to learn my craft. Somewhere along the way stage-fright took over and I decided a life on the stage wasn’t for me. I’m sure my kids (like me) will be big fans of the big screen but I want them to also inherit my love of stage performances too — that’s why I love the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon– a theatre which specialises in children’s productions and caters for a wide age-range (starting as young as 6 months).

The Polka is celebrating its 30th birthday this year and it is no surprise that it is still going so strong. They have a consistent high-standard of performances aimed at children and often have high-profile directors and actors involved. They also have a very good programme of stage-related workshops for slightly older children during school holidays. (more…)

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Tate Modern

Matisse at TateI haven’t been to the Tate Modern since having kids and I think I had forgotten how cool it is! I also completely underestimated how much my kids would like it. Interestingly, I think kids are really attracted to the vibrant colors, the huge paintings, ‘bizarre’ objects, etc. In some ways, it’s the kind of art that kids can relate to — art that inspires discussion.

On weekends the Tate hosts family-friendly events and interactive kid zones.  Or you can pick up a family trail sketchbook to keep kids interacted as they tour the museum (available every day of the week).

The gift shop on the bottom floor is WAY cool, and they have a great section of chilren’s books and unique toys. The café on the 2nd floor is also kid-friendly, with highchairs, crayons, etc.  But… the most impressive thing is the view from the restaurant at the top which looks out over the river Thames and offers one of the best views in London. (Even if you don’t eat there, it’s worth going up just to see!) (more…)

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Kew Bridge Steam Museum

kew bridge steam museumI have a 3-year-old boy, a 34-year-old husband and a 60-year-old father and they all love this Sunday afternoon activity: a ride on London’s only working Steam Engine. The Kew Bridge Steam Museum is open every day except Mondays and is great to marvel at various engines and locomotives. But the real fun is taking a journey on a steam engine – which is open to visitors every Sunday and bank holiday Monday from Easter through to October. Well worth a trip (and the girls tend to have a pretty good time too!).

Kew Bridge Steam Museum is on Green Dragon Lane, TW8 OEN. Nearest Train Station is Kew Bridge.

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ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Princess Diana Memorial Playground

Bugs, Frogs and Fish at the London Zoo…

London Zoo collageThe ZSL London Zoo is not largest zoo I’ve ever seen, nor does it have a very impressive range of large animals (no elephants or rhinos, etc.). But, for a zoo in the middle of such a dense city like London, the zoo does exactly as it should: it places emphasis on the smaller creatures in this world, like bugs of all sorts, butterflies, fish, reptiles and amphibians, and birds of the jungle. All of these different exhibits, each in their own separate building, are located indoors, which means even on a rainy day you can still enjoy a long day at the zoo!

In fact, I have to say, that I think my kids actually prefer these indoor exhibits. My son, with a particular fondness of sea creatures, could spend hours inside the small but extensive aquarium. He also really loves the reptiles and amphibians, with loads of large snakes, lizards, turtles and frogs. And if you arrive in the later part of the afternoon, as we usually do, you may even get to see these animals at feeding time, which is great fun! (We once spent a good 20 minutes watching a lizard chase around all the crickets in his cage!) (more…)

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Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

It is a marvel of a museum, a truly beautiful building with extraordinary exhibits. The Natural History Museum here in London first opened its doors in 1881, and his home to some of the most fascinating and rare objects (like the heaviest woolly mammoth tusks ever found and a skeleton of an extinct sea cow)! It is definitely one of my favorite museums in London, especially for kids.

There’s a life-sized model of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling of the large mammal exhibit and a roaring animatronic T-rex in the dinosaur exhibit. There’s also a ‘blue zone‘ of under water life, a ‘green zone‘ about the earth’s ecology, and a ‘red zone‘ about volcanoes and earthquakes. Like most museums in London, all the galleries are free to enter, except temporary exhibits. The website is very helpful, and even includes a parents’ survivial guide for tips on taking children. And the museum’s cafe is actually quite good and very kid-friendly. (more…)

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A week in London

Black Cab in LondonMonday:
Head to Lazy Daisy Café on London’s famous Portobello Road for a quick lunch. They’re all set up for kids, with a basket of toys and even changing tables (nappies and wipes) in the bathroom! If it’s a sunny day, you can even sit outside. After lunch, walk a few blocks south on Portobello Road to the Electric Cinema. They have a 3:00 screening slot set up for mums and their babies under 1-year-old. You “valet park” your buggy, take your seat at one of the cozy armchairs, and enjoy a coffee and treat. Your baby sits on your lap, and no worries if they scream– it’s actually called “Electric Scream” because it is to be expected! This is the perfect way to stay up-to-date on recent films, and is a fun way to meet other mums with babies. (Buy your ticket early on Monday because they always sell out)!

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Kentish Town City Farm

I grew up on a farm so the idea of a “city farm” seemed a bit silly to me. “Surely it couldn’t be great. How can there be enough space in the middle of a city to house all those animals?” I thought there would be a few chickens, ducks (pigeons, probably) and maybe a few rabbits…

So when I took my son to one of London’s city farms for the first time, I wasn’t expecting much. (I think I even warned him that this wasn’t a real farm)!

But real it is! And definitely worth a trip, especially if you live here and the only exposure your child has to a grunting pig or a galloping horse is in one of those “My First Farm” picture books…

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London’s Transport Museum


I recently took my kids to the London Transport Museum and was really, really impressed, both with the displays and with the hands-on children’s activities.  The museum, which gives a very detailed history of London’s public transportation, is located in Covent Garden, right in the piazza. The museum takes you through time and shows you how vehicles have developed to their modern-day form. On display is an original steam locomotive from the 1800s, horse-drawn trams, London’s first motor bus, and an electric trolley bus from the 1930s.

Several of the buses and transport vehicles are available to climb on. Kids can sit in the driver’s seat of a London bus (old and new) as well as pretend (through interactive video) that they are driving the tube through an underground tunnel. Needless to say, my kids loved it!

(more…)

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