London

We're off to that London in a few weeks for a big family holiday. Considering we'll have two kids (aged 2 and 7) and a car (not that we're planning to use it much) what should we do? Where should we go? What should we eat? There are a few things on the list already - The Horniman Museum, The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef and possibly Psycho Buildings if that's good for kids. I've got a couple of things to check out for Nothing To See Here but would really love to know about anything fantastic/good value/weird and/or wonderful. All wisdom gratefully received as always.

Psycho Buildings is definitely good for kids, although at the weekend the queues might be a bit much. Have you been to the Sir John Soane Museum? It's magical.

oooooh fancy a cuppa or a drop of what killed auntie some time ?
the parks are ace - regents for huge spaces, brilliant cafe design, and rowing boats or peddaloes and ace ice cream, st james's for pelicans. trafalgar square has somehow got brilliant again all liony and lovely. pulling faces at the horsegaurds never fails to cheer anyone up. lorelei for super cheap super tasty pizza etc. southend if you fancy a jaunt to the seaside.
i'll do more thinking if you're stuck
x

Have you ever been to Sir John Soane's Museum? http://www.soane.org/

Wonderful place.

We just went to Kew Gardens which has a brilliant thing called Creepers and Crawlies which is brilliant for 2yrs and 7yrs http://www.flickr.com/photos/benterrett/sets/72157606007748657/

Might be a bit pricey though, and it ain't easy to get to.

Maybe a visit to James Smith's umbrella shop - it's handy for the John Soane Museum.

I'm aching to visit the Whitechapel Bell Foundry for NTSH- they do guided tours now and again, but never when I'm off work, frustratingly.

If your kids like Harry Potter, have a walk down Goodwin's Court behind New Row (off St Martin's Lane) in Covent Garden - it was the film location for Diagon Alley; a row of well preserved 18th century bay windowed shops (although they haven't been actual shops for years, alas). And down the road from there is the best pub in London - the Harp.

There's the city farms, my favourite so far is Hackney City Farm (it's got a decent little café as part of it) very good for kids.
Oh there's the notoriously bad dinosaurs in Crystal Palace, which I've not got round to seeing yet.
I will second the Horniman Museum - one of the best in London, and usually not too busy.

I would suggest a trip to Borough Market on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. Not only are all the stalls fab, there is plenty to see and do in the surrounding area. Paul Smith has a fabulous shop on Park Street which you must visit as there are all types of curios in there. There's also a fine tearoom next to Neal's Yard Dairy called Shipps Tearooms or cakes to die for at Konditor & Cook round the corner. Further towards the river there's a replica of the Golden Hind, Francis Drake's galleon and they hold pirate workshops...I could go on!

I really like the Geffrye Museum - it's series of period decorated rooms depicting middle class life from, or the 1600s to modern times. It has a nice herb garden and cafe, and is free.

http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/

If you are going down to the Horniman you could also visit the dinosaus at Crystal Palace.

I'm useless about knowing what to recommend for kids, but Wellcome Collection on Euston Road has 'From Atoms to Patterns' on at mo', about the 1951 Festival of Britain's Pattern Group and is much fun for fans of 1950s design. The permanent exhibition, Medicine Man, is great too. And make sure you have a look at the Library! WC is between Regent's Park and Sir John Soane's so would make a handy stopping-off point.

The Museum of Childhood

http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/

Ace.

I thought of another one. The Elfin oak in Kensington Gardens

Oooh, these are great, thanks. I've got a total yet inadvertent thing about trees. @Dick that's excellent thanks!

I'll second the Sir John Soane Museum and Borough Market and the Geffrye Museum.

And can I throw in the Roman Amphitheatre under the Guidhall Art Gallery (free entrance on Fridays), a walk across the top of Tower Bridge (if you have a head for heights), a visit to London Zoo (for the Penguin pool, obviously), a walk up to the top of Primrose Hill (or Hampstead Heath), and the amazingly Art Deco Eltham Palace. For starters.

It looks like most of the 'hidden gem' category has been taken! So I'll stick to the big stuff...

Stuff you have to pay for:

The Duck Bus. Take a WWII German amphibious bus tour around London ending with a trip down the Thames. Utterly wonderful.

Kew Gardens. Probably my favourite place in London. There's 'Climbers and Creepers' a play area type thingy for the kids. The palm house and the temperate house (don't forget the aquarium in the basement). The water lilies should be flowering about now too. And as for the trees...When No 1 Son was very young and I was out of work we used to live round the corner. I used to walk the pram over and sit by the Thames and we'd watch the planes fly overhead. Simple pleasures...

Free Stuff:

The Science Museum. The basement's got all the kids bits, which they'll love. If you're lucky they may have the beam engine working. My Dad used to take me to watch it in the summer holidays as reward for staying in the car while he sold stuff to North Thames Gas or whoever...you're next door to the Natural History and over the road from the V&A too. All of which are free. I love the jewellery room in the V&A.

And one last one - 32-36 Telford Way, Brunel Industrial Estate, Acton. I used to work on the Estate - on the first day my boss walked me over to 32-36 and asked me "What's that?". I didn't know what he meant. "Sunshine Desserts" he said and I could instantly see Leonard Rossiter bounding up the stairs towards another meeting with CJ...

Merson - they're all superb but that last one's golddust. Thank you so much!

If you do the Horniman, there are kid-friendly bike hire options available in nearby Dulwich Park: bucket seats and little trailers etc.

(The cafe at the Hornimans is very accomodating to kids but the food's a bit rubbish. Nearest old school caff is the Westbourne round the other side of Forest Hill station. Or our local pub, the Honor Oak is kid-friendly with decent food but a little bit more expensive - it's at the Forest Hill end of Brockley Rise.)

Hiya, loads of good suggestions already but just came across one of The London Architectural Salvage and Supply Co. Ltd. locations yesterday - completely hidden from view but a real Aladdin's cave inside! Half shop, half museum, it's worth taking a look if you're in the Vauxhall area. Of course nearby is the lovely Bonnington Square, with it's gardens and veggie cafe, and who can forget the British Interplanetary Society offices, at 27-29 South Lambeth Rd; worth it just for the sign :)
Hope you have a great trip.

If the weather is good then London Fields Lido is great, an outdoor Victorian pool that was recently renovated by Hackney council. Also in the same neck of the woods is Hackney City Farm, it has a great cafe run by a Sicilian and a Sardinian chef, fab food and activities. And while you're in the east end Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday is fun, my daughter loves the buskers there and the cupcakes from Treacle. All of London's parks are fab, but we especially like Clissold Park in Stoke Newington, and Victoria Park in Hackney. All free!

Some paid for stuff - the Little Angel Puppet Theatre in Islington is charming. The Ragged School Museum is great, set in what was the biggest ragged school by the Regents Canal. And the Foundling Museum by Coram's Fields is interesting too.

I'm not sure how child friendly it would be, but you shouldn't really miss the chance to visit the Stanley Kubrick archive at University of the Arts:

http://www.arts.ac.uk/44722.htm

I haven't been, but I remember reading a Guardian magazine article about Kubrick's boxes years ago and was intrigued by it then. There's a Jon Ronson documentary about it tonight which looks pretty cool:

http://www.channel4.com/more4/documentaries/doc-feature.jsp?id=215

which bit of London are you staying in?

here are some things I'd recommend to do:

1)a trip to Bethnal Green where you can visit the amazing Pellici's cafe
http://www.classiccafes.co.uk/Pelliccifeature.htm
and go to the Museum of Childhood and then go next door to the renovated York Hall which has a victorian spa and swimming pool that's now been done up (i've not been since it's been renovated but i've heard it's still great)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/York_Hall
and on sunday you can go to Brick Lane market and Columbia road too!

2) Opposite the Soanes museum in Holborn is the incredible Hunterian museum which is inside the Royal College of Surgeons.. it has pickled bits of humans and animals and the skeleton from a famous Victorian giant and lots of other strange curios

3)Wiltons music Hall near Tower Bridge is a beautiful old crumbling music hall - not sure how you visit it officially but worth giving them a ring to find out

4) get the DLR driver-less tube train to Island Gardens (like a roller coaster!), then walk under the thames in the Victorian Greenwhich foot tunnel to greenwhich where there's loads of things (market, museums etc). You can then get the thames river ferry back to central london.. it's cheaper than tour boats, has a bar! OR you could venture further inland and go find this caff:
http://www.classiccafes.co.uk/GambardellaSpecial2.htm
which I've not been to yet but looks amazing.

5) If you're in Soho go to Maison Bertaux for an (expensive!) cake and cuppa - but the interior is lovely and worth it for a treat

6) Corams fields is a playground where you have to be accompanied by a child to get in. it's free and good and the Brunswick centre is nearby for a spot of 60s architecture

7) The Princess Diana memorial playground in Kensington Gardens is really great..pirate ships, musical floors, tipis, sandpits... loads and loads of things for kids to get excited about

8) dinosaurs in Crystal Palace are brilliant (plus you can see the only bit of crystal palace that survived - the steps!)

9) Horniman is amazing for everyone aged 0-100 I agree with everyone above (south london)

10) natural history museum has a butterfly maze which I've not seen but might be good

11) Stratford in east london has a storytelling playground / space with workshops and things.. again I've not been but it's been recommended to me
http://www.discover.org.uk/

12) The London Eye is pretty exciting too...

13) normally i'd suggest going up the Monument too but it's closed til 2009

Have fun!

I just found some extra comments in my spam filter there. They were held back because they had more than 3 links in them. Glad I noticed - top stuff! Sorry if it was one of yours that disappeared.

It's no big deal, but my original comment has been credited to 'Gareth', and someone else's comment has been credited with my name. I didn't realise this could happen! Great blog, though. Cheers.

Hi Ian,

I have *no* idea how that happened, except I rebuilt the comments are few times and maybe it got mangled. Sorry. And sorry to you too Gareth.

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