5 Things to do in London with kids
A varied few days in London with kids doing the Lambeth walk, meeting John Bercow and his mace at the House of Commons, visiting an Easter Island Head, being startled by a very Hallowe’eny organ blast in St Paul’s and witnessing Hamilton’s founding of America and the Holocaust.
The trip was based around a Hamilton ticket birthday present. Just needed to find activities for the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning (before hot footing it back to Bristol in time for Hallowe’en tricks n treats).
London with kids activity 1: Imperial War (museum)
Child 1 wanted Imperial War – child 2 less interested. But the War Museum was a 7 minute walk from the hotel so it won. The entrance is marked by some military hardware of impressive proportions. Was pleased, due to very limited weapons knowledge, to have called them as sea based. Took a fairly inappropriate photograph of the children hugging what could well have been brightly coloured missiles. Also sitting outside is a piece of the Berlin wall. Found myself able to say a little bit about this before resorting to the security of information from the actual plaque.
Inside is a riot of fighter planes spilling from the ceiling and army land rovers overhanging balconies. At child 1’s request headed for a gruelling hour in the Holocaust section (recommended for over 14’s). Deciding to experience the horrors of the world one at a time, we left WW1 for another day.
London with kids activity 2: St Paul's Cathedral
But it was only mid afternoon, not theatre time for another 5 hours. I did a quick review of London attractions providing free entry for Blue Peter Badge holders and hit upon St Paul’s Cathedral– which was kind of walkable (30 minutes) and importantly, was opposite a great Franco Manca pizza place for tea.
The sun was out and we sauntered over the Thames and past London landmarks ignoring my phone, which was following google maps in my pocket, as it repeatedly informed me that the attraction would be closed in less than an hour after arrival.
The ticket queue (after the security queue – which is a feature of every London attractions these days) only had one person in it. Not so handily, she did not speak English and was attempting to buy an annual ticket which involved her spelling out her very complicated name and lengthy email address to a ticket attendant who was quite hard of hearing. The combination was pretty hard to watch and the queue behind me fattened right up. But I was second so, although we had missed the last tour, we still had a good 45 minutes before closing (and had only paid £20 to get in with Blue Peter Magic).
The building took your breath away, but we knew we’d need the audio guide to understand any of it. We agreed on the family version so we could go through it together, but after 2 minutes, the flying phoenix guide was not popular with the over 10’s and we opted for the highlights tour instead.
We gleaned a few interesting snippets – about Nelson being buried in a tomb built for Henry VIII and that the glitzy ceiling mosaics were frowned upon back in the day, but the incredible body shaking vibrations emanating from the organ as it prepared for Evensong drowned the rest out. Made for a much more atmospheric soundtrack anyway as we wandered around the frescoes, orange-lit dark wood panelling and gold metallic lattices.
London with kids activity 3: Hamilton
Hamilton the musical is as clever as the man, but you need a fast ear to keep pace with the rapped revolutions and constitutional changes. The King steals the show with a surprise entry audience singalong number.
London with kids activity 4: Houses of Parliament
Day 2 was non-Brexit day. Was thinking we might have to avoid Parliament Square due to rioting on the streets, but in the event there were just a few Union Jacks and a man dressed as a Town Crier (who may have been a Town Crier – you never know in London, there are a lot of legitimate characters in red costumes).
Decided to go for it and attend the public galleries for John Bercow’s last day in office. (No ticket needed, you can just turn up on the day.) Only had to wait 30 minutes before entering the Houses of Parliament for the start of the security searches. I offered up my hairspray on spotting an aerosol picture next to the one of the gun, but was informed this was more geared towards pepper spray and mace. Put it sheepishly back in my bag.
We had been on a family tour in the summer when Parliament was in recess, and as we made our way through the 1000 year old Palace of Westminster for the second time, remembered that we were treading the same floor as Kings and horses (who had had to leave walking backwards to avoid causing royal offence).
Were issued with a green ticket and then stood in a small row as the golden mace and Bercow himself paraded past us to open the House for the day. He was in chatty mood (last day high spirits) and waved at the children saying how glad he was to see them here.
Post procession, you then choose the public gallery or another chamber. We were right next to the gallery door – bonus. Sped through but foiled as had not completed our names on the green tickets – and did not have a pen. Waited not very patiently for the only 3 pens provided to be available, then joined a large stairwell queue which had formed in the pen interlude.
Another security check later and you take your seats in the gallery to watch the machinery of government in action, listening to banter and debate in a wide array of strong regional accents. Did some celebrity MP spotting – but no Boris, Corbyn or Rees-Mogg today (his name had been bandied about as a possible listing). Interest waned as the accounts committee took the floor.
London with kids activity 5: British Museum
It was only 11′ 0 clock so just enough time (not really) to walk to the British Museum for a bit of Ancient China. Being a lazy learner and finding reading small cards quite hard work, I do like a tour. We’d joined free ones in the past about the Elgin Marbles and Hindu Gods. So after a quick butchers at a 5,000 year old skeleton and battling armies of school children surrounding the Egyptian dead, we joined what I thought was one of the free tours. It wasn’t. Got told to leave. Children mortified.
Caught the very specific (to get it cheap) train home and transformed into ghosts, horses and the Mexican dead.
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