Friday, June 30, 2017

LONDON with Kids

We recently got back from an awesome trip to Europe with our 5,7, and 9 year old. The trip was amazing and we made memories that will last a life time. We only spent a few days in London and it was our second time going with the kids. Based on our time there and the research I did I wanted to put together a blog post for families traveling to London with kids...

Both times we've been to London we've taken the train. This time we rode the overnight train from Edinburgh. I'd highly recommend it. The downside is that you can't board the train until about 10pm at night. The station saw we were traveling with kids and allowed us to hang out in the Virgin Atlantic First Class Lounge until boarding which was really nice. We got 2 sleeper rooms next to each other that opened into one big room that housed 4 of us. The kids loved the adventure of sleeping on a train and waking up to look out the window at the country side before we pulled into London.

Transportation in London is easy. We did a lot of walking but also took advantage of the Big Red Buses and the Underground. Children 10 and under ride the bus and Underground for FREE! Download the Goodgle Map App when you have Wifi and use it while you walk the town- you can also see public transit directions on there. For 5 pounds you can purchase an Oyster card that you can use like a credit card for using public transportation.

One thing we didn't do that I wish we had was Cruising the Thames. It costs around 7-10 pounds depending on how far you go and kids under 10 are free; there are stops at the Tower of London, Globe Theatre, Big Ben, and other landmarks. You can get a River Taxi near the London Eye.

We have two absolute favorite restaurants in London...
1. Heddon Street Kitchen: At Gordon Ramsay's West End restaurant kids can dine for free every day of the week from a menu created by his daughter, Tilly. The kids are given a cardboard package with their menu on it and crayons and a coloring book inside. They also have an ice cream bar for kids to enjoy. The restaurant is situated close to Piccadilly Circus and the West End. They even offer a special set menu for those popping in for a pre-theatre meal. What made it really special was that the bartender came over and asked our kids if they would like to make a signature cocktail. He took them to the bar and asked what their favorite flavors were and showed them how to each make and mix a special drink complete with Garnish. We all really really loved our meals and hope to go back again someday.

2. Inamo: This Japanese restaurant takes screen time to the dinner table. All tabletops double up as giant computer screens and you order your food and drinks by flicking through an illustrated menu and tapping your choice. While you wait, you can select your own preferred background, you can play memory games, battleship, or other games. While looking through the menu a picture of each dish appears on your plate and once you've finally selected what you want you can watch the cooks prepare it via a camera in the kitchen. Keep in mind they have 2 locations. The one in Covenant Garden uses tablets and the one in Soho uses projections onto your table- that one was our favorite.

Honorable Mentions:
We didn't make it to Jamie's Italian but I've read that Jamie Oliver's chain is very kid friendly and the food is excellent. The same can be said for Cubana which offers a mix of Latin American, Cuban, Spanish, Caribbean, French, and African food with colorful decor. They have two locations Waterloo and Smithfield. Wahaca offers Mexican street food and offers a children's mini library inside.

If you like Carbs... I've read that Brick Lane Beigel Bake  which has been open since 1977 is Ahhhmazing! A few doors down from their is Cereal Killer Cafe which offers every cereal you can think of and sounds really fun for kids

We went to Tutti's for breakfast multiple times as the food was great, the staff was friendly, and it was close to our hotel in Soho. Downstairs they also have lots of books and toys for kids.

Tea Time with the littles...
Coming from the US we don't value Tea Time as much as the Brits (That's an understatement) Needless to say we took a hard pass on Tea Time. If Tea is well your cup of Tea considering these
1. The Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel: Based on the novel Alice in Wonderland you and your children will enjoy their magical tea time in the heart of London. If taking the underground think (Oxford Circus or Tottenham Court Rd) Prices start at 48 pounds without Champagne to 58 with.

2. Charlie and the Chesterfield Afternoon Tea at the Chesterfield Hotel. This is for you if you are a fan of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. They also have a Oompa Loompa tea for kids in which Willy Wonka is known to make an appearance. If taking the undergournd think (Jubilee, PIcadilly & Victoria lines- Green Park Station). Priced at 38.50 pounds per person . Oompa Loompa Tea from 19.50 pounds per child under 12.

3. Little Prince and Princess Tea at the Milestone Hotel. Kids will love being able to decorate their own cupcakes and enjoy the milkshake that comes with their tea and pastries. If taking the tube think High Street Kensington. Cost is 45 pounds for adults and 22 pounds for children under 12.

4. Grocer's Children Tea at the Grosvenor House. This hotel in Mayfair was awarded in 2016 best family afternoon tea. Children get to take home a special stuffed toy. Priced at 42.50 pounds for adults and and 15 pounds for the children tea

I wanted to go to Yolkin for their dessert Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwiches but we never made it- please go and tell me how amazing it is.

* The Natural History Museum- Our kids love walking through their dinosaur exhibit as well as seeing all of the taxidermy. It can get pretty crowded since it's free- I'd recommend trying to get in early.

* The Science Museum- There is so much to see here. I'd recommend paying the nominal fee and going to the Wonderlab to see the hourly science shows. If you have littles, head to the basement for some water play- our kids didn't want to leave!

* The Victoria and Albert Museum- This is one of my favorites. Even if you don't have time to explore this place, which you should go here and bring a picnic and set in the courtyard by the water and google and read the fun story of Queen Victoria and her Prince Albert.

*The British Museum- If you want to see the Rosetta Stone, Mummies and artifacts from the ancient and modern world this is your place.

*The Tate Modern- We didn't make it to this one but I've read that it's fun, free, and fabulous

*The National Gallery- A must see for Dr. Who fans who will note that Van Gogh's sunflowers painting is inscribed "For Amy" not "Vincent". This is another free museum that you could pop into if you have the time.

*The Grant Museum of Zoology- we didn't make it to this one but I've heard they have a fascinating collection of historical artifacts including a dissections of  real Tasmanian tiger.

*The Winston Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Room- we went here and it was really fascinating to see how Churchill ran the British Government with his team underground plotting their next steps during WWII. While my husband and I enjoyed this our kids especially our 5 year old got a little bored. Poor guy actually fell asleep as he stopped to sit down at one point.

*Lego Store- our kiddos are big Lego fans and loved walking through the London store

*Shakespear in the park at the Globe Theatre- We passed on this because our kids are still so young, but my cousin said this was one of her favorite things to see.

* Westminster Abbey- You can go inside and get a tour. Our family opted to walk around the exterior.

* Buckingham Palace- Its always fun to walk by and if you time it right see the changing if the guard.

* Kensington Palace- We didn't tour it but I've heard that the tours here are great- I want to go the next time we are in town.

*The Tower of London- You can explore one of the world's most well known fortresses. Check out the Beefeaters (this is the name of the guards).

*The London Bridge- My kids enjoyed singing the song when we saw it.

*Big Ben- My kids recognized it from the Movie Cars 2.

*The London Eye- this is a key part of the London Skyline. Think modern look giant ferris wheel. It takes around 45 minutes for it to go all the way up and down. If you'd want to do this keep in mind- its pricey and book tickets in advance.

*12 Baker Street (made known by Sherlock Holmes)

PARKS: (There are gardens everywhere. We loved finding them on our walks through town)
* Regents Park- Where the London Zoo is located

*Kensington Gardens - I love walking through Kensington Gardens. From the Peter Pan Statue to the ponds to the tree lined paths. These vast gardens comprised of Kensington Park, Green Park, Hyde Park, and St. James Park form an amazing green space in the middle of the city.
The Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens is a must see if you have kids. It's our favorite playground in London. It has a peter pan theme with a giant pirate ship to climb on, tee pees, and a lost boys fort. There is also a carousel outside the gates as well as a snack bar with excellent flat bread pizzas. Last time we visited here my husband took a hilarious video of a crazy squirrel that was going into strollers and diaper bags and stealing food. As we left the playground my husband laughed and pointed to all of the moms running across the park towards Kensington Palace. I noticed a helicopter over head and ran to follow and see what all the fuss was about. I got to Kensington Palace gates just in time to see the Chopper land and prince William get out with his body guard and jog into the palace. And that was one of the highlights of my last trip to Kensington Park.

* If you are looking for last-minute London Theatre tickets, visit the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. It offers half-priced and discounted theatre tickets on the day or week of almost all of the shows except Harry Potter- If you'd like to see Harry Potter- you need to go to their Ticket Office to see if anyone returns tickets  day of or we were told most people buy their tickets up to a year in advance. There are lots of Kid Friendly options we saw Aladdin at the Prince Edward but were tempted to see Lion King, Matilda, School of Rock, or Wicked.

On our last trip to London we visited during Wimbledon with the kids. We bought reasonable tickets and got to watch some great tennis but really enjoyed watching from the Lawn inside Wimbledon on the big screen. Strawberries and cream are a must as well as Primms to drink.

*Kings Cross Station - you can find Platform 9 3/4 and you can take a picture as if you are going through a wall -bring your scarf.

*Paddington Station- Our 5 year old is a huge Paddington the Bear fan. He even brought his Paddington and lit up when he got a picture next to the statue.