London with a PreSchooler
Last month we took a trip to London. Unlike our usual shorter trips, we did the unthinkable - we stayed in one place for an entire week. We made no plans and just played it by ear. It was one of the most relaxing trips we've taken despite having a three year old in tow.
We've been to London several times before - most recently a couple of years ago (see: London with a baby for more) and always have a good time here. London is one of the easiest places to visit thanks to no language barrier, great public transport and tons of interesting things to do that seem to change with every visit. But you know all this already! So I thought I'd share my recommendations of what we thought was worthwhile.
The London Zoo - A huge win! This is a beautiful zoo inside Regent Park. Despite operating since 1828, the exhibits are well kept up and there is loads for the whole family to enjoy. Not only were there great animal displays but there were also several play areas dotted around the park as well as face painters and a carousel.
Diana Memorial Playground - We discovered this wonderfully designed playground on our last trip but Aggie was a little too young to get much more than a quick swing in. This time she was able to really explore and we spent hours here. Since we were visiting during a school holiday, the park was pretty crowded but that didn't take away from her enjoyment at all.
Big Ben (on the hour) - this was more of a pass by than a visit but hearing the bells clanging of Big Ben made quite the impression. I was expecting her to be more fascinated with the castles and idea of a real princess living inside but she could care less once the bells started ringing.
The Underground Despite the dour expressions on all the adults commuting, train rides are just pure fun for a child - especially short jostling ones were there isn't too much waiting around. London's underground system fits the bill perfectly (and just happened to take us around pretty much everywhere). Their buses, while not nearly as fascinating to a 3 year old, allow you to push a stroller right on without having a collapse it winning big mommy points as well.
Maltby Street Market - Ok this one is for mom and dad more than the kids but every has to eat, right? Not far from the much more famous Borough Market is Malby Street Market. Think of this as Borough's smaller, hipper, less well known cousin. Set up in a warehouse space that doubles as an eating and shopping venue on Sundays, it's scored big for us.
Princess of Shoreditch Gastro Pub - Another spot we discovered on our last trip and made a point to return. You can soak up a little pub atmosphere while enjoying a great Sunday roast. While by no means a family restaurant, they were nothing but accommodating to us on our visits and the food was excellent. We will be back.
Cafe in the Crypt - This underground historic crypt turned cafe is the perfect spot to stop for a warming cup of tea or a snack (as well as a bathroom break). It's located right across from the National Gallery and the lunch room type service is perfect for fussy eaters.
Tiger UK - Imagine if Ikea and the Dollar Store had a baby - that baby would be Tiger. A chain of small shops full of a curated collection of affordable home goods, toys and accessories in fun colors and styles. Thanks to a friend for the tip or I would have never stepped inside. Now I can't wait to return!
The Museum of Natural History - The building is gorgeous but to say this place was overrun would be the understatement of the year. We were there during school holidays so I fully expect it to be crowded and I think living in NYC, I'm pretty immune to the masses but this was a waste. You couldn't even see the exhibits for the hordes of people and it was nearly impossible to move! The exhibits themselves (from what I saw of them) were a little bit run down as well. If you can visit at a less busy time perhaps it would be more worthwhile but I don't plan on returning. Sidenote: there was a separate butterfly tent that cost about $30 for a family ticket. It was a fine few minutes but almost exactly like the one at the London zoo so if you are planning on visiting, you can skip this one.
The London Eye - Ok I know I'm going to get some flack for this but bear with me. The lines for the eye are insane and the ticket prices high. The ride, while giving you a lovely view of the city, is far from exciting or even educational. By all means take a walk along the water to soak in the views and grab a few photos but I just couldn't bring myself to spend more than $100 to ride an albeit impressively large, slow moving Ferris Wheel.
So there you go! My high and lowlights of our trip. London always delights us and this time was no exception.