Traveling London with Kids and No Plans

Last month we took a trip to London with kids.  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.

LondonMarch2016 (48 of 52) LondonMarch2016 (26 of 52) A penguin at the London Zoo a great place to visit when traveling London with KidsLittle girl sitting on a bench with a Covent Garden sign in the background
We've been to London with kids 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 there is 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 exterior of Sticks Umbrellas Storea stack of five antique suitcases LondonMarch2016 (17 of 52)

Seeing London With Kids - 8 Things You Don't Want to Miss

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 their 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 everyone has to eat, right?   Not far from the much more famous Borough Market is Maltby 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 lunchroom 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!

  LondonMarch2016 (14 of 52)LondonMarch2016 (12 of 52) Little girl in a London Park in front of a tree smilinga huge pile of Hot Cross Buns something to try when traveling London with Kids LondonMarch2016 (23 of 52)LondonMarch2016 (40 of 52) A store full of colorful umbrellas in case it rains when traveling London with Kids Mrs. Limestone and her Daughter sitting on a curb in London Liberty of London Flower Shop

Things to Skip with Traveling London with Kids

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.

  A table full of antique cameras we found while traveling London with Kids

So there you go!  My high and lowlights of London with Kids Brooklyn Limestone Style.  London always delights us and this time was no exception. Want more advice on travel with kids? Be sure to check out Edinburgh with Kids and Copenhagen with kids.

11 comments:

  1. The other great thing about those Tiger stores is the inventory changes on practically a weekly basis so there's always something new to be found. I spend far too much time in our neighborhood one.

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    1. Oh Im super jealous! It's such a fun store. When I was there they had all this green glass servingware I would have so happily brought home with me if I didn't think it would be smashed to bits on the way home. I don't know why they haven't expanded to the US yet.

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  2. We are off to Denmark in a few weeks and one of the things I am looking most forward to is the Tiger sore just down the road from where we are staying! I think your description of it is perfect!
    There is actually two Flying Tiger locations in Manhattan! Not sure if the Flying Tiger is a smaller version of the store but may be worth a visit.

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    1. THERE IS??? Running there now!

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  3. Looks great! Will have to consider a trip to London with our two little ones. I'm curious what stroller you like to travel with.

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    1. When she was younger, we used the Bugaboo bee which I still think is a great mix of small footprint with some important upgrades. So that was quite useful for us when she spent a lot of our time walking around strapped in.

      Now she pretty much walks everywhere and we use the stroller for the occasional nap and when she gets tired walking, we don't need nearly the same functionality. More important now is quick + easy folding and lightweight so we use the Zoe stroller. http://amzn.to/1TjmZB9

      Hope that helps! As for double strollers, I am totally clueless - im sort of hoping I never need to buy one but I know I will at some point.

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  4. I will have to visit the Tiger store next time I visit London. LOVE all your travel posts - any plan to do any Baltic countries/cities anytime soon? I am going there in June.

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  5. I love the Tiger shops, we have them in Belgium too. I'm glad to learn about Borough Market's less known cousin, I've been last month and it was too crowded! I love your travel posts by the way ;)
    Clem //ravacholle.blogspot.com

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  6. Can I ask where you stayed? Planning a trip in the Fall with my daughter and going back and forth on hotel vs an apartment. Thanks!

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    1. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency which was very nice because of its convienent location and the access to a private park with playground across the street. That said, I always love having an apartment if staying anywhere for more than a few days. So it all depends on the location vs. price.

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  7. I loved reading about your visit to London, I live in Surrey about 40 minutes out of London and love taking my boys up to London. I wondered if you have ever been to Tower Bridge? On a clear day you get a good look across London and costs a lot less than the London Eye!

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