Getting into London from Portsmouth, Southampton, Winchester and Basingstoke is relatively easy and direct. From all Cities you will go direct into Waterloo within 2 hrs. Kids can travel for £2 with a paying adult on Southern Railways http://www.southernrailway.com/offers/kids-for-2/
If you travel with South West Trains off peak adults are £16 and kids £3 https://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/offers–days-out/offers/
Southern Railways do also have an offer on advance tickets starting at £5 if you travel into Victoria Station. You may want to ask about Travelcards if you plan on using the tube.
A DAY OUT FOR 5-7 YEAR OLDS
Now just to warn you, we do like a walk in our family so the guidance I’ll give is mainly for walking between sights. This way you get to see lots and don’t have to negotiate the tube or buses with a buggy. However, if you do feel that you need a rest or want to get somewhere quicker see here for a tube map http://content.tfl.gov.uk/standard-tube-map.pdf
Save the pennies………………
Come out of the station via the top left (if you’re looking from the exit barriers of the platform) exit and follow the signs for The Southbank, here you’ll find a nice park just in front of the London Eye. Have a mooch around the street entertainers, our kids have a favourite who they call ‘molecat’, basically a man who sits under a box with a hole for his head and a cat basket covering it, his face is painted as a cat and he has his hands up as paws holding a cat bowl for donations! Its the most simple idea but the kids love him, he meows and talks to them. They couldn’t agree on whether he was a mole or a cat so he became molecat. There is also usually a bmx display and a man who produces massive bubbles.
If you fancy a coffee and cake try the café/restaurant under the Royal Festival Hall, its under the bridge to the right of the Eye, the street vendors also smell lovely, we’re often tempted by the crepes.
Next head to the left of the London Eye and cross over the river on Westminster Bridge, passing parliament and Big Ben on your left. Head straight on across Parliament Square, onto Great George St and to Birdcage Walk. At the other end of Birdcage walk you’ll see Buckingham Palace, perfect for the kids to pose in front of the gates and watch the soldiers. Changing of the guard is good to watch and happens at 11.30 on alternate days starting on the 1st August, arrive at 11.15 to see the whole spectacle, see here for further details http://changing-guard.com/dates-buckingham-palace.html
If you head back down to the start of Birdcage Walk on your left you will see St James Park, there is a nice park here with a big sandpit, swings, slide etc, refreshments and toilets. This might be a good place to stop for a picnic and let the kids have a run around. For more details of great parks see here http://www.london-baby.com/belgravia/
Once the kids have stocked up on lunch and had a run around hop on the tube from St James Park to South Kensington on the circle and district line. Here you’ll find the Science Museum which is free to enter. Infant school age kids will love the water play area, under 8s will also love the pattern pod which introduces kids to the importance of patterns in science these days. Launch pad is a popular hands on gallery, you can probably pass a couple of happy hours in the museum.
When you’re done hop back on the tube via the Piccadilly line to Piccadilly Circus, here the kids will be fascinated by the neon signs and may want to pop into M&M world to be tempted by the chocolatey smell! You’ll probably want to run a mile. If you’re feeling patient and ready for crowds the kids would enjoy a visit to Hamley’s on Regents Street. This is the toy shop to trump all toy shops, I remember the somersaulting dogs and rabbits on the ground floor as a child and when we visited recently it was the same but with better technology lol!! A ride up to the top on the escalators will probably satisfy your curiosity enough without driving you too mad.
By this time the kids will probably be ready for tea, there are plenty of fast food and chain restaurants around Piccadilly Circus and if you follow signs for Leicester square and Covent Garden again you’ll find plenty of nice places to eat. Lets face it, if you want to keep prices low the golden arches of Macdonalds are probably your best bet, forgo healthy eating for a day.
If you still have some energy head back to the Embankment and walk towards the London Eye, cross the river over Waterloo bridge or further along across Hungerford Bridge, if you take this route you can walk through some nice gardens behind the Savoy, there is a little refreshment stand here if you need a last minute coffee. You’ll then find Waterloo station, behind the London Eye and Royal Festival Hall.
Raid the piggybank………
For younger kids sometimes its easier to stay fairly close to the train station, in that way you get lots done but don’t waste time travelling. As before when you leave Waterloo head towards the Southbank. The London Eye would be a good attraction to try here or the London Aquarium, we loved the glass walk walkway over the shark tank on the way in. If it hadn’t been busy the kids would have laid on there for ages. Shrek’s Adventure is next door to the Aquarium so this would be an alternative if your aquarium’d out.
It will probably be time for lunch when you leave the Aquarium, the Rainforest Café on Shaftesbury Avenue would be great for kids, as would Planet Hollywood on Haymarket, you could walk to these in about 20 minutes by crossing the Hungerford Bridge and heading for Theatreland or go back to Waterloo and get the tube on the Bakerloo line to Picadilly Circus. Best to call ahead or book online before your trip to book a table. http://www.therainforestcafe.co.uk/ http://www.planethollywoodlondon.com/bookings/
You have a couple of options close by for the afternoon, The London Transport Museum is in Covent Garden, its very interactive and kids are free. During the summer holidays there are story times, singalongs and workshops. As an alternative you could always visit one of the ticket kiosks in Leicester Square for some last minute theatre tickets, Matilda, The Lion King, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and The Railway Children would be perfect. If you plan ahead check out Kids Week where kids go free with a paying adult http://www.kidsweek.co.uk/
Wander back via Pret or Eat (there seems to be one of these on every street) for a sandwich tea on the way back to the station, or hop on the tube and grab a bite to eat before the train journey back.
A DAY OUT FOR 7-11 YEAR OLDS
Save the pennies………………..
From Waterloo head across the river on the Hungerford bridge and straight up Northumberland Ave, this leads you to Trafalgar square to see Nelsons column and the fountains. There is a café here if you need a post train journey snack or caffeine fix. You can explore Whitehall with its government buildings and military barracks from here or walk up the Mall to Buckingham Palace. If you then head for Hyde Park you’ll find the serpentine and the Princess of Wales memorial, there is also a brilliant play park here. You could have a picnic here or eat in the café next to the Serpentine.
For the afternoon why not follow the BFG dream jar trail, sculptures created by celebrities in 50 giant glass jars are dotted around Central London. Dream Jars are where The BFG keeps the good dreams that he mixes before he delivers them into “childdlers” bedrooms using his giant dream trumpet. The trail is to support the work of Save the Children and Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s charity. See here for a map of locations of the dream jars and also links to themed mini trails http://www.visitlondon.com/bfg/maps-and-trails From Hyde Park you could join Her Majesters trail or start the Phizzwhizzing West End trail.
Raid the piggybank…………….
Follow the instructions above to Southbank and head for the London Eye Pier on the river. Here you can catch a sightseeing cruise to Tower Bridge, you can book a single ticket, round trip or hop on hop off. It may also be worth asking about combination tickets with any attractions that you’re thinking of visiting. This is a great way to see the sights from the river whilst travelling to your first attraction http://www.citycruises.com/london-sightseeing-prices-timetable
If a trip on the water is your thing and you fancy something more adrenaline fuelled, a rib experience would be a fun way to see some sights further along the river, some tours include the Thames Barrier and The O2 Arena. These run from Embankment Pier, so you’d have to cross the Hungerford Bridge from the Southbank and head to the right as you exit the bridge to find the pier http://www.thamesribexperience.com/
If you’ve taken the river cruise along to Tower Bridge this would be a good attraction to visit, you can climb the historic structure and walk across a glass floor 42 meters above the river Thames. Sure to be a hit with the kids even if it isn’t for you! The bridge is open from 10-17.30, you may even be lucky enough to see the bridge lift from the walkway http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/plan/
A fab place for lunch is St Catherine’s Dock, this is Central London’s only marina. There are various cafes and restaurants, including Café Rouge, Zizzi, Slug and Lettuce, Strada and Tom’s Kitchen to choose from. During the Summer there is live music on Fridays and a riverside market on Saturdays http://www.skdocks.co.uk/whats-on
After lunch you are in a good location to visit the Tower of London, for kids who love castles and kings and queens this is the perfect afternoon out. There are activity trails for them to follow, the crown jewels to see, what girl can resist a sparkling jewel?! The arms and armour in the white tower along with stories of the beasts that were kept in the tower for 600 years will catch the boy’s attention http://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/visit-us/
If you don’t fancy the Tower but still have your head for heights from the Bridge walk towards London Bridge Station and you will find the Shard, its Western Europe’s tallest building and is well worth a visit. We were amazed at seeing helicopters hovering over the city below us, I’m not a huge fan of heights but I didn’t find it too bad as the lift is so quick you don’t really notice how high you’re going. You can pre book online to save £5 per ticket or turn up on the day https://www.theviewfromtheshard.com/en/tickets-prices/?gclid=CL-_q9uztM4CFfQK0wodN6EAZg&gclsrc=aw.ds
You can either walk back along the river to Waterloo, past the Golden Hind and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre or get the jubilee line on the tube from London Bridge Station. There are many restaurants around both stations and along the river if you want to stop for dinner.
Have a fab day out and remember to wear comfy shoes, take a rucksack, baby wipes, water, snacks and a light coat…… Becky x
Image credits: https://www.goldentours.com/travelblog/how-to-spend-your-one-day-out-in-london, https://violetsdiary.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/a-walk-through-london/, http://www.visitlondon.com/things-to-do/place/3876714-st-katharine-docks#LTB4yJ3MkDRBfiA7.97