Stuck for something to do in London with your family? Whether you are a resident or a visitor, try out some of these brilliant things to do…
If its getting a little chilly outside and light drizzle is beginning to fall, take restless children to a beautiful oasis in the heart of the concrete jungle that is the Barbican Centre. The Barbican Conservatory is the second largest conservatory in London and is full of exotic plants and birds and ponds of interesting fish. Its a great place to take your kids in to play in nature, but in the warmth. While you are there, you could also see if there’s a kids film on or visit the theatre, or have high tea in the lounge or visit the library. It’s a world unto itself. Sadly the conservatory is only open on Sundays.
This might not appeal to anybody as much as it does to my son, but just outside Earl’s Court Tube Station is a Tardis, which you can go and pose beside and enormously pleasingly, Google Earth has made it so that if you double click on the box, you can go inside and explore the virtual inside. If that has got you in the mood, jump on the tube and visit the world’s greatest Who Shop in Upton Park. If your Whovian kids are still craving more, take them on the Doctor Who walking tour.
The Magnificent Seven, as they are known are seven landscaped Victorian cemeteries full of trees and birdsong and fabulous sculptures as well as the graves of some of the most interesting people to have been buried in the last hundred or so years. Living very near to one of them, Abney Park Cemetery, I can say with great confidence how absolutely wonderful it is for children. Many of these cemeteries have a fabulous gothic feel about them, mysterious angels covered in ivy and hidden chapels. Visit Highgate Cemetery to see the graves of Marx, Radclyffe Hall and Christina Rossetti. Every now and then they open the secret crypts that every good gothic cemetery seems to have, for an extra special visit.
Swimming in London
There are many and myriad ways to take a dip with your kids in London. Try one of the magnificent lidos to be found all over London (several are heated and open all year round), or cool indoor pools with wave machines and a host of slides and tunnels. There is wild swimming to be had in the world-famous Hampstead Ponds, or in the Serpentine if you fancy swimming with the ducks, or if you and your children would enjoy something a little less earthy, then have a crawl in a roof-top swimming pool – the Berkley and Shoreditch House have the loveliest of these. if you just need to cool off, then there are all sorts of imaginative fountains and water features for kids to get involved in – our favourite is the interactive fountain in the Southbank Centre (bring towels and a change of clothes!) but great fun is also to be had in Russell Square, Somerset House, the V&A and the Diana, Princess of Wales playground in Hyde Park.
And speaking of playgrounds, in recent years there have been several, wonderful new playgrounds opened for little and big kids to explore and have fun in. The best of these are the, just opened Tumbling Bay playground in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, complete with wobbly bridges, tree houses, enormous sandpits, its wonderful and the Diana, Princess of Wales Playground in Hyde Park, Coram Fields and the state of the arts, Parliament Hill Playground.