One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, London is packed full of enough historic sites and museums to keep visitors entertained for months. For parents, though, it can be hard to judge which of the many attractions on offer will excite children, and which will leave them bored to tears. Here’s a run-down of 5 top London sites that will keep kids grinning from ear-to-ear.
5. Chessington World of Adventures
Combining rides and shows with a world-class zoo, Chessington World of Adventures is one of the most popular theme parks in the UK. Unlike nearby Thorpe Park (which caters primarily for teens and young adults), the park offers a wide variety of attractions that will appeal to the whole family.
The rides and animal exhibits are spread across a number of themed lands, each of which represents a different “adventure”. The park also houses a Sea Life aquarium, as well as an on-site hotel, the Holiday Inn Chessington.
For younger children, highlights include Bubbleworks (an entertaining boat ride through a mock soap factory), the gentle Runaway Train roller coaster and the Safari Skyway (which offers an aerial view of some of the zoo’s best animal enclosures).
Older guests will find plenty to entertain them, too. Vampire is a well-designed suspended coaster, while Dragon’s Fury is a spinning coaster that will leave riders dizzy but giggling. The most addictive offering, though, is Tomb Blaster, which sees guests using laser guns to battle undead mummies in a recreation of an Egyptian burial site.
4. Natural History Museum
In the past, London’s Natural History Museum has been seen as a little dry, featuring large numbers of fossils that did little to bring the natural world to life. Nowadays, though, it mixes classic exhibits with cutting-edge technology, and kids will find a lot to love within its walls.
The clear highlight for most visitors will be the dinosaur exhibit. This is divided into two main areas – one featuring a number of genuine dinosaur skeletons, and another housing animatronic recreations of well-known species. Photographs in front of the T-Rex model are an obligatory part of any visit.
The museum’s geology section was completely rebuilt in 1996, and is now one of the most impressive and innovative in the world. After entering through a giant model of the Earth, guests can explore a number of exhibits which explain the origins and inner workings our planet. Kids (and many adults), though, will remember the exciting earthquake room most fondly.
3. London Zoo
The world’s oldest scientific zoo is still going strong, and offers a great day out for adults and children alike. More than 755 species are housed within its walls, and kids will learn a lot as well as having the chance to see creatures of all shapes and sizes.
The big draws are the larger animals, such as Asian Lions and Sumatran Tigers. The zoo’s Gorilla Kingdom exhibit is one of its most impressive, sprawling across a 6,000-square-metre site and hosting one of the rarest species on earth. Similarly expansive is the Komodo Dragon enclosure, which is home to three of the enormous, carnivorous reptiles.
Alongside the land-based animals, London Zoo has also featured an aquarium since 1853. Kids will be mesmerised by its exotic occupants, which include electric eels, stingrays and clownfish (made famous by Pixar’s Finding Nemo).
2. Legoland Windsor
Designed specifically for families with children aged 2-12, Legoland Windsor packs a bewildering array of rides and attraction into its 150-acre site. It also offers a number of interactive areas, in which young guests can construct their own LEGO creations.
Kids can fulfil long-held dreams at Legoland Windsor. Driving School offers the chance to get behind the wheel of a miniature car, while nearby Boating School puts children at the helm of a boat. There’s even an opportunity to douse “flames” using a miniature fire engine as part of the popular Fire Academy attraction.
For older kids, The Dragon roller coaster offers just the right level of thrills. The Atlantis Submarine Voyage also delivers a great variation on a traditional aquarium, with guests boarding small vessels and viewing a variety of marine creatures from an underwater perspective.
Can’t persuade your kids to see all of London’s top sites? You can at least explore them in miniature, by exploring Legoland Windsor’s Miniland. Hundreds of famous landmarks are recreated using Lego bricks, and 2012 will see the debut of a new area dedicated to the Star Wars universe.
1. Science Museum
Combining education with fun, the Science Museum is an essential stop on any family tour of London. It houses a wide range of exhibits, including legendary items such as Stephenson’s Rocket train, as well as a popular IMAX 3D Cinema.
Among the most recent additions to the museum is the Making the Modern World gallery, which features a number of items that will be of interest to young visitors. This includes the Rocket, as well as an Apollo space craft. A timeline is used to explain the sequence of breakthroughs that led us to the modern way of life.
Parents may struggle to extract their children from the Launchpad gallery, which houses more than 50 interactive exhibits. Staff are on hand to help kids understand the different “experiments”, which help to explain some of the basic fundamentals of physics.
London offers something for visitors of every age, and however old your kids are, you’ll find plenty to keep them engaged in the city. Luckily, the child-friendly attractions deliver plenty of entertainment for adults, too, so it’s easy to maintain family harmony during your trip to England’s capital.
Chessington World of Adventures.jpg – self-taken
Natural History Museum.jpg – Oliver Mallich
London Zoo.jpg – Growl Roar
Legoland Windsor.jpg – self-taken
Science Museum.jpg – Danie van der Merwe