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I’m not sure if you’re aware, but a royal wedding happened over the weekend — and if our collective royal fever wasn’t apparent in the days and weeks before Prince Harry married Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle on May 19, well, it certainly is now.
Many of us busily threw our own royal wedding parties at home in the wee hours of the morning, complete with a full spread of tea and crumpets. (Ahem, me.) Some sat wistfully daydreaming about what it’d be like if we were the ones who had managed to snag Harry. (Also me.) And others, overcome with a sudden passion for all things British, actually booked last-minute flights across the pond to celebrate in the only proper way there really is: right in the heart of Windsor. (JEALOUS!)
Yep, the British wanderlust is hitting us all something fierce right now, and really, who could blame us? Even if you’re not one of the brave souls who trekked all the way to Windsor for a chance to see the newlywed royals IRL, chances are you’re suddenly dreaming of taking a trip to nearby London soon. After all, the country’s largest city and beloved capital is home to all things quintessentially British — and it’s the home of some pretty major royals, including the newlywed Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Here are 11 kid-friendly London activities to experience once you get there …
1. Walk among the treetops at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
If you’ve never visited the Royal Parks and Gardens in England, I can tell you firsthand they’re gorgeous — expertly manicured, often populated with beautiful, exotic animals and birds, and they’ll instantly leave you wondering why you can’t manage to keep a simple basil plant alive on your windowsill, let alone grow a garden in your backyard.
My absolute favorite park inside London is St. James’s Park, which sits just in front of Buckingham Palace, offers sights of the London Eye, and has a lake running through it that beautiful swans lazily swim through. But another great stop-over, especially if you’re traveling outside the city, is Kew Gardens, a sprawling botanical garden in Richmond that stretches along the River Thames and sees some two million visitors a year. According to Good Morning America, Kew serves as a home base for 300 scientists, and a spokesperson shares that it’s “the leading global institution for plant science and plant research.” Perhaps the coolest part of Kew is its treetop walkway, which stands 59 feet up in the air so that visitors can literally walk among the trees.
2. Make use of the hop-on, hop-off bus tours.
Yes, the ticket prices add up when multiplied by a couple of kids; but these bus tours are actually totally worth it if you want to get the full scope of London. If it’s your first time in the city, they give you a good chance to see the sights, rest your feet, and soak in some history while you’re at it (you can choose from live-guided tours or pre-recorded ones). They’re also highly entertaining for kids of all ages, if you happen to have tweens who like to complain about being bored five minutes into your vacation. Plus, they often include a free ferry or boat ride down the River Thames as part of your package, which will give you another great view of the city’s incredible sights.
My advice: Start the day early if you want to take full advantage of the ticket prices, and use them in place of transportation so you don’t have to shell out extra on cabs or tube rides.
3. Get lost inside the London Transport Museum.
Riding the tube is cool and all (and if you’ve ever taken a New York City subway, you’ll be super impressed by how clean London’s underground is in comparison), but your kids won’t really be impressed unless they can take control of the train themselves.
Allow me to explain: The London Transport Museum actually has a simulator that lets your kids “drive” a train just like a conductor. It’s so cool, you just may want to get behind the wheel yourself.
4. Book a sleepover in a fun locale.
There are loads of cool places that host sleepover nights for kids in London, including the “Dino Snores” sleepover at the Natural History Museum, which features fun dinosaur-themed activities for kids, and “Kip in a Ship” at the Imperial War Museum, which lets kids roam the HMS Belfast on the River Thames and explore life below deck. There’s even an “Astronights” sleepover at the Science Museum that promises kids aged 7-11 an “overnight science extravaganza.” (Honestly, they’ll have you wishing you were a kid again, too.)
5. Spend a day in and around Kensington Palace.
For starters, Kensington Palace is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as well as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. But it’s also a pretty incredible and kid-friendly tourist attraction. Part of the Palace has been turned into a museum, where families can roam through exhibits like “Diana: Her Fashion Story,” which showcases Princess Diana’s most iconic dresses, and “Victoria Revealed,” which takes visitors through the incredible life and reign of Queen Victoria. There are even “Storytastic Sundays,” where kids can go on “missions” around the Palace and take part in other fun activities.
Before you leave, though, be sure to swing by the Diana Memorial Playground, which has a Peter Pan theme complete with a pirate ship, a sensory trail, teepees for kids to hide in, and more.
6. Fly a kite at Hampstead Heath.
If you don’t think you know what Hampstead Heath is, trust me — you do. Its sprawling green lawns have been featured in movies like Notting Hill, Labyrinth, and even the 2017 film Hampstead, which was named after it.
Kite flying on Hampstead’s grassy hills is a popular pastime, and is basically as British as it gets (Mary Poppins, anyone?). Plus, it’s one of those old-fashioned kinds of fun that really anyone will enjoy, no matter their age. But you can also have a spontaneous picnic, let the kids roll down the grassy hills, or rent a bike and cycle through the park.
7. “Ride” the London Eye.
You can’t go to London without catching a glimpse of it from inside the best viewing point ever: the London Eye. It’s basically a massive, slow-moving Ferris wheel that stands 443 feet high along the River Thames, giving tourists the full 360-degree view of all the city sights. Some of my favorite personal photos of London were taken aboard the Eye, from inside one its large, glass-covered observation bubbles. Kids love that it’s sort of like a ride (albeit, a slow-moving one) that takes you high above nearby buildings, and parents love that … well, the kids are entertained.
8. Explore the Museum of Childhood and feel like a kid again.
The V&A Museum of Childhood is part of the Victoria & Albert Museum, and is home to the U.K.’s national collection of childhood-related objects (which just so happens to be one of the largest in the world). There’s lots of free drop-in activities for kids, but even parents will get a kick out of exploring the museum’s displays, which include beloved childhood toys from throughout time (think: ’80s LEGO sets, old-school Mr. Potato Heads, and more).
9. Indulge your little Harry Potter fans.
There are a lot of things London is known for, and one of them is theater. If you have kids old enough to sit through a full show — and they’re big-time Harry Potter fans — consider buying tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre. It’s based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany, and tells the story of a grown-up Harry Potter who is now “an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic grappling with his dark past,” according to Visit London.
10. Book an afternoon tea.
I mean, can you really go to England and not partake in some sort of afternoon tea? Granted, taking kids along for a fancy high tea may sound like a recipe for disaster, but there are plenty of kid-friendly ones you’ll all enjoy. Check out the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel, which features hidden menus, teapots painted with the faces of kings and queens, and more. Or, if you’ve got some chocolate fiends in your midst, consider the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea at the hotel One Aldwych.
11. Go on a treasure hunt in Trafalger Square.
Trafalger Square is a pretty well-known spot in London, home to the National Gallery and St. Martin-in-the-Fields. But did you also know that thousands have been searching for buried treasure there for years? Okay, so the “buried treasure” may be fictional, but the pursuit of it will entertain kids for hours. Parents can download a PDF-version of a treasure map right here to take their kiddos on a self-guided tour around London and uncover some of the city’s greatest mysteries.
12. Walk among life-sized dinosaur sculptures.
If your kid is into dinosaurs, you’ll definitely want to stop by Crystal Palace Park, which is pretty much a must-see attraction for any prehistoric fan. The park houses 30 full-scale, three-dimensional model dinosaurs that were all built by sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. But here’s the incredible part: They were all built in 1854, and were reportedly the first attempt at recreating life-sized dinosaurs … ever.
One thing’s for sure: Your kids definitely won’t forget this trip anytime soon.