London Done Family Style
What to do and where to stay on a family vacation to London
What To Do
Young ones don’t have to be theater buffs to enjoy the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe on the banks of the Thames. Daily tours are great for families to learn about the Bard of Avon and enjoy storyteller guides, multimedia workshops, dress-up stations, and sword-fighting demos.
London is home to more than 200 parks, some of which have kid-specific offerings perfect for a family outing. Crystal Park Palace is always a favorite for its dinosaur statues, while Battersea Park Children’s Zoo houses monkeys, meerkats and emus, plus a sand and water playground. The 560-acre Queen Elizabeth Park offers concert halls, wetlands, a cycling center, and an adventure playground with rock-climbing walls and a huge sandpit, among other things.
Harry Potter-themed tours abound in London, and enthusiasts of all ages can visit the Potions classroom, tour Hagrid’s Hut and step into Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Try the Making of Harry Potter Tour in Watford Junction to see the sets, props, makeup, and special effects from the films – don’t forget to book ahead.
Two of London’s museums are perhaps the most well-suited to children: the Natural History Museum, which offers a free, fun ride to the center of the earth as well as an earthquake simulator, and the London Transport Museum, where visitors can “drive” a red bus.
For a high-flying view of the city, the View from the Shard is 804 feet up in Renzo Piano’s skyscraper. From the tallest building in Western Europe, visitors can learn stories about the sights below told on touchscreens, take a high-speed elevator to the 68th floor and climb to the open-air tip on the 72nd floor for 40-mile views.
Where to Stay
The Athenaeum Hotel in central London’s Mayfair district maintains a focus on families in a convenient location. Families can book adjoining rooms, a three-bedroom suite or one-bedroom apartments that can be configured into two bedrooms.
The hotel even sends out questionnaires to guests before their stay, asking children’s ages, favorite games and movies and other preferences, so families find age- and taste-appropriate videos and toys upon arrival. For parents, the Athenaeum offers a spa, hot tub, gym, business center, WiFi, and whiskey bar.