Winter city breaks look great on paper – rates are cheaper, the streets aren’t quite so busy and there’s always lots to do indoors when it’s cold and wet – but what about when it comes to truly child-proof, family-friendly activities? Is there enough to do to keep the little ones entertained? Well, on a winter break spent in London (making the most of City break packages), there definitely is…
London Transport Museum
(Covent Garden Piazza WC2E 7BB/ open: 10am-6pm Saturday-Thursday; 11am-6pm Friday)
Do your little ones just love things that go? If so, a trip to this venue may just make for an essential visit. Here you’ll find a brilliant collection of buses, trains, trams, subway cars and more. Tactile yet informative and lots of fun museum, it’s packed not just full of public transport exhibits of yesteryear, but also video screens, posters, maps, illuminated boards, subway signs and models. There’s also a play area for under-fives, an excellent museum shop and a restaurant.
The Making of Harry Potter – Warner Bros. Studio Tour
(Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden WD25 7LR/ open: 9.30am-6.30pm daily)
Technically not in London itself (it’s actually located 20 miles outside), these studios are simply a must for all ‘Potterheads’; if you’ve any in your family and you’re all visiting the capital this winter, they’ll simply not forgive you if you don’t make time for a visit to the Warner Bros. during the trip! And that’s because it was at these movie studios that the epic saga of films based on JK Rowling’s novels were shot and where, ensuring they’re a huge tourist attraction, the many sets (4 Privet Drive, Hogwarts dining room, Dumbledore’s office) and props remain to be discovered by visitors. Offering up two restaurants; this venue needs to as it’ll take an entire day out of your short-break.
Royal Air Force Museum
(Grahame Park Way NW9 5LL/ open: 10am-6pm daily)
For little tykes who adore planes, rockets and more, this museum’s magnificent collection of simply hundreds of aircraft from every era of air-travel will make their London trip – and no mistake. Located in the suburb of Colindale (reachable relatively easily from the centre of the capital via Tube and accommodation such as Barbican Rooms by Montcalm), its Battle of Britain section’s superb and it features two restaurants.
(Exhibition Road SW7 2DD/ open: 10am-6pm daily)
Spreading across a full seven floors, this South Kensington monolith of a museum’s extremely kid-friendly; its aspiration – which it more than adequately achieves – being to bring to stunning life science, engineering and technology for little mites. Here, both your children and you can explore its exhibits that cover everything from space travel to the Industrial Revolution. Highlights include a giant telescope, many different kinds of flying machines and an IMAX cinema that plunges viewers into deep space and the world beneath the oceans.
The London Dungeon
(Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road SE1 7PB/ open: 10am-4pm Monday-Friday; 11am-6pm Saturday; 10am-5pm Sunday)
Ever popular, this South Bank mainstay (very easy to reach from a City Suites hotel London) serves up a gruesome interactive recreation of the darkest, most grisly chapters of the UK capital’s millennium-long history. Relying not just on costumed actors that lead visitors through the exhibit’s expertly constructed sets; it boasts state of the art special effects, enabling young and old alike to come face-to-face with King Henry VIII (as he orders his wife’s execution), Guy Fawkes of the Gunpowder Plot-fame, a doctor facing the medieval plague and Sweeney Todd, the murderous barber of Fleet Street. Be warned, however, that with its ‘death drop’ ride and many thrills and chills throughout, it’s only recommended for older children and those older.
(King William Walk SE10 9HT/ open: 10am-5pm daily; closed 24th-26th December)
Surrounded by glass on all sides so visitors can fully take in this last-surviving, glorious 19th Century tea clipper boat, the Cutty Sark is, however, all about enabling little ones to roam and scurry about on its deck and its innards – and discover all its fascinating delights and historical resonance. Once upon a time, this vessel sailed to and from China, packed full of a cargo of tea in exchange for other goods. Today, though, its tourist experience sees members of the public explore its sleeping quarters, take a look at interactive maps, play hide and take the helm at the ship’s wheel. Ahoy there – who could ask for more, honestly?