Brilliant fun, which I never thought I'd say about a museum visit. Sleeping with mummies - of the Egyptian variety - is a much easier way to sell the kids on a trip to the museum, too, and when the lights go off and the torches come out everyone turned into a mini Indiana Jones. Dressing up — tabards in our case as it was medieval theme — and lots of activities made it a really memorable outing. But remember to take a good roll-out mattress.
tel: 0207 323 8195; www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk;
The next sleepover is a Bengal theme on Sept 16-17, 2006;
Cost: £27.50, but you have to be a Young Friend of the Museum (membership £20) or a full member to book.
I took my then 2 year old daughter to Fruitstock (the Innocent Smoothie festival) last year and it's one of the best things we did last summer. We just took a picnic and met up with a bunch of friends (none of them had children with them) and there was plenty to do for adults and children alike. There was a wonderful play area for toddlers and lots of other activities. I expect it'll be even better this year now that she is three.
This year is is on 5&6 August in Regents Park, London.
I'm just a previous attendee, with nothing to gain from publicising this other than sharing the fun!
The stretch of Kingsland Road between Shoreditch and Hackney can seem barren at the best of times, with little more than car mechanics and tool hire shops to stop for, but a sure sign that things are changing is The Fox, a gastropub ripe for serving the new cluster of flats springing up in the area.
The menu is organic, and changes monthly, and they have a special menu for kids. Sunday morning is a real family-fest. When I visited the patrons seemed to span in age from 8 months to 80 years.
372 Kingsland Road, London E8; tel: 020 7254 4012
A perfect lazy day out. Start off with a long picnic down by the lake, followed by a drenching in the water maze (bring spare clothes) and a run around the adventure playground. Finish off with a walk around the castle getting the kids to check for secret doors and passages. In the summer, jousting sessions are an added bonus....
Three miles from Edenbridge off the B2026 between Sevenoaks and East Grinstead in the village of Hever.
30 miles from London, exit the M25 at junctions 5 or 6 and follow the Brown tourist signs.
Trains take about 30 mins from London Victoria.
Situated on a hill in one of the nicest parts of London is the Royal Observatory. I like it because of the view across the Thames (fantastic and free); it’s not jammed in like lots of things in London (the Aussie in me wants big spaces) and for something different, you can stand in both halves of the world at the same time . How so? By straddling the line at 0 degrees longitude at the Observatory ( which means, you stand in two hemispheres at once).
The National Maritime Museum is close by (at the bottom of the hill, on the edge of the park) and is also worth a look, as is the Queen’s House. The Observatory is part of the Greenwich World Heritage site.
Greenwich Park, London;
Access from Greenwich station is best (carparking is limited);
Royal Observatory and National Maritime Museum: www.rog.nmm.ac.uk
Greenwich Park: www.royalparks.gov.uk/parks/greenwich_park/
It's like nowhere else in London. Some might say sanitised and boring, but I'd disagree. If you're tired of the hustle and bustle of central London hop on the Jubilee line, or, even better, the DLR, and come over. Great waterside eating and drinking (dimsum at Royal China is fantastic, and not too costly), super tall buildings, and expensive subterreanean shops. Whilst it is certainly not the weekend ghost town of earlier years, it still feels much calmer than London proper on a Saturday or Sunday.
In the summer especially there are often good free events in the small parks that are dotted around, such as concerts on Friday evenings, and films sometimes on Saturdays.
If you're coming with children then combine your visit with Mudchute City Farm down in the Isle of Dogs. It has cows, goats and guinea pigs, plus a riding school.
Don't let the fact that Michael Winner recommends it put you off.
It's a proper Italian family restaurant - and the food's nice enough - but the star of the show is the really lovely ice-cream in fantastic flavours. There's a gelateria in the back apparently but I tend to grab and go.
I've had their ice-cream at other places like the Garden Cafe in Regents Park, but don't think that it tastes half as good as when you are sauntering along the road in the sun licking an overloaded cone.
8 Haverstock Hill, opposite Chalk Farm tube
Tel: 020 7482 9000
OK, so, it's an obvious choice, but this is toy heaven, or hell, according to your point of view. They say it's the world's largest toyshop, and even if it's not, it feels like it. Besides the extraordinary array of all things childlike on offer, the best thing is the staff, who are endlessly patient - no mean feat in a toyshop full of screaming children.
A word of advice - before you go, set the ground rules with your kids. If you let them know that you're only going to "look but not buy", then anything you do buy them will be a bonus. If they go with the impression that they're goingto be given their weight in toys, they'll only be disappointed.
It's one of those once-a-year experiences.
188-196 Regent Street, Soho, W1B 5BT
Tel: 0870 333 2455
Nearest tube: Oxford Street or Picadilly Circus
On the north bank of the river, sitting on the southside of the Strand, Somerset House is well worth a visit either summer or winter. As well as housing the Courtauld Institute art collection the refurbishments at Somerset House have made much more sense of the outdoor space.
In summer there is a terrace cafe, and a beautiful modern fountain feature and in winter - from the end of November to the end of January - the courtyard becomes an ice rink (with an ice wall for lunatic climbers added for 2005). If you are prompt you canbook a skating session if not, you can watch the skating from the comfort of the cafe - it's rapidly becoming London's answer to the Rockerfeller Centre's skating rink in New York, but in some ways is prettier.
If you want an early morning diversion on a Sunday 8 am til 2pm, columbia Road flower market is excellent, even for non-gardeners. Over the years new shops selling young designers' furniture, delicatessens and even a top cake shop, Treacle, have opened there, making it a great place to browse or meet... Warning though if you are taking small children - it is absolutely heaving and can be a bit daunting for a knee-high visitor.
Afterwards it is close enough to go to the Whitechapel art gallery, Spitalfields Market, Shoreditch or a curry in Brick Lane.
Nearest underground Old Street (turn left outside, walk along Old Street, into Hackney Road then after 200 metres turn right into Columbia Road)
One of London's best-kept secrets/parks in the East End. It's huge and full of things to see and do - tennis courts, three lakes, flying fox, giant slides, two kids' playgrounds (including an adventure-type paddling pool for summer fun), football pitches, walking/running/cycling paths and lots of big green space if you like to just sit and do nothing. Also has a regular dose of fairs, concerts, etc.
In between Hackney and Bethnal Green. Closest tube stops Bethnal Green and Mile End. Bus no. 277 goes through the middle of it and can be caught from Mile End tube station.
One of my favourite walks by the Thames is from Southwark Cathedral. Famous Borough Market is nearby. I get the train to London Bridge, then walk down past Southwark Cathedral, round to the left past a replica of Sir Francis Drake's Tudor Galleon Golden Hind walking along Clink Street home of the Clink Gaol. Which gives us our colloquial term for prison: clink.
Moving along into Bankside we have the historic Anchor Pub, 34 Bankside, Southwark, LONDON SE1 9EF. Here in 1666 Samuel Pepys witnessed the Great Fire of London in 1666: "a little alehouse on bankside... and there watched the fire grow." The Anchor was rebuilt in 1676 after fire devastated the area.
One bar is named after Dr Johnson, (Samuel Johnson's Dictionary) who drank here regularly. A copy of his dictionary is on display. Then we wander past Sam Wanamaker's newly reconstructed Globe Theatre, a wonderful way to see Shakespeare in the round, plein air!
Then you come to the Tate Modern, stop for lunch or a coffee, then pop over to St Pauls Cathedral on the other side of the Thames linked by the wonderful Millennium Bridge, a footbridge. Come back over and wander on past the Oxo tower...
Eventually your walk ends by the wonderful London Eye, great at dusk with the lights twinkling into view, great view of the Houses of Parliament. Next door is Saatchi's Gallery (for the next two years anyway). By this time you will be knackered.
London Bridge Station
A beautiful Victorian garden in the middle of Streatham Common. Queen Victoria visited for the now gone spa waters (is there a way they can be brought back?). Tranquil even at the height of summer, an oasis in the middle of south London. Plus, there is a lovely old-fashioned cafe run by quirky Italian old women.
Streatham Common - the nearest train station is Streatham.
Take a leisurely stroll along one of the prettiest and most historic routes in London. Start in the village of Blackheath and then stroll over the heath to Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory, where you can cross GMT and get a wonderful view of London. Then down into Greenwich, through the covered market and the Naval College, past Cutty Sark, and then under the Thames to the Isle of Dogs via the century old Foot Tunnel.
From there it is only a short walk to Canary Wharf under the progressively larger shadow of the skyscrapers. On the Wharf there are restaurants, serious shopping in the indoor malls, and best of all the Jubilee Line and DLR to take you home again.
Blackheath, Greenwich, Canary Wharf
Newly restored, this glorious Nicholas Hawksmoor designed baroque church towers over the streets of Spitalfields. It's a thriving parish church, but you can also visit on Tuesdays and Sundays to marvel at the beautiful Purbeck stone floor, soaring pillars and decorative wood carvings.
In December it plays host to Spitalfields Winter Festival. There seem to be many musical treats in store from 12-21 December, from choral classics, via medieval music, to a community carol service. Some concerts are free.
The National trail along the banks of the Thames has a few interruptions but provides a chance to see the river at its best. A highlight is to cycle from Putney Bridge to Weybridge taking in Richmond Park and Hampton Court - do it on a weekday and the path is virtually deserted. Too tired to cycle back? Stick your bike on the train and head back into town.
Beside the river. www.sustrans.org.uk. Various tube/rail along the route.
A genuinely unique experiment, this Site of Special Scientific Interest features 40 hectares of created wetland in the midst of the city, and should not be missed for its beauty and for the diversity of the plants and animals that thrive there.
From Hammersmith tube a 'Duck Bus' (number 283) will take you to the Centre in ten minutes; www.wwt.org.uk
Where to begin? One of the most beautiful buildings in London is also home to one of the richest natural history collections in the world. This is also one of the few museums that pulls off the trick of being immediate and exciting enough for children while providing the kind of depth that keeps adults coming back time and again. Unbelievably, it's also free.
Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD; Nearest tube: South Kensington; www.nhm.ac.uk/
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