Toronto Island is a must see and it is basically free, an oasis in the middle of the city. The island is a like a large peaceful park with beaches (there's a nude beach, gay beach as well as regular beaches), rollerblading, biking and walking paths, and even an amusement park and free petting zoo for children.
Ferries leave every 15 minutes from Bay St and Queens Quay at Harbourfront, just south of Union Station. There's plenty of parking too. www.toronto.ca/parks/island/index.htm
Modern, clean and friendly hotel - especially for families. Rooms around £60 per night accommodating a family of up to four. The hotel is approximately 200 metres from a surviving piece of the Berlin Wall. It’s in a central location about 5-10 minutes walk from Potsdamer Platz.
Anhalter Strasse, Anhalter Bahnhof S-Bahn; www.suitehotel.com
The famous laughing face of Luna Park has long been a symbol of St Kilda. Recently there have been concerns regarding the future of the park, but these have now gone. This amusement park has some great attractions, including the roller-coaster and a of course the carousel. There are also dodgem cars, a ferris wheel, a ghost train and a pirate ship. The Scenic Railway, the oldest continually operating roller-coaster in the world, has been rattling around Luna Park's tracks since 1912 and still gives the best views across Port Phillip Bay... all in all, still one of the best family days out around.
St Kilda VIC 3182
Melbourne's zoo is one of the oldest in the world, and today sets standards with its range of specific animal enclosures and education programs. Nearly all of the animals live in habitats that mirror their natural environment: rainforests for the gorillas, wetlands for the wading birds, native grasslands for the wallabies. A great place to visit, only a short tram trip from the middle of Melbourne
Parkville, VIC 3052
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
The Egyptian Museum, just across the road from Schloß Charlottenburg, has a superb collection of artefacts, but is worth visiting for one reason alone – as the home of the famous bust of Nefertiti. And nobody objects if you take your own photos of it either!
Schloßstraße 70, Charlottenburg, 14059 (3209 1261). U2 Sophie-Charlotte-Platz/U7 Richard-Wagner-Platz.
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.
Our local Italian... and we are proud of it. It is somewhere we can walk on a Saturday night... with a bottle of red and enjoy a meal. (It's fully licensed or you can bring your own). Families love it because kids are well catered for here.
It is noisy and buzzy but down the back away from the large Pizza oven it is quieter. The waiting staff are very much at home dealing with us locals (even their guest Canadian waiter is no longer homesick)... Great southern Italian cooking here !
Sometimes it pays to book beforehand...
462 Hampton St HAMPTON 3188
ph: 9598 9396
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
Plenty of reasons to take the kids to Sentosa. However the luge ride is the most recent attraction. Installed in autumn 2005, the ride is great fun and cheap to boot. Children under 110cm can ride with their parents/guardians. Crash helmets supplied!
www.sentosa.com.sg/ Best way to get there is to take the cable car from Mount Faber. Buy a one way ticket and get out of the island via road. However if you buy a return ticket, you are eligbile for a glass bottomed cable car!
Tucked in the corner of the city's main family park, the Midlands Arts Centre is a cultural oasis providing art-house films, intimate theatre productions and various creative courses. But by far its quirkiest and most imaginative space is the compact open-air Arena, a miniature concrete mock-up of a classical amphitheatre. Lying dormant for much of the year, it fills to its 470 capacity for the Sounds in the Round summer music festival.
Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston - visit www.macarts.co.uk or call 0121 440 3838 for more details.
These six acres of neatly trimmed Edwardian gardens are a green and fragrant haven worlds apart from the concrete jungle.
Surrounded by magnolias and alone with your thoughts on the Stream Lawn you'll soon recharge your batteries, or for a real treat venture into the Japanese rock garden, complete with teahouse and ornamental bridge.
Weekend and evening events range from open-air theatre to candlelight jazz.
Part of the University of Birmingham, situated off Edgbaston Park Road - visit www.botanic.bham.ac.uk or call 0121 414 3832 for more details
"They do say the trees can actually move, and can surround strangers and hem them in," a hobbit once said. Enclosed by twitching moss and ancient blackened mounds as you duck through the moist undergrowth, it's easy to see how Tolkien drew inspiration from this place.
Lamenting Birmingham's relentless expansion, he found here an oasis that civilisation passed by, and relaxing quietly beneath a leafy bower, a gnarled trunk twisting above and clasping twigs with its neighbour, you're liable to forget that city life is but a few hundred metres away.
Tucked out of the way between Yardley Wood Road and Wake Green Road, Moseley B13. Hall Green station is closest.
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
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