If you read my review of 2012 (of course you read it. Why wouldn’t
you?), then you know that one of our decisions for this year is to make the
most of living in London, and since money is of an issue at the moment, the
objective is to do as much (and pay as little) as possible.
For this reason I used all my resources (see below my
full list) to make a list of things I would like to do this year. Obviously,
this being London and all, things turn up all the time so I am hoping to add
more and more to my list. Being me, I made my list on a piece
of paper (because sometimes you need to write things on a piece
of paper and that’s it, and just maybe it has something to do with my
unwillingness to commit long term to plans right now), but then I decided to
put it here in my blog. First of all – maybe it will actually make me actually
do half these stuff, and second because maybe it will interest some of you, I
mean – sometimes you find yourself in London asking “Now What?” no?
never happened? oh well.. Of course if you have no kids you should leave
this page immediately. I have no idea what people with no kids do. But if you
do have kids, and you chose to bring them with you, then – stay, look around,
you might find something useful.
Okay, long intro, now to business. What we already did (so you
won’t think we just complain all the time):
Parks. London is famous for it’s
parks, and we totally agree. We have 4 parks close to us, and we’ve (okay you
got me. Hidai and the kids) been to each and every one of them. It might not
sound like a memory-making event worthy of writing in a list like this, but if
you come from Gibraltar you know why it’s high high up the list. Green, grass
and space. If there is a Saturday without rain, we’ll park it in the park (see
what I did there?)
Buckingham Palace – Because you can’t be in London and not go. We actually
toured the palace, which was great and very very recommended. We toured
the Royal Mews when we were here in 2009 and were very disappointed so we did
not try it again. We still have not watched a full proper Changing of the Guard
Ceremony
, but did do the obligatory tour through St. James’s park to the Horse
Guard Parade
.
London
Eye
 – 
Just make sure you
pick a clear day, you but the tickets in advance and you pay for the fast
track. Oh, and they give you a map so you can find stuff. Use it, or like us, return home and then see all the things that you should have recognised but didn’t, because you didn’t use the map and only saw Big Ben.
Tower Bridge – Again, a clear day is
great. It’s really fun having the option to be “up there”, the
exhibits were nice and the whole experience was lovely. And it doesn’t cost so much, and you get to see “how the bridge works”, and buy things in the mandatory gift shop.
Science Museum – we’ve been there every time we came to London. A total must if you
have geeks (someone said Hidai’s name?) in the family. Oh, it is so so huge it
takes hours to go through it, and the cafe inside is… How do I say
it politely? Not as good as one could hope. So – bring your own food.
There is a siting area next to the kids section. Use it.
Natural
History Museum
 – I was a bit
nervous about going there because of some of the exhibits, but it is so big you
really don’t get to see everything in one day anyway, so choose carefully. The
exhibitions we saw were about the earth and the dinosaurs. Both were done
superbly and both kids and grandparents enjoyed. Food – again, if you are
averse to taking out a mortgage for the pleasure
of drinking water – bring your own. Oh, and book in advance for the
dinosaurs.
Transport
Museum
 – By far our favorite
museum. It’s not free, but for my taste – worth every penny. Especially if you
find a quiet hour and you get to drive the Tube yourself :). Go, go, go there.
Also – Starbucks is 30 seconds away, and you are in the middle of Covent
Garden. You really can’t ask for more.
London Aquarium –
I am not really a fish person, and the entrance to the museum were you
“walk on water” terrified my kids, so not a great start, but it is
quite impressing, so if you are a zoo / aquarium / live animals kind of person
– go. And anyway the penguins were adorables.
Arsenal
Stadium Tour
 – Replace it
with any team you like, I am sure it’s equally impressive in any stadium, but
do yourself a favor and go. It’s amazing. You get to go in to the inner working
of a real stadium, see the “important” places and sits, visit the
dressing rooms, see the pitch like you will never get a chance to see it. It’s
awe inspiring.
Football Matches – I
must say, I’ve never been to a “real” match, just for the under 21
when they played at the Emirates. It was great, and I am told that a real match
is much more fun. Hidai and Ron went to 3 matches this year I think, and even
grandparents (that are not big on football) went once, and they all loved it
very very very much. So I guess it’s a must.
Ice Cream Festival – I
don’t know if it’s a yearly thing or not. Anyway it was at
the beginning of September at King’s Cross and had plenty of… Ice
cream. And some animals (to teach the kids where milk comes from), and a cow
milking demo. It was good fun and very yummy. And also, if you are in Covent
Garden at ice-cream eating weather, try Gelatorino,
which is so so so so good.
Walk around Piccadilly st. – Because if the weather is good and you decide to walk around, then Picadilly is a great place to go for a walk
in. You have the art, the shops and the market all in one place – make sure to
check Fortnum
& Masons
 (just beware – it takes a long time. It’s a huge
place), and the small market at St. James’s church.  
Olympics – I know it’s over
and you can’t watch it anymore, but I just thought I work it in the list so you
know we were there…
M&M Store –
Next to Leicester Square. It’s a four storey shop filled with all things
M&M’s. The kids thought they were in heaven, and we bought all kind
of merchandise.
Christmas Lights around town –
If you arrive around November/December, go for a walk all around the city
center. You can’t beat London Christmas lights. Especially those in and around Oxford st.
Winter Wonderland – That is a yearly thing, so if you are in London in
December – go, go, go. Nothing more to say. It has everything –
Christmas memorabilia, food, drinks, a fair with all the trimmings. We won
a giant bear. Go.
Cake & Bake show – It’s in September, it was the first time this year and it
was NOT without flaws, but if you are in to this kind of thing, it was fun – we
saw Paul Hollywood, bought some stuff, saw some demonstrations, and next year I
am sure they will have more food tasting…
Battersea Children Zoo – We took the kids there because we wanted a smaller zoo to see
how ready Yon is for zoos. If you have young kids, and the weather is good,
then this zoo is perfect – it has non-scary animals, it’s a decent size, it has
a big playing area for the kids, the park around it is beautiful. Downside –
don’t forget to bring food, and also on the way out you have to go through the
gift shop. The expensive gift shop.
British Music Experience – We went
with the kids and all of us LOVED it, so very recommended if you like
popular music of the last 100 years or so. Also very cute if you like to play,
sing and dance as you can do all of those, record yourself and watch
(or upload to Facebook) at home.
Sky Studios at the O2 – if you happen to be at the O2, it’s a very nice 15 minutes, and
you get to read the news to a real camera in a real studio, and watch it again
at home. You don’t have to be a Sky costumer ans it’s totally free to enter.
When we were there they also had a mini Harry Potter Exhibition.
Ripley’s
Believe It Or Not
 – was not
really my cup of tea, but the kids really enjoyed it, they got to see some
weird things (and some scary things, so be prepared), the best part were the
mazes – mirror and laser so don’t skip those.
Covent Garden – is always a great place to walk around and there are all the
street art and artists, food, markets, the Disney Store, and the Apple store
(very handy if like me, you find yourself with a dead iPhone because the
battery got to 0%…).
We Will Rock You – Go, go,go. Go if
you’re big Queen fans, go if you’re not. The musical is great, and such a wonderful experience for
the kids. If you are worried about the use of dirty jokes and your kids are not
freaked out by people dressed as animals then take them to a different show,
but take them nonetheless because it is an experience they won’t
forget.
Warner Brother Harry Potter Tour – a mixed review. For Harry Potter fans – go, go, go. it’s great, the attraction itself is very very good, you get a very magical entrance to how they made the movies, they let you fly on a broom, you can drink Beerbutter, you get to see so many cool things, it’s gorgeous. BUT, and it’s a big but, the organisation is lacking, the queues are very long, the greedy feeling is high – everything costs so much (a photo of you flying is 12 pounds for example). So be warned, it takes longer than 3 hours because of the queues, there is a Starbucks in the entrance but it’s more expensive than regular ones, and bring food from home because the food inside is pricy and bland. The shop is very very pricy. Be prepared.
London Zoo – a few things on the London Zoo. First of all, it’s super expensive. Second of all, it’s worth every penny. It took us a while to get there (price and weather…), and we were most definitely not disappointed when we did. The Zoo is very big, full af all kinds of animals, petting zoo, kids corner, shops, activities, live shows, etc. Whatever you want, they have it. I have to say they are also very well prepared for the visually impaired. It’s a full day visit (more than 3 hours), especially if you paid full price… And though there are plenty of places to buy food, you can (and should) bring your own, and there are so many picnic areas it’s easy to take a rest and eat. We found the tiger sleeping so a bit disappointing, but the penguins were a very big hit :).
Jurassic Encounter Adventure Golf – I really recommend going. it is not an easy to reach without a car, but it is possible, and you get the added value of finding the Krispy Kreme that is next to it! It has basic facilities – a Costa, a shop and clean toilets (very important) and lots of Dinosaurs to buy. The course itself is an 18 holes mini-golf with lots of dinosaurs and crocodiles scattered around amusing the kids. It has plenty of ambiance, sounds, water (green ones) and a nice round of mini-golf (and I’m not saying that just because I won). The kids get mini clubs to suit them, and the adults – adult ones, you also get a set of colourful balls and a score sheet. If, like us, you choose a weekend day than come early or be prepared to wait between holes, because families with kids tend to take their time (ahhhhm), but still it is worth it, and the kids really enjoyed the game, even if Yon was a little nervous in the beginning because the dinosaurs looked too real for him, and Ron was a little tired by the time we reached the 16th hole…

Parkside Farm, Pick Your Own – it’s considered the best farm of it’s kind in London (also, the only one inside the m25 that I could find. I’m sure it’s not related). Without a car you are looking at a 15 minutes walk minimum, probably more. Is it worth it? for a one time thing, yes. You get to pick lots of yummy fruits (and vegetables), the kids get to see where food really comes from (I find it amazing that kids today, growing up in the city, never gets to see where food comes from, but than again, how would they?), and Yon got to touch everything. The fruits were great, the kids enjoyed the adventure, and we bought cream and ate like 2 kilos of strawberries & cream for dinner 🙂 

UK Bucket List – 

View of the city from the Shard Building
Tower of London – Not sure if our kids are up for it, so it’s a maybe
Madam
Tussaud
 – As it waited this long, we’ve decided that it will be the last thing we do before we leave London. So, if you ever read we’ve been there know we are on our way out of the UK.

LegoLand properly
Cadbury World
CBeebies Land
Chessington 
Disney World Paris
Brighton Beach

Resources we use to know what’s on – 

Londonist – A great guide to free and cheap things
in London  They always have lists of what’s on now, this week, this
weekend. 
Southbank Centre –
Things to do on the South Bank, if you are on your way there (London Eye,
Aquarium, etc), check it out to see what else is on because there is usually
something going on. 
Tkts.co.uk – The official discount ticket booth, if you are in search
of a show go there on the day of (or day before). The prices are great and so
is the service.
West End London – If you’re planning on hanging around the shopping areas, check
if there are new and interesting things…
View
London
 – Lots and lots of
things that are going on…
LondonTown.com – Great resource, discount tickets, what’s on every
week, etc. 
Visit
London
 – The official
London website. A great place to start
London Calling – a new site my sister in law found for me…
Time
Out
 – Need I say more?

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