Q: Hi Playground — My husband, 12-year-old son, 19-year-old daughter, and I are taking advantage of the low fares to England and spending a week in London in July. Now that we have our travel sorted out, I’m wondering what family friendly London sights and activities we should have on our must see list when we get there. Any don’t miss or surefire teen pleasers? Thanks! ~ Jen F.
A: Hi Jen! Great to hear your family is headed to London, it’s one of my favorite cities in Europe and it definitely needs a little TLC from travelers right now. You are actually the third family I’ve heard from recently who’s headed to London this summer with teens and tweens wondering what to do. I’ve got a few crowd pleasers up my sleeve, but remember that every kid, and family is unique, so if your kids love shopping, or art, or theater, be sure to add in extra time for those.
Most people headed to London already know about Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Parliament, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. For the most part, those are sights you can view from the outside as you walk and explore; the Cathedral is free to enter, so you can spend some time there, Palace tours are a bit dry and require tickets, but viewing the Changing of the Guards is free, although it’s extremely crowded and the music is less pomp and circumstance and more West End show tunes. (Insider tip: the Royal Highness the Queen is in residence when her royal colors are flying.)
Follow a great sightseeing suggestion I picked up editing Frommer’s London guide last year and ride the double-decker Route 15 bus; it loops every 15 minutes departing Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square and heading to Tower of London, and takes in most of the major sites of the city just for the price of a regular bus ticket.
These “only in London” sites have cross generational appeal: Get a raven’s eye view of the city from the London Eye Ferris Wheel; explore the crown jewels, suits of armor, and tales of The Tower from costumed Yeomen Warders at the castle-like Tower of London; and visit Hogwarts with the newly opened The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros Studios.
Gliding down the Thames River on a boat excursion is a great way to see the city (and to catch a breeze on a hot summer day). The Thames Clipper is a great family option.
The British Museum is where you’ll find treasures of the ancient world you’ve only read about in books: the Elgin Marbles, Rosetta Stone, mummies, and more. The Tate Modern offers interactive tablets and family trails to interpret the contemporary art works. The V&A is the largest decorative arts and design museum in the world, covering more than 12 acres, it also offers hundreds of interactive exhibits for families, many of which will appeal to the kid inside the teen, like, say, donning armor.
More London Fun
Don’t leave London without spending some time in Hyde Park (look for Speaker’s Corner to witness free speech at it’s best); Covent Garden offers up shopping that should appeal to teens; and theater in London is great, so check out what’s on the West End while you’re there.
Have a family travel question? Email Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org
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