All parents look forward to showing their kids the world, expanding their horizons and teaching them about different cultures. But anyone has traveled with their children knows there are more than a few barriers to success.
Kids don’t always have the same zeal for history and artifacts that adults do, and not every place is welcoming to the youngest among us. With that in mind, we’ve put together a little cheat sheet of recommended spots in London and beyond to help you plan for a family holiday you’ll remember for all the right reasons.
As with any major city, there are loads of ways to occupy a youngster on any given day in London. A few kid-friendly mainstays in London are sure to delight and inspire your little ones.
Established in 1847, the London Zoo is the world’s oldest scientific zoo. With more than 12,000 animals from more than 760 different species, there’s lots for your kids to discover. New this year is Tiger Territory, which bills itself as a “multi-sensory experience” that allows you to personally experience the world of these mighty jungle beasts.
Two museum must-dos are the Museum of London Docklands and the Natural History Museum. The Natural History Museum gives kids a close-up look at some of the greatest creatures ever known to man, from a life-sized blue whale to a roaring T-Rex and a giant crocodile. It also has a science lab designed for kids ages 7-14, and there’s even an earthquake machine that simulates the shaking of a real tremor.
The Museum of London Docklands isn’t on most people’s radars, but overlooking a museum that tells tales of pirates and lets kids take cover in a WWII bomb shelter is missing out on a sure-fire hit for a rambunctious young one. Best of all, both museums are free!
Last on our London list for families is the London Eye. The view from the top is spectacular, and you’ll be able to point out and briefly explain a number of important spots in much less time than taking the kids on a guided tour of each one would entail (and likely with fewer tantrums).
North of London
Just a few hours north from London by train, the West Midlands area of England has loads of family-friendly activities. It’s great for a day trip if you’re looking to escape the city or as part of a larger tour of Britain.
A man guides a narrowboat at the mouth of a canal tunnel in Dudley. (Photo by Michael …Whether you’ve got a few hours or a full day, a trip to Plantasia in Warwickshire is a fantastic choice for kids, with birds-eye views from a tree-top walk and the largest collection of permanent mazes in the UK. With all that plus the chance to meet Shetland ponies, feed carp, visit deer herds and have a picnic surrounded by acres of natural beauty, it’s worth packing your Wellies in case of some mud.
The Dudley Canal Tunnels near Birmingham are another fascinating tourist spot. You and your family can take a tour of underground canal routes (once used for coal mining) that date all the way back to the 19th century. You’ll be astonished to learn how vital this underground waterworld was in bringing about the Industrial Revolution.
The stop that’s sure to put a smile on every face, no matter the age, is Cadbury World, on the outskirts of Birmingham. You’ll be amazed at just how much learning and information they pack into an interactive and fun tour, even letting you try your hand at being a chocolatier. Best of all, there are lots of opportunities to sample the chocolates!
There are plenty of things to do with your family if your travels take you beyond England to Scotland. Much like London, Edinburgh and Glasgow have plenty of great attractions. Checking in with tourist information centers when you get there will help steer you to some fantastic temporary attractions. Here are three attractions you won’t want to miss when you’re in Scotland.
The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh probably sounds a bit dry for kids. But the museum, which covers both natural and human history, boasts a special kids zone as well as a jaw-dropping T-Rex in its Natural World gallery. You’ll get a chance to see some of the more adult-oriented artifacts while your children learn and explore at their level. It’s a win-win.
Stirling Castle, known as “the Key to Scotland,” is one of Britain’s most kid-friendly …The Dundee Science Centre is in the city of Dundee, north of Edinburgh and easily reachable by train. Based on the five senses, this is truly an interactive and hands-on experience. Your kids will love the variety of things they can do, from infrared imaging to practicing keyhole surgery!
Finally, there’s Stirling Castle, between Glasgow and Scotland and the site of lots of history (including some involving Mary, Queen of Scots). While some castles hold little interest for young ones — with strict policies about not touching anything — the Royal Apartment Palace Vaults at Stirling have been specifically set up for kids. Each room has a theme, and kids are encouraged to explore at their will with lots of chance to touch, play and even smell. In one room, Tailors Vault, you can even try on period costumes.
Traveling with young ones can be a challenge for a lot of reasons, with so much to entertain the kids in the UK, you may hear less “Are we there yet?” and more “Can we stay longer?”
by Leigh Bryant
Kids and adults enjoy taking in the London skyline from a pod on the London Eye. (Photo by Pawel Libera/Visit Britain)
The Natural History Museum in London has interactive exhibits that appeal to kids. (Photo by Britain on View/Visit Britain)
A man guides a narrowboat at the mouth of a canal tunnel in Dudley. (Photo by Michael Clark via Wikimedia Commons)
Stirling Castle, known as “the Key to Scotland,” is one of Britain’s most kid-friendly castles. (Photo by Britain on View/Visit Britain)