Muddy goes wild in London
Think a family trip into London is more hassle than it's worth? Think again! Here's how I nailed 9 hours in London with my kids and made it the best day out we've had in ages.
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OOPS TOO LATE! GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED – BUT READ ON FOR FANTASTIC IDEAS ON WHERE TO GO IN LONDON.
Wondering what to do over Easter that a) the kids will love and b) won’t send you over the edge? I’ve come back from taking my children into London and it was an amazing day – a super-easy way to make the most of the city and be back for bedtime. (Not theirs, mine – I was asleep by 9pm).
If you haven’t checked out Chiltern Railways’ London Family Travelcard now’s the time, because it’s such bonkerly good value – two adults and two kids with return train travel and unlimited bus/tube for £50 (seriously!), plus 2FOR1 entry into loads of potential attractions.
Want to see what I got up to when I took the Muddy midgets for a nine-hour blast of London life? Check out the vid below, or read on for my take on the day AND the chance to WIN one of these Family Travelcards and a complimentary meal for four at any Carluccio’s restaurant in the city.
9.42am : Hopped on the first non-peak train from Haddenham & Thame parkway. Piled up the croissants, knocked back a coffee, painted my nails, read the newspaper. Basically ignored my children for 34 minutes. Bliss! I mean, you can’t buy memories like that.
10.35am: Into Marylebone train station, and lucky me, W1 is now my oyster.
It would be rude not to make the most of this most gorgeous postcode, so we take an early jaunt down Marylebone High St. Luckily my kids love to shop (I’ve taught them well) so it’s no bother to mooch Skandium, Anthropologie and Cologne & Cotton. Stop for a quick coffee at 31 Below…
… before hopping on the tube (free with my pass) to enjoy Regent’s Park in the sunshine while the kids run around the flower beds like lunatics.
London Zoo is our destination – way improved since my last visit, admittedly some years ago now, with more space, better viewing platforms and some very cool, well-thought through additions like the Sasan Gir Asiatic lion area (and my rail ticket qualifies me for 2FOR1 Zoo tickets – quite a saving actually).
I lose the will to live in zoos after about 3 hours – it becomes a bit of an endurance event, doesn’t it? – so I made the kids choose the 6 things they most wanted to see, which were: African hunting dogs, giraffes, sealife, penguins, butterflies and tigers …
… all DONE! And to top it off, very cool graffiti animals at the exit, which felt very ‘London’ and modern.
1.30pm Take the tube to Southwark (yup, free again). The Tate Modern is my destination but you can’t march the Muddy troops around galleries on an empty stomach without fearing for your life. So there’s only one thing for it – provisions.
There are several cafés at Tate Modern, including the one on the 5th floor with those amazing views, but I always find museum cafes strangely stressful and canteeny. My tip? Carluccio’s restaurant is directly opposite the Tate Modern entrance, very family-friendly, with indoor and outdoor seating, beautifully styled inside with beribboned panetonne and stacked raspberry swirl meringues. Everything looked so good we ended up knocking back three courses there, and it was delicious. My fussy kids loved it too.
2.30pm Wander, ooooh, around 50 metres across to Tate Modern! Such an exciting space, but if I ask my daughter her highlight of this world-renowned gallery today I know she’ll say ‘sliding down the Turbine Hall on my bum’. My son is blown away by the fact he can irritate countless adults by running up and down five flights of escalators. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. Up and… (where did I put my hip flask?).
I’ve done my Tate Modern homework and as a big fan of Jenny Holzer’s work I head straight for her (somewhat limited) exhibition. The kids love it too, it’s bright, funky and deceptively ‘easy’.
Then we wander outside around what my son calls the ‘giant intestine’ and ‘yellow pooh’ papier mâché of Franz West – a surprisingly accurate description, in fact. And the Dorothea Tanning exhibition is mind-blowing, though I think small kids might find that one a bit disturbing in parts. Give yourself 15 minutes to enjoy the Tate Modern shop too – enough books and posters to interest adults and a whole area of toys and knick-knacks for tiring children.
4pm I half tinker with the idea of catching the boat down to sister gallery Tate Britain to see the Van Gogh exhibition that’s just opened, but the kids are utterly arted-out, and want to wrestle down the nearest ice-cream van. So instead we walk along the river past the Globe theatre, the skateboarders in the underpass (mesmerising)…
… the National Theatre and the outdoor bookshop – a surprise hit, its eclectic tomes, perfect for lazy browsing, that have the kids entranced for ages. We eventually crash out in the green space behind the Eye, with Big Ben in the background, cocooned in scaffolding from the craziness in parliament.
6pm My original plan includes a trip to the Royal Festival Hall (free activities all day for kids at the Clore ballroom) but we’re all crackered. So we tube it straight from Waterloo to Marylebone station, where I zip into the station M&S for a cheeky vino, ignore my daughters plea to go into Oliver Bonas (though it must be said, a browse to OB is never a wasted trip), and indulge a sudden urge to play the upright public piano in the train concourse.
Luckily there are no return restrictions on our off peak train ticket so we can hop on whichever train we like – good eh? Cue a collapse in a heap on the train home where I look at my Fitbit – 24,000 steps today. No wonder the kids are sitting still and shhhhhhh, so quiet. And no wonder I am knocking back wine in a plastic cup like it’s water in the desert.
6.45pm: Home. Literally 9 hours from top to tail and it’s been a brilliant day. The thought of going into London is way more effort than actually doing it – it was crazily easy. I’m definitely going in again with the fam over the Easter hols. I’m thinking Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens and the Science Museum and maybe a hop over to Notting Hill to give the kids a flavour of the market there. Or I might take them into Soho, China Town, Green Park and theatre land.
Let me know if you try any of my suggestions and don’t be shy about recommending places you love in the Smoke for a family day out. And just to throw it into the mix, here’s my Insider Guide to London this Easter- your ultimate Muddy city inspo on the new exhibitions, coolest spaces and happy places.
Fancy a day in London? Hey, be our guest!
We’ve teamed up with Chiltern Railways and Carluccio’s restaurants to win the perfect family day in London with a London Family Travelcard for 2 adults and 2 childen. PLUS a food voucher for a 3 course meal for 4 at any Carluccio’s restaurant across the city. Check out our full terms and conditions here.