Kids love London
Smashing, splashing fun for kids at the Somerset House fountains. (Mark Daffey/LPI)
London's offbeat offerings for children are just as enjoyable for mum and dad. Exploring the capital as a family can lead to some of the coolest sights and activities around. Even if you do not have kids, you will want to check these out:
Raves for all
Dancing, listening to music and generally whooping it up is a big part of the London scene. And Londoners are not about to let their children put them off having a boogie. Enter family raves, where hip kids and their parents dance Sunday afternoon away to live DJs. This is where kids and their folks mellow out in chill-out areas, drink juice and get down to some of the city's top DJs. To experience a cool, non-touristy side of London, try Disco Dayz.
Ever see a fountain and want to dive right in? Somerset House gives you and your kids just such an opportunity. Plunked right in the heart of London, the courtyard of this neo-classical building is filled with fifty-five fountains that practically ask to be jumped in. Thankfully, you are welcome to go right ahead.
Play in the park
Regent's Park is a world unto itself. Once Henry VIII's hunting grounds, kids now enjoy setting off in pursuit of the park's four fabulous playgrounds, summertime entertainers, hedgehogs and herons. Get lost in 30,000 roses, cross the lake on a pedal boat and explore the wildlife garden. In addition to endless amounts of space for running and picnicking, the park is also home to the world-renowned London zoo.
While it covers everything from butterflies to the human body, most people head to London's Natural History Museum for the dinosaurs. Inside the front door a diplodocus breathes down your neck while a life-like T Rex roars and rears in the Dino Gallery. If you tire of the prehistoric monsters, head off to the other exhibitions with an Explorer Backpack designed for young visitors. Picnic on the front lawn or ice skate in winter in the back garden, then pick up some very cool souvenirs in the gift shop.
Check out London's skyline and play eye-spy with some of the city's most famous landmarks as you zip along the Thames on a high speed catamaran. Used by many Londoners as a commuting option, this ferry offers a fast-paced experience that will thrill your children.
Until you experience it, you can not imagine how much you will enjoy a performance at the tiny, charming Little Angel Theatre in Islington. Marionette puppets spin spellbinding stories that have adults laughing, cheering and guffawing as loudly as the kids. You know you are enjoying it when the five-year-old next to you tells you to keep it down.
In summer, take a jaunt along the eclectic, festive South Bank. Street performers show off daring acrobatic feats, play bongo drums and guitars or simply pose as still as statues. Settle down on a bench while you sample international snacks and goodies, slurp back ice lollies and watch the Thames slide by. The people-watching is brilliant – this is the perfect place for an eyeful of London life.
Hop on a train or a boat for the 20-minute ride to Greenwich and the Royal Observatory. This is where you can stand with a foot on either side of the Meridian and touch the oldest thing you will ever set eyes on – a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite. And when you are done? Roll down the grassy slopes to the National Maritime Museum to explore countless boats or head over to Greenwich Market for brownies, fresh juice and a bit of shopping.
Walk on water
Stepping out onto the Millennium Bridge can be a little nerve-wracking if you have a fear of heights or water. But this steel suspension footbridge is a thrill for kids. Nicknamed the Wobbly Bridge after it opened, swayed drastically under pedestrian footfall, and was closed for two years of repairs, it is now fairly solid. Arching majestically over the Thames from St Paul's Cathedral to the Tate Modern, it offers lots of scenic photo ops and will have your kids jumping up and down to see if they can make it swing.
Meet the greats
London is a fantastic place to let your children absorb some art. With superb, free galleries, you can take your pick of modern or classics. The National Portrait Gallery is a somewhat unlikely hit with kids. Peek into the country's past through over 160,000 portraits of famous Brits from the 16th Century to present. Paintings, photographs, sketches and multi-media exhibits present the movers and the shakers – from Prime Ministers to models and pop bands.