Suggested Days Out in London

Days Out: Chelsea

(Scroll down for the West End, Marylebone and Knightsbridge)

Museums

• Saatchi Gallery
• The National Army Museum

  • Chelsea Physic Garden

Attractions

  • Codogan Hall (Check for afternoon family concerts held every few months, £6 per ticket and well worth every penny)
    • Duke of York Square
    • St. Luke’s Playground

Shopping
• The Kings Road
• Peter Jones

Parks and Playgrounds
• Battersea Park
• St. Luke’s Playground

• Bus: 49, 19, 22, 319, 11, 360
• Tube: Sloane Square and South Kensington

This is an amazingly baby and toddler friendly place to spend the day in Central London. Chelsea offers a charming and varied day out for all kinds. If you want culture there is the Saatchi Gallery, history buffs can enjoy the National Army Museum, while shoppers can peruse The Kings Road and Peter Jones.

If the weather is fine, the courtyard in front of the Saatchi Gallery and the Duke of York Square are excellent places to amuse toddlers while you enjoy a coffee or just want to let the kids out for a wander. In the summer, when there is no hosepipe ban, the Duke of York Square is filled with small shoots of water for children to run through. A three year old can easily kill and hour there while an adult wanders through the boutiques or the Saatchi Gallery.

The Saatchi Gallery is entirely step-free and a nice gallery to take children to, considering none of the exhibits are pitched for children. The staff is warm and welcoming to children and I have not yet checked out the changing facilities. This museum is free.

The National Army Museum and Kids Zone: if you come to Chelsea on a wet day, come here, regardless if you are a historian. Inside the muesum is the best indoor play space in London, The Kids Zone AND its free. The only drawback, there is limited entry, so there is a slight gamble that you could show up for the timed entry and it is filled (see Chelsea description for the times).  I have yet to go to the regular part of the Army Museum, so I cannot comment on it, yet.

The Kids Zone has two enormous soft climbing frames with tunnels, slides, netting, rolled cushions, but much of it hidden, so an adult needs to accompany the little ones that are not very steady yet.For babies, there is a great floor space of varied toys and cushions for them to play and sit on while you run off with the older ones. They also have dress up, a play kitchen, trains, cars and books. As a bonus, outside the museum are picnic tables for you to bring your own lunch and eat outdoors.

Codogan Hall: Every few months, there is a family concert at Codogan Hall that is entirely for young children (ages three and up, ideally, but younger siblings can come).  The tickets cost £6 each, for adult and child, but are well worth it.  I find the information for the concerts by scrolling through the events offered at Codogan Hall http://www.cadoganhall.com/

St. Luke’s Garden’s Playground Refurbished last summer, the playground has several picnic tables and benches for adults, great climbing frames for both little and bigger children, swings and other interesting play equipment. The playground is completely enclosed with basic toilets for both children and adults. There are two gates to enter and leave the playground at opposite ends. In addition to the playground are the lovely manicured gardens and two football pitches (not sure what the rules are for using the pitches and they usually have organised looking games being played on them.

Peter Jones: In wet weather, Peter Jones can save the day. The toys, children’s clothes, nursery and pushchairs, and a nice family toilet and feeding room is located on the 3rd floor. On the 6th floor there is a somewhat child friendly restaurant. They welcome children, have loads of high chairs and great changing facilities. The drawback is its cafeteria style dining, so you really need a second set of hands if you have two children. The building is entirely step-free, but the lifts get really busy on the weekends.

Battersea Park: Just down Oakley Street, over The Albert Bridge is the expansive and beautiful Battersea Park. There are manicured gardens, the zoo, pagoda, boat hire, Gondala Café with pond-side picnic table dining and loads of high chairs, Pump House Gallery and an adventure playground open weekdays for older children and a lovely, regular playground open daily. Also on the weekdays is a 1 O’clock club (a well-resourced, amazing playgroup with riding toys and a climbing frame) located next to the playgrounds, free to the under 5’s.

If you come mid-week, use one of the playgroups as a stopping point for the little ones to have a play. Check out the listings http://london-baby.com/chelsea/

Where to Eat:

Henry J. Beans, The Kings Road near Oakley Street. “Beans” is an extremely family friendly North American Themed Sports Bar and Grill with an enormous beer garden in the back with covered picnic tables and sunny areas to eat, as well. The food is good, lots of burgers and salads, a bit pricey but being able to eat in a large space with room to move and make noise is worth every penny sometimes.

Pizza Express, The Kings Road. Perfect family style pizzeria, set up to accommodate the lunch-time rush of toddlers and babies. Inside and outside seating.

Peter Jones, The Restaurant, 6th Floor: A somewhat child friendly restaurant. They welcome children, have loads of high chairs and great changing facilities. The drawback is its cafeteria style dining, so you really need a second set of hands if you have two children. The building is entirely step-free, but the lifts get really busy on the weekends.

The West End Days Out

Museums

  • National Gallery, free
  • The Portrait Gallery, free
  • The Transport Museum, £10 per adult

Attractions

  • Trafalgar Square, free
  • Covent Garden Market, free

Parks and Playgrounds

  • St. James’s Park, free
  • The Phoenix Gardens, free
  • Drury Lane Playground, free

Tube: Charing Cross, Leister Square

Bus:

The West End is an area that can be extremely baby and toddler friendly when you are given some inside guidance. While The National Gallery has a great children’s activity on the weekends, over-all neither it nor the Portrait Gallery are very child friendly.  The Transport Museum is the place to go in case of rain on your day out in the West End, but there are a surprising number of playgrounds and outdoor areas if the weather is fine. Further, there are some really fun family-friendly places to eat that are somewhat well-suited for pushchairs and noisy children.

The National Gallery: There are no exhibits in this museum particularly pitched to little ones, but there is The Magic Carpet Ride for the Under 5’s.  Every Sunday, at 10:30 and 11:30, in the education wing (which is the opposite side of the entrance on Trafalgar Square) a docent gathers families for a prompt start to the activity.  After in introduction and discussion of the rules, the group walks through the galleries and sits in front of a work of art to listen to a story about the picture and sing a song.  It is priceless and FREE!!   If you are not able to catch The Magic Carpet Ride, the museum is still good to take children to as there is so much to look at and the main galleries have amazing leather sofas to sit on.  There are lifts to get around step-free and wonderful family toilets and changing facilities.  The café is cafeteria style and difficult to get the pushchair next to a table when it is busy.

Portrait Gallery: This museum is far less child friendly than the National Gallery.  There are some steps to contend with, but there are lifts to the galleries.  The portraits are fascinating; the most interesting part is not just the beauty, it’s the historical explanations that are given.  For this reason, I suggest a divide and conquer if you have a second set of hands, one person goes alone here and the other takes the children near-by.

The Transport Museum: The Mecca for all children in the West End.  You pay £10 per adult to enter.  The museum is spread over there floors and has different models of the various means of transport through the ages for children to climb into and explore.  If you take two children here alone, one of them either has to be steady enough to climb around on their own, or the other needs to stay in their push chair at times as there are double-decker busses to explore.  There are two children’s play areas, one with dress up with a model bus to drive and the other is for even younger children.  It is a treat for boys and girls alike, and a wonderful place to spend a few hours.

Trafalgar Square:   This wonderful square with its majestic view of the seat of The Empire is a very hectic place for small children. It is great fun pointing out that Lord Nelson is depicted with his missing arm, splashing their hands in the fountains, or going up and down the steps …but the place is generally heaving with people who are not looking at knee level for who may be running around.  The coffee shop is step-free in the square with changing facilities.

Covent Garden Market:  This is a fun place to wander around, and The Transport Museum is located at the end of it.  The Market is filled with street performers and during the holidays opera singers.  There are lots of shops and places to eat and drink.  My favourite is The Royal Opera House, at the end of the market, on the side opposite The Transport Museum.  If you go through the entrance there and ask for the coffee shop, you will be escorted to a lift, and then you walk around the upper stalls of the opera house (the doors are closed, but it still feels grand) and you will come upon a large area with a coffee and snack stand that is amazingly affordable!  Further, you have views of the entrance to the Opera House and over the market, with lots of room for toddlers to run about and parked pushchairs (unless they are having an event), but this is my favourite insiders secret to the West End. 

St. James’s Park: Just off Trafalgar Square, through the Admiralty Arch is the manicured idyll that is St. James’s Park.  The playground is about a 15 minute brisk walk from Trafalgar Square, at the very opposite end of the park, near the Wellington Barracks.  It is a real treat though.  Inside there are baby and big kid swings, a climbing frame and slide, picnic tables and an enormous sand-pit that has a fun stone bridge going over the middle.  There are only locked children’s toilets in the playground, if a carer needs to use the toilet, they should remember to bring their child with them.  Right next to the playground is a snack stand serving basic coffee, sweets and sandwiches.

The Phoenix Gardens: 21 Stacey Street, WC2H 8DG.  A basic playground with swings, slides and a roundabout, but it may be the perfect reward after touring The National Gallery on the way to Covent Garden

Drury Lane Playground, WC2.  A basic playground with swings and slides and there are some steps to contend with.

My Favourite Child-Friendly Places to Eat in the West End

Wagamama, Covent Garden: inexpensive, fairly nutritious, delicious noodle dishes, loads of high chairs and seats.  The place is big and noisy so your kids wont disrupt anyone’s meal.  One draw back, it is located in the basement and the lift is flimsy and temperamental.  It is really difficult to get a pushchair up the stairs as the queue begins for the dinner hour.

 Belgo: Great food, moule, fritte and great beer .. CHILDREN EAT FREE!!!  Loads of high chairs, huge space that is really noisy and the place is step-free if the lift is working.  If its not, they will help you out.

TGI Fridays: Step-free, tons of space, high chairs and they have Sam Adam’s beer

Suggested itinerary for Marylebone

Museums

  • Wallace Collection
  • Madam Tussaud’s

Attractions

  • Royal Academy of Music
  • Wigmore Hall

Shopping

  • Marylebone High Street
  • Marylebone Farmer’s Market
  • St. Christopher Place
  • Oxford Street

Parks and Playgrounds

  • Regent’s Park
  • Paddington Playground
  • Seymore Leisure Centre

Sundays in Marylebone are one of my favourite days out in London, as that is when the amazing Marylebone Farmer’s Market is open (sadly, this may be closing soon, so do check before heading off for  this).

This neighbourhood is such wonderful delight for people of all types, big and small, active and more sedentary.  There is a wide range of culture and a wide range of shopping to go along with all the wonderful outdoor and indoor places for little ones to play.

One great luxury of coming to Marylebone for the day, is if you come with another adult, you can easily get some adult time to wander off and enjoy the neighbourhood.  Just off Marylebone High Street and Paddington Street, is the Paddington Street Gardens Playground.  This is a great place for children big and small to enjoy a morning while the adults take turns shopping in the amazing clothing, food and chocolate boutiques, enjoy the Wallace Collection, or even enjoy part of a free mid-day concert at The Royal Academy of Music (check online listings http://www.ram.ac.uk/Pages/default.asp).

Regent’s Park is near-by and a great place to spend the day or buy a picnic from Marylebone High Street to enjoy there.  The park boasts four playgrounds, paddling boats, fantastic manicured gardens and fountains.

A bit of a walk, but the Seymore Leisure Centre has an indoor play gym.  If the weather doesn’t cooperate, it’s a great back up to the playground.

About once a quarter there are children’s concerts, Chamber Tots, at the Wigmore Hall.  The children watch a short performance in the hall and then go downstairs to a workshop where they learn a song and play instruments.  It is an absolute delight.  Contact Wigmore Hall for the details as you need to speak with someone to book a concert. http://www.wigmore-hall.org.uk/visit-us

Just beyond Wigmore Hall is St. Christopher Place.  This charming, well-hidden pedestrianised street is a real treat for families with small children.  Our favourite toy store, Petit Chou has the most amazing range of wooden toys and the owner, Iveta, is the most amazing “toy consultant”.  If you go in and describe the kind of child you are shopping for, she can find the perfect gift for them.  At the bottom of the street is a mini piazza with terrace dining, perfect option if you are eating with wiggly small children.

St. Christopher Place empties onto Oxford Street.  I am not a fan of Oxford Street as it is so busy its difficult to get a pushchair down, the shops are packed … but loads of people love shopping on it.

I have not been to Madam Tussaud’s yet as I have been put off by the cost, unfortunately, I do not have any information to share.

Days Out: Knightsbridge

Culture

  • Procession of the Queen’s Horse Guard from Hyde Park Barracks
  • Brompton Oratory and the South Kensington Museums (Natural History Museum, Science Museum, V and A), free

Shopping

  • Harrods
  • Brompton Road
  • Sloane Street

Playgrounds

  • Hyde Park Lido, (£4 adults, children under 5 free)
  • Knightsbridge Barracks Playground

How to Get There

  • Bus: 52
  • Tube: Knightsbridge

 

If you organise it right, a morning in Knightsbridge can be the perfect mingling of iconic shopping and culture while being really fun for the little ones.

The focal point of a trip to Knightsbridge with toddlers should be Hyde Park.  Let the little ones spend the day here, one adult stays and while the other plays; or tire the children out at the playground and take them with you.

The Guard changes every day from May through August, after that it is every other day and you need to check the schedule online.  The Queen’s Horse Guard leaves from the Knightsbridge Barracks, just next to the playground in Hyde Park at 10:28 each day the ceremony is on.  If you are in the playground at that time, it is such a treat to see the procession go by.    http://www.royal.gov.uk/RoyalEventsandCeremonies/ChangingtheGuard/Overview.aspx

Also, not too far from the playground is the South Kensington Museums and the Brompton Oratory, all free, beautiful and great to wander through even with little ones in tow.  Its only about a £5 taxi from there to Knightsbridge.

Harrods is The Destination for most tourists and really shouldn’t be missed.  It is absolute indulgent luxury from top to bottom.  The store is step-free with changing facilities and family-friendly toilets.  The Toy Kingdom, on the 4th floor can is a great place to amuse the children during, before or after a shop, also during wet weather.

Brompton Road is great to shop, offering a mix of specialty boutiques and high street chains.  This is a very crowded area, making it somewhat difficult to get a large pushchair down the street.  Further, many of the shops have two levels and getting to the lift is not always easy.

Sloane Street, however, is lined with the large number of flagship stores for designers like Hermes and Chanel.  The crowds are thinner and it is just a more pleasant street to window shop.

 Where to Eat:

The Lido Café: The Lido is located next to the Serpentine, just a short walk from the Knightsbridge Playground.  Its very family friendly, nearly step-free, and has public toilets with changing facilities that are located outside the restaurant.  Really good food with superb healthy meal options, also beer and wine are served!  Large, outdoor, good people watching terrace, as well as indoor seating.

 The Dell Restaurant: This is my favourite between the two as The Dell has an enormous terrace filled with picnic tables (you can easily bring your own food and eat here) with an large weeping willow in the middle.  The tables are set next to the Serpentine and the little ones can have a wander about and feed the ducks.

Wagamama: In Harvey Nichols, inexpensive, fast, noisy, tons of high chairs and yummy!!

 

Itineraries for Bloomsbury, Notthing Hill, Westminster coming soon …

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