Suggested itinerary for The West End
The West End Days Out
- National Gallery, free
- The Portrait Gallery, free
- The Transport Museum, £10 per adult
- 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
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 (really good for children 3 and up, but their siblings may come, too). 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 … literally, its 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 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 doing the Portrait Gallery while the little ones nap or stay in the pushchair.
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 trans port 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.Tweet