London Drum

Family Day Out In London – Example Itinerary With Kids

Five example itineraries with child-friendly attractions to help you plan a family day out

Idea #1 – Train, cable car, show at The O2 or a boat ride to Big Ben

Cable Car
Uber Boat
Tower Bridge
Tower of London
The Shard
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Houses of Parliament
What you will see:
Driverless DLR train, cable car, show at the O2 or boat ride back to Big Ben

This itinerary relies upon there being a suitable show playing at the O2 Arena, so check their website before you go. Everyone thinks of it as a live music venue, but they also have a plenty of kid-friendly events as well. In the past they’ve had family shows like Disney On Ice, Walking With Dinosaurs and WWE Wrestling.

Assuming there’s something decent on and you’ve already bought yourself a ticket, start your day by catching a train to the Excel Centre. Sound boring? Nope! Because this is one of those driverless DLR trains that run on an elevated monorail. There are no cabins at the front, so if you’re lucky you can grab the seat right up against the windscreen.

We recommend boarding the train at Tower Gateway because then you won’t have to change trains halfway through. The journey to Royal Victoria will take 20-25 mins.

When you exit the station you should see the cable car across the Thames. If this is the first time you’ve ever seen it then we will forgive you a little tremble because it is very high, but trust us: your kids will love it. The view from the top takes in everything from the Thames Barrier and skyscrapers at Canary Wharf, to the planes landing at London City Airport (ride time 5-10 mins).

Option 1 – Show at The O2

When you reach the other bank you’ll see The O2 straight ahead. There are a couple of decent restaurants outside the dome but we recommend heading inside for a meal because there are lots of nice restaurants underneath the rim of the tent.

Option 2 – Boat back to Big Ben under Tower Bridge

How about a boat ride back to Westminster? The Thames Clippers will take you past Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, The Shard and St. Paul’s Cathedral, all the way back to Big Ben and Parliament in about 60 mins.

View this itinerary on the planner

Idea #2 – Ride on the London Eye, London Dungeon, Aquarium & Shrek

London Eye
London Dungeon
SEALIFE London Aquarium
What you will see:
London Eye, London Dungeon, London Aquarium and Shrek’s Adventure

Taking your kids to London can be a nightmare if you don’t plan it right – it’s a big city and if they get tired then it will be no fun at all. So the idea behind this day is that there’s as little travelling as possible. All four attractions are close to each other.

The London Eye stays open until late so it is possible to do all four in one day, but we recommend concentrating on the London Eye and just two others – it’s up to you which ones you choose. All four are owned by the same company and they sell combo tickets to save you some money.

The wheel is a great way for parents to show their kids some of London’s most famous landmarks without having to drag them around town, and it’s also quite exciting to ride. You can take them to top of the wheel and point out places like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s (allow for 30-45 mins queuing, and 30 mins on the wheel).

If you choose the London Dungeon then bear in mind you’ll be given a timed ticket, so you may have to return later. There’s also an age limit for the kids (it’s too scary for anyone under 12) and there are height restrictions on the rides, so check their website first. Craig has been inside a couple of times and didn’t see anything too terrifying, but it is extremely dark and there are lots of loud bangs and screams so read his review beforehand (allow for 30 mins queuing, and 1½ hours inside).

The London Aquarium has an underwater sea tunnel, penguins, and a gigantic shark tank that spans two floors (allow for 1½-2 hours).

If your kids enjoy Shrek then try Shrek’s Adventure, where they can meet all the goofy characters from the movies. Bear in mind they will give you a timed ticket as well, so we recommend booking a time online so it doesn’t interfere with the rest of your day (allow for 1½ hours).

View this itinerary on the planner

Idea #3 – Waxworks at Madame Tussauds & London Zoo

Madame Tussauds
Regent’s Park
London Zoo
What you will see:
Madame Tussauds and London Zoo

For a long time Madame Tussauds was the most popular visitor attraction in London, but it seems to have dropped out of the Top 10 now. You wouldn’t know that from the queues outside, though – they are huge! We definitely recommend buying your tickets in advance otherwise you could be standing outside for ages (allow for 30-60 mins queue time, and 2 hours inside).

Your children will probably recognise more celebrities than you do because it’s full of pop stars and movie stars. They probably won’t enjoy the Royal Family and politicians so much, but the Spirit of London ride is quite fun – you board a time-travelling taxicab and motor past five centuries of the city’s history (height restrictions apply, so check their website first).

Depending on how lucky you were with the queue it could be as early as 11.30 AM or as late as 12.30 PM by the time you get out. If you have very energetic kids then you could take a 25-min walk through Regent’s Park to London Zoo. Otherwise you can catch the number 274 bus from Dorset Square to Primrose Hill (25 mins bus ride, plus 5 mins walk).

Allow for another 3-4 hours at London Zoo. There are no rollercoasters or rides or anything like that, it’s just a traditional zoo with lions, tigers, giraffes, zebras, Gorilla World, Rainforest Life, the Aussie Outback, plus Penguin Beach and a walk-in aviary. They also have plenty of lizards, snakes, bugs and a tropical aquarium.

View this itinerary on the planner

Idea #4 – Natural History Museum & Science Museum

Natural History Museum
Science Museum
What you will see:
Dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, rockets at the Science Museum

This is probably one of the most popular days out for families. There are actually three big museums that we recommend visiting, but only two of them are suitable for kids: the Natural History Museum and Science Museum. The Victoria & Albert Museum is best left for the adults.

The Natural History Museum is great if your kids are interested in dinosaurs because they’ve got a life-size robot Tyrannosaurus Rex striding around a misty swamp.

It’s nicknamed the dead zoo because it’s full of stuffed lions and tigers, elephants, rhinos, polar bears, pandas, dodos… everything!

It’s almost like going to a real zoo, except everything in it is dead (allow for 2-3 hours).

The Science Museum has everything from the earliest steam machines to the Apollo moon landings. But it’s the space stuff that will really interest your kid: they’ve got a full-size model of the Eagle lander that landed on the moon, plus a lot of famous space probes like Britain’s own Beagle lander.

Our favourite part of the museum is an airplane hanger halfway up the building that’s full of real airplanes, but what makes this place really great for kids are all the flight simulators and push-button displays they can fiddle around with. They’ve also got an IMAX cinema showing 3D movies (allow for 2-2½ hours).

View this itinerary on the planner

Idea #5 – The Shard, Golden Hinde & battle cruiser HMS Belfast

The Shard
Golden Hinde
Borough Market
Tower Bridge
HMS Belfast
What you will see:
The Shard, Golden Hinde, burgers at Borough Market and HMS Belfast

This day out begins with a climb to the top of London’s tallest building – The Shard. Be advised that it might be too scary for very little kids (it even scared the pants out of us!). The viewing levels have got floor to ceiling windows and the highest level has even got a few spaces that are totally open to the sky. If your nerves are up to it then allow for 1-1½ hours.

The rest of the day has got a bit of a boat-theme to it. You’ll find the first one a quick 10 mins walk away past Southwark Cathedral. The Golden Hinde II is a perfect replica of the Elizabethan pirate ship that took Sir Francis Drake around the world. Your kids can clamber over every inch of it: stooping through the gun deck, lying in the captain’s bunk, and making their dad walk the gang-plank (allow for 1 hour).

If you want to stop for a bite to eat then we recommend Borough Market – a busy indoor market with lots of nice food stalls. You can get some smokey flame-grilled burgers and hot dogs in there (allow for 30-45 mins eating time).

Now head back towards the river and walk towards Tower Bridge. After 10-15 mins you should reach the old World War II battlecruiser HMS Belfast.

Your kids can explore the entire boat from the gun decks, mess deck, missile rooms and captain’s quarters, and even into the little doctors surgery and operating theatre. And the whole boat is staffed by waxworks: you’ll walk into a room and the sailors will be doing everything from plotting courses on the radar, peeling potatoes in the kitchens, to playing cards in the bunks (allow for 2-2½ hours).

View this itinerary on the planner

London Squire bookThe owns and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

Your comments and questions

Katia Hi there, My family and are planning a layover for one day in London and we'd like to visit both the British museum and the Natural History Museum. We have two kids 5 and 7. In your opinion would it be better to book a hotel near British Museum and try walking to Natural History Museum or book a hotel further out, get an Oyster card and travel with kids on the underground? Hotels we've looked at are premier inn in hackney and others around London. I'm just not sure if it would be easy to travel from there to desired museums? Many thanks

Craig Hi Katia. It's not really possible to walk between the British Museum and Natural History Museum with kids that young - it's about three miles. That's a 45-minute walk even for an adult. Staying in a hotel close to the British Museum is definitely preferable to staying in Hackney, but there's another Premier Inn in Leicester Square that I've actually stayed at myself -​hotels/​premier-inn-leicester-square.php. You can walk to the British Museum from there easy enough, and you can get the Piccadilly line straight to South Kensington for the Natural History Museum. PS: maybe you're taking them for educational reasons, which is fair enough, but I don't think the British Museum is a great place for kids that young. They do provide a suggested itinerary for families, but it has things like the Rosetta Stone, Easter Island figurines and Saxon helmets in it. That's the closest it ever gets to being kid-friendly.

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