3 Weeks in London with a 1 year old, what can we do.
October 30, 2011 7:51 AM   Subscribe

3 Weeks in London with a 1 year old, what can we do?

I've lived in London before so I know my way around fine, but now I'm visiting with my one year old and wife for three weeks and I have no idea what we can do. I used to love pubs, live concerts and catching up with friends. This time I guess it will be just the latter.

We will be based on Fleet St (not rich, just sub-letting a friend's place) so looking for things to do around central london with a 1.5 year old, a very hard audience to please. We will do lots of walking and shopping but I am specifically on the look-out for child friendly restaurants for meeting friends other than McDonalds (pre 8pm). Are there child friendly pubs in central London?. Also any non expensive activities/places as I think something like the magic eye may be lost on someone his age. Any website suggestions?

One other concern I have is getting around. Buses will be fine, but we don't want to bring a car seat with us. What are the rules regarding Black Cabs and Mini-Cabs? Will a black cab accept a child and stroller with no car seat? Any mini-cab services from Luton that would be reasonably priced and provide a baby seat? Or can you travel without one?

Thanks, any help welcome.
posted by DOUBLE A SIDE to Travel & Transportation around London, England (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Natural History Museum
The Science Museum
The Imperial War Museum
Grant Museum of Zoology

All are free.

The Natural History Museum has TONS of stuff to look at (including MOVING DINOSAURS OMG), experience (a shaking earthquake room!), and sometimes even touch (rocks!).

The Science Museum has a neat experiment play area for kids (intended for kids older than yours, but a one year old could surely find stuff to do) with stuff to touch, stand in, make noise with, etc. I had fun. I'm 25.

The Imperial War Museum is probably more of a stretch for a one year old, but there are a couple of big things (airplane fuselage, maybe a submarine?) that you can climb in.

The Grant Museum of Zoology is really small (and right around the corner from the Wellcome Collection, which is also pretty great (and free)) but has lots of cool animal specimens, including one of the world's few complete quagga skeletons. Lots of tiny little things to look at and identify, if he's at all starting to recognize and name animals.

I also passed the world's AWESOMEST playground one evening coming back from dinner somewhere near Farringdon and Clerkenwell. I don't know anything about it (just that it looked like a whole bunch of fun), but maybe someone local will know more.
posted by phunniemee at 8:23 AM on October 30, 2011

Wetherspoons pubs are pretty child-friendly, and there are several in central London.

I've also seen lots of parents with children in strollers at the Tate Modern (which I believe is free except for the special exhibitions). There is a lot of visually interesting stuff there (of course).

A ride on one of the Thames ferries might be fun as well.
posted by sueinnyc at 8:27 AM on October 30, 2011

I left England when my daughter was 1.5 but did manage to take several trips to London with her before we left. She was pretty amazed by just about everything there. I pushed her around in her pram through the streets of London and she loved it all. We spent a lot of time in local cafes - she especially liked the ones with lots of art on the walls.

She really liked going to play zone type places. We lived in oxon and there were a few there. I looked up London and found

http://this link which provides a whole bunch of contacts for kid friendly stuff in London. Also
http://www.kidspaceadventures.com/looks like a place that was similar to where I used to take my daughter. However it is in Croydon and that may be a bit of a drag for you.

Hamleys has got a bit of something for everyone but I personally prefer the toy floor at Harrods which has most of the same stuff but isn't a zoo like Hamleys. Harrods Toy floor would let your little one enjoy the surroundings without being overwhelmed. When we were there in the summer they has really good sales on stuffed toys. We found the prices to be the same as any of the other department stores and the service to be better. You can also stop in at the food halls or have afternoon tea whilst you are there.

The London Aquarium would also be suitable for a toddler. I think it's a little pricey but with all the museums free now you could maybe afford to spend a little at some of the paid attractions.

As far as pubs go - I never really paid much attention when I was there as to whether they were "kid friendly" specifically. Pubs in the UK seem to be quite used to families - perhaps less so in London than in the counties but if you are there for 3 weeks you could hire a car and take a little time away.

Stop in at MotherCare once you arrive and ask them if they have any suggestions - if you go to a local one they may also provide you with local play meets - a good way to meet some people whilst you are there.

Have fun.
posted by YukonQuirm at 8:43 AM on October 30, 2011

I forgot to mention that there are regular train links from Lutton to St. Pancras. That will likely be the cheapest and most stress free way to get into London. We've hauled around two kids on public transport since the day they were born. The initial schlepp from the airport with your bags can be a drag but people tend you help you out.
posted by YukonQuirm at 8:47 AM on October 30, 2011

The Science Museum is right in the middle of a number of museums, including the Natural History Museum and the V&A museum, which are all pretty kid-friendly.

However, what isn't very kid friendly is London transport. Buses are probably better than the Underground, and you can get a bus map from most major info centres.
posted by The River Ivel at 8:55 AM on October 30, 2011

Child friendly restaurants - try Giraffe (it is a chain but you won't feel out of place with baby). There is one near to Spitafields market which is nice to amble around.
posted by laukf at 9:06 AM on October 30, 2011

The two things our daughter has loved since she was old enough to toddle around are the London Zoo and The London Transport Museum. As a bonus, both places are great for grownups, too. At the Transport museum, I believe your ticket entitles you to re-admission at any time for the next year; with a three week stay, if you end up making repeat visits, it could end up being a very good deal.

With black cabs, we've just kept out kids in the buggy and loaded the buggy into the cab. We've never had a problem doing so.

For a minicab, I'm pretty sure there would need to be a child seat in the car-- but on the plus side, most minicab companies I've dealt with have child seats available, if you ask in advance.

I don't have a specific minicab company to recommend for Luton (the company we always use only does Heathrow) but you might try Kabbee.com, which lets you do price comparisons and check ratings for various minicab companies. (I haven't used the site but it seems legit.)

For general public transport info, check out the Transport for London journeyplanner. You can tick an option for "I can't do stairs" and it will plan out a step-free journey for you.

Once you have kids, you will be amazed to discover how many playgrounds are around. Coram's Fields isn't too far away from Fleet Street. If you keep your eyes open (and/or ask any neighbors with kids) I'm sure you'll find a small playground no more than a few blocks away from you. They're just everywhere.

I've found most restaurants in London to be pretty child friendly, but decent chains that are always reliably so include Wagamama, Nando, and Giraffe (although Giraffe is a bit loud for my taste).
posted by yankeefog at 9:08 AM on October 30, 2011

If you're staying on Fleet street I think there is a Leon nearby. Its fast food, more 'restauranty' than Mcdonalds and healthy and child friendly. Pollocks toy museum and toyshop might be fun although possibly a bit old for a one year old. The Golden Hindei s a full-sized reconstruction of a Tudor warship and he might also enjoy Freightliners City Farm.

Depending on when you are going there are good season specific activities for children and adults. If you are arriving in the next few weeks before Christmas something like Winter wonderland will be fun to visit.
posted by Laura_J at 9:21 AM on October 30, 2011

The Princess Diana Playground at the northwest end of Hyde Park is pretty cool.
posted by Flashman at 9:47 AM on October 30, 2011

If you take up Flashman's suggestion of the Princess Diana Playground, the Black Lion is a nearby pub on Bayswater Road (you can see it in the map Flashman linked to) which is a relativley "kid friendly" pub you could have lunch at. I was there just last week and there were two families in there for lunch.
posted by Diag at 10:11 AM on October 30, 2011

Seconding the Zoo and the London Transport Museum and if your child likes dinosaurs, the Science Museum. Yes, just put the buggy in the black cab. Do not underestimate the joy of small children and buses, the underground and particularly the DLR and ferry! See also: Hamley's. Panto. Puppet Theatre. Time Out Kids. Don't forget to find your local library, as you can go and read new books without a membership card and they may have story hours or something, too.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:39 AM on October 30, 2011

Brilliant, thanks so far for all the suggestions. I knew London would be great for kids. Can't wait to show him the city.

Looks like I can easily get a train from Luton to City Thameslink station, right by Fleet Street. The station even has a lift. Will put luggage/buggy concerns aside.

We will definitely give all the free things a go and some of the paid ones. The Tate will be great for everyone and quite a few of the museums I haven't been to, so should be fun. The winter wonderland and hyde park will be great, I had also forgotten all about Harrods.

I have no problems with taking the buses, being 6ft 8" I'm not a huge tube fan though. Great to hear we can bundle into the back of a black cabs when necessary.

Thanks for all the restaurant suggestions also, found a Wetherspoons around the corner from fleet street that looks perfect.

Sorry for marking everyone best answer, but I really like all the suggestions and advice. Leaving tomorrow and can see a busy few weeks ahead. Now just the flight to deal with.
posted by DOUBLE A SIDE at 12:08 PM on October 30, 2011

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