I'm Taking My Teen Boy to London; What to Do?
July 13, 2015 3:13 AM   Subscribe

Like it says on the box. I'm taking my youngest kid to London for a week in August, we're staying by Gloucester Road tube. Through a miracle of connections, I was able to score us tickets to see Liverpool vs. Stoke but other than that and a show at the Globe, we have no plans.

He's never been to London, I lived there years ago and last visit was 10 years back with his two eldest sisters.

Looking for recommendations to make it an awesome trip. Likes: biking, gaming, walking, eating everything, Scorcese films.

What are some pretty cool things for us to do? And what's the easiest way to travel? Tube? Uber? Bus? Bike?
posted by kinetic to Travel & Transportation around London, England (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How old is your son?
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:15 AM on July 13, 2015

Response by poster: He's almost 17 and he's very comfortable getting around by himself in Boston and NYC. He loves big cities and exploring.
posted by kinetic at 3:16 AM on July 13, 2015

If you're staying near Gloucester road, you'd be a fool not to visit the Natural History and Science Museums, which will be right on your doorstep.

Both free (with a suggested donation) to get in, although if there are any specific temporary exhibitions you want to go to then you may need to pay and pre book. Both have really excellent permanent collections though and are really good fun.

The Victoria and Albert is just down the road as well, although that might be a bit dry for a 17 year old boy unless he's considerably more into old frocks, broaches and statues than I was at his age.

Getting around, tube and bus all the way. Pick up a couple of oyster cards at a ticket kiosk or participating newsagent and stick 20 quid pre-pay on them.

Cycling is an option, but be aware that London is not very bike friendly and can definitely be a bit hairy.

Cabs in London just aren't worth it, unless it's late at night, you just want to get back, and you've exhausted all other options.
posted by Dext at 3:38 AM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Prince Charles Cinema is one of the best movie theatres in the world and in the literal centre of town.
posted by timshel at 3:43 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's been a while since I've been there myself, but I always loved Camden Town. And the Tower.

Do you have time for day trips out of the city, to Oxford / Cambridge? Or further out - some of my favorites were finding random Roman ruins in farm fields, where you just kind of follow the signs and BOOM, you're standing in someone's ruins.

Also - Avebury for a day trip far outweighs Stonehenge.
posted by mibo at 3:44 AM on July 13, 2015

Response by poster: Day trip: We'll be out in Stoke for a match (is football called a match?), but I was considering Brighton for a day for the kitsch factor. We're huge Little Britain fans and want to see spots from the show. Is it worthwhile?
posted by kinetic at 3:58 AM on July 13, 2015

If he's interested in that kind of thing, see if you can get to Bletchley Park. I prefer the National Museum of Computing over the Park proper, but that's a personal preference. The Park is easily reached by train.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:59 AM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Brighton is a lovely place (I didn't find it particularly kitschy but that says more about me than anything). It's a real slice of British seaside culture. The pavilion is jaw-dropping in all its .. well .. kitschy, horrifying opulence. I've never seen anything quite like it,
posted by kariebookish at 4:07 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Imperial War Museum. It's a short walk from the Lambeth North tube station on the Bakerloo line. Admission is free. On your way by foot from the tube station you'll pass the house where Captain Bligh (of the HMS Bounty) once lived. And when you're done continue by foot to the Borough Market for anything you can imagine you would want to eat.
posted by three blind mice at 4:21 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you wanna explore - bike tour of the city?
posted by litleozy at 4:46 AM on July 13, 2015

Also, for something a bit off beat - Secret cinema's doing Empire Strikes Back
posted by litleozy at 4:57 AM on July 13, 2015

We went on the Alternative London East End Tour -- it is a great walk through the outdoor art gallery of graffiti that is East London. Highly recommended.
posted by girlpublisher at 5:10 AM on July 13, 2015

I'm a big museum fan and super into sciencey stuff. When I was 17 I would have gone apeshit for a bunch of weird stuff in jars. (I realize this isn't a feeling shared by tons of people.) If that might appeal to your son, definitely check out the Hunterian, the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. So much weird shit. Mostly in jars.

It's just across a square from Sir John Soane's, which is a very cool little museum/house if you like architecture and odd, kitschy history.
posted by phunniemee at 5:17 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mr. Kitty and I really enjoyed the Churchill War Rooms branch if the Imperial War Museums. Definitely makes you feel like you were there with them down in the bunker.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 5:46 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe extend your Stoke trip over night and have a day walking in the peak district?
posted by biffa at 6:11 AM on July 13, 2015

I was not particularly "into" art when I went to London at 16, but the Tate Modern blew my mind. Would be a convenient visit before or after you hit the Globe, as well.
posted by telegraph at 6:42 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Victoria and Albert actually has a "behind the scenes of theater design and production" exhibit which may be kind of interesting - displays on publicity, set design, sound/light design, costume design, etc. Some of the "stuff" they had on display included one of Pete Townsend's guitars that got broken onstage, some old Beatles fan club swag, stuff like that.

If you do the "London Eye", you can safely skip the "4-D" film they try to pitch you on when you get your ticket - it's just a ten-minute Imax ad for the Eye itself, and they pipe in dry ice fog to make it feel like "ooh, there are clouds in the theater with us" or something dippy like that. (Or, hell, maybe he'll dig the cheese.)

Nthing the Tate Modern, and if he doesn't find something at the British Museum that appeals, I'd be very surprised. Maybe peruse their History Of The World in 100 Objects series and pick some to make a short list of "stuff we want to see". (I would not try seeing all 100; I tried that and got overwhelmed somewhere around number 23.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe extend your Stoke trip over night and have a day walking in the peak district?

Better yet, if you are driving up there anyways, take the car an hour out of your way and hit up Warhammer World, the HQ of Games Workshop, a name that he probably knows from gaming.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:49 AM on July 13, 2015

Also, the Cartoon Museum is small but fun. Suggested by our 25-year-old son.
posted by raisingsand at 7:54 AM on July 13, 2015

Also, here's a list of apps if you have a smart phone. We used the Citymapper app to get around and it was really, really good. Made it easy to choose between tube/buses/cabs, etc and we never made a wrong turn or a bad choice (and we come from Memphis, where there is very little public transportation so we are not good at it). We also used The Cloud app to find wifi and we were never without a spot within half a block, it seemed. Those two apps will get you all around the city. We did enjoy walking and looking at the street art, so would have used the app in the first link if we had known about it.
posted by raisingsand at 8:02 AM on July 13, 2015

Just so you don't confuse people - you're going to Stoke v Liverpool on 9th August right?

English football fixtures are Home Team vs Away Team, which I know is the opposite way round to most US sports.

I really like the Wellcome Collection, which is a weird sciency museum opposite Euston station.
posted by chrispy108 at 8:57 AM on July 13, 2015

Response by poster: Just so you don't confuse people - you're going to Stoke v Liverpool on 9th August right?

Yes. Also taking the train to the game/match. Should we sleep over in Stoke? Any advice for trains (train behavior) to Britannia Stadium and/or advice for attending the game/match? Colors to avoid wearing?
posted by kinetic at 9:23 AM on July 13, 2015

For food, Dinerama Is very good - a street food market with lots of different stalls. It's in Shoreditch so would go well with the East London tour mentioned above (which is also excellent!)
posted by symphonicknot at 10:37 AM on July 13, 2015

Incidentally, because it's where I live, I can say that Tate Modern, the Imperial War Museum, the South Bank, the London Eye, Borough Market, the Globe and many other attractions are relatively close to each other and can be easily walked between. If I were to recommend anywhere specific from the area, I'd say that if you want fish and chips, try Masters Superfish on Waterloo Road - it's a proper sit-down restaurant and I'll vouch for the quality of the food - it's our regular Saturday night takeaway.
posted by Grangousier at 11:39 AM on July 13, 2015

The Museum of London is a fantastic spiral museum which takes you from pre-history through the present day. Very near St. Paul's. And it is free!
150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN
posted by tronec at 12:21 PM on July 13, 2015

Climb Monument - it's 311 steps, and you get a great view of London from the top.

Get a week pass on your Oyster card and go everywhere on the Tube. Don't forget to check out the interesting stations.

Borough Market is very good for food, and there are usually a lot of samples.

Walk along the Thames, or take one of the boats.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 4:54 PM on July 13, 2015

Stoke should be a very doable day trip by train, it is 2 miles from the station according to this so might be best to get a cab at that end: http://www.footballgroundguide.com/leagues/england/premier-league/britannia-stadium-stoke-city.html#aby-train

You could obviously sleep in Stoke/nearby and see somewhere up North whilst you're over; Liverpool or Manchester are both pretty nearby.

Which end are your tickets for? English football stadiums are segregated into home and away, with no mixing of fans and no neutral areas. You definitely can't be wearing Liverpool stuff if you're in a Stoke area and vice-versa (Although I assume you're more likely to be supporting Liverpool than Stoke....). I can't imagine the game being particularly aggressive from a fan point of view, they aren't rivals and it's the first game of the season so there is little to play for at this point.
posted by chrispy108 at 2:11 PM on July 14, 2015

Get the Thames clipper from embankment to Greenwich. Stroll around the market, get something to eat and check out the observatory and park.

Then walk under the Thames (entrance by cutty sark), grab a Santander bike and cycle along the river back to embankment.

You'll see many sights along the way.
posted by mr_silver at 2:52 PM on July 14, 2015

If you both like walking, buy a good map and walk between attractions. London is huge but the centre is more compact than the tube map suggests. Besides, what you discover on the way can be more interesting than where you are going.

I love the british museum and the welcome collection for museums. I would highly recommend a walk from London Bridge to at least the Eye along the South Bank, including borough Market, the globe, walk across to st paul's, tate modern and the skateboard park near the festival hall, if it is still there.

There is also a fun sunday market - possibly spitalfields?
posted by kadia_a at 9:06 AM on July 15, 2015

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