4 fun in Bath (and London)
June 10, 2017 8:03 PM   Subscribe

I will be spending almost a week in Bath and London with a 4 (almost 5) year old. We need recommendations for great things to do in both locations.

I'm trying to find things to do that are different than what we can do in the U.S. (so, less interested in recommendations for playgrounds/science museums) and not above her head (maybe your 4 year old can appreciate the nuances of British history enough to enjoy a visit to the Tower of London, but not mine). So far, she's said she wants to see a castle and ride a double decker bus. I need help with other things to do.
Bonus!! Things that will exhaust her, she has a LOT of energy.
posted by papergirl to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hampton Court is two castles for the price of one, basically, and has actors running around pretending to be Henry VIII and his court. She can see the kitchen with an oven that's taller than she is!
posted by praemunire at 8:20 PM on June 10, 2017

Best answer: Many of the museums in London have kids' activity backpacks that you can check out, which make the museums a lot more fun. My daughter went to London when she was 5 and enjoyed the backpacks a lot. The Roman backpack at the British Museum included a kid-size toga which she wore while exploring the exhibits.

Coram's Fields is a playground and park near the British Museum. Adults can only enter when accompanied by a child; they have a small zoo and drop-in sports activities.

A boat ride to Greenwich is fun; you can take a picture on the date line and then run around the park.

The Diana Memorial Playground is an amazing playground for kids; you could spend hours there (we did).

Day out with the kids has links with age ranges; there are several city farms listed there that look like they'd be fun.
posted by mogget at 9:02 PM on June 10, 2017

Best answer: Londoner here.

In terms of riding a double-decker bus, I recommend that instead of taking an open top bus tour, you use London buses to get around at least a few times. They cost less than a bus tour and are more flexible. You will have more people-watching opportunities, and you can get off whenever you want to. You will not get the audio commentary; instead, take a guide book with you to look out for the sites. London has a city-wide contactless payment system called Oyster; under-fives go free.

If she is interested on going on a bus she might also find the underground an adventure, and/or enjoy a ride on the DLR which is a light railway in East London.

Does she like going up high and taking in views? There are several opportunities to do this, including the London Eye (my favourite) and the Shard (overpriced). For taking up energy and exhausting her, Hampstead Heath might be a good bet. It has opportunities to swim, to take in the views over London, or to do some sort of fun activity.

If she likes castles she might also like some of the more interesting buildings in Central London: Harrods or Fortum and Masons (ludicrous department stores); the Tate Modern is London's modern art gallery, located inside an old power station, and child-friendly; St Paul's Cathedral. London Museums are by an large free to enter which makes dipping in and out more feasible.

There's always Hamleys, the "oldest and largest toy store in the world", on Regent's Street.
posted by Erinaceus europaeus at 11:22 PM on June 10, 2017

Best answer: You'll get plenty of recommendations for London, so I'll throw in some for Bath which is near where I live.

The Roman Baths are not to be missed. In fact, we visit them several times a year and they never get old.

Bath itself will tire your kid out as it can be very hilly. Walk uphill all the way to the Royal Crescent and have a picnic there. It is a stunning location. Chandos Deli is a good place to pick up some snacks on your way up.

If you walk out to Pulteney Bridge, there are plenty of boat tours starting there which will take you up the river. You can also keep walking along Great Pulteney street until you eventually reach the Holbourne museum. They have a great little cafe in the back. Behind the museum is a park and steps down to a canal-side walk. Or you can just stop on the bridge and watch the canal boats go by.
posted by vacapinta at 2:47 AM on June 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

I guess it depends what the child in question actually enjoys but I would argue that a lot of 4 year olds would enjoy the Tower - it's a pretty cool very old castle and prison, the guards are dressed in silly uniforms. They have actors dressed in historic costumes to explain how people used to live. They have crowns that the real Queen of England wears. It's by the river, next to Tower Bridge, which opens to let boats through...No need to appreciate the finer points - the glaringly obvious points are all fun and very different from anything you all can do at home.

Once you've done that you can walk across the top section of the bridge, or the street level, turn right and walk along the river and take in HMS Belfast. Again, no need to appreciate finer points.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:10 AM on June 11, 2017

Best answer: The London Transport Museum is pretty much a universal hit among kids. It includes a play area where you can pretend to drive a bus or taxi.

I hear what you're saying about playgrounds, but I grew up in the US and raised my kids in London, and I can testify that UK playgrounds do sometimes offer things you can't get back in the US. In particular, I second Mogget's recommendation of the Diana Memorial Playground, which is like nothing I've seen in the states It is arguably one of the greatest playgrounds in the world. Be warned that it includes a water-and-sand play area, so you'll want to bring sand toys and a change of clothes.

While I'm endorsing other posters' suggestions: Erinaceus europaeus mentioned the Tate Modern. When my kids were toddlers, they loved running around its huge entry hall. Sometimes their entire visit would consist of running around there (while grownups took turns seeing the actual exhbitis.) Also, inside the Surrealism exhibit was a room where you can make your own surrealist drawings and stick them on the wall-- if it's still there, my kids always liked that.

Finally, there are plenty of places to feed ducks and other birds in London's parks. Do read the Royal Parks advice on feeding birds and come prepared to give them something that's healthy for them.
posted by yankeefog at 4:38 AM on June 11, 2017

Best answer: Bathonian here (actually sitting in the garden cafe at the Holburne right now, because I take my research for AskMe questions pretty seriously. Also, my Sunday plans didn't turn out. :) ). I second vacapinta's suggestion to come out this way. Do also go upstairs while you're at the Holburne, because there's a brilliant view down Great Pulteney St in what was the ballroom. And in the extension at the back, the layout is dramatic, kind of like an Aladdin's cave (but no risk to take a child into), so spend precisely 2 minutes in each of those. It'll be memorable. Then walk out the back and see the canal and railway (big fast trains you can see from the bridge!). Walk back into town, and look down into the basements and sub basements on the right hand side of Great Pulteney St, then take a right into Henrietta Park, which has the best trees ever. It's really something.

My tip for the Roman Baths: don't be a slave to the audio guide, but walk around and enjoy it. There's loads to see: bubbling water, steaming water, dank dark rooms, statues with great views, old folded lead, ferns growing under lights, everything.

When you go up to the Royal Crescent, carry on to the west in Victoria Park if you need more time outside. You get some nice views. Or if you're up for going to more hills, Lansdowne Crescent has spectacular views, and sheep grazing in front of it. If you want to get a city view without walking up hills, take the number 3 or 4 bus up to Bear Flat (£1, free for under 5s) and walk up to Alexandra Park which has a spectacular viewpoint. There's a steep and short walk back into the city from there.

If you need 5 year old friendly food, the Nando's & the GBK (sit down burger chain) by the station are both in the railway arches with high stone arch ceilings.

If the weather's good, you should have a lovely time. Also, pay the £1 to go into Parade Gardens by the river. It's got amazing views and deckchairs.
posted by ambrosen at 4:53 AM on June 11, 2017

How could I forget?: The playground in Victoria Park in Bath is memorable. Loads of people who visited as children or with children mention it as the most memorable thing about the trip.
posted by ambrosen at 4:56 AM on June 11, 2017

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