HOW TO HAVE A FAMILY STAYCATION IN LONDON
By Kerry Dolan
Packed suitcases. Check. Sun lotion. Check. Remembered the passports? Then comes the awful realisation that one of your kid’s passports expired three months ago.
Holidays can be a costly business, not to mention stressful if you’ve got little ones. It’s a nice thought to be jetting off to the sunshine, but it can be overwhelming when you realise you’ve forgotten to ask the neighbour to feed the cat, left Timmy’s sleep time cuddly, your toothbrush and baby formula back at home.
Ever thought of opting for a staycation instead? There are no airport delays, inconvenient transfers or awkward language barriers to contend with. No exasperating shouts of “Are we there yet?”, you can simply jump on the train and let the adventure begin.
Sounds tempting doesn’t it? If you’re like me and have kids of varying ages then you’ll most likely recognise the angst that I’m talking about when planning family getaways. A staycation in London could be the perfect solution because it has something to offer everyone, including Mum and Dad.
If the sun decides to shine, London has a vast array of beautiful green spaces on offer. One of my favourites though, is the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Located just 30 minutes from London and boasting its own tube stop just 500m from the entrance at Victoria Gate, there’s plenty of cafes to keep you and the family topped up whilst you sample the attractions. There’s the Treetop walkway, the unique multi-sensory experience that is the Hive, where you can channel your inner ‘bee’ or hop onto the Kew Explorer Land Train.
Another top spot for good weather is Ruislip Lido. A 60-acre lake and artificial beach surrounded by a narrow-gauge railway makes a great day out for excitable kids. Accessible by train or bus, all you need is to pack some towels, sun-cream and a picnic. Who needs the Costa del Sol when you have this on your doorstep?
When the weather turns grey, and invariably in the UK it usually does, don’t despair - London has plenty of indoor activities to offer too. There are enough museums in the capital to keep you entertained for days, but I think the Horniman Museum and Gardens is a particularly good choice for younger visitors. There’s an animal enclosure, butterfly house and aquarium, as well as the natural history gallery and a nature trail, plus a host of events, displays and exhibits throughout the year. The museum is situated in Forest Hill, which is easily accessible by train or bus.
If you fancy an activity for all the family, All Star Lanes has bowling alleys dotted all over London. Take advantage of their Eat, Drink and Bowl deals and enjoy some quality family time in the fabulously retro surroundings rounded off with a good meal.
A walk along the Southbank at any time of day is great for free child-friendly entertainment. There is always an abundance of street food sellers, activities and markets in the area and the views are fabulous from here. Stroll along and take in the ambience whilst you decide which restaurant to choose for dinner.
You’re spoilt for choice as there’s a restaurant on almost every corner in London, but our family-friendly favourites are the Rainforest Café and Bubba Gump Shrimp. The Rainforest Café in Shaftesbury Avenue is decorated like an exotic jungle and bought to life with stunning special effects.
Souvenirs can be purchased after your meal, and I guarantee your children will be asking to go back almost as soon as you’ve left. Bubba Gump Shrimp is just a few minutes’ walk from Leicester Square and is inspired by the 1994 Forest Gump film. Shrimp is the speciality, but the menu features delicious comfort food reflected on the film’s Southern American setting of Alabama.
If you live in London, a long day in town usually ends with you catching the train home to rest your aching feet but you could extend your staycation with a hotel stay. There are various options available for all budgets but I like the Melia White House in NW1, located near Regents Park. They have family rooms or interconnecting rooms available, plus babies and children’s menus and they give gifts to the children on arrival, which is a nice touch.
The traditional Rhodes Hotel is a small and friendly B&B located in W2. Offering rooms to sleep families of up to 6 people, it’s a good option for larger families and reasonably priced too. Another practically priced option for family stop-overs is Premier Inn. Family rooms have a king-size bed for adults and up to 2 sofa beds provided for kids under 16. Under 16’s also benefit from a free brekkie too.
Now you see there are plenty of options in London, why not plan your own family staycation adventure this summer?
We’d love to hear about your staycation ideas, if you know if a great place to visit on a family staycation, please let us know in the comments below.