13 EXCITING THINGS TO DO IN THE OLYMPIC PARK
When you think of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park do you think of nearby Westfield Stratford or do you think about all the fun things you could get up to with the kids outside of the shopping centre?
Our first thoughts were pretty much always shopping (which as you can imagine, most kids hate) so were intrigued when we were invited in to spend a day and experience all the fun things there are to do in the Olympic Park.
You might be shocked to know there’s enough to do to spend a proper full day, leaving after morning rush hour (kids + commuters = no fun) and getting on the DLR home before evening rush hour is in full swing.
13 exciting things to do at Queen Elizabeth Olympic park
Unless you’re within walking distance, public transport is your friend here. There is parking at nearby Westfield Stratford but make life easier on yourself and take the DLR.
The walk from the DLR to the Olympic Park takes less than 15 minutes and is pretty straightforward.
1. ArcelorMittal Orbit
Getting to the top is fine, a lift (where you can look out of port-hole style windows. Or not.) takes you up where you can see skyline views of up to 20 miles across London through floor to ceiling windows.
The braver among us can pop outside to the observation walkways 80 metres above ground and see the city’s famous landmarks like Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, The O2, Canary Wharf, Ally Pally and The Shard.
There are facts about Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the London 2012 Games and the sculpture’s artists dotted about and kids will enjoy interacting with Anish Kapoor’s two huge concave mirrors.
What goes up, must come down so if you’re at least eight years old and over 1.3 metres tall, you can descend via The Slide - the UK’s tallest and fastest tunnel slide. It’s a 40-second journey through twists, turns and drops and it’s not for the faint of heart!
Watch the video below for a first-person view of what it’s liked to ride the slide:
There were a lot of hardy teenagers lining up to take a ride so it’s a great way to spend some time with your tween or teenager in London.
If the slide sounds like too much, you can walk down the 455 step staircase or take the 32 second lift.
2. Lunch At The Last Drop
Just opposite the ArcelorMittal Orbit is The Last Drop riverside cafe where we stopped for lunch. There’s good coffee, great sandwiches and if you’ve got younger kids, a small indoor soft play area.
The soft play area moves to a bigger room throughout the year (on non-event/Athletics days) so if you’re in the area (or shopping at Westfield) it’s worth popping in for a coffee and letting the kids burn off a little steam.
3. London Stadium Tour
The London Stadium was the focal point of the London 2012 Games (you can even buy some of the actual track Usain Bolt ran on!) and is now the home of West Ham United football club and UK Athletics.
Major League Baseball held their first game in Europe here and Beyoncé performed at The London Stadium in June 2019.
The official stadium tour takes you behind the scenes of the iconic venue and you’ll get to take in the panoramic views of the stadium, sit in the corporate boxes and the football managers pitch-side seat, explore closed-off areas such as the changing rooms and indoor warm-up track and walk down the players tunnel towards the pitch.
It’s all very interactive (you’re given a small video monitor and headset) and even if you don’t support West Ham, it’s an interesting look at how football has changed over the years, how TV makes everything look a lot bigger than it really is and hopefully, Jimmy will be your guide and will amuse you with tales from the past.
4 - 6. Trails, playgrounds and water fountains
With 560 acres of parklands, there's lots to explore at the Park including some fantastic free trails that give you the chance to take in the areas many sights and sounds.
You can download the trails in advance from the Park website or pick up a copy at the Information Point at the main entrance to the Park. We recommend the 2012 trail and the kids trail.
Playground wise, there’s Tumbling Bay and its rock pools, sandpits, tall treehouses, and wobbly bridges, as well as slides, swings and plenty of space to run about.
Pleasure Gardens was designed to let kids explore and play and they’ll love the garden’s giant red rocks which double as challenging climbing frames, broad slides, oversized swings, a (very popular) climbing wall, and a giant sandpit which means less waiting your turn and more having fun.
The best thing about this area (and do this before you go swimming – see next point) is the waterworks fountain - 195 individually controlled jets of water which appear, seemingly at random, shooting water up into the sky.
Lots of fun (and screaming!) to be had while you try not to (and try to) get wet.
The fountain is open from March to October and closed during the winter months and when major events are on (i.e. West Ham Utd. match days).
7. London Aquatics Centre
Quite possibly the piece-de-resistance at the park, the stunning London Aquatics Centre was designed by architect Zaha Hadid.
Kids get to swim in the pool where records were broken and medals were won but to be honest, all they’ll care about is Ultimate AquaSplash in the Competition Pool.
Ultimate AquaSplash (sessions last one hour) has the largest indoor selection of indoor inflatables in the UK and it offers pretty much everything kids could want - from sliding off the dive platforms to getting stuck into assault courses – meaning they are going to have plenty of (tiring - yay!) water-based fun.
There are plenty of life jackets available for hesitant swimmers but most kids and adults wear them as there’s a lot of falling into water involved.
It’s something special to be able to enjoy some of the best community swimming facilities in the country for the same price as your local leisure centre swimming pools.
A small but useful point, the changing rooms have special wringing out machines (that’s probably not its official name) but you put your wet swimming costume in and it wrings practically all the water out so no taking sopping wet clothes home.
Lee Valley VeloPark gives both amateur and/or semi-pro, free, yet rather intense biking indoors and on the one-mile track around the site. You can try BMX, Track, Road and Mountain Biking.
9. The Copper Box arena holds a selection of affordable events; global skateboarding competitions, basketball games, wrestling and more.
Venture a little further around the Olympic Park and its surrounding areas and your options open up even further.
10. Try your hand at paddle boarding and kayaking around the Olympic site; Hackney Wick is fantastic and you can rent all the gear you’ll need to get on the water from Moo Canoes.
11 – 13. There are lots of great bars along the canal – GROW is a fab independent canal side bar, kitchen and creative space.
We also like Roof East – a bar, event space, open air cinema and community space - in the old shopping mall. Kids are welcome between 12 pm and 5 pm every Saturday. After 5pm it’s over 18s only.
End the evening at The Escape Bar, a great pub packed with arcades, consoles and board games, and where you can do some serious people watching (it’s where all the cool kids hang out).
What’s your favourite thing to do at the Olympic Park?