A summer 2021 London staycation and we found ourselves back in our favourite big city for another house swap. In 2020 we house swapped to a lovely home in North London, this time we were swapping with a house in Ealing.
Home was set off Pittshanger Lane High Street, a short bus journey from Ealing Broadway. Planning for our week away I always want to try and get a balance between free or low cost activities and a couple of more pricer treats. The biggie that I really wanted to do was take the kids to see a musical but the shows we’d like to see, Matilda as an example, don’t resume performances until mid-September so we were too early to book this.
Ahead of arriving in London we booked tickets for Kidzania, this two hour-ish activity takes place at the Westfield near White City tube. It’s advertised as being suitable for 4 to 14 year olds but the majority of kids we saw were around 5 to 10 in age, I think if you’re older you might find some of the activities not interesting enough. It was a great day out but parents be warned its totally focused on the kids, so in essence you spend your time hanging outside each activity as the kids have fun being a vet / pilot / drummer / hotel receptionist etc whilst you wait outside holding their coats and wishing for some natural light. It cost £90.00 and your ticket is for four hours, you can’t over stay this as you wear an arm band so on arrival do think about which of the areas your child wants to go in the most, the firestation tends to get the biggest queue so head for this outside of its busiest time – midday-ish.
Other activities we looked at but just didn’t get to book or do were a Peter Rabbit afternoon tea at the Dilly, a visit to Peggy Porschen for tea and cake, a Charlie and The Chocolate Factory afternoon tea at One Aldwych Hotel (which I think is really aimed at adults rather than kids), a visit to the Sky Garden (fully booked all week), the Postal Museum in Stretford (this sounds a really fun activity to do, particularly riding the little mail trains through the old postal tunnels).
You could also take the Docklands Light Railway to Royal Victoria Dock Station, walk across the road to Emirates Royal Docks and jump on the Emirates Air Cable Car. You’ll go over 295ft into the air and have amazing views to enjoy of Canary Wharf. You could then take a short walk to North Greenwich Pier, here you’ll be able to get on an uber boat, walk past the Cutty Sark and have fun exploring Greenwich.
The weather was a bit up and down during the week, sunshine and heavy showers so I put off booking a boat trip with Go Boats but would definitely do this if I knew we’d get a day that was going to be rain free. Boats that you captain yourselves for a gentle sail down London’s best canal side areas.
Our freebie activities were to visit the Science Museum and we also returned to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground (nearest tube Queensway) as we found this during our London visit in 2020 and the children loved it, its got a huge wooden pirate ship for lots of climbing on. The Princess Diana playground is free to enter and is centred around a wooden pirate ship. Poppy and Caspar loved to climb the rigging and play in the look out tower, the ship is surrounded by sand and it all feels safe for them.Last year we visited the Natural History Museum and personally I enjoyed this more than the Science Museum so if I had to choose between either I’d suggest visiting the Natural History Museum.
You can’t really visit London without stopping by Leicester Square (for the M&M and Lego shop) and Covent Garden. The street performers were as amusing as always and we combined our time here with lunch, there is a Wagamama and a TGI Friday close to CG if you need a guaranteed place to suit fussy taste buds. Simple amusement for the children was also just riding on the tube and the bus. We avoided paying for open top tour buses around the attractions as there are plenty of buses you can catch that take you past key attractions and using our Oyster cards we got to see all parts of this wonderful city.
We explored Kew Gardens, walking over 12,000 steps and only seeing 1/3 of its 400 acre beauty. They have a cool installation called the Hive, a 17 metre tribute to Honeybees, it was pretty cool – so were the giant lilypads in one of the sweltering Greenhouses.
My favourite thing we did was climbing Tower Bridge. With Covid restrictions still in place visitor numbers to the bridge were lower than I think they may normally be so we were able to climb the tower and walk along the iconic glass floor and it seemed reasonably quiet. Looking down at the cars and pedestrians crossing the bridge and seeing the boats underneath was fun and I loved the panoramic views around London from the peep hole windows. After here, it chucked down with rain but we explored around the Shad. Restaurants and plenty of nice places to explore, before hopping on a bus and tube to go and enjoy the sights and smells of Borough Market.
All in all a great week, we loved it and still have so many things we want to see and do on our next visit.