Tag Archives: Westminster

Family Fun in Westminster

4 Apr

Today, my students did a bunch of mini-explorations in small groups.  I decided to use today as a chance to look at visiting London from the eyes of a mom.  I have a few tips that will be helpful for families with children around the same age as mine with a few things that would be of interest for the tween/teen.

1) Whatever you do, GET THE LONDON PASS.  This thing has been fantastic!  You pay for the pass for the number of days you will need it.  Because we are here for the week, we included the 6-day pass in their fees.  This pass gets you into just about every tourist site (except the London Eye, Aquarium and Shrek Adventure), the Hop on/Hop off bus tour, the Hop on/Hop off cruise and the Canal Boat Trip.  Now most of the museums are already free, but you get discounts in the gift shops and/or free audio tours with the pass.  With my mom lens, this is sooooo efficient.  All we have to do is show the cards at entry.  Some places may ask you to get an actual ticket, but if I’m not trying to wrangle children, figure out money and wait in long ticket lines, I’m fine with that.

2) The pre-paid Oyster card is the business!  We have enough money on the card to average a typical week using the London Underground.  If we weren’t taking a day trip to see Hampton Court Palace tomorrow, it would be the perfect amount for our trip. If you find you need more money on the card, you can “top up” at any tube station (with a credit card) or at any bodega that sells cards (cash or credit).  It is possible to get the Oyster card and the London Pass together.  Check the website for more information.

The sites I visited today

We were in Westminster and the Abbey was closed, so we had to find alternatives to visit.  I took a group over to see the Churchill War Rooms.  This was surprisingly engaging.  I’m not a WWII history buff by any means, but the museum is set up in a way that is interactive and engaging.  Much like the Museum of London, there are many activities that you can do with children of any age.  They also have the “war rooms” set up as they were in the 1940s (now if you get weirded out by mannequins, beware).  It was quite an engaging tour.  It was also not something I would have jumped at doing on my own, but it was entertaining enough, that I would recommend it.  The mom in me suggests you let the kids explore the Churchill Museum portion for as long as they want because the tour of the rooms can move a bit slow if there are crowds.  There are videos, hidden compartments and tactile artifacts that would encourage the curiosity of most children.

Churchill War Rooms

The Hop on/Hop off tour is a fun way to see all of the London sites.  You get one day ride with the London Pass and you can use it to get around to all the sites without taking the Tube.  I picked up the bus (a double decker–which I could hear my own children squealing about) about a block away from the Churchill War Rooms and rode the red line circuit.  This route took me past Hyde Park, Harrod’s, Piccadilly Circus, The Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall, Victoria and Albert Museum and Buckingham Palace.  All of these places have stops so you can get off, explore, and catch the next bus when it comes around.  I rode the bus to Buckingham Palace, took a few pictures, and then hopped back on to get back to Westminster.

The rare instance I remember to catch myself on camera. Me in front of Buckingham Palace.

So, I took one for the team today.  When I purchased a ticket for the London Eye earlier this week, I took advantage of a deal to get essentially two for one and added the London Dungeon tour.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I thought it would be theatrical and entertaining.  It was, but not quite for me.  This would be one of those activities for the tween/teen.  Not appropriate for younger ones (lots of loud noises, blackouts and strobe light effects that may be a bit much for younger children). Not to mention, there are two rides in the tour, one on water and one with a free fall drop.  These have height restrictions so younger ones wouldn’t be able to do these anyway.  I was going through it identifying the exact moments my own children would “done with it” and “ready to go.” I counted about 15 instances.  The entire tour is quite entertaining though.  The actors played their characters well.  A nice blend of tourist cheesy and actual chops.  There is some water involved, not enough to need a change of clothes, but it does spray on your clothes and sometimes in your hair in certain spots, but you’re dry by the time you leave.

Fun for teens, not really for this Momma though

Overall, the London Pass as shown me many more things than I would have considered on my own.  You can buy it online and have it waiting for you at your hotel or sent to your house before you go.  Once you use your card at your first site, your day count begins.  I would encourage using your first day in town to get the lay of land by tube and go to one of the free museums.  Begin to use the pass on your second day and have FUN!

Now because I would not be me if I didn’t keep this going, here is your British Black History for the day:

Nelson Mandela’s statue was erected in Parliament Square in Westminster in 2008. He is the only Black man to join the likes of Churchill, Ganning and other noteworthy British (White) men on the square in Westminster.

Tomorrow, we visit the home of Henry VIII.

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