We’ve been out and about right across the capital looking for great places for you and your little one to go for a day out!
Tired of that same old walk down to the swings? Fancy something totally different? There’s nothing like the feeling of discovering a new place for you and your tot to enjoy together. Read on for three of the capital’s great finds; whether you are looking to pack a picnic and have a full day out, or just fancy popping out for the morning with your baby or toddler, here are some ideas for places to go that don’t cost the earth.
100 London Rd, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ
You might be looking at your little angel over the top of your magazine right now and inwardly shuddering at the idea of taking them to a museum, but we guarantee that you’ll enjoy it! Museums have moved on well and truly from the ‘Don’t Touch’ and ‘Shhh!’ memories we may have of them. Many of London’s museums are fantastic places to go with babies and toddlers, and most are totally free.
Parents in the Forest Hill area are particularly lucky as their local museum has long been a pioneer of opening its arms to pre-schoolers; babies and toddlers are very welcome here. Just a five-minute walk from Forest Hill station, the Horniman Museum is set in 16 acres of gardens and is packed with so much to do that we know you’ll be back again and again, and it’s free! The Horniman has a fantastic and accessible collection, and can make the proud boast that it has London’s only free Aquarium! The Horniman Aquarium opened in July 2006 after a £1.5million transformation. The Aquarium introduces creatures from around the world including moon jellyfish, seahorses and tropical monkey frogs. Tank viewing dens have been designed so that young children can view the displays easily.
As well as enjoying staring at the fish, you can explore all of the Horniman’s permanent exhibition galleries. The whole museum excels at making its collections fascinating to even the youngest of visitors. The museum has excellent facilities for parents with babies and toddlers: baby changing, nursing room, buggy parks, lockers, a children’s menu in the café and buggy access. And for those really sunny days when you can’t bear to be inside, make sure you’ve packed a picnic then head out to explore the 16 acres of Green flagged Gardens with picnic tables and an animal enclosure with goats, geese and rabbits. There’s also a nature trail and other outdoor activities. The Horniman is one of London’s gems for parents, wonderful in the summer when you can enjoy the grounds, but still superb throughout the year whatever the weather. Go along and discover your child’s favourite bit!
Tel: 020 8699 1872 www.horniman.ac.uk
A Boat Trip to Greenwich
Can there be a better way to spend a summer’s day than messing about on the river? Try jumping on a boat to Greenwich from Waterloo Pier. It’s such a wonderful way to get to lovely Greenwich and all the fun is in the journey! Not only will your little ones love being on a boat but you’ll get a fab view of many of London’s sights as you gently bob along. You will be right by the Cutty Sark (currently under renovation) when you reach Greenwich and hop off the boat. There’s a lot to see and do in Greenwich. You can wander along the river (there are some beautiful old alms houses along the tow path) or amble round the Naval College. Or you could just cross the road from where you get off the boat, and go directly into the park. The National Maritime Museum is great on wet days and the Observatory is worth a visit and has a good tea room opposite, but it is a steep climb up the hill! Then get back on the boat and head down the river back to Waterloo; snoozing tots are almost guaranteed for the journey home!
City Cruises sail from Waterloo Pier to Greenwich Pier, see www.citycruises.com for details of timetables and fares
Hampstead – NW3 7JR
Head north of the river for another of London’s gems; a glorious house with an incredible art collection, all surrounded by acres and acres of parkland and woods. Visiting stately homes may seem like a thing of the past now you have a little one in tow, but really don’t let it put you off, some of London’s grand estates are really family friendly and Kenwood stands out as being simply one of the best, and it’s free!
The magnificent Georgian mansion and its fantastic grounds are run by English Heritage, an organisation which prides itself on ensuring that families with even the youngest children feel welcome and catered for. If you’re a fan of the Old Masters then Kenwood House has plenty to offer. The collection here includes important paintings by many great artists, including Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner, Reynolds and Gainsborough as well as Van Dyck and Lely. Start your little one off on their culture-vulture training early!
If you’re here on a sunny day you might want to leave the house for another visit and spend your time exploring the parkland surrounding Kenwood. Set high on a hill, the views of London on a clear day are breathtaking. Visitors can also enjoy the pretty lakeside walks and woodland paths. Most of the grounds are accessible by gravel path and grass so you’ll be fine with your buggy. There are picnic tables so bring some outdoor toys and make a day of it enjoying the sunshine. There’s also a café in the house, and baby changing facilities. Come prepared for a lovely day out and soak up the sunshine in this Georgian paradise!
To get there by train use Gospel Oak or Hampstead Heath stations or use the
Archway and Golders Green tube stations then the 210 bus. You can park in the West Lodge Car Park (pay and display).
Tel: 020 83481286 www.english-heritage.org.uk