London & England for Families

As the Commonwealth (and the world) await the arrival of William and Catherine's Royal Baby next month, London and Britain in general are celebrating all the family-friendly options available throughout the realm. 

At a recent media luncheon, VisitBritain Chief Executive Sandi Dawe said that a significant number of trips to the UK are multi-generational, and that there are numerous new attractions for families to enjoy together. A new musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has opened in the West End, and a special promotion will be available throughout August for kids to attend London theaters and take part in activities. 

Courtesy of VisitBritain, here are a few suggestions for London and England alone. 

LONDON

Aspiring artists can attend the National Gallery’s Drawing Sunday, a weekly free event that gives youngsters an opportunity to create their own masterpieces using a supply of coloring pencils, paper and glue. There's also the Natural History Museum, which has a terrific dinosaur gallery.

Disney’s Peter Pan is being re-released in the USA in 2013. To get in the spirit of J.M. Barrie's classic, visit the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens (pictured), the location where the author first met the eldest three Llewelyn Davis boys (George, Jack and Peter) who inspired the story.

Even the smallest child will feel the world is at his or her feet on a visit to View from the Shard, which opened at the top of the tallest building in Western Europe, earlier this year.

Hamleys in Regent Street, one of the most iconic stores in the world (they have been selling toys for more than 250 years, more than a hundred years longer than FAO Schwartz), is also a must-visit for families looking for any and every kind of toy. 

ENGLAND

Harry Potter fans will want to visit the Warner Bros. / Harry Potter Studio Tour, which brings families behind-the-scenes at the studio where the films were created to see many things the camera never showed. Located at Leavesden, just outside of London, the studio tour opened in March 2012 http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/?gclid=CPze-M3ourcCFXLLtAod33sAlQ

At the Roald Dahl Museum (in the author’s home village), kids and adults alike are encouraged to dress up as Roald Dahl characters and create their own stories. Free story-telling sessions take place outside – or in Miss Honey’s classroom if it rains 

Winnie the Pooh is one of the world’s most famous bears, and in the Ashford Forest south of London, families can play at Pooh Sticks on a bridge near where the author, A. A. Milne, lived – as well as visiting a Pooh-themed shop and tearoom. There is even a Pooh Sticks World Championship, held this year in October, beside the Thames in Oxfordshire. 

Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Tiggy-winkle and Jemima Puddleduck were all created by Beatrix Potter, who drew inspiration from the wildlife of the Lake District. Fans of her tales should visit the World of Beatrix Potter Attractions to see Peter’s Garden and Mrs Tiggy-winkle’s kitchen.

Dinosaur fans (in other words, every child aged 12 and under) should head across the Solent (a strait separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England) to and search for prehistoric remains on the isle. The beaches circling ‘Dinosaur Island’ are a treasure trove for amateur and professional paleontologists alike. Families can take a guided tour with ‘The Fossil Man.’ 

With 100 locomotives under one roof, the National Railway Museum in York is home to the Hogwarts Express (the train used in the Harry Potter films) and the Art Deco Duchess of Hamilton. Good to know: 2013 also marks the 150th anniversary of steam and the first London Tube journey. 

The Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth, which opened earlier this year, is a £56 million heritage project bringing the ship’s hull and many of the 19,000 artifacts that were raised with her together again. Housed in Portsmouth’s historic dockyards, the interactive museum is a fascinating look at everyday life on board this magnificent ship from almost 500 years ago. There will be lots of free activities for families including child-friendly artifact handling and costumed interpreters for the youngest guests. 

 

Photo of Kensington Gardens courtesy of Jenny Rollo.

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