With the summer weather here (sporadically but still!) many of us in the UK & Ireland are looking for some weekend breaks so that we don’t have to take time off work but can still explore somewhere new with our families. If this sounds like you, then have you considered London? Your first thought might be that it will be expensive for a family break, but we have some London holidays perfect for families that won’t break the bank – plus, we’re going to recommend some cheap or FREE activities to keep the kids entertained for the rest of your trip.
As the capital of the UK, there are so many different ways to get to London no matter where you call home in the British Isles. Flights tend to operate daily between the major airports, while train services can get you from many parts of England. Within the city, getting around is pretty straight forward with the London Underground tube system – and kids will love trying to figure out the maps!
So why head to London for your next weekend break? As a huge city, there are seemingly infinite activities to keep the whole family entertained but one of the most recent draws for many people is the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter just outside London, in Watford. While there isn’t any Hogwarts Express to get you there, trains head to Watford Junction from the centre of London regularly, and from the destination station there’s a bus (with return tickets for only £2.50) just for those travelling to the attraction! With the opportunity to see the authentic props and sets from the film series, it’s something that any muggle or wizard is sure to love. Throughout the year, the tour includes different special exhibitions – so you have plenty of reasons to head back again and again! I’ve been lucky enough to go twice and manage to see Hogwarts in the snow and the working Goblet of Fire (pretty cool!).
Having spent probably most of your day at the Studio Tour, you might want to use the other day of your weekend break exploring some of the free museums. Throughout London there are a bunch of museums that charge no entry and have enough in them to again keep the family amused for hours at a time. The main one you’ll have seen in The Mummy Returns is The British Museum. Take it from me – The British Museum is HUGE. I’ve been once and I’d guess I didn’t even see 50% of the exhibitions! If you’re going with children, their website offers free trails you can download to make the visit great fun and enables you to see the main attractions like the Rosetta Stone!
Other museums that offer free entrance include the National Maritime Museum, Science Museum (definitely worth a visit!), and Natural History Museum. If you’re looking for a classic museum experience for your family, then look no further than the Natural History Museum. With interactive galleries, and dinosaur skeletons, I can’t see anyone complaining that they’re bored during their time here (and again, you can download free trail activities for children!)
For children who are a bit older and love their celebrities then Madame Tussauds is well worth a visit. From Kim K & Kanye to some that the parents will appreciate (George Clooney, Angelina Jolie & Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia!), you’ll be star struck and finally be able to get that selfie with your favourites! There’s also a great black taxi ride through the history of London that sort of resembles It’s A Small World in Disneyland!
If you’re looking something special to take back home, then Harrod’s toy shop in the shopping hub of London should be on our hit-list for your weekend break. With five floors, there’s something for all ages and tastes (including adults!), and in the Lego section they change their models regularly (see below for a classic London scene I spotted on my last visit!). However, with Harrod’s great reputation for high quality toys, the price tag is also quite high for toys so be warned you may end up spending more than you’d hoped!
For something to do in the evening, West End theatre breaks can be fun for families with a range of shows on stage throughout the year. For younger children, The Lion King is a spectacle for everyone, while Charlie & the Chocolate Factory might be more to their tastes. As kids get a little older though they can enjoy the comedy and excellent story of Wicked (the prequel to The Wizard of Oz!).
It’s clear then that whatever your budget, London has plenty to do for the whole family if you’re planning a weekend activity break. By planning far ahead you’ll also be able to find cheaper flights, and work out an itinerary that lets you see all the sights you want to. Remember though, this is far from an extensive list – if you have recommendations, why not share them in the comment box below?