School’s out soon and that means kids everywhere. But, as the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em WORDS: Trevor Paddenburg
So, the summer school holidays are just around the corner and you’re jealous of all those kids who get the best of the summer off. But you don’t have to sit on the sidelines and let them have all the fun.
Dump your school books, stick a lollipop in your mouth and venture out in the capital, where finding kiddie kicks for the young at heart is easy as, well … child’s play.
Just for fun
Relive your school days as a back-seat bandit with an open-top Big Bus Tour (bigbustours.com) or Original Bus Tour (theoriginaltour.com) rides covering London’s major sights.
Or, for sightseeing the wacky way, board the Ducktours (londonducktours.co.uk) amphibious bus for a tour that cruises the streets before taking to the Thames.
Take a detour to Hamleys on Regent Street – London’s best toy store is a kiddie wonderland complete with fancy dress characters wandering the aisles.
For a big-top fix, head for the Circus Space circus school (thecircusspace.co.uk) for courses in juggling, acrobatics and trapeze.
wild days out
If you’re a big kid who loves a rush, head to Thorpe Park (thorpepark.com), London’s roller-coaster realm. For a theme park that’s a little more sedate, child-friendly Chessington World of Adventures (chessington.com) is a good bet.
For some animal antics, get along to London Zoo (zsl.org) in Regent’s Park to gaze at gorillas and penguins, or be dazzled by marine life at London Aquarium (londonaquarium.co.uk).
Squarely aimed at kids, Battersea Park Children’s Zoo (batterseaparkzoo.co.uk) has mischievous monkeys, sheep you can feed and otters to admire.
And Mudchute Park and Farm (mudchute.org) is a great place to spend a day, with a riding school and environment centre. For more green spaces in London see page 16.
For animals on a grander scale, hit Crystal Palace Park (crystalpalacepark.org) and track down the giant dinosaur sculptures that lurk near the lake.
If seeing a T-Rex up close is more your style, try the Natural History Museum (nhm.ac.uk). And if prehistoric creatures are really your thing, also check out the Walking With Dinosaurs extravaganza at the O2 Arena from August 5-9. (dinosaurlive.com).
Don’t fret if it’s wet
If the weather’s a washout, duck into the Ragged School Museum (raggedschoolmuseum.org.uk) to see role plays highlighting how London’s East End urchins lived a century ago.
Or try the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood (vam.ac.uk/moc) for a Roald Dahl exhibition until September 6.
Madame Tussauds (madametussauds.com/london), The Clink Prison Museum (clink.co.uk) and The London Dungeon (thedungeons.com) are touristy as hell, but good for a naff laugh.
Laughs and learning
The Science Museum (sciencemuseum.org.uk) is a great place to spend a few hours – hey, you might even learn something.
For after-dark fun, camp out in Kew Gardens, where you can learn about the wild, spot a few nocturnal critters and toast marshmallows over a fire (kew.org/events/sleepover).
Sweet as can be
One of the best things about being a kid is devouring truckloads of lollies.
Pop into Mrs Kibble’s Olde Sweet Shoppe (57a Brewer Street, W1F 9UL) for deliciously ghoulish white chocolate maggots, or Hope & Greenwood (hopeandgreenwood.co.uk) for sour sherbets and acid drops to die for.
There’s also decadent chocolate house Melt (meltchocolates.com) in Notting Hill, which offers courses in all things chocolate.
Screen and stage
Catch a new stage show of kids’ classic Peter Pan (visitlondon.com/peterpan) in Kensington Gardens until August 30, or take your pick of other stage hits such as Oliver! and The Lion King in the West End (whatsonstage.com).
Otherwise, retrace Harry Potter’s footsteps and take a train from King’s Cross station (if you can find Platform 93⁄4).