We may now have crossed over from summer into autumn, but don’t fret if you’re planning on visiting London in the coming weeks; we’ve not yet reached winter. And that means that, should you have the kids in tow, you’ll still be able to enjoy outdoor days out in the UK capital – as well as make the most of all its family-focused indoor venues on chillier, rainy days. Here are some fine examples…
ZSL London Zoo
At nearly 200 years-old now, it’s hardly surprising to learn that London Zoo, located as it always has been in the peacefully green environs of Regent’s Park, is the world’s oldest scientific zoo. It’s also one of its most respected and easily one of its most visited, being home to more than 700 different species (that’s in excess of 20,00 individual animals) and playing a critical role in conservation efforts across the globe. That said, perhaps its biggest draw for punters is its fantastic Land of the Lions enclosure; a state-of-the-art facility that serves as both a terrific opportunity to view magnificent Asiatic lions up close and part of a burgeoning breeding programme for these great beasts, of which only 400 exist in the wild today.
It’s all about activity at KidZania London, but also imagination. Sort of a giant, indoor play area equivalent of a Lego town (if you will), this venue to be found in the enormous Shepherd’s Bush-located Westfield shopping centre offers little ones the opportunity to discover their role-playing potential via 60 different play-activities in something of a child-sized cityscape. Handed 50 KidZos (the venue’s very own currency) on entry, they can roam about the place, ‘paying’ for activities (everything from would-be firefighting to fashion designing), food and drink or even banking their precious chips. In effect then, through play, children learn all about the realities and challenges of adulthood at KidZania – while having a fantastic play-day, of course. (Note: adults go free!)
A family-friendly attraction with a difference – in that it has a genuinely satisfying ‘edge’ – the London Dungeon’s something of a unique venue that straddles the line between fun and thrilling, silly and scary and entertaining and informative. Telling different tales of the darkest eras of the capital’s centuries-old history via an unbeatable combination of stunning special effects, live performance and interactive exhibits, it fills in visitors’ understanding of how the Plague, execution, torture and killing sprees by the likes of Jack the Ripper at one time or another were everyday mainstays beneath the surface of this most elegant and serene city; a place that, in fact, has been as violent, blood-thirsty and disease-ravaged as it has culturally, democratically and architecturally advanced. Kids, as any parent knows, love a bit of a fright now and again (so long as it’s on their terms and fun) and this place – not far at all from City of London accommodation like London City Suites or The Montcalm Brewery hotel on Chiswell Street London – is terrific at delivering just that… and much more besides.
SEA LIFE London Aquarium
In many ways, the supreme South Bank-situated London Aquarium is the sea life equivalent of London Zoo, possessing as it does more 10,000 creatures drawn from oceans around the world, while also being highly active in educational efforts and conservation programmes for endangered species. Yes, sharks, jellyfish, dolphins, octopuses, eels, sea turtles and all manner of weird and wonderful fish are the order of the day at this water-tank-packed paradise.