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Thames London Eye River Cruise infront of the London Eye

Outnumbered? London Family Attractions

School holidays are looming large and if you’re looking for ideas to keep your little, or not so little, darlings amused here are some tried and tested top family attractions in London.

So what if you’re not taking them to a theme park this year? London is one big interactive theme park crammed with things to do for all ages and just a little pre-planning can go a long way to make your family trip to London a memorable one!

London Bus Tours

Even if you live in London or have visited before, it’s fun to play the tourist on an open topped double-decker sightseeing bus tour. First maybe do the entire round trip and have everyone note down the attractions they’d like to see most then take advantage of the 24 hour hop-on/off facility to visit the chosen ones.

There are also themed bus trips like the Harry Potter Film and Movie Tour and the Ghost Bus Tour which are understandably very popular with children.

Harry Potter Hogwarts express

Madame Tussauds London

There’s someone for everyone at Madame Tussauds!

Kids can have their photo taken with their favourite pop stars and sporting heroes and even help fight the “baddies” in the Marvel Super Heroes 4D experience.

One Direction, Rihanna, Usain Bolt and Lionel Messi are all waiting to greet you as well as HM the Queen! Over 12’s can go on the Scream scare tour in the Chamber of Horrors and all the family can take part in the Spirit of London time travelling taxi ride.

London Dungeons

Is it possible to die laughing? The performers at the London Dungeon do their utmost to test that theory!

Now at its new home in the underground vaults of the County Hall building, the London Dungeon is more ghostly, ghastly and horrible than ever.

From 27th July to 1st September the resident Dark Jester is challenging guests to a “joke-off” competition –  the teller of the best (or worst!) joke can win free entry!  After the descent in the leper lift, you will hear a strangely familiar angry voice boom out, sending you to your doom. Oh no! It’s Brian Blessed! As if there wasn’t enough, torture, murder and mayhem to contend with he plays Henry VIII, as a 3D “talking head”.

Older children will love this journey through London’s murky past but, be-warned, it’s probably a bit to “interactive” for the under 10’s.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not London

The intrepid traveller and collector of bizarre and peculiar artefacts, Robert Ripley, was certainly in touch with his inner child. The publishing of his book “Believe it or not” sparked interest in the weird and wonderful objects he had collected from across the globe and today there are 33 Ripley Believe It Or Not “Odditoriums” worldwide. Centrally located near Piccadilly Circus, the London exhibition spans 6 floors and is home to over 700 “oddities” great and small, from shrunken heads to a full sized knitted Ferrari.

There are also performers to entertain you, hand-picked for their weirdness – a contortionist, knife juggler, escapologist and a man who hammers nails up his nose just for fun! ( Please don’t try this at home, kids!)

You can tell the children to get lost in the Mirror Maze,  send them on the ‘beat the clock’ Laserace challenge, or let them laugh at your efforts to get through the Black Hole rotating vortex tunnel where the balance of your mind will be truly disturbed – as if it wasn’t enough already!

Ripley's

London Zoo

If you have younger children, and want to do something more traditional, the zoo at Regent’s Park is always a winner. For the “ahh” factor, see the zoo’s new arrivals – two cute baby meerkats and a baby colobus monkey were born in April, and Adi the baby tapir made his debut at the end of June.

A new silverback gorilla, Kumbuka, has been brought in to mate with the three female gorillas and he’s proved himself to be a bit of a celebrity!

The keepers at ZSL London Zoo can predict the coming of warmer weather through the  behaviour of the penguins on Penguin Beach as whilst humans are keen to lose weight for their summer holidays, penguins prefer to gain it prior to summer moulting. The good news is the penguins are now getting fat!

Whipsnade tiger

London SeaLife Aquarium

Another favourite family venue, London SeaLife Aquarium, is home to over 500 species in 14 themed zones.

Most kids become fascinated by sharks after they’ve moved on from their dinosaur obsession, and there are plenty at SeaLife London to grab their attention. As well as the usual underwater tunnel there is a new extended glass walkway above a tank containing a shoal of 16 sharks in Shark Reef Encounter – as close as you can get without actually getting wet!

There are also many beautiful smaller creatures to wonder at too, like jellyfish, starfish and seahorses, and you can be sure of always finding a “Nemo” or two! Antarctic conditions have been recreated to make the family of Gentoo penguins feel at home in the Penguin Ice Adventure zone – it’s fff-freezing!.

We all know that feeding times are entertaining too, particularly if piranhas are involved, and there are educational talks and displays  to interest your budding marine biologists.

London Sealife Centre penguins

Look down on London town!

Paris has its Eiffel Tower and its Montparnasse building, London has the EDF Energy London Eye and The Shard!

London Eye

The 135 metre observation wheel, the London Eye, turns slowly – a complete revolution taking around 30 minutes – and each capsule can hold up to 25 people.

Fast track tickets are available, but if you do have to wait there is a 4D film to keep you entertained at ground level. The 360’ views of London’s famous landmarks allowing up to 25 miles on a clear day are amazing, and it’s worth going twice, once in the daytime, and again at sunset, to see the city light up for the night. Take that, Paris!

The Shard

At 310 metre high The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe and over twice as high as The Eye.

The view from the Shard observation platforms on floors 68, 69 and 72 offer the most spectacular views ever over the city. A high speed lift will zoom you up to the 69th floor where you will have a 360’ view of the city and can use digital telescopes with large interactive touch screens to help you identify famous and not so well known landmarks.

For both the Eye and the Shard it is recommended to book in advance to avoid queues or to benefit from competitively priced combination tickets to save money.

Also, maybe check out the weather forecast, after all you can see plenty clouds on any airline flight!

The Shard

Theatre

It’s school holidays so the kids can stay up past their bedtime, right?

Why not, as part of a full London experience, treat them to a West End show like the Lion King, Peter Pan or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

There are plenty of theatre, music and dance shows that will appeal to older kids and their parents too and you can save up to 60% by booking in advance, or even take advantage of special dinner and show package offers to make it a big family night out!

Kate Quigley

Kate Quigley Travel Writer