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London & the South-East

Please let me know of any free or good value outings you find...

In the meantime, here's the list so far...

  •     London can be very expensive if you "do" the sights like the Tower, the London Dungeon, Madam T's and so forth. And don't ever buy ice-creams from pavement vendors no matter how hard the kids whinge. But there are plenty of wonderful sights to see, and atmospheric walks, and even lots of things to do now that the big museums have thankfully returned to being FREE (some members of my family can spend all day in the Science Museum & have to be dragged out at closing time...) - take a picnic & plenty of drinks & you can enjoy the great city for almost nothing. A comment from Nathalie Soanes; "we go to the Science Museum, the Natural History museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum - they have some wonderful family activities and then the entertainers in Convent Garden are super fun. A family travelcard is a little as 4.60 and we can go everywhere on that."

  •      The parks are a great delight. St. James' is my favourite, with the lake & pelicans, pigeons to steal your sarnies and a short stroll to see the Mall & Buckingham Palace. There are sometimes bands at the bandstand. There are also lots of small local parks where there's room to kick a ball, fly a kite, watch the Tube & have a picnic - we used to live by one in West Harrow which kept smalls happy for hours on end. But if like us you've got used to country ways, remember to keep a close eye on your belongings.
    Nathalie Soanes pointed out that "nobody has mentioned Princess Diana's playground in Hyde park, which is the most wonderful park I have ever been too - a pirate ship, lots of wonderfully imaginative playthings - lots of sand and water in the summer. It's all enclosed and there is a restaurant and toilets on site. My kids disappear for hours and as long as you stay in one place and they know the base its great. "

  •     The markets like Covent Garden, Portobello Road & even little Strutton Ground, are full of colour & fun - but a visit may not be cheap unless you're prepared to be hard-hearted!

  •     Nathalie Soanes writes " nobody has mentioned Princess Diana's playground in Hyde park which is the most wonderful park I have ever been too - a pirate ship, lots of wonderfully imaginative playthings - lots of sand and water in the summer. Its all enclosed and there is a restaurant and toilets on site. My kids disappear for hours and as long as you stay in one place and they know the base it's great."

  •     Anthony Clarkestone recommends the return boat trip between Greenwich and Westminster/Tower of London - "a very good day out. There are discounts for two adults and two children.Greenwich is great (well I come from the area so am probably biased). The Martime Mueseum and Royal Observatory are v. interesting. Less well known is the Planeterium (located near the Royal Observatory) - you need to check for the times of lectures, though. A trip on the DLR is also good fun."

  •     The Museum of The Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green is just seconds away from Bethnal Green underground station and is open from 10am - 5.50pm every day except Fridays with free admission. An exhibition marking 100 years of Teddy Bears opens at 1pm on Saturday 29th March and runs until the end of December.

  •     Natasha Vizard: "One of my family's favourite places to go in the summer is Tooting Bec Lido; of course you do need to rely on good weather, but if it is nice then this place is an ideal cheap day out. It has an olympic size pool with a shallow end of around 3 feet and there's also a fair size fun pool for babies and young children. The Lido is actually on Tooting Bec common which if you don't live too far from is worth a visit itself. The Lido costs 3.80 adults and 2.80 child, under 5s are free. There is a poolside cafe so you might want some extra money for that."

  •     Sandra Lenton tells us that "at Hadleigh near Southend in Essex there is a lovely old castle ruin called Hadleigh castle. It really is out of the way and a little hard to find but in the summer with a picnic and maybe if it is a little windy a couple of kites it really is great. It overlooks the estuary over towards Canvey Island and on a hot day gets a lovely breeze. The kids can play as there is greenery all around and that is it. Take plenty to drink as there is nothing there, not even a shop. My favorite place in summer for a really relaxing day!!"

  •     Alison had this to share with us:- "Had a great day yesterday at Ashridge Estate(National Trust)on the B4506 near Berkhamstead, Herts. It's FREE and a very beatiful woodland country estate.They have numerous woodland trails. We (numerous kids ranging from 4yrs to 12yrs.) spent a great day following the trails, looking for animals,birds,animal prints, flowers ,trees etc.armed with "I spy books". finished the day with a picnic, game of football and tarzan and jane....don't ask! Everyone had great fun and only costs......petrol money and a picnic."

  •     Anita recommends "Hayling Island Fun Fair - on the beach - they were doing 4 wristbands for 35; extra ones were 10 pounds each. The best thing was, my children, all six of them, (ages, 16, 13, 10, 8, 6, 3) were entertained, got wet, played on two pence machines, had candy floss, pic-nic, ice-creams and doughnuts from 11am til 5pm for less than 100. Now that may seem like a lot of money, but in my experience when you are looking for entertainment for six children and two adults, you will pay in excess of 150 for theme parks, without the trimmings!"

  •     Cathy Baldwin reports that "Rickmansworth aquadrome is a brilliant afternoon out, all for free, near Watford in Hertfordshire. Free parking, picnic tables, two reservoirs with water sports to watch ( not sure how you get involved), loads of ducks to feed, good for bikes and pushchairs, kids playground, grassy areas for football, snack shop and ice creams in summer. One picnic area is fenced off, so we can sit and have lunch while the kids play, knowing they can't go far. Also right on the canal, if older kids want a longer walk/bike ride along the tow path. Tesco's is right next door, if you need to stock up on supplies! We go all the time."

    Check out these sites for more advice :-

    The Museum Of Childhood at Bethnal Green.

    London For Free - places to go & sights to see. - things to do

    London Tourist Organisation - things to do & itineraries for walks

    LondonVisions - complete with pictures!

    (another) London For Free - includes churches & poet's houses.

    Families Online - child-friendly write-ups from this family-centered site - mentions Heathrow Airport, which was a source of great delight when our boys were small & we lived up there.


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Copyright: Angela Corbet, 2001.