If you are looking for an add-on or two to your London visit, check out some of our favorite options below for day trips from London.
Hampton Court Palace is located about 45 minutes from central London and is best known as the residences of notorious King Henry VIII. While the stories of Henry’s extravagance and six ex-wives are interesting enough on their own, I was really impressed with how well the palace has been organized for touring families. There are 3 cafés, buggy parks, beautiful gardens, tons of organized activities, a chocolate kitchen and the very popular maze!
As you explore each part of the palace (and there are many, so take your time), you will find information in varying formats: video, print, and booklets for those seeking a deeper look. So depending of the age and interest level of your children, you can spend little or a lot of time in each area. On weekends, you will also find live performances scattered through the various parts of the palace, which I thought were just marvelous!At the information center, you can find a map and formal activities set up for kids, and the even get to wear a robe if they do it all right!
Enjoy a quick meal at the Privy Kitchen Cafe or a longer, more rested one at the Tiltyard Cafe (recommended). When you are done eating, let the kids have a run in the beautiful gardens and find their way around the maze (my kids didn’t want to leave the maze – be careful, it’s easy to lose them there).
Combining history and fun, Hampton Court Palace is an easy and educational day trip from London with the kids!
The alternate residence of the Queen, Windsor Castle is about an hour’s journey from Central London and a pleasant day out. When you are done with the castle, stroll out the town, take a boat out on the Thames or consider a half day trip to Legoland (see below)!
It’s easiest to get to Windsor by train from Paddington station, which takes about 30 minutes, and includes one change at Slough. Trains run every 20 minutes and involves hopping over to the next platform to take a 6 minute train to Windsor.
Note: Get on the train as soon as the platform is announced to get a seat.
There is also a direct train from Waterloo to Windsor which takes a bit longer but doesn’t require you to change. The train station is just at the base of the castle walls and in a shopping center should you need a snack or a baby change.
Windsor Castle is extremely well organized. Tour groups have a separate entrance so they don’t clog up the lines for smaller groups. You can buy family tickets (kids under 5 are free) and senior tickets if grandma is coming along. You will need to go through security and then collect your audioguide, which is included in the price of the ticket.
At 11 am every morning except for Sundays you can watch the changing of the guards, with the parade coming down High Street and going up into the castle. If you have watched them from the street and have your ticket, rush back in so you can watch the actual swap.
The castle grounds are huge, with four main attractions:
- St. George’s Cathedral – At the far end of the castle, this Cathedral is second in importance only to Westminister Abbey for the monarchy, being the final resting place of significants such as the Queen Mother and King Henry VIII. If you use the audioguide and pay attention to all the details, the Cathedral itself could take you an hour. The architecture and décor is beautiful and has remained largely intact over the past 500 years. My son was particularly interested in the information on the Order of the Garter, England’s oldest Knighthood.
- Queen Mary’s Dollhouse –This dollhouse was built for Queen Mary who had a thing for collecting miniatures. The house was designed to be less of a plaything, but more of a tribute to the architecture and style of the time. Prominent artists donated miniatures of their masterpieces: a piano, or an oil painting, or a chair and the attention to detail is simply mind-boggling. There is an additional line for this sight, but don’t let it put you off, it’s worth it and moves quickly. Try not to rush through and it will take you about 20 minutes.
- The Drawings Gallery: Older kids will be interested in this more than the younger ones as it exhibits documents of importance either due to their age or significance, like the original deed to Buckingham House (later to become Buckingham Palace) for 29,000GBP.
- The State Apartments: The State Apartments are interesting because some of the rooms are still used for royal and state occasions today. Enjoy the grandeur of the monarchy and the trivia provided by the audioguide. Total time is about an hour.
Note: strollers are not permitted in the Doll House, Drawings Gallery and State Apartments. You will be directed to a cloakroom where you can deposit your stroller for free.
The Windsor Castle website offers suggestions for how to make the most of your visit with kids.
Food and Facilities:
There are well-designated toilets and changing facilities around the castle. You can grab water or a quick snack in one of the three stores on the property. As soon as you exit the castle walls, there are a host of restaurants and cafes to feed your fancy. If you are feeling adventurous, walk towards the water and enjoy a sandwich overlooking the Thames.
3. Paulton’s Park and Peppa Pig World
All self-respecting toddlers in Europe have a Peppa Pig obsession. We made the 90 minute trek to Paulton’s Park, home of Peppa Pig World for my daughter’s 3rd birthday and were not disappointed, and we were just in time as she will outgrow it in 6 months. The rides are very cute and perfect for little ones, but the lines can be quite long. True enthusiasts can to meet Peppa Pig and take a few funny photos. You must also stop at the Peppa Pig Toy shop and stock up on your PP merchandise for a year! Even Granny Pig got an apron!
Luckily, there are rides in the rest of the park to entertain the older kids. Ride roller coasters, try your hand at a few games, or let the kids run around in one of the multiple play areas. (There is also an indoor area in Peppa Pig World).
Paulton’s Park is perfect for a family with children between the ages of 2 and 12. My 5 year old could ride most of the ride, including the coasters (must be one meter high)
Tip: If you are celebrating a birthday, the toy shop with give you a badge to let everyone know!
Tip: If it’s a hot day, wear your swimmies and splash around in PPW’s Muddy Puddles and Water Kingdom.
The global franchise is set up an hour’s drive from London and is a great day trip for the family. The lines can be long so make sure to download the app and to buy tickets online at least 48 hours before for some cost savings. On a warm day you can enjoy the water play area and older kids will definitely want to spend an hour or more in the Star Wars area. Of course, you can also visit the Queen over at Windsor Castle!