We just got back from a lovely city trip. 4 days in London and the weekend in Nottingham. It was a really busy week but so much fun and I really enjoyed it. Especially London. Looking back when we were booking it all, I would have booked longer in London than Nottingham. But anyway, let’s get into it!! Here’s what we did, the pros, the cons & the days out! 🙂 Things To Do In London with a toddler
Things To Do In London with a toddler
London & Nottingham trip October 2018
Where we stayed: Swiss Cottage SmartStay apartments. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos until we made a mess, lol and then every time we were in the apartment Eric had started to throw things around… not very photogenic! So here’s some photos from their website and it did look exactly like it:
Compared to 2 other London trips in the last 3 years, this was the best accommodation we have stayed in so far. I would 100% go back again, tomorrow, if I could. Before booking anything I was really cautious due to a bad experience last year in a horrible b&b. I knew that an apartment was what we needed, with kitchen facilities, but everything coming up was either too far out or over budget. I was able to find the Swiss Cottage smart stay apartments on booking.com, for 3 nights was £240 for a room with kitchen facilities. I must note this was for a double room; they either have double or single rooms for up to 3 people, but kids are free. Eric slept with us. I’m aware that isn’t suitable for everyone, but I don’t have experience otherwise. If you need a bigger apartment I did find all of these ones, too.
The photos looked really good and the apartments modern and clean. Plus the location was fantastic; right next door to Finchley Road tube station which is zone 2, on Jubilee and Metropolitan lines.
It did live up to my expectations if not better. We used to live in London as students. So in our past experience, we have viewed and rented a fair few bedsits/apartments before… and because of that I expected the same. But these rooms are much bigger, lighter, airer and cleaner than I thought they would be! It was such a pleasant surprise and really, really nice room. The room was equipped with double bed, TV, wardrobe, small dining table and a long work surface (probably same size as ours at home!) with fully equipped kitchen: washing machine, oven, microwave, kettle, etc. Pots, pan, plates, cutlery, towels were included. Daily housekeeping meant our beds were changed/made up every day when we were out and the room cleaned down; even washing up from breakfast we had left in the sink was washed up. I was really impressed.
It did have shared bathrooms but our room was only in the same area as 2 other rooms, and we had 2 bathrooms between all those 3 rooms. A toilet room with sink, then a separate bathroom with toilet, shower/bath and sink. Both bathrooms were really clean, modern and newly fitted; no complaints at all and I never had to wait for them to be free. I never heard any noise from other people staying in the apartments, it was clean, smelt really nice, felt safe and the key fob meant there was security on the front door, on our room door but also to the bathrooms, as well.
The location was fantastic, we really couldn’t have asked for better. The entrance to the apartments, through a small door is next door to a really nice bakery (you get 20% off if you’re staying in smartstay). Then 3 doors down from that, passing a fruit & veg market is the tube station Finchley Road. Jubilee line has a lot of level-access platforms and lifts, half of the line is all wheelchair friendly meaning we took the pram with us no problem.
I must note that the apartments are not wheelchair or disabled friendly as there is no lift. We had the pram with us and were on the second floor, meaning we had to carry it up/down with us or fold it up. It was not the end of the world as we have stayed in lots of hotels, hostels etc with no lifts but it is important to note.
We arrived in London mid day from Sheffield (best prices with trains are super off peak after 10:30am). Fun started straight away! As we had the pram with us and didn’t want to fold it down and carry all the extra luggage, we caught a bus from Kings Cross to Coram’s Fields instead of tube. Coram’s Fields is a playground/private park near Covent Garden and Russel square, which you can only go in if you have children.
It’s a big space with a variety of different play areas, sand pits, slides, swings, toilets. It looked like they had craft/baby and toddler groups on throughout the week and splash in the warmer months, too. I was really impressed with it especially as it was right in central London.
It’s only a short walk from Coram’s Fields to Covent Garden. It was a little late in the day at that point to catch any good street entertainers so we went straight to the London Transport Museum. Traveling on the train to London means you can get 2for 1 London attraction tickets with national rail; this saved us money on tickets. I have to say though, the tickets for the London Transport Museum are over priced.
Things To Do In London with a toddler – London Transport Museum
Maybe we are just lucky that we go to so many fantastic and free museums… but I was really not impressed with the costs. It’s £17.50 an adult so with the 2 for 1 we paid £17.50 for both, Eric was free. Under 18’s are free. Great that under 18’s are free yes but £17.50 for a museum is a lot.
The museum is interactive. Buses to sit on, wheels to touch, vehicles to have photos with. We were there just about an hour. On the top galleries is some historical information, horse and carriages, boards to learn about the development of the London Underground. A little train goes around on a track above the gallery downstairs which is fun, Eric liked seeing that.
The downstairs room/gallery is definitely the most family friendly. There is a play area with a double decker red play bus to go in, dress up, train set, play shop, etc which is lovely to see but was far too busy to play in for us. In this part of the museum are some vehicles such as a taxi and old London buses. A reading corner with sofas. Then we left… via the shop.
The ticket does include an annual pass. If I was in London again in the next 12 months, on my own with Eric (as we only got 1 annual pass with the 2for1) and was absolutely desperate for something to do (yet there’s so many other things to do free) possibly I would go back. But unless I was an absolute transport museum fanatic I wouldn’t pay £17.50 when there are so many other free museums in London. If you’ve everything, though and don’t mind paying, you might really enjoy it.
The annual pass does sound good but realistically how many people who are on their travels, visiting London perhaps for the first time and even from abroad are going to use an annual pass? The option of a cheaper price without an annual pass would be good.
We are a big fan of transport museums. I recommend the National Railway Museum in York (free), MSI Museum Manchester (free), South Yorkshire Transport Museum in Rotherham, Streetlife Museum in Hull (free) and Museum of Transport in Manchester (we’ve never been, but I want to).
The time was getting on after the museum. We eat at a really yummy place: Eat By Chloe, it’s 100% plant based, very trendy. They had high chairs and colouring but I wouldn’t particularly say it was very child friendly; as in the tables are close together, there isn’t much space and it’s super trendy! Not really the place for a toddler who wants to play/wander about, lol, but we made it work. The food was amazing. Probably the best I ate whilst in London.
Things To Do In London with a toddler – National Army Museum
Tuesday morning was National Army Museum near Sloane Square. The museum is free and has a kids play area; this you have to book and isn’t free. I found this whilst doing some research about things to do in London before the trip. I think the play area used to be free but it isn’t anymore.
The museum is interactive for kids and it was very, very quiet. We were the only ones exploring the museum so Eric just ran around everywhere. There are some tanks to look at and sit inside, dressing up, interactive things for children to press, sketching, drawers to open, costumes to look at… actually, yes it was good. It was free and we did about 45 minutes of the galleries before it was time for our time slot at the play area.
Chelsea Psychic Gardens
… is right next to the National Army Museum. I love pretty gardens! Chelsea Psychic Gardens is a “…four acre physic garden, the term here referring to the science of healing, is among the oldest botanical gardens in Britain”.
- The Garden of Medicinal Plants
- The Pharmaceutical Garden, with plants arranged according to the ailment they are used to treat
- The Garden of World Medicine, with medicinal plants arranged by the culture which uses them
- The Garden of Edible and Useful Plants
- The World Woodland Garden
Was it amazing? It was really good, yes. So much lovely stuff to look at and a wonderful place to take photos. We took so many I’ll have to put them in a separate post. The 4 acres seemed bigger, with all the twists and turns. Different types of gardens and their themes, lots of interesting plants, flowers and edible fruits and veg. I loved the garden with materials hung out to feel them, different types of materials from natural fibres and plants. It was all very special and Eric loved exploring it.
He was really tired at this point so we didn’t get as much time as we wanted to but I would definitely go back here. There’s 2 for 1 national rail vouchers, too. Next time I want to spend longer and visit the cafe. Please have a look at all the photos from Chelsea psychic gardens when I publish a separate review, there’s just too many to put in this post!
The gardens were sooo peaceful and the weather really sunny. Just the right weather for the next thing on our itinerary…
In Fenchurch, the Sky Garden is a huge glass dome with three storeys of landscaped gardens inside. The rooftop terrace, gardens and restaurant/bars is open to the public. To visit you just book a slot online. I did this a week before we went and there were lots of slots available. However a few days after I booked I tried to change the slot and couldn’t as it was all full. You can only book 1 weeks in advance with 2 sessions of “walk ins” available each week (all of the website here). Slots were available throughout the day and I was wondering if it would be strict with timings, etc but it wasn’t at all. It does say on the website there is a 1 hour limit but I didn’t see anyone checking tickets, it was very relaxed and I’m sure we were there just over an hour. Maybe even longer!
The building is really impressive and the restaurant/sky garden part you visit as right at the very top. Visitors have to show tickets on arrival and then go through security (like being at an airport) which is a bit chaotic. On this day we didn’t have the pram although there were a few pushchairs once up there.
The time slots are just to stagger visitors, it’s not a tour or strict timings. The slots work brilliantly because it means that visitors are spread out throughout the day and with people always leaving/arriving it wasn’t busy.
Eric loved it up there; the views were spectacular. The open terrace is amazing for views of London and photos. This sort of view is what you would pay for at an attraction, so absolutely fantastic that it’s free. The glass dome all around the building means the entire Sky Garden has the most amazing backdrop of London.
Bars and restaurants are available, lots of seating areas and a big wooden seating area against glass windows to relax on. Wide stairs go right up to the top level of the Sky Garden, at each stop places to sit amongst the plants and good views. Everyone was taking photos. It’s very unique. I would definitely recommend it.
Sky Garden is near South bank at Monument station. We decided to get a bus to south bank instead of the busy tubes, plus I wanted to catch a bus that drove over a bridge! This trip we definitely took more buses than we usually have. On previous holidays in London it’s been all about the tubes, but this time buses were actually fun! I loved watching everything go by, people watching and seeing all the sights and attractions. It’s a little bit like a poor mans tour bus, lol.
Dinner was at Pizza Express, South Bank. After a look around to see the London Eye and a play in Jubilee Gardens. You can’t go wrong with a pizza express. The fun didn’t end here, either! After dinner, we caught a bus to Hamleys!! It worked perfectly as there was a bus right from Waterloo bridge to Hamleys. It was dark by this point and the bus went past many attractions/land marks such as St Paul’s, Pall Mall and Piccadilly Circus. It was really nice to see all of this go past.
Hamleys is quite good, I have to admit. We’ve been before but Eric is now at the perfect age to fully enjoy and love toy shops… what kids doesn’t… and hamleys is the best. I didn’t notice just how many play areas there are in the store… train tables, lego area has loads of lego and seating with boards and blocks, play kitchen, demos of robots and remote controls. Honestly, Eric could probably have been there all night! We bought him a new lego box for his birthday (at the end of this month).
Princess Diana Memorial Playground
The morning started soooo sunny and hot! The papers in London reporting that I was the hottest October in seven years and could reach 25 degrees at lunch time. With that in mind we were up, out and on our way to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Hyde Park. We got the tube to Queensway.
This playground is just fantastic! It’s free, gated and has security. Visitors have to be with a child to gain access. It’s clean, safe and has awesome playground equipment. Including a huge wooden pirate ship, sandpits, multiple sections separately with paths intertwining them, water play, music garden, swings, wooden houses and more. The ice cream kiosk was lovely.
The weather was just perfect for this day. I can’t believe on a day in October it was actually hot. Kids had their clothes off and were enjoying splashing in the water. We enjoyed a picnic on the grass next to the pirate ship. It was a lovely morning and afternoon, Eric fell asleep right as we left.
Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum and Science Museum were on our lists for the second half of the day. Eric ended up having a really long nap though, whilst me and Ollie sat out al-fresco on the streets of south Kensington. I love the atmosphere there. It was gone 4:30 when we woke so by the time we got stuck in at Natural History Museum, Science Museum was due to close. This sucked because we didn’t have any other time to go there… Thursday, the day after and our last day, was already planned up.
The dinosaurs at Natural History Museum were fantastic, though, Eric couldn’t keep his eyes off the big T-Rex. The dinosaur shop was brilliant, too. The museum is free and huge. A lovely building. I highly recommend it. We have been many times before and I’ve even worked there before – but it never gets old to be there.
A quick look around the museum after the dinosaur gallery and it was closing! We jumped on a bus to Soho, finding somewhere to eat on Carnaby Street: The Diner. It was busy, loud, but they were so accommodating with us and it was very family friendly. The food yummy and the price not so bad for central London.
Last day 🙁 I really wish we had booked more nights in London… I didn’t want to leave and felt we had so much still to do. Completely different from our trip last year where we booked 2 weeks in London, hated our accommodation and didn’t have a very good time because of that, 3 days were spent in Brighton in an air b&b!
But anyway, on the last day we started with a river boat from Westminster. I’ve never, ever got a river boat before in London despite all those years living there and I’m surprised I haven’t! It was so fun and I really recommend it!
There’s a variety of options with routes, types of boat, cruise, tour boat etc but we just opted with the cheapest and easiest to get on; thames clipper. Thames Clipper is the basic river boat which anyone can go on, it isn’t a tour, and you pay for it just like any London bus or underground with oyster or contactless payment.
It was really exciting to find the pier, locate the river boat service we needed and headed down to board it. Friendly staff helped us buy a ticket that combined the river boat and the emirates airline cable car which saved us £3 if doing it via single journeys with contactless payment.
The route Westminster – North Greenwich took about… 45 minutes. It was fun, not very busy and it goes very fast at some point. Passing all the sights along the thames is great. My highlight was definitely going under Tower Bridge. It’s a cool way of seeing London from a different perspective and a fun way of getting around.
Eric found it fun… he fell asleep!
Once at North Greenwich, there’s the O2 Arena so we had lunch there. There’s lots and lots of restaurants inside. The Emirates Cable Car is at North Greenwich, too, so we did that after. Eric loves cable cars. It was so fun! This is also something I’ve never done before in London. I did like it, but it is a little bit random.
The cable car, basically, takes you across the Thames from North Greenwich > Royal Docks. At Royal Docks there is nothing to do. Some boats to look at, grassy areas and you could walk to the Thames Barrier with a little park there but it was quite a distance from where we were, on a strict time scale. So pretty much, we jumped back on the cable car and back to North Greenwich.
There’s lots to spot in the cable car. Planes from London City Airport fly right above the cable cars, impressive for a toddler! Down below, there’s lots of boats and building works with diggers to see.
From there we made it to Kings Cross St Pancras for our train to Nottingham. This part of the journey was not great at all. A delayed train, which then broke down at kettering! 🙁
The weather really turned in Nottingham. Goodbye sun, hello wind and rain!
Things To Do In Nottingham with a toddler – White Post Farm
Friday our big day out was to White Post Farm. We’ve been before but years ago – so Eric was really little and didn’t get much out of it, compared to now. It was very rainy but I remembered some indoor areas so hoped we would still have things to do. It cost £31 for us all; £41 with £11 travel from Nottingham on top. Definitely a treat. It was a good day but the place is very run down and dirty in some areas, so for that I wasn’t impressed for the price.
I’m not sure if it’s just as we go to so many places or I’m lucky to have so many days out close to home that are clean and have good upkeep, compared to places like white post farm. I was really disappointed with certain areas such as the indoor play. The carpets were filthy, painting coming off, it all looked very tired and old. In the play shed areas, toys were broken or missing. It was very messy and not looked after. We were the only ones there, and even had staff comment that “we had the place to ourselves” so it being busy isn’t an excuse.
I did like the variety of outdoor play; the go karts, den building, sand pits, trampoline and playgrounds. There is a lot of animals! Lots and lots. A really good farm trail with lots of animals to see. The reptile house is big with lots of different types of animals to see indoors, and a large indoor picnic area. We did manage to be there all day and it was very quiet.
Robin Hood Wheegate theme park
This is somewhere we have been before a few times. Every January wheel gate sell cheap £7 flash / January sale tickets, so we snapped those up. Similar to white post farm but not as bad; the whole place was very dirty, run down and many parts closed on a weekend event day.
The tropical house was filthy, with parts of the ponds had midgets, rubbish floating in the water and no animals in the enclosures (probably a good thing). There looks to be no money going into improvements, or cleaning of the place, and I’m not even picky: it was just bad. The little model village is run down, half of it closed off. Soft play areas dirty. Toilets not great, either, and no hand towels for the farm washing facilities. It was a real disappointment. They really need to put money into the place.
Both places we got to on the Sherwood Arrow bus; a really handy route from Nottingham to Worksop, via Wheelgate/White post farm, Sherwood Forest, Rufford Abbey and Worksop. A family costs £11.
I would much rather pay to go to Tropical Butterfly House, Piglets Adventure Farm, Chatsworth House farmyard/playgrounds, Web Adventure, Heights of Abraham, Thinktank museum, or Sundown Adventureland.
In Nottingham we stayed at Igloo backpackers hostel. This is somewhere we have stayed many times and will always go back to. A lovely little independent hostel with very friendly staff, clean private rooms (and big enough for families) of all sizes and good location.
The weather did not improve and sadly that changed the end of our trip; boohoo. Sunday was the last day with plans to go to Lincoln, but we slept in so by the time we checked out and had breakfast it was already 11pm! The weather was very windy, very wet and rainy. It didn’t seem worth it to pay for trains to Lincoln and go to the castle, in the rain, not getting the best experience. I really want to walk the castle walls and take some lovely photos… so we gave it a miss. Maybe next time?