London is a beautiful city and today as I walked around it, I realized I should share some helpful tidbits we've learned about how to be successful at taking your kids with you around London (or another big city). We've done it a few times now and it was a lot of fun, since we followed a few guidelines.
First, we make a rule in any city to not "do too much in one day." This could mean one thing for your family and another for ours, but to us, that means "two major sight seeing spots" per day. For example, one year in London we spent a day going to the National Gallery museum, then hit up a park for almost two hours, then walked around Buckingham Palace and the area around it. The kids had walked and been pretty good that far, so we called it a day and nobody was cranky or tired or overdone. Plus, usually on your way to the major sight seeing spots you see lots of cool little things.
Second, the City Walks for kids series is invaluable. These are a set of about 50 cards with ideas on where to walk and what to see with your kids, plus a map. They love sorting through and ranking what they are interested in, as well as using that little map to help us get around. Some days we allow them to pick 2 cards, others 3 because they are close to one another, and sometimes one :) Thanks to our friends Rebecca and Greg for this helpful tip, as well as the next one on the list.
Third, don't be afraid you are "wasting time" by seeking out playgrounds to get the wiggles out. Some of our kids' fondest memories are playing with little friends who speak all kinds of different languages, but still have a great time pretending and playing. In London there are several quite good ones but so far the best has been the Adventure Playground in Battersea Park. Even I had a tremendously fun time playing there.
Last, this one serves as a reminder for me: Suck it up and take some danged water bottles and a few snacks. A hangry kid equals a miserable family!
A few bonus "big hits" in London for kids:
The British Museum (they had an incredible mummy exhibit when we went
The Science Museum (had to rip them away from this one)
and the Natural History Museum (another huge hit with their check-out-able discovery kits.)
To confuse you, here are some pictures from Hong Kong.