One day in London with kids… who love animals
The biggest problem about a trip to London is narrowing down what you want to do – with its fantastic range of family attractions, as well as new options opening all the time, there’s never enough time to fit in everything.
Even when you live here… After spending almost all of the last two decades in London, and visiting as a child to stay with my grandparents who lived here, I’m still exploring the city’s sights myself.
So I’m starting a new series on the blog with some of the capital’s highlights, all focused around a theme – kids who love animals will start it off, but I’ll be covering history, art, transport and celebs among others. Let me know of any others you’d like included too!
For each, I’ll pick out the best ideas if you only have one day in London, with suggestions of how long you’ll need – and how much else you might fit in around them without too much frantic travel. The majority will be in the centre, but there are ideas if you’re staying or exploring outside zones one and two as well, along with suggestions for different budgets.
One day in London with kids who love animals
Don’t miss – ZSL London Zoo
The world’s third oldest zoo – after Vienna and Paris – it may not be a hidden gem, but it’s no less tempting for kids who love animals. With more than 750 different species and thousands of animals to discover, there are special areas for different habitats, from rainforest to penguin beach, as well as the land of the lions, gorilla kingdom, the chance to walk with lemurs plus reptiles and insects.
How long: At least half a day. The zoo covers 15 hectares, there are talks and feeding events, not to mention extra animal experiences to book, depending on the age of your kids. You can even stay overnight at the Gir Lion Lodges, as long as you’re aged five and above. There’s no re-entry, so plan ahead for lunch (you can take food in, but no alcohol or glass bottles) – or check out The Boathouse Cafe by Regent’s Park’s boating lake for posh pizza and ice cream.
Do: Download the app, which tells you what’s happening when on the day you visit. And allow time to walk from the nearest tube station – Camden Town and Regent’s Park are closest but still 15-20 minutes away. Or the 274 bus will take you to the doorstep from Baker Street and Marble Arch.
Budget? Adult tickets cost from £24.30 and child tickets (age three to 15) from £18 if you buy them online in advance. There are also fast track options to skip the queue, and family entry for £75.80 (two adults and two children). Entry is also included in the London pass.
If you’re visiting from the UK, you can get discounts with Tesco Clubcard vouchers. Or if you’re travelling to London by train, there are two for one offers.
For younger kids – Battersea Park Children’s Zoo
This little zoo is great for younger kids – less overwhelming, less far to walk and plenty of animals to delight (plus it’ll cost less than half as much as London Zoo). Don’t look for bigger creatures but there are monkeys and lemurs, wallabies, farm animals,birds, reptiles and assorted small furry things. There’s also an adventure playground to entertain – as well as the park itself, which is free.
How long? A couple of hours is plenty.
Do: Factor in extra time to get there. You can get trains from Victoria to Battersea Park Station near the south side of the park (the zoo is towards the northern edge), or pick up a bus from the north bank of the Thames at Sloane Square.
Budget? Tickets cost £9.50 for adults, £7.50 for children (age two to 15), with a family pass for £31.
For a rainy day – the Natural History Museum
Although none of the animals you’ll see here are alive (unless you visit the butterfly house outside during from March to September) there’s more than just dinosaurs to spot. The current occupant of the main Hintze Hall is the museum’s skeleton of a blue whale and the regular exhibitions cover different aspects of the natural world – currently there’s one on venomous creatures – not to mention the impressive mammals room, and weird and wonderful creatures in the marine collection.
How long? A couple of hours, although depending how much of the museum you’re planning to see, you could spend the whole day. It’s an easy half day visit though with a couple of other museums practically next door, Kensington Gardens nearby or you could also get to the South Bank in less than 15 minutes
Do: Check out my tips for visiting the Natural History Museum with kids.
Budget? Free to enter, although there’s a separate charge for the exhibitions.
For mini marine biologists – Sea Life London Aquarium
If it’s underwater creatures which fascinate your kids, London’s aquarium has one of Euope’s largest collections of global marine life. Three floors are home to 600 species including a section dedicated to jellyfish, a shark walk, penguins, coral reefs and a lot more. The Rainforest Adventure area reopens in March 2018..
How long? A visit takes around 90 minutes to two hours, although there are extra experiences including behind-the-scenes tours and snorkelling with sharks (for ages five plus).
Do: Turn up early… As visitors are funnelled along the same route, and as it’s a popular option during holidays, this is one place where it’s worth getting there bright and early. Tickets have timed entry, with 15-minute slots, so you’ll need to plan ahead – you can buy on the day for the next available slot, but they warn that you could face queues of over an hour to buy and time slots two hours ahead during busy periods.
Budget: Adult tickets cost from £20.40 online, £16.30 for kids (age three to 15) plus there is an Anytime Priority ticket if you want to skip the queues and would prefer to guarantee a day rather than a specific time.
For a bit of everything – Horniman Museum
If you can’t quite decide what your family will enjoy most, it’s worth looking outside central London to the Horniman Museum. With its own little aquarium, plus a natural history section (don’t miss the stuffed walrus), butterfly house and animal walk – home to alpacas, goats, sheep, guinea pigs, rabbits and chickens, it’s another lovely one for younger kids especially.
How long? Although the museum itself, and each area is relatively small, you can happily while away a few hours – we managed to spend five… As it’s outside the centre, it’s not really worth visiting for less than a couple of hours unless you’re nearby for another reason.
Do: Check out public transport links. There are trains to Forest Hill station from London Bridge and Victoria, which take 20-30 minutes, as well as overground trains. Buses stop even closer but few from central London – and plan for a much longer journey. You can pick up several buses from the museum to Crystal Palace Park with its dinosaur statues for a bonus animal encounter.
Budget: Entry to the museum is free, but you have to pay for the aquarium (£4 adults/£2.50 children) and butterfly house (£5.40 for adults and children, timed ticket).
Best of the rest – London with kids who love animals
- London’s City Farms: there are city farms dotted all around the capital, including Spitalfields, Vauxhall and Islington.
- WWT London Wetland Centre is home to two very cute otters as well as birds galore. It’s a little way from the centre though: take the bus from Hammersmith to Barnes. See our review.
- The Chelsea Physic Garden has animal-themed family activities including holding a pygmy hedgehog and hunting for mini beasts. It’s an easy one to team with the Battersea Park Children’s Zoo or the Natural History Museum.
- Spot 67,000 different specimens at Britain’s oldest natural history museum, The Grant Museum of Zoology – get hands on at the Explore Zoology sessions on selected Saturdays, to feel how sharp a shark’s tooth is or how heavy an elephant’s tusk. Otherwise, with its jar of moles and brain collection, it’s better for older kids than squeamish pre-schoolers.
Lunch with a twist – London with kids who love animals
If you want to extend the animal theme to the whole day, head to London’s Rainforest Café – yes it’s pricy and the animatronic animals ensure it’s as loud as it is memorable, but where else in London can you pretend you’re eating in the middle of the jungle? (Actually Piccadilly Circus)
Check out this review from Globalmouse Travels
Disclosure: Contains some affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a few pennies.
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Main image and lemur courtesy of Pixabay, all other images copyright MummyTravelsLIKED THIS? GET MORE ON FACEBOOK