London with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

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London with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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London, England, is urban and hip, with history on every street corner and in every flower pot. It's where the bathroom is the "loo," where blood sausage is made, and where the Beatles reigned. The world's first underground railway is here, as well as one of the world's oldest surviving royal families. Whether you're exploring the Tower of London or the streets of Whitechapel, the history of the city will pull you back in time -- so watch out for "Jack" (the Ripper, that is)!


Morning


Try to pick a hotel near Hyde Park as they are traditional hotels that have been newly refurbished but have an old country flare. For an English breakfast, which is called a "fry up" and typically includes mushrooms, bacon, beans, eggs and blood or black pudding, try the Old English Coffee House at 1A Montrose Place, London, UK SW1X 7DU (+44 020 7235 3643).

After your original English breakfast, head on over to the Tower of London (Tower Hill, London, UK EC3N 4AB +44 020 3166 6000) Your tweens should get a kick out of the history -- and all the ravens (don't worry, they're tame). The history of the Tower is a dark part of London's history: Though it started as a fortress with William the Conqueror, Henry the VIII turned it into a prison and it was where Anne Boleyn was locked away before she was executed. Admission for adults is approximately $26.50 (£17) and $15.00 (£9.50) for children ages 5-16. The Tower of London is open at 9:30AM or 10AM depending on season and closes at 4:30PM during the winter and 5:30PM during the spring, summer and fall months.

The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (Buckingham Palace Rd., Pall Mall, London, UK SWIA 1A +44 020 7930 4832) is one of the most popular ceremonies to witness. It doesn't happen every day anymore so you will want to check the Web site for the dates it's taking place during your visit. From Buckingham Palace, you can easily walk to sights that include the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St James' Palace, 10 Downing Street, the Thames, Trafalgar Square and even the Hard Rock Cafe.

Afternoon


Speaking of the Hard Rock Cafe, it's a good place to stop and have lunch while you're in the neighborhood (150 Old Park Lane, London, UK W1K 1QZ +44 020 7514 1700). While the food is fairly traditional American steaks and burgers, the real attraction is all the rock 'n' roll nostalgia.

And now it's time for some culture. The British Museum (Great Russell Street, London, UK WC1B 3DG +44 020 7323 8299)‎ has been open since 1753. It has more than 8 million items on exhibit, so it may take more than one day to see everything but there are tours that can accommodate shorter visits. Admission is free to all and it's open from 10AM-5:30PM. Another great museum is the Natural History Museum (Cromwell Road, London, UK SW7 5BD +44 020 7942 5000‎). It focuses on botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology. Admission is free though there is a charge for temporary exhibits.

Evening


Dinner in London is usually a pub occasion; however with tweens you do still have options. If your hotel is by Hyde Park as advised, The Gore hotel (190 Queen's Gate, London, UK SW7 5EX +44 020 7590 6704) has a bistro with a relaxed atmosphere and gourmet food. The bistro features a pre and post theatre prix fixe dinner starting at around $34.00 (£21.95 for two courses).

A great place to end the evening and get a spectacular view of London at night by taking a ride on the London Eye Millennium Ferris Wheel, located on the south bank of the river Thames across from the Houses of Parliament. The 443- foot-high London Eye, the fourth tallest structure in London, boasts 32 glass capsules and a full rotation takes approximately 30 minutes. The wheel moves slowly enough for safe disembarkation. Adult tickets for a ride on the London Eye are $27.00 (£17.50) and a child ticket costs $15.00 (£9.50). The London Eye is open until 8PM during the winter months and 9PM or 9:30PM during the spring and summer seasons.



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