I had a revelation recently. These last few weeks before schools break up for summer will be the last chance, in weekday term-time, I get to go on day trips with my daughter.
Oh sure, there’ll be sick days, inset days, and the like – but with playgroups winding up, and pre-school graduation this definitely feels like the end of a parenting era.
I was also keenly aware that I had not taken full advantage of the chance to visit London family attractions – without the crowds of families at weekends and schools holidays at least.
So I moved swiftly to rectify that, and in recent weeks we have made a few trips into London. This day, we went to the South Bank and visited the Sea Life London Aquarium and The London Eye.
Visiting the Sea Life London Aquarium
A London attraction since the late 90’s, it has had a refurb since I first visited in the last decade.
Set in County Hall, the home of the old GLA, the aquarium is a great way to introduce your child to all sorts of sea life.
As you enter, you walk across a glass panel that reveals a shark tank below. It felt like you were entering a classic Bond villains lair. It was a cool way to start.
Completely unplanned, we had just seen Finding Nemo the day before, and there were at least 3 tanks that had the distinctive clownfish in them.
While it was a little contrary to the themes of the film (Nemo is trying to escape captivity after all), it was to be expected, and kids loved it.
The tanks rage in size from the small to the very large. My highlights were the tanks containing the larger creatures – Rays, Turtles, and – yes – Sharks. These sharks ranged in size, but some were pretty big. So big that my daughter found them a bit too scary.
— Man vs Pink (@ManVsPink) July 21, 2016
But the range of sea life here is incredible, and she got to see so many other creatures for the first time too, such as octopuses, sea horses, alligators, eels, and so many more.
The aquarium is fairly linear as an experience, and entry is staggered every fifteen minutes – so while it is a very popular attraction, the crowds were fine. There were a few bottlenecks, such as the Shark Tunnel (as cool as it sounds), but nothing troubling.
Our trip was slightly truncated as everyone was evacuated because of an alarm. While we had seen most of the Aquarium we didn’t see the penguins – which was a shame, because it was the hottest day of the year!
The whole aquarium was a pleasant cool temperature though, but once we were evacuated into the harsh midday sun we decided to have an early lunch instead of baking in the heat waiting to get back in.
So we found a nice shady spot nearby for our picnic.
Then we cooled down with an ice cream before our next attraction.
— Man vs Pink (@ManVsPink) July 19, 2016
Visiting The London Eye
Another attraction that was opened in the late 90’s, the former Millennium Wheel has become an internationally recognised London icon since then. Anyone who has walked past it cannot have failed to have seen the hordes of people wanting to go on it.
My daughter has spotted it from afar – and close up – many times, so I was glad of the opportunity to go on it with her. She frequently asks when we can go on the big wheel, so she was incredible excited about finally being able to do so.
We were fortunate to have fast track tickets, and with a moderate amount of guilt on my part we bypassed that mass of people via the special fast track entrance. If you feel comfortable paying out a little extra for your ticket, it probably is worth it for not baking in the sun like the rest of the crowd were.
Thankfully, the pods are fully air-conditioned, important given this was the hottest day of the year.
The ride lasts about 30 minutes, which is plenty of time to walk around the spacious capsule and take in the sights.
The experience was exactly as expected – wonderful high views of the city, and the chance to talk about various landmarks with my daughter. Previously, I had lived in London for over a decade, so it’s wonderful to be able to share my love of it with my daughter.
After our 30 minute trip, we ambled back to Waterloo station enjoying the entertainments of the South Bank along the way.
All in all, a grand day out. 🙂
Disclosure: We were provided with fast track tickets to both attractions for the purposes of this review.