London is one of my favorite cities in the world, and you could easily spend weeks there discovering everything the city has to offer. However, if you’re using London as a base and want to explore other parts of England as well, then you’ll be pleased to know that lots of fantastic locations are quite easily accessible from London. If you have kids especially, you might want to venture out of the city to see something new or give them somewhere different to explore and discover. This is a list of some really fun day trips from London with kids, as well as details on how to get to these places from London, and some fun and unique things to do when you get there. Take a look!
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1. Warwick Castle
Getting there: taking the train from London Marylebone to Warwick takes about an hour and a half, and you can walk to the castle from the train station.
What to do: Top of my list of day trips from London with kids is Warwick Castle, which is perfect for kids with so much to see and do. Visiting Warwick Castle with kids, family favorites include the Horrible Histories Maze, the Princess Tower, and for kids ten and older, the Dungeons, complete with live actors (if your child is a bit on the timid side or easily frightened, you might want to go and have a look at this before you send them in – it can actually be pretty scary!) There are numerous towers to explore, gardens to run around in, and playgrounds where the kids can burn off some energy. Warwick Castle also has special activities at certain times of the year, including jousting, knight school, and falconry shows, so definitely take a look at the Warwick Castle website before you go to see what special events are happening when you plan to visit. Warwick Castle tickets are significantly cheaper if bought online in advance, and they come with a rainy day guarantee – that is, if it rains for more than an hour during your visit, you can come back for free another time!
Getting there: a train ride from London Marylebone to Oxford takes about an hour, and you can walk to the city center from there.
What to do: Oxford is a beautiful city to explore with plenty of things to see and while visiting Oxford with kids, you’ll find plenty to do for all the family. While adults might like the walking tours offered (the University walking tour is especially interesting), kids might grow bored of the architecture and historical sites. Luckily, there are lots of kid-friendly activities too! There are some great family friendly museums in Oxford, including the Pitt Rivers Museum (which hosts seasonal events directed at kids of all ages), and the Story Museum (where you can step into your favorite stories, including dressing up and interactive play time) or take one of the self-guided themed Treasure Trails where you are led to different parts of the city to look for clues (this is a great way to see the city while keeping the kids engaged and entertained). The City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off bus is a great way to get around, especially if the weather is nice and you can sit on the upper deck!
Getting there: taking the train from London’s Kings Cross to Cambridge will take a little over an hour, and you can walk into the city from the station.
What to do: Cambridge is a smaller, quieter city than Oxford found on the banks of the River Cam. Cambridge offers similar walking tours to Oxford, and has a similar City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off bus tour that makes seeing the sights of the city easy – but if you’re only going to do one thing in Cambridge, it should be punting on the River Cam! My younger sister graduated from Cambridge University and on her graduation day, we gave punting a try; let’s just say it’s an absolute miracle I didn’t fall in, and one of the funniest things I think I’ve ever done! If you’re wondering what punting is, it’s what the folks in the picture above are doing; standing on the back of a boat and using a long pole to push against the river bed to propel yourself forward. While you can take a guided punting excursion, I think it’s a lot of fun to try it out yourself. My number one tip for this: if the pole gets stuck, DO NOT hold on to it – because the boat will carry on moving without you, and you and the pole will find yourselves in the river! If you’re going to be in Cambridge with kids, this is such a fun activity that they’ll definitely get a kick out of – just request life vests for them when you rent the boat.
4. The Harry Potter Studios in Leavesden
Getting there: take the shuttle bus from Watford Junction; these buses depart every 20 minutes, and take about 15 minutes to reach the studios. A return ticket costs £2.50 per person.
What to do: I know it doesn’t seem like this would take a whole day, but believe me, if you are a Harry Potter fan, then you will not be ready to leave when the studio closes! I visited back in 2013 and it is still one of the most amazing places I have ever been! As I’ve mentioned before, I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan, and actually getting to walk through some of the scenes from the movies – complete with real props and costumes – was amazing! You can see so many incredible sets; from the Great Hall where you can see the costumes worn by some of the actors in the series, to the Cupboard under the Stairs, to the various house common rooms – it is so much fun for a Harry Potter geek to experience! The tour begins with the sets and the props from the films, which in itself can take a few hours to explore, and then you move on to the outdoor portion; this includes being able to stand in front of Number 4, Privet Drive, as well as take a photo on the Hogwarts bridge or with the Knight Bus. They even sell butterbeer out here! The final portion of the tour includes seeing how some of the special effects are created, walking through Diagon Alley, and then seeing the incredible scale model of Hogwarts castle itself. There is a cafe as well as a snack bar, restrooms, and of course, an extensive gift shop, as well as some really cool photo opportunities (like flying on a broom or taking a trip in the Flying Ford Anglia!) If your kids are Harry Potter fans (or if you are a fan and just want to drag them along!) then this will be the most amazing day out! Tickets should be booked online in advance, and certain times of the year are more expensive than others, so definitely bear that in mind. The studios also offer some fantastic seasonal events, so keep your eyes out for those (as well as all other information) on the official website. Oh, and if you’re a Harry Potter fan visiting Orlando, definitely take a look at my Complete One Day Itinerary for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando Resort!
5. Blenheim Palace
Getting there: take the train from London Marylebone into Oxford, or take the coach service from London’s Victoria Station to Gloucester Green in Oxford, and then take a taxi to the Palace (tip: show your train ticket upon arrival and receive 30% off admission!) You can even book a private tour direct from London that includes transportation and admission costs, as well as a private guide to show you around.
What to do: Blenheim Palace has a really fantastic online app and free onsite WiFi; the app has a map of the Palace and the grounds so you can get your bearings, as well as suggested self-guided walking tours to take, itineraries to make the most of your trip, and a number of interesting facts about the Palace. This is a great way to plan out your day to include as much as possible. If the weather is nice, the grounds are spectacular and a great place for kids to explore; check out the Marlborough Maze, or visit the Butterfly House. Blenheim Palace also has some really great seasonal events, and it’s worth trying to plan a trip around one of them if you can; there are food festivals, jousting tournaments, live concerts, flower shows, garden parties, and even fun runs and family cycling days! Find out more about the special events offered as well as everything else you’ll need to plan your visit on the Blenheim Palace website.
Getting there: a train ride from London Victoria to Portsmouth and Southsea takes a little under two hours, and you can walk into the city from there.
What to do: If you want to get completely out of London and take a trip to the coast, then Portsmouth is a great destination! Climb to the top of the Spinnaker Tower for amazing views over the city (including a glass floor you can stand on and an open air top floor!), visit the Historic Dockyard, and the Royal Navy Submarine Museum. If you’re a Charles Dickens fan, then you might know that this is where he was born, and the city houses the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, dedicated to his life and works of fiction. If you’ve been in London for a few days are starting to get a little worn down and worn out, then some sea air is just the ticket – and this is the perfect place to sample some authentic British fish and chips!
7. Stratford upon Avon
Getting there: a train ride from London Marylebone to Stratford upon Avon (changing in Leamington Spa) will take a little under two hours, and you can walk into the town from the station.
What to do: Stratford upon Avon is a really pretty little town (I went to school here so I might be a bit biased!) with lots of family friendly things to do. If the weather is nice, then there are some lovely playgrounds and places for the kids to play, rent a bike to take a trip along the river, or you could rent a boat to row down the river. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can seek shelter in the MAD Museum, the UK’s only mechanical art museum that encourages hands on activities to promote STEM learning, or visit Tudor World, which recreates different areas of Tudor life. If you have a theater fan in the family, take in a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where families can go backstage to see props and costumes used in the plays – a great hands on way to get kids interested in the theater! Shakespeare fans can also tour his birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall, or Mary Arden’s Working Tudor Farm (buy your tickets online in advance here.)
Have you been on any of these day trips from London with kids? Where else would you recommend? Let me know in the comments!