My husband and I recently spent 5 days in London with our 8 year old daughter. I thought I would post some of the things that worked well for us there as it can be a challenge finding things that work for both kids and adults. My husband and I have been several times, but it's the first visit for my daughter.
First, thank you to all the regulars who take the time to post tips on here. We found some great advice. In particular, the detailed descriptions of the 2-for-1 days out rail deals were very helpful. We took pictures at home and printed them for free on our printer using epassportphoto.com. We also printed the vouchers we wanted in advance of the trip. It all worked very nicely. One thing we did that I haven't seen posted previously is we purchased a child's ticket to Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace online in advance. I wasn't sure if the buy-one get-one was going to give us the child's ticket free at the gate rather than the adult, so we took care of it that way. No problems at all and, in fact, the young man at Hampton Court Palace noticed we also had a ticket reserved for the Tower and printed that for us as well. You simply need to print a voucher at home and take it with you.
With regards to transportation, we took the Heathrow Express to Paddington. Yes, I know it is expensive. We used to take the tube. But with our daughter, we wanted to ensure we had seats and a place for luggage (this is more of an issue on the return). Bought tickets online in advance and we were in to town in no time.
For lodging, we stayed at the Langham for one night in a club room. That place is gorgeous and friendly. The weekend deal on the club rooms is very good and one small child can stay with you for no extra charge. Breakfast, tea and a very nice happy hour in the club room are included. We did this for our first evening and actually didn't go out to any restaurants at all, which was nice because we were so tired from the trip.
We stayed at 51 Buckingham Gate for the remainder of the trip. This is more of an apartment hotel as it has separate bedrooms, living room and kitchen. Very nice to be able to buy groceries and eat breakfast at home. We used Whole Foods in Kensington. I had wanted to try St John Bakery doughnuts and they carry them, so it worked out nicely.
For restaurants, we went to the following:
Maria's Market Cafe in Borough Market - we had breakfast here on our first day. It was delicious...and freezing! We knew it would be, so no complaints; you are eating outside. I can't wait to go back here when the temperature is above 50. Or 40! Very casual, bacon, eggs and sausage in a bap or as a plate.
Carluccio's in South Kensington - right outside the tube station. This is a chain in London, but not for us in the States! Good, casual Italian. We went on Sunday night at 5:30 and it was packed. I was actually glad we made a reservation on line.
Sea Shell of Lisson Grove - nice little restaurant. There is a takeaway section and a sit down part. It was very cute, the food was good, but the service was lacking that night. It gets a lot of rave reviews online, so maybe we came on an off night.
Mother Mash - on Ganton Street, right off Regent Street. Very casual, good place for lunch. Pick your sausages, type of mashed potatoes and gravy. We really enjoyed it. And it couldn't be much closer to Hamley's if you are planning a visit. But I would do your shopping after the meal if you are planning on buying much because the restaurant is a tiny place (not much room for bags!)
The Laughing Halibut at 38 Strutton Ground in Westminster - the food here was great. Small fish and chips shop. Definitely not fancy. It is a takeway up front doing heavy trade with a seating area in back. Note that they closed down the seating area for newcomers a little before 7:30pm although the shop is open until 8.
Porters - located in Covent Garden, this is about as touristy as it comes, but we have always enjoyed their pies and puddings. Our daughter loved it. We just went for pudding this time; she had chocolate pudding with chocolate custard and a scoop of ice cream, resulting in a big happy chocolate grin.
Paul Rhodes Bakery in Greenwich - we had a snack here; their cookies and coffee were nice. But I'm keeping this on my list for future visits because their sandwiches looked wonderful. It seemed like you could get a nice lunch to eat in the park nearby.
The Greenwich Union - my husband is reading over my shoulder and just said "mmm, delicious" as I typed this. This was hands down our favorite meal. We went here for lunch after seeing the sights in Greenwich. We loved everything we had, including dessert, but the BLT was amazing. Hubby enjoyed the Meantime beers. Our waiter was also very friendly and good.
Theater - Wicked and Matilda. Our daughter loved (LOVED!) both. We had seen Wicked before but she hadn't seen either one. I loved Wicked again, but have to admit that I didn't love Matilda. I don't know why. The performers were terrific and the choreography was creative. I even found at least one song really memorable ("When I Grow Up"). For some reason it didn't suck me in. Oh well, I'd probably go again just to see the smile on my DD's face.
Museum of London - going on the first day may have been a mistake. Free entry, but we were dead on our feet. It was interesting to learn so much about the history of London. There is a Pret a Manger directly opposite the entry to the museum that has a lovely upstairs seating area with couches. It was very nice to relax and have a cup of coffee and snack there.
Natural History Museum - this was a favorite with our daughter with all the animals. Plenty to see here, a beautiful building and free entry to boot.
Greenwich - we had never been here and thoroughly enjoyed the day despite the cold. We did go in to the observatory and thought it was pretty amazing. The park was beautiful and we enjoyed walking around town and going in little shops. We took the Thames Clippers from the Tower Millennium Pier to Greenwich, which was fun since we had never been on the river. The staff for the Thames Clippers both on the pier and on board were so nice; they went out of their way to make sure we knew where to get on and off and what to see in Greenwich.
Tower of London - I'm not going to say much here other than when we took our tour with a Beefeater guide, we were surprised to find it was a woman as we were unaware any women had been appointed. What a treat for our daughter. She was thrilled when we went back to Heathrow and saw photos of Moira on the walls.
Hampton Court Palace - I love Hampton Court, but the cold really was an issue here so we didn't stay as long as we normally would have. We enjoyed the little tour by actors in costume and had lunch at the Tiltyard Cafe on site. The Cafe was surprisingly good, although a picnic lunch when the flowers are in bloom would be even better!
One last thing, our daughter plays soccer. We spent a good chunk of time in the Lillywhites boot room trying on soccer cleats. It is a huge sporting goods store right at Piccadilly Circus and had a way better selection than we will ever find back home.
All in all, a lovely time. We will be back - looking forward to when we get to take our youngest daughter as well!