Places Visited

London and surrounding areas have a huge number of fascinating venues. Below are some of the places we visit regularly (or have visited at least once) for shows, exhibitions, talks or workshops. Reviews are also provided (when we have the spare time to do them).

A

1. The Albany – Excellent theatre for all ages in Deptford. We saw a lot of shows here when the kids were much younger. It had good transport links, shows reflecting the multi-cultural setting, a cafe, and courteous staff. The theatre was cosy and informal, and fares were low. There is no car park but those who must drive will be able to locate lots of free spaces nearby. We saw some very good shows here.

B

1. Bank of England Museum by Bank Station in London. Free entry and educational workshops. The workshops generally cover the history of the English currency and the economic development of the UK. The place is packed with exhibits on the history of the Bank, specimens of banknotes and coins, heaps of documents, pictures, furniture, statues, silver and fascinating gold bulion. Definitely worth visiting but note that (probably) because it is free and cannot be prebooked, there are usually huge queues at the entrance at weekends and on public holidays. You may even be turned away due to overcrowding. Best times to visit are during school hours in term time.

2. Barbican Exhibition Centre, Barbican, City of London – Arts centre and gallery. The Barbican exhibition centre hosts shows and exhibitions, and there are eateries with very good food. We particularly like the cafe next to the fountains – the cakes are to die for. Educational workshops are generally reserved for schools within the local area but the kids have seen some excellent shows here, most notably ’59 minutes to save Christmas’ and ‘The Five and The Prophecy of Prana’. The centre is an easy walk from Barbican and Moorgate stations.

3. British Library, St Pancras – Everyone must visit the British Library for the huge exhibits of art, history and culture from its permanent collections. I expect thousands of visitors step through its doors daily – there are numerous libraries within the library, cafes, bookshops, quiet areas, galleries, meeting points, study areas, etc –  but its vastness diminishes the ‘crowd’ effect. Entrance is free but expect to pay for temporary exhibitions. Transport links are superb. It is located close to  three very busy train/underground stations (King’s Cross, St Pancras and Euston). All educational workshops are comprehensive and interactive and having done over five, our view is they are all excellently executed.

4. Bromley Museum, formerly in Orpington, now in Bromley Library – Temporary exhibitions and events; permanent displays about the history of the local area. We were last here when it occupied a gorgeous historical building in Orpington known as The Priory. Visits were free but the educational workshops required payments to Bromley Council. The museum had little atmosphere but a few years ago, the curators put on some excellent workshops for home education groups. Subjects covered included Ancient Egyptians and Greeks. They were fully interactive with a lots of crafted items to take home. We’ve not been to the new site and have no plans to visit.

5. British Museum, Bloomsbury – Art, decorative arts, archaeology, antiquities from Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece and the Middle East, coins, galleries on Africa, North America, Mexico, Asia. This is the biggest museum in the UK with exhibits and educational workshops to match. Entry is free to the permanent exhibitions but one-offs require payments from non members. Workshops take place throughout the school terms and usually require nominal payments to dissuade time wasters. Home Educators can book individually to participate in school workshops taking place in the theatres. The sleepovers are also popular and tend to follow the themes of major exhibitions. The workshops are highly recommended.

6. Buckingham Palace State Rooms – Excellent educational workshops and tours. Nothing is free here, not even entry to the grounds but for those interested in how members of the Royal Family live, it is the definitive place to visit. We attended a couple of very good group workshops and also toured the palace. All good fun.

7. Buckingham Palace Queen’s Gallery – Heavily discounted educational workshops in this grand gallery (and not overrun by tourists). We did a session here with the very able and professional curators and for a gallery next to the palace and still within the palace grounds, this was a pleasant and quiet place to spend an afternoon. Highly recommended.

8. BFI Southbank on the south bank of the River Thames houses the National Film Theatre, renowned for World films. The BFI puts on educational workshops incorporating film clips. The two we attended were all-day ones (10.30am to approximately 3pm) and incorporated loads of carefully selected film clips. Though the formats of sessions were similar, the clips chosen depended on the instructor’s perspectives. The last one we attended (June 10 2015) was ‘The World Through The Eyes Of Children’ and it boiled down to the virtues of sending kids off to school. Shame really as I was expecting a more diverse world view of kids.

9. Bexley Sailing Club – It has a lake, boats and life jackets for kids’ and adults’ lessons. A number of home education groups in South London come here for sailing lessons covering various levels of competence. Very affordable but in our view, the lessons and mode of teaching are for the more confident kids. When we attended, the ratio of tutors to learners was about 1:15. Also see Chipstead Sailing Club.

10. Bletchley Park – This was where Alan Turing and his peers built the Bombe Machine that helped break the German Enigma Machine during WW2. Fascinating place. We attended a kids’ workshop there in Sep 2015 and it was very good. Worth visiting for the sheer scale of WW2 exhibits. You might want to watch Cumberbatch’s Imitation Game before visiting.

11. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London for educational tsessions.

12. Buddhapadipa Temple also known as Wat Buddhapadipa, Wimbledon, London

13. Biggin Hill Airport for educational air events

14. Berlin Wall, Germany – Not in London or close by but it deserves a place on this list for its awesomeness. The educational value cannot be quantified. Fragments of the wall can be found dotted around ares of Berlin, alongside many other artefacts.

15. Bruce Castle, Lordship Lane, Tottenham – A castle in Tottenham! We visited for two workshops on evolution and the kids were not disappointed. There is a lot to see and do in the museum within the castle, and there is a big park with swings, play frames, etc within the grounds. Worth knowing is that Sir Rowland Hill’s family ran a progressive school for boys at Bruce Castle during the Victorian period. Sir Rowland reformed the British postal system and became famous for introducing the Penny Post.

16. Baitul Futuh Mosque – The largest mosque in Western Europe, situated in Morden, Surrey, UK. About 30 of us visited for an educational session in September 2016 and we were very well looked after. It was a 2-hour session but carried on till 3pm because we had freshly-made lunch prepared for us after attending the 2pm prayers.

C

1. Cinema Museum, Lambeth – History and artefacts of film making

2. Crofton Roman Villa, Orpington – Remains of a Roman villa close to Orpington Station. Organises education workshops in conjunction with Bromley Museum. Ample parking spaces. Visits and sessions require payments. Worth a visit.

3. Cutty Sark Museum, Greenwich. One of the many museums in Greenwich. Free access. Highly recommended for kids and adults.

4. County Hall, Southbank, London – Houses attractions such as Sealife, an art exhibition and an amusement arcade

5. The Chocolate Museum, Brixton – The best kids’ chocolate workshop we attended was done here. The owner really knew her stuff. Highly recommended. Only snag is that it is a small museum so there is nowhere for adults to hang out if dropping off kids. There is also limited things to do in the immediate area.

6. Chelsea Physic Gardens, London – Wonderful workshops for kids and adults. Worth the price tag. The gardens are beautiful and full of herbs. It is quite a walk from the nearest station and if you blink, you might miss the green entrance.

7. Chipstead Sailing Club – Much bigger than the Bexley Sailing Club and the lessons we attend are perfect for kids with nervous dispositions. Each kid is assigned an instructor in order to boost confidence on the water. The lake is much bigger as well but with no fear of capsizing and/or being left with no helper whilst panicking in the water, this place is rated highly by the kids.

8. Cartoon Museum, Little Russell Street, London (Opp British Museum). We have done a number of workshops here and the kids enjoyed them all. Adults drop off kids and venture off to either the British Museum or surrounding cafes. There is a shop on the ground floor but it is tiny so not ideal as a waiting area.

9. Charles Darwin House. See Down House.

10. Canada Water Culture Space – Review of visit made on 16 Dec 2016.

D

1. Design Museum, Shad Thames – Product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design

2. Dungeness B Nuclear Power Station – Brilliant tour (free!) of all things radioactive including the core! Great for kids into nuclear energy and electricity. Highly recommended. The plant backs on to the eerie beach, so if not in a hurry, make time to relax and reflect. There’s also the steam line nearby, and not forgetting the RSPB Nature Reserve some minutes’ drive away. Perfect day out.

3. Down House, Downe, Kent – Charles Darwin’s Home. This was a free trip courtesy of the English Heritage Home Education concession. The place is beautiful especially the gardens, but note that picnics are not allowed. To roam where the great man and his family did was inspiring. The kids loved the flesh eating plants in the green house.

E

1. Edinburgh Castle – Great for visits. The ticket permits unlimited year-long visits so worth the price if repeated visits are foreseen. Loads to do and see.

2. Emirates Aviation Experience – Brilliant workshops, tours and flying simulators. Best to go as part of an education group as the simulator alone can set a family back £45 per half hour. The kids enjoyed the experience so much, they wanted a re-visit.

G

1. Grant Museum of Zoology, Rockefeller Building, University College London, University Street, WC1E 6DE

H

1. Hampton Court Palace, Hampton – Former royal palace, King Henry VIII exhibition, Tudor kitchen, Tudor-period living history programs, gardens, maze

2. HMS Belfast, Southwark – Operated by the Imperial War Museum, originally a Royal Navy light cruiser and served during the Second World War and Korean War

3. Horniman Museum, Forest Hill – Musical instruments, art, natural history, anthropology, African arts and culture, aquarium, gardens. Beautiful place with paths, gardens and exhibits. It is free but the aquarium charges an entry fee.

4. Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London – Collection of preserved anatomical specimens, history, artefacts and developments in surgery. A bit gory for some kids but mine took the exhibits in their strides.

5. Hayward Gallery, Southbank – Part of the Southbank Centre, contemporary art centre with temporary exhibitions through the year. Worth taking out a membership as one-off fees are not exactly cheap if repeated visits are made in the year.

6. Holland Park, Londin – promenade performances and picnics in the wonderful gardens. We love Kyoto Gardens.

7. Houses of Parliament – Review of visit made 20 Dec 2016

I

1. Imperial War Museum London, Southwark – Warfare in the 20th and 21st centuries.

2. Institute of Making, University College London – for annual making workshops.

J

1. (Sir) John Soane’s Museum, Holborn – Fine art, architecture, antiquities, sculpture

K

1.. Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens – Royal residence

2. Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Brentford – Water supply technology and a collection of water pumping steam engines, also operating narrow gauge railway

3. Kew Palace, Kew – Former royal palace located within the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

4. Kidzania, Westfield, Shepherd’s Bush, London.

L

1. London Transport Museum, Covent Garden – Public transportation including the railway, underground, buses.

2. London Dungeon

3. London Canal Museum, Kings Cross – Boys loved this place because of all the engineering bits. It is also on the canal.

4. London Coliseum (for Tosca)

5. Lee Valley VeloPark, Stratford for BMX training and mountain biking.

M

1. Michael Faraday Museum, Mayfair – Located at the Royal Institution, reconstruction of scientist Michael Faraday‘s 19th century laboratory

2. The Monument to the Great Fire of London, Fish Street Hill, EC3R – For the sheer joy of going up 300+ steps.

3. Madame Tussaud’s, Marylebone, London.

4. Musicland Bromley – brilliant for instruments tuition and very affordable. (We use Chris for drums).

5. Museum of Childhood

N

1. Natural History Museum, South Kensington – The definitive museum on the history of the natural world

2. National Gallery, Trafalgar Square – National collection of Western European painting from the 13th century to 1900

3. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich – History of Britain at sea, includes maritime art, ship models and plans, scientific and navigational instruments, instruments for time-keeping and astronomy. Incorporates Greenwich Observatory and the Queen’s House.

4. National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square – Portraits of historically important and famous British people

5. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

6. National Theatre, Southbank for various plays and shows.

O

1. Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret, Southwark – 19th century operating theatre, herb garret and museum of surgery.

2. Olympic Park Stadium – for sporting events

P

1. Puppet Theatre Barge, Little Venice, 35 Blomfield Road W9 2PF – Puppetry on a barge.

2. Palace of Westminster – Review of visit made 20 Dec 2016.

Q

1. Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank – Part of the Southbank Centre, concert hall, theatre, exhibitions

2. Queen’s House, Greenwich

R

1. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Kew – Includes Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Marianne North Gallery, exhibits on plants and conservation

2. Royal Observatory, Greenwich, Greenwich – Part of the National Maritime Museum, features astronomical and navigational tools, a planetarium

3. Royal Festival Hall, LOndon – Part of the Southbank Centre, concert hall, temporary exhibitions

4. Royal Albert Hall, South Kensington – Kids’ favourite concert hall. Hold Primary Proms and other temporary events

5. The Royal Institution, 21 Albermarle Str, London W1S 4BS – Science lives here.

6. Royal College of Music – Excellent weekday/weekend events for kids and the general public

7. Royal Academy of Music – For its recitals

8. Royal College of Arts – Fabulous events open to the public

9. Royal Collection – Workshops, talks and educational sessions for kids at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Edinburgh Castle.

10. Royal Society – Talks, interviews and the occasional exhibition. On the website, look for and select the ‘invigorate’ link for KS2 and higher science resources. Super!

11. Royal Courts, Sloane Square.

12. Ragged School Museum for enactments of a Victorian classroom and life in a Victorian kitchen.

13. Royal Pavilion in Brighton

14. Royal Albert Dock – Our home from home. Sailors’ haven.

S

1. Science Museum, South Kensington – National museum of science and technology, transportation, medicine, steam engines

2. St Paul’s Cathedral, Ludgate Hill – Anglican cathedral with religious art, sculpture, architecture, tombs, decorative arts

3. Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea – Contemporary art

4. Sir John Soane’s Museum, Holborn – Fine art, architecture, antiquities, sculpture

5. Somerset House, Strand – Kids weekend workshops, Arts centre with gallery and Courtauld Gallery

6. International Slavery Museum, Liverpool.

7. Shrek’s Adventure, South Bank, London.

8. Southbank Centre – for Gamelan workshops, shows, etc

9. Spun Candy, Algate East, London – for candy-making workshops

10. Sadler’s Wells Theatre

11. Siemen’s Crystal, Royal Victoria Docks, London. For educational workshops and a zoolab session. The Crystal is one of the most, if not the most, sustainable buildings in the world.

T

1. Tate Britain, Millbank – National collection of historical and contemporary British art

2. Tate Modern, Bankside – National collection of modern art

3. Tower Bridge, Tower Hill – Steam engines, workings of the bridge

4. Tower of London, Tower Hill – Historic fortress, prison and former royal residence, includes the Royal Armouries, Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, regimental museum of the Royal Fusiliers. If you visit term-time, kids pay £3.85 and adults go free. You need to prebook a date. Email towerlearning@hrp.org.uk (Correct as at 29 May 2017)

5. Thames Barrier Information Centre – The best place in London to learn about (and see) the Thames Barrier.

6. Tate Liverpool

7. The Scoop – Brilliant pit for FREE stage plays. It is adjacent to City Hall and Tower Bridge is in the background.

8. The Crystal (See Siemen’s Crystal)

U

1. Unicorn Theatre, 147 Tooley Street, London SE1 2HZ – Our favourite kids’ theatre. Home Educating families get a discount.

V

1. Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington – Fantastic workshops for kids. National collection of applied arts, includes ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs, theatre and performing arts, Asian art and decorative arts, architecture

2. V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green – Toys, dolls, children’s playtime and lives

W

1. The Wallace Collection – Exhibitions, galleries and the sheer scale of free educational workshops.
2. New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon – for shows, most recently, Horrible Histories.

3.

W

1. Wimbledon Tennis Grounds – Visited in September 2016 for a tour and museum trip. Arrived late so forewent those and decided to stroll round instead. Also picked up a ballot form for the 2017 tickets.

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