Last summer, I took my freedom to travel for granted. Fast forward to 2020, where our new normal includes school closures, social distancing, travel bans, and quarantines. The new disease, named COVID-19, changed our daily life. The situation has escalated quickly around the world. The United States is now the new epicenter of SARS-CoV-2. If you are curious and would like to have a glimpse of what my family does to minimize exposure from COVID-19, visit Flagstaff Mom Collective and read the post entitled “COVID-19: A Germophobe During a Pandemic”.
I decided to cancel our family vacation as well as our mommy-daughter trip this upcoming summer. While I reminisced at home about last summer, I decided to compile things to do with children in London. I wanted to write about it for some time now, and I hope this post will be useful for future travels. Before I get started, here is a little background story. My daughter and I spent a week in London in July 2019. It was my daughter’s first time visiting the capital of the United Kingdom (UK). This trip was part of our mommy-daughter getaway; thus, I planned activities that she would enjoy the most. Anyone who travels with active young children knows how important playgrounds are. I planned our itinerary ahead of time and already knew which playgrounds we would go to, and what landmarks would be of interest to my four years old. I understand that kids have different temperaments and interests; thus, another child might not enjoy the same things we did.
Where We Stayed
Location matters a lot. I wanted a place centrally located where we could walk everywhere without taking a cab or public transportation. If you read some of my previous posts, you will probably notice a pattern here. I do not like to rely on transportation when traveling, especially if most places are accessible by foot. I chose to stay at The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences in Mayfair. It was ideal for us because it was very close to all the playgrounds and landmarks I had in mind. Apart from the ride to and from the airport, we walked everywhere. I took our reliable stroller with us because it would be impossible for a young child to walk that much. Also, the stroller carried our belongings for the day. If you have kids, you know that you need to be prepared. Instead of carrying a big backpack all day in the heat, I could hang the bag on the stroller while pushing it. The backpack contained a first aid kit, a change of clothes, snacks (lots of snacks), sanitizing wipes and gel, etc. You get the idea, right! I am getting sidetracked here, so let’s get to all the playgrounds we spent time at.
- Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground
The Diana Memorial Playground is located in Kensington Garden, next to Kensington Palace, which was the home of Diana Princess of Wales. It took us an hour to walk each way to get to the playground. We would walk through Hyde Park and make multiple stops along the way to take some pictures, admire the beautiful gardens full of flowers, and feed the ducks and squirrels. The Diana Memorial Playground is the best playground I’ve ever seen. It is all fenced in, and adults without children aren’t allowed to enter. There is always a person at the entrance to confirm who is coming and who is leaving. The novel Peter Pan by James Matthew Barrie inspired the design of the playground. It is divided into different sections, and we never felt crowded although we were there during the peak tourist season. The centerpiece of the playground is a huge pirate ship, and all around it is a beach with a fountain that spews water into puddles. Kids can climb on the ship, swing, play in the sand and water, run around, and, most importantly, make friends and let their imagination run wild. What makes this playground amazing are all the hidden pathways that lead to different areas of play. We discovered a teepee village, a sensory garden, and an obstacle course. We visited The Diana Memorial Playground almost every day while we were in London. In addition to the different play areas, there is a little stand right at the entrance of the playground that offers various snacks and drinks. Therefore, if you want to purchase something to eat, you don’t have to leave the playground. You can just walk to the stand and purchases a refreshment. Besides, before entering the playground, there is a beautiful area called the Broad Walk Cafe, where lunch is served outdoors. I’ve had the best pizza of my entire life there. I’ve always said that the best pizza I ate was in Florence, Italy. Forget that, the best pizza is located in London at the Broad Walk Café.
- South Carriage Drive Playground
The South Carriage Drive Playground is located on the southern side of Hyde Park. Compared to The Diana Memorial Playground, it is much smaller; however, it is still a lot of fun for children. This playground was gated, which is great because kids can explore freely. It included climbing frames, swings, and slides. My favorite part was the little refreshment stand, attached to the playground where I could purchase a hot cup of tea and sip on my drink while my daughter played.
- St. James’s Park Playground
St. James’s Park Playground is located near Buckingham Palace. Similarly to the other two playgrounds described above, this one was also gated and included a refreshment stand. How convenient, right! This playground included a seesaw, swings, a play structure, and a large sand pit. We spent many afternoons there before retiring for the day.
- Buck Hill Playground
My daughter and I stumbled upon Buck Hill Playground one afternoon while exploring Hyde Park. It had a different vibe than the three other playgrounds described above because it seemed that this area was frequented mostly by locals. At least while we were there, it felt like this playground was full of children in uniform accompanied by their nannies. I could be wrong, but there were fewer tourists than the others I described. Here too, the play area was fenced. I am ashamed to say that it took me a few minutes to figure out how to enter the playground. The gate had a locking device, and I couldn’t figure it out. After pulling, pushing, and lifting, I managed to open the gate. This playground had a big swing, a climbing frame, slides, a piece of balancing equipment as well as a little water play area. I am glad we came across this area tucked away in Hyde Park while walking. It was a great place to mingle and enjoy some sunshine.
Before becoming a mother, I use to make fun of people who went to playgrounds with their kids. I didn’t understand why people would waste their time in such places. Now, I turned into someone who maps out playgrounds ahead of time to ensure that my daughter will be happy. I believe I’ve covered all four playgrounds we visited in enough detail. For more information on each playground’s exact location and to view some pictures, do not hesitate to visit The Royal Parks. Writing this blog post made me realize how much I miss traveling. Unfortunately, we won’t get to experience summer in London in 2020. For now, all I can do is cherish summer 2019 and be thankful that my daughter and I had such a perfect time in London. If you would like to read more about my adventures in London, check out my post entitled “It Is Time to Make Mother-Daughter Trips a Tradition” and keep an eye for my next post where I will focus on London’s landmarks.