Nothing makes a vacation complete for T and for all of us really than seeking out and enjoying the local parks and playgrounds.
Our London Holiday, March 31-through-April 9, 2013:
1. British Airways LAX-LHR
2. The Waldorf Hilton, London
3. Covent Garden Neighborhood
4. London Transport Museum
5. Day Out in London – Traditional Landmarks
6. Diana Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground, Kensington Gardens, and Green Park/Buckingham Palace TODAY’S POST
7. Harry Potter Connections
8. Family Remembrance and Celebration: Brookwood Cemetery and The Lion King at The Lyceum Theatre
9. Day Trip: Isle of Wight and Portsmouth, UK
10. Day Out: Greenwich, UK
11. Tower of London
12. London’s Shopping Shrines: Hamleys Toys and Harrods
I know what some of you reading that opening sentence might be thinking… you traveled halfway around the world to go to the park?! Yes, yes we did. I’m sure if you ask T there were plenty of sites and landmarks that we visited while on holiday that were completely meaningless to T despite the wonderful cultural and historical benefits they offered. Therefore, in order to keep a shred of sanity for all our sakes, we allowed T to burn off pent-up “good museum behavior” energy and enjoy nature and playing with other kids on the other side of this world of ours. The playground is one of T’s favorite outings at home, too, so it helped keep a sense of normalcy for him while on vacation. That said, whenever and where ever we travel, we always put park and playground days and afternoons onto our itinerary; after all, there are kids everywhere, and hence, there are sure to be places for them to gather. We haven’t struck out yet with that approach anyway!
RMT’ers, London does not disappoint by way of parks; in fact, London exceeds expectations. The Royal Parks runs eight of London’s open spaces with a focus on preserving lands once previously owned by royal families for generations to come. Paraphrased from The Royal Parks website: “Millions of locals and tourists visit the Royal Parks for free each year. With more than 5,000 acres of historic parkland, The Royal Parks provide unparalleled opportunities for enjoyment, exploration, and healthy living in the heart of this capital city. If it’s history and architecture you’re after, the parks have hundreds of buildings, statues, and memorials, giving a fascinating yet tranquil insight into London’s heritage.”
I feel as if everyone has heard of Hyde Park, AKA the park that most Americans refer to as the “Central Park of London.” While we didn’t get there on this visit (next time!), I would have felt weird not at least giving it a shout-out. That and I’ve been before and loved it. However, we did go to nearby Kensington Gardens (which borders Hyde directly, so directly that most think is part of Hyde – I did! – but it’s not) and Green Park, two of London’s other centrally situated grand and gorgeous green spaces.
Kensington Gardens is home to one of London’s most popular childhood destinations: Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground. Not only is this an imaginarium devoted to all things Peter Pan-esque, but it’s also a lovely corner of Kensington Gardens devoted to the children the world over, one of Princess Diana’s fervent passions while she was alive. Admission to the Diana Memorial Playground is free. Alright, so what playground isn’t free, right? Well, perhaps, but really, even if The Royal Parks charged a buck a kid, I guarantee you that you would happily ante up to get in on this fun. However, that’s not how “The People’s Princess” would have wanted it, so the goal of the playground is to have free admission to everyone, always.
Also, it’s worth noting that adults cannot enter the Diana Memorial Playground unless accompanied by kid(s). Yes, that’s the right order of phrasing there: This playground is only open to kids and their guardians to promote a safe, family-friendly environment for the children of London and those visiting. There’s also a monitor at all times at the front entrance (this is a gated play space) counting visitors – actually laying their eyes on everyone that enters – and making sure that all kids are with their related grown-ups and everyone plays nicely together. S/he’s also are in charge of the line out front of those visitors waiting to enter. Capacity at the Diana Memorial Playground tops out at around 500 persons total, and the playground adheres to a pretty strict 20-out-20-in policy of admittance to ensure everyone’s safety. Luckily the monitor the days we went was super-friendly and personable. When we told him we were from Long Beach (CA), his response was (in that wonderful regional accent): “Oh, the home of Snoop Dogg?!” I didn’t have the heart to correct him to Snoop Lion because he was that nice.
In the three times we visited this playground during our London holiday, we waited twice to enter. I honestly think we got lucky our first time because there was no queue. However, both times when we waited, in all honestly I’ve never see a group of families so patient and happy to queue (that’s wait in line) for, well, anything really! Maybe it’s because this playground is *that* great, or maybe it’s because we adults all know why it’s there so on some level we convey our own patience to our children out of respect. Or maybe it was that kind and friendly playground monitor who made the line that much more tolerable. At any rate, it’s worth the wait and multiple visits with the kids.
I can say with conviction that the Diana Memorial Playground was T’s favorite place in all of London. It exceeded our expectations as well. This truly is a space for all children, all ages, all abilities, and is a can’t-miss for any family visiting London.
Please Note: From The Royal Parks website, “The Diana Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground will be closed from 13 – 17 May 2013 for the annual shutdown. During this period, there will be maintenance works and the introduction of new play equipment. The playground will re-open on the 18th May 2013. We apologise for any inconvenience.” This is next week as of the date of this post (10 May 2013).
Another lovely park we partook of during our London vacation was Green Park. This is the open space across the street and to the north of Buckingham Palace. While I realize I didn’t include this fairly obvious, not-to-miss landmark on my sightseeing list from the other day, there’s one reason for that: T couldn’t have cared less about the Palace. In fact, the tree pictured above (with the Palace and St. James’ Park in background) and the sticks he was hitting the tree with were both far more exciting than anything royalty-related. C also was in the couldn’t-care-less club along with T regarding anything royal, snapping more shots of T with his sticks and this tree than of the impending changing of the guard ceremony (that we could have had front row viewing for but left well before it began).
I was more than OK enjoying the Palace from across the street, too. I’ve been to Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard before, and truth be told it’s a long stretch of time to expect any 5-1/2-year-old (boy) to stand and quietly watch, especially when there are sticks to pick up and trees and paths to play on and run back and forth on (and off).
Hope you enjoyed the sticks and trees, T! I know you gave the “pirate ship park” a definite “aye-aye” rating, but who wouldn’t?!
What types of experiences do you incorporate into your kids’ routine while on vacation to help keep a sense of familiarity while away from home, RMT’ers?