Palaces and Playgrounds: London’s Royal Parks

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

C and T heading on into Kensington Gardens on their way to the Diana Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground.

C and T heading on into Kensington Gardens on their way to the Diana Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground.

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!

Another view inside of Kensington Gardens, one of The Royal Parks large open spaces inside of central London.

Another view inside of Kensington Gardens, one of The Royal Parks large open spaces inside of central London. While we never got to the area of the park with the more formal gardens, this was a familiar view for us when walking to nearby Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground.

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.”

A tree-canopied path inside of Green Park, London, one of the Royal Parks' eight open spaces dedicated to royal and natural preservation in the city-center.

A tree-canopied path inside of Green Park, London, one of The Royal Parks’ eight open spaces dedicated to royal and natural preservation in the city-center.

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.

T heads into the Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground.

T running into the Diana Memorial Playground.

The pirate ship inside the Diana Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens.

The pirate ship inside the Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens.

Another view of the large pirate ship in the Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground, London.

Another view of the large pirate ship in the Diana Memorial Playground, London. The ship is a nod to Peter Pan and all things that can be left to a child’s imagination. Princess Diana loved the children, and this playground is such a touching and fun memorial to her memory.

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.

T steers the big pirate ship at the Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground in London's Kensington Gardens.

T steers the big pirate ship at the Diana Memorial Playground in London’s Kensington Gardens.

T climbs up the mast... will he make it to the top?

T climbs up the mast… will he make it to the top?

Yep, T made it to the top! Land ho!

Yep, T made it to the top! Land ho!

A smaller ship to sail at the Diana Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground.

A smaller ship to sail at the Diana Memorial Playground.

C does his best "Capt'n Morgan" at the Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground. Yep, parents can get in on the fun here, too!

C does his best “Captain Morgan” at the Diana Memorial Playground. Yep, parents can get in on the fun here, too!

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.

It's common to see this sign at the entrance of the Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground. It's very popular with locals and visitors alike.

It’s common to see this sign at the entrance of the Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground. It’s very popular with locals and visitors alike.

Happy queue-standers C and T outside the Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground.

Happy queue-standers C and T outside the Diana Memorial Playground.

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.

T enjoyed the Diana Memorial Playground in London so much we went three times!

T enjoyed the Diana Memorial Playground in London so much we went three times!

More fun at the Diana Memorial Playground.

More fun at the Diana Memorial Playground.

Once Upon a Time, there was a Princess named Diana who loved children the world over.

Once Upon a Time, there was a Princess named Diana who loved children the world over….

There's a lovely music garden inside of the Diana Memorial Playground, giving kids a variety of sensory play options.

There’s a lovely music garden inside of the Diana Memorial Playground, offering kids yet another variety of sensory and creative play options other than the usual gross-motor activities.

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.

P1020048

P1020049

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).

C and T in London's Green Park. The paths behind the boys lead to Buckingham Palace.

C and T in London’s Green Park. The paths behind the boys lead to Buckingham Palace.

A map in Green Park showing its proximity to Buckingham Palace and St. James Park.

A map of The Green Park showing its proximity to Buckingham Palace (to the south) and St. James Park (to the east).

Information about Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace along with a rough schedule on public display in Green Park. The ceremony is free to watch from behind controlled barracades, but do note you should show up at least 30-to-45 minutes to get a good viewing spot.

Information about “Changing the Guard” at Buckingham Palace along with a rough schedule is posted for public notice along the south perimeter of Green Park and across the street from the Palace. The ceremony is free to watch from behind controlled barricades, but do note you should show up at least 30-to-45 minutes before the scheduled time to get a front-row view.

Rather than watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, T chose to hit a tree with a stick.

Rather than watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, T chose to hit a tree with a stick.

T was so proud of his stick-and-tree choice!

Where are all those folks going behind T? To the changing of the guard, of course! Eh, never mind all that, as T was happy staying put right here at this tree with these sticks.

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).

Hello from The Green Park near Buckingham Palace in London!

Hello from The Green Park near Buckingham Palace in London!

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).

Photo of the trip, RMT'ers?

Photo of the trip, RMT’ers?

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?!

Remember to take a peek at the local parks and playgrounds when on vacation with the kids!

Take a peek at the local parks and playgrounds while on vacation with the kids!

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?

Advertisements