Top 10 Family Activities
Baby Comes Too
Free Olympic Events
Olympic Big Screens
Where to Stay
TOP 10 FAMILY ACTIVITIES DURING THE 2012 GAMES
1. Cheer along the Olympic Torch that starts its final lap this Thursday (Jul 26), taking in Camden, Islington, City, Southwark, Lambeth, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham and Westminster before it makes its way on Friday (Jul 27) to the Olympic Stadium to light the flame for the Opening Ceremony.
2. Shop Westfield Stratford City, E16 (Stratford tube/overground) for fab finds, food court, regular kids’ activities and a quick stop in John Lewis where you can see panoramic views of the Olympic Park and scope out their amazing in-store LEGO Olympic Stadium! Extended opening hours for the Games until 10pm.
3. Ride the Emirates Airline Cable Car and enjoy stunning views across London, from Greenwich Peninsula to Royal Docks. Daily until 9pm, round trip adult £6.40/child £3.20 with Oyster Card or Travelcard.
4. Play 99 Tiny Games, a series of miniature games popping up on walls, pavements, bus stops and other sites across the city from Jul 28-Aug 23. Part of Mayor of London Presents: Showtime cultural showcase series for 2012.
5. Go back to the Bard’s time with Shakespeare: Staging the World at British Museum (Jul 19-Nov 25), part of the World Shakespeare Festival, one of the highlights of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
6. Meet the 38 Mascots of the Olympic Games exhibition (until Oct 28) and an entire month of Summer Games (Aug) for little ones daily at V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Rd, E2 (Bethnal Green tube). See more from our list of 30 Coolest Things to do with London Kids in Summer
7. View Olympic inspired exhibits at child-friendly museums and arts spaces including The Olympic Journey at Royal Opera House, Designed to Win at Design Museum, Superhuman at the Wellcome Collection, Our Londinium 2012 at Museum of London
9. Visit the National Hospitality Houses of Olympic host nations, many open to the public throughout the Games. Hotspots for families include Casa Brasil at Somerset House, Holland House at Alexandra Palace and we’ll definitely be checking out Nigeria House at Theatre Royal Stratford East.
10. Watch the Animal Athletes strutting their stuff at London Zoo, Regent’s Park, NW1 (Jun 10-Sep 9)
BABY COMES TOO!
It was touch and go for a minute but it seems babies under 12 months will be allowed into the majority of Olympic events without a ticket, so long as they’re safely strapped to their parent/carer in a sling or carrier.
Spotted Zebra Pop-Up Nursery will be providing on-site childcare in the Olympic Park for babes ages up to 3.5 years (£75 per 5 hour slot). Book early as spaces fill up fast.
Scope out the London 2012 Families Guide for basic advice for spectators.
As Londoners are well aware, roads and public transport are going a bit doolally for the Games, so plan your route early at GetAheadoftheGames.com
For up to the minute info, follow on Twitter @GAOTG, @TFlTravelAlerts, or @TflTrafficNews
If you’re lucky enough to have tickets for Olympic events, you should check out the Spectator Journey Planner on the London 2012 site
Cycling is another option for families – visit London Cycling Guide for specific 2012 route tips. If your babes are too little for their own bikes, you could try a child bike trailer. Find good deals at Halfords, Argos, Evans Cycles or at the higher end, Babboe Cargo Bikes are currently on sale.
Walking is free, might turn out quicker in some cases and London is a great city to explore on foot. Make an outing of it with Walk London’s family-friendly, historic or eccentric London walking routes.
Public transport with a pushchair? Read our guide to Getting Around London with a Buggy
Did You Know? Spectators with a valid Olympic ticket are entitled to a Games Travelcard offering free travel in Zones 1-9 on the day of their event or ceremony. Public transport as usual is free for kids 10 and under.
FREE LONDON OLYMPIC EVENTS
If like the majority of Londoners (including Babes truly) you didn’t manage to nab any actual Olympic Games tickets, you can still catch free Olympic sporting action around town. Events to watch out for:
Road Cycling: Men’s Road Race Final (10am, Jul 28), Women’s Road Race Final (12pm, Jul 29), Women’s Individual Time Trial (12.30pm, Aug 1), Men’s Individual Time Trial (Aug 1, 2.15pm)
The Road Race starts on the Mall, via the Thames over Putney Bridge through Richmond Park, Bushy Park past Hampton Palace, around Box Hill and then through Leatherhead, Esher, Kingston-upon-Thames, Richmond Park and back to The Mall.
Tickets (£10) were released for best vantage points from Box Hill, but spectators are sure to line the entire route. You could make it an enjoyable day out by visiting the BT Live Site in Hyde Park, or exploring historic Hampton Court Palace, the dramatic backdrop to the Individual Time Trials.
Triathlon: Women’s Final (9am, Aug 4), Men’s Final (11.30am, Aug 7)
An exciting test of endurance, the final leg of the cycling, running and swimming race happens in Hyde Park. Free access for spectators, but arrive early to beat the crowds.
Race Walk: Men’s 20km (5pm, Aug 4), Men’s 50km (9am, Aug 11) and Women’s 20km (5pm, Aug 11)
The sight of competitors walking at lightning speed can be hugely entertaining for little ones. Park yourself along the Central London route that begins and ends at the Mall, taking runners past Buckingham Palace, Victoria Memorial and Constitution Hill.
Olympic Marathon: Women’s Marathon (11am, Aug 5) and Men’s Marathon (11am, Aug 12)
Catch 80 of the world’s best long-distance runners pound the streets, past London attractions including Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square.
Swimming Marathon: Women’s 10km Marathon Finals (12pm, Aug 9) and Men’s 10km Marathon Finals (12pm, Aug 10)
The Serpentine in Hyde Park is the site for the Olympic swimmers marathon and you can watch free from the south side of the lake. You might be inspired to take a dip in the Serpentine Lido, one of our 30 coolest things to do with kids in summer 2012.
LONDON OLYMPIC BIG SCREENS
Join the party and watch the 2012 Games for free at one of several London sites featuring outdoor screens and family entertainment.
Combine a visit to the Olympic Park with a screening of the Games at Park Live, where up to 10,000 fans can watch the live action and feel the buzz from inside the Park.
BT London Live Hyde Park (Hyde Park Corner tube) features live coverage, music performances including Closing Ceremony concerts with Blur and New Order (paid tickets), Have-A-Go sports sessions throughout the day and a Kids Zone. Entry is FREE daily, from around 11am-9pm, booking Guaranteed Entry Tickets £3.50 ahead advised. (Jul 27-Aug 12)
House of Nations in the Pavilion at Tower of London, EC3 (Tower Hill tube) offers daily themed entertainment, food and giant screens, in the shadow of one of the city’s most famous buildings. 11am-11pm, daily, FREE (Jul 27-Aug 12)
BT London Live Trafalgar Square (Charing Cross tube) will feature live coverage of the Paralympic Games including Have-A-Go paralympic sports sessions for both able-bodied and non able-bodied athletes. 11am-11.30pm daily, FREE (Aug 29-Sep 9)
Duke of York Square on King’s Rd, SW3 (Sloane Square tube) is doing it fancy with free screenings of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and hot tickets like the 100m final, accompanied by Pimms and Pommery tent, strawberries, and free rugs for the first 50 to book. While you’re there, check out the Saatchi Gallery that holds regular family workshops. Daily, FREE (Jul 27-Aug 12)
BT London Live Victoria Park (Bethnal Green tube) will offer live screenings of the Olympic Games, Have-A-Go sports sessions, bandstand featuring Soul II Soul among daily acts, all-day disco, activities ranging from zip lining to bungee trampolining to the BT Observation Wheel, plus a Kids Zone! 11am-6pm, FREE (Guaranteed Entry Tickets £3.50) (Jul 27-Aug 12)
Peninsula Festival in Peninsula Square, West Parkside, SE10 (North Greenwich tube) features a massive man-made beach, live entertainment, Emirates Cable Cars and big screen action, all a stone’s throw from the Olympic Park. Daily, FREE (Jul 19-Aug 13)
You’ll find Community Live Sites plus jam-packed entertainment at Greenwich Big Screen in Old Royal Naval College, SE10 (Greenwich DLR); Waltham Forest Big Screen in Walthamstow Town Square, E17 (Walthamstow Central tube) and Woolwich Big Screen in General Gordon Square, SE10 (Woolwich Arsenal DLR) (Jul 27-Aug 12)
Broadgate EC1 (Liverpool Street tube) is home to annual summer screenings and this year 2012 Games take over three outdoor screening sites at Exchange Square, Broadgate Circle and Finsbury Avenue Square. Daily, FREE (Jul 27-Aug 12)
Book Club Base Camp at 100 Leonard St in Shoreditch (Old St tube) is where the cool crowd are sure to hang, with screenings in the Leonard Street car park accompanied by cocktails, paddling pool, ping-pong and street art. 8am-late, FREE entry (Jul 27-Aug 12)
The Hammersmith Urban Beach at Lyric Square, W6 (Hammersmith tube) is a popular annual spot for outdoor screenings and will be showing live sporting action through the Games. Daily, FREE (Jul 27-Aug 12 and Aug 29-Sep 9)
Head to Potters Field Park, SE1 (London Bridge tube) to enjoy Olympic Games screenings and family fun against the backdrop of iconic Tower Bridge. If it all gets too much, escape to nearby Unicorn Theatre’s Chill-Out Zone as listed in our 30 coolest things to do with kids in summer 2012. Daily, FREE (Jul 27-Aug 12 and Aug 29-Sep 9)
Blackheath Common (Blackheath tube) plays host to the Lewisham Big Screen, 8.30am until late, daily, FREE (Jul 27-Aug 12)
Henman Hill, the famous grassy mound outside Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club, SW19 (Wimbledon tube) will showcase Olympic Tennis on big screens alongside other action. Tickets £10 via London 2012 site.
Holding it down for the ‘norf is Camden Beach at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 (Chalk Farm tube) a summer installation with sand, deck chairs, kids play area and all-day screenings of the Olympics to be enjoyed with your cocktails. 11am-11pm, FREE (Jul-Aug)
Also look for screenings at House of Nations King’s Cross
WHERE TO STAY
Central London is awash with luxury family-friendly hotels, and many are slashing their prices last-minute. Popular child-friendly London hotels include The Athenaeum near the BT Live Site at Hyde Park; Park Plaza County Hall, overlooking the London Eye; Rubens Hotel near Buckingham Palace; trendy Hoxton Hotel (a favourite of BritMums) in Shoreditch; and Royal Horseguards Hotel, excellently placed in Whitehall just around from St James’ Park. Find late hotel discounts at www.laterooms.com
Budget options for families range from the cheap and cheerful Holiday Inns and Travelodges dotted around town to the YHA, offering locations as varied as St. Pancras and St. Paul’s. Bed & Breakfast specialists At Home In London recommend quality, reasonable lodgings in Zones 1, 2 and 3. Also try Air B&B for private home rentals and swaps.
Camp in London offers a glamping experience in Walthamstow Park, E17 with free wi-fi, big screens, kids club and an Olympic shuttle bus. There’s even an on-site supermarket, with cost-cutting prices! Prices range from £20 to £200 for luxury tents/£10 child 7+/kids under 6 FREE.
Camping at the Games is a wonderful, fundraising initiative that offers affordable accommodation to people whether you’re a ticket-holder, games maker or just someone who wants to soak up the vibes. You can pitch a tent for just £10 per adult per night (£5 child) throughout the Olympic and Paralympic games at one of 10 sites near 2012 venues. Free hot showers and parking inclusive.
Possibly even more low-cost spots can be found through Camp in my Garden, a web site advertising private gardens as camping micro-sites (prices negotiable with home/garden owner). Locals can still choose to rent their own backyards out and skip town when the going gets too hot!
The Official London 2012 web site
The London 2012 mobile apps available on iOS, Blackberry, Android
Photo from Hornby Olympic Tea Party at Hamleys