London is a fun filled fast moving city full always of exciting things to check out. The Easter half term upon us and family visiting, I question my choice to visit The Museum of London but am pleasantly surprised by the lack of chaos we find there. Our entourage comprises of three adults (all with a favour for sarcasm and a loathing for overly enthusiastic children’s entertainers) and three children, aged 7 8 and 9 (also with an aversion to overly enthusiastic entertainers). Fortunately, being based in Belgravia, right next to Victoria train station it’s an easy (but long!) bus ride on the number 11 straight to the museum. We pass a few tourist hot spots, riding through parliament square, Big Ben and past St. Paul’s Cathedral (although we did get off a stop late so probably shouldn’t have gotten quite as far as the cathedral, but hey it was worth it). We were sure to point out the National Gallery to the kids, remaining them it’s where “A night at the museum” took place. Naturally, they spent most of the journey imagining and describing to each other what it would be like if they got trapped inside and so they absolutely didn’t mind the extra walking (if you’ve never seen a night at the museum, basically kids get trapped inside over night and everything comes to life. Cool concept but it’s got Ben Stiller in it who I find hugely irritating- sorry Ben!). From the bus stop it takes us about 7 minutes to leisurely walk to the museum. None of us are particularly great with directions (my fellow two adults are from NY and I haven’t ventured to this area since being a child myself) but it was perfectly easy to find and we soon were inside buying tickets.
I’d say it’s worth booking online since tickets are a little cheaper, but we paid about £13.50 per adult and £9.50 per child on the door. Concessions are of course available for groups/schools/elderly. Either way, I thought this was a pretty good price. We arrive at 1pm (all well fed of course, otherwise it literally would have been hell.. we all suffer hugely from hanger!) and go straight into the “Fire Fire!” exhibition which I have to say is pretty great. Despite being a fully grown adult, my attention span is limited, so trying to find something which will interest both adults and children with short attention spans is quite a feat- alas, this exhibition does exactly that. The history of the great Fire of London is presented with inter active games, authentic models and excerpts and an area for dressing up and taking photos (my favourite part). More an immersive art show (without performance) than a boring display, I decide it’s well worth paying for (can you tell I’m a huge fan of NOT spending money on days out!?). It takes about 45 minutes to mosey through and none of us lose interest at any point- hurrah! Afterward, we make our way to the “pleasure garden” (which doesn’t take a millennium to walk to like it does in some museums- namely the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert!) around the corner to join in a “detective” activity. Being well acquainted with the “backpack” activities at the British Museum, we expect the detective activity to be something similar- each child receives an activity pack of some sort and is set on their way to complete these activities. Upon entry to the Pleasure Garden, we quickly realise we are very wrong; the room (wonderfully decorated with artistic 18th century models) is a circular shape and set up with a focus on its centre “stage”- an area of laminate flooring surrounded by Greek style white pillars and a lighted “roof” decorated internally with a blue sky and white clouds. In the centre of this stage stands a woman donning a huge fake smile and a number of props. Oh. No! Exactly the sort of thing we all deteste!! There are seats in the form of round brightly coloured cushions which are on the floor around the stage for the children and three benches (nowhere near enough) further back for us adults. The kids assume their places, unsure of the whole thing and we adults all take a seat on the floor (since the benches are already full- obviously). We pass a look which communicates the consideration to leave immediately, but we decide to give it a chance and the adults throw the kids a reassuring smile (or is it a “please try to like it” smile? Who knows but it works). The woman on the stage soon comes alive with exactly the overly enthusiastic attitude we were hoping to avoid and the adults exchange a “well we tried” glance. We wait for a discreet moment to leave whilst the entertainer prances around making strange sounds and the children watch with faces as if to say “what on earth is this and why have you brought us here?” (Though toddlers would love it, I’m sure) when something suddenly changes: the entertainer becomes much more theatrical, much less kids party person and begins to tell the story of the great fire from first as a detective character and then, in turn, assuming several other brilliant and entertaining characters. She gets the children involved by asking them to spin an arrow on a board pointing to different “suspects” and becomes each character as it is landed on via this spinning board. The children listen to each characters version of events and at the end, have to make various decisions about what they do and do not believe. Needless to say, they absolutely love it! Everyone gets a turn to be involved in some way, through a wheel spin or a high five or a “you there, what do you think?”. We’re all glad we gave it a proper chance and impressed that we could drop in, free of charge- no booking necessary! (I think this runs every hour daily but best to double check the website!) After this, we head to the cafe, which is more or less right outside, for cake and drinks (they have sandwiches too, but that’s about it.. there’s a cafe with more choice by the entrance which isn’t too far if you fancy more) then stop by the toilets next door. It’s all very convenient. We wrap the afternoon up by taking a walk through a very cool replica 18th century street, called “Victorian Walk” and checking out a replica prison cell with original etchings on the wood dating back centuries. All in all, a very interesting, EASY and fun day!
So if you’re looking for something to do in London over Easter (whether it’s with kids or not) and especially if you have people coming to visit from out of town, I would recommend passing by the Museum of London! For some reason it’s one of those places that seems to fall second place to the likes of the British museum, National Art Gallery and V&A, but if you give it a chance (including the drop in storytelling) it’s actually pretty fab!