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Postcard from London, England

Home to more than beefeaters and double-decker buses, London is a perfect spot for families to visit.

By Shandley McMurray
Postcard from London, England

Postcard from London, England

Postcard from London, England

So your family's booked and ready to go to the London Olympics. Now what? From July 27 to August 12, 2012, the UK’s capital will be packed with athletes and visitors for the Games. But don’t worry, our local’s guide will help you navigate the crowds and find the best places for your team to play, stay, shop and eat. Can’t get your hands on last-minute Games tickets from cosport.com, Canada’s official London 2012 ticket seller? We’ll tell you where to watch events for free.

A version of this article appeared in our July 2012 issue with the headline London Calling (p. 26).

Postcard from London, EnglandDiorama by Daniel DeSouza.

Where to stay

Home Sweet Home Hotel rooms can be cramped, expensive and tough to find in London. Try booking a house or apartment (homeaway.ca or onefinestay.com).

The Savoy One of the most famous hotels in London circa 1889, you'll sleep in luxury at this newly renovated and glamorous hotel set in the heart of the city. (From £795 per night for a Family Suite King).

Apex City of London Hotel Close to Tower Hill tube station, the location is convenient and the rooms are big by London standards. (From £99 per night per room — you'll need two).

Postcard from London, EnglandPhoto by stockstudioX/iStockphoto.com

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Where to shop

Treat the tots to a trip to Hamleys toy shop. More than 250 years old and seven floors tall, this is kid mecca. 188-196 Regent St.

Postcard from London, EnglandPhoto by code6d/iStockphoto.com

Where to eat

Fuel the kids with Namaaste Kitchen in Camden, which features traditional dishes from the various competing countries fused with Indian spices. Kids can enjoy milder meals like Malai tikka chicken or chicken and chips for just $8. 64 Parkway Camden/Primrose Hill

Dim t Feed the kids with a bento box while gazing at Tower Bridge in More London Place. (£4.95) Then let them run relays through the outdoor water jets.

Babylon The food is delish, but kids will go nuts over the garden with its 70 full-sized trees and resident flamingos. (Sea bass, £26.50, Young diners' menu £6 for two courses).

High tea at the Ritz At £42 per person, afternoon tea isn't cheap, but it's the authentically English experience that you're paying for. A bonus: They serve so much food you won't need dinner.

Postcard from London, EnglandPhoto by yuhirao/iStockphoto.com

What to do

Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens (pictured left) will entertain your little ones.

Visit the HMS Belfast to learn about life on a warship. This floating museum will teach kids about how the 950 sailors, slept, ate and entertained themselves.

Whether you take a train or a bus, Hampton Court Palace is worth the 35-minute trip. King Henry VIII's old stomping ground boasts spectacular gardens and a maze that kids will love to get lost in.

Churchill War Rooms Go underground to see the secret headquarters where Churchill and his government fought the Second World War.

Tour the Thames as if you're a coxswain with a City Cruises boat tour. (£39.50 for an all-day family pass).

Postcard from London, EnglandPhoto by kevinmcc via Flickr.

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What to do

EDF Energy London Eye (pictured left) The 30-minute giant Ferris wheel ride offers breathtaking views of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey ($75 per family of four).

FREE activities:
The Victoria & Albert Museum is themed by exhibit and specially geared to keep kids interested.

Wire an alarm system, test out thermal imaging or visit the Apollo 10 command module at the Science Museum.

Get up close to a blue whale and see an animatronic T-Rex at the end of a spectacular dinosaur display at the Natural History Museum.

Tour Harrods Ride the Egyptian escalator and wander through the vibrant food halls for a taste of the decadent life.

Covent Garden has some of the most talented buskers around. Catch a magic show, watch an acrobat or enjoy the flawless voice of an opera singer.

Postcard from London, EnglandPhoto by curium via Flickr.

Insider tips for families

Take the bus One of the best ways to see London is from the top of a double-decker bus. Take the number 15 from Trafalgar Square towards the Tower of London.

Quiz the kids When visiting Westminster Abbey, grab a children's guide on the way in. Answering the questions will help tots learn about what they see.

Avoid Tower food While the ambiance is spectacular, the food at the Tower of London (pictured left) is horrendous. Choose quick and cheap noodle chain Wagamama instead, located just outside the entrance.

Shop at Primark Take the fam to Londoners' favourite discount store instead. With t-shirts from £1.50 you can't go wrong. Aim to get there at opening (8:30 am at the Oxford Street location) to beat the crowds.

Enjoy a flake Reward your taste buds with an English flake (ice cream with a chocolate flake bar stuck in the top) from one of the city's numerous ice cream vans.

Postcard from London, EnglandPhoto by ayricton via Flickr.

What to pack

Comfy shoes The best way to get around London is on foot. Wait times for the tube could be more than half an hour at some stations.

Picnic blanket London is chock full of beautiful parks. Grab some fish and chips and relax by the north gate in St. James Park.

Umbrella Believe the hype about rainy ol' England and bring a brolly.

Postcard from London, EnglandPhoto via iStockphoto.com
This article was originally published on Jun 12, 2012

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