Three family-friendly day trips from London

London is one of the most frequented and culturally diverse capitals in the world. Top-class museums, renowned musicals and theatre plays, historically important buildings and an interesting foodie scene are some of the highlights that intrepid travelers can enjoy during their stay in the English capital. It’s a great family destination where fun, learning and excitement are guaranteed.  And those lucky enough to spend more than a few days in London can explore some of the beautiful towns nearby that can be visited within a day trip.  

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Day trips from London:

London and England as a whole have a great public transport system; its railway system is famous for its comfort and punctuality and they easily connect the different English cities and towns. 

Renting a car is, of course, another excellent alternative. If you like this idea, remember that cars are quite small as parking in England is tight so getting an SUV or a minivan may not be super easy; most cars are manual as well so if you’re looking for an automatic vehicle, it’s advisable to ask for it in advance. Last but not least, don’t let the agent press you to purchase the insurance policy they offer. Take your time to explore all your options before arriving at the agency and, if you’re American, think about relying on the policies offered by companies such as this one.  

Oxford: Colleges, Harry Potter and Blenheim Castle

Best known for its world-famous university, Oxford is a must-visit destination for those planning a day trip from London. Its large student population keeps the atmosphere young and fresh while you walk past ancient and impressive buildings. It’s only an hour in train from London Marylebone and London Paddington railway stations and about 90 minutes by car via the M4, M25 and A  roads. Oxford will welcome you with a great school-town atmosphere, amazing restaurants, great museums and gorgeous architecture. Visit the different colleges that are part of the ancient university and wander its cobblestone streets. Oxford University had saints, Prime Ministers, Nobel Prize winners and even Hugh Grant amongst its alumni and Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland here as well. 

For the quintessential British experience, enjoy a delicious cream tea at The Vaults & Garden Café. This beautiful XIV century building surrounded by the Murton, Oriel, Brasenose and All Souls Colleges invites you to try scones loaded with clotted cream and seasonal homemade jam. And for the best panoramic views, climb the tower at the Church of St Mary The Virgin. Children will love The Story Museum, that welcomes visitors through a wardrobe into Narnia and other fictional worlds. 

Oxford was also home to various Harry Potter filming locations so it won’t be strange if you recognize some of them as you tour the town. The awesome Bodleian Library served as the Hogwarts Library and the Divinity School was used as the Hogwarts Infirmary for instance. Christ Church Dining Hall inspired the Hogwarts Great Hall and the stone halls of New College Cloisters will be familiar to Harry Potter fans as they were the school passageways that can be seen through the films. 

There are also many interesting museums you may like to include in your list: the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Museum of Natural History are just some of them with their varied and stunning collection. Britain’s first public museum, the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology is also fantastic with its collection of drawings by Rembrandt, Raphael or Michelangelo, ancient Chinese porcelain and coins with the heads of Nero or Henry VIII.

While in Oxford, don’t miss a tour around some of its 38 colleges: Balliol College, Trinity College and Exeter College are just some of them. The Bodleian Library and its Radcliffe Camera are also important highlights in any visit to Oxford. Don’t forget to check the town’s Covered Market as well, the perfect place to shop for souvenirs and sample delicious local food.

Harry Potter fans have another important and compelling reason to visit Oxford: the Warner Bros Studio Tour of the Making of Harry Potter. It’s by far one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK and children will love it. It’s an exhibition of the costumes, movie sets and props used in all the Harry Potter films. Take a look at Gryffindor Common Room, the Potions Classroom or Dumbledore’s office and walk through the Forbidden Forest for an otherworldly experience. 

Close to Oxford is Blenheim Palace. It’s the home of the Duke of Marlborough and where Winston Churchill was born. It’s absolutely impressive and the rooms are opulent. Children will be at awe with the mermaid fountain in the garden and the hedge maze! Love butterflies? Don’t miss the Butterfly House where you’ll see species from all around the world. Blenheim Palace also showcases a permanent exhibition devoted to Churchill and his life.  

Cambridge: Another Picture-Perfect University Town

Famous for its world-class university, ancient colleges and beautiful green space, Cambridge is another great day trip to take from London. Needless to say, the university colleges are the highlight of your visit: Clare College, Kings College with its stunning stained glass windows and Gothic chapel, the Wren Library at Trinity College, Corpus Christi or Christ’s College are amongst the most popular ones. 

Going down by boat on the river Cam is the best way to get an overview of the city from the water. Sporty spirits can not only enjoy the beautiful views but also practise punting. Punting is going in a boat with a long stick and it’s the locals’ favorite pastime. The Round Church is another interesting building to visit; built in 1130, it’s only one of the four medieval round churches that is still in active use. 

Cambridge offers a hard to beat experience with its stunning architecture, beautiful streets and rich history. And it’s not short of museums either! The Fitzwilliam Museum is absolutely amazing: it’s home to half a million artifacts and works of art that belong to the university’s collections: masterpieces by Monet, Rubens, illuminated manuscripts and antiquities from Ancient Egypt or Rome are in exhibition. Don’t miss the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology or the Polar Museum _ which vividly illustrates the experience of the first explorers of the Poles either!

No visit to this university town will be complete without spending some time at the Botanical Garden. There’s an impressive collection of plants from across the globe, various glass houses and a delightful café and shop. 

Feel Like Royalty in Windsor and Have Fun in Legoland!

If you’ve ever seen a British royal wedding or you’re a fan of anything royal, you’ll definitely enjoy a day trip to Windsor and its famous castle. Queen Elizabeth II spends plenty of time here and it’s one of the most beautiful castles in the world. 

But Windsor is a charming city as well. Located by the river Thames, a boat tour offers a great way to admire its beauty. With its charming, quaint shops, it’s a beautiful town to visit.

The best way to appreciate the majestic Windsor Castle fully is to approach it via the Long Walk, an arrow-straight road that cuts through Windsor Great Park. The Queen’s summer residence is huge, but the most interesting highlights include Queen Mary’s Doll’s House, St George’s Chapel and the State Apartments; the Queen’s Gallery and the Dining Hall with their wonderfully painted ceilings and wood carvings are simply otherwordly. If you arrive early, you can see the changing of the guard ceremony at 11am. As the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, Windsor Castle offers visitors an exquisite visitor route that grants access to many of its stunning estates. You’ll have the chance to admire many treasures from the royal collection as well.  

During your nice day trip in Windsor you can also go shopping along King Edward Court shopping center or Peascod Street, or take a stroll through the Alexandra garden. But if you’re travelling with children or you are a huge Lego fan, there’s a place that you simply can’t miss: Legoland Windsor

Many say that Legoland Windsor deserves a whole day and they are probably right. The highlights include the pirate-themed shows at Heartlake City, the tiny Lego landmarks in Miniland, exciting family rides like Atlantis or Fairy Tale Brook. Duplo Valley is dedicated to the youngest visitors. There are also water play areas available during the summer and plenty of Lego displays to see and enjoy as well 

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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