Our wonderful weather luck came to a grinding halt in London. I was gratified to read that southern England saw only 10% of its typical sunshine in the first half of March — at least the terrible weather wasn’t all in our heads. The good new is the grey and damp wasn’t much of an impediment to a London itinerary loaded with weather-agnostic museums. A quick run-down, ranked from the perspective of two small boys who favour vehicles and firepower above most other things.
The Maritime Museum in Greenwich was such a favourite that we went twice. There is a fun ‘soft play’ for under 7s as well as a hands-on gallery for school-aged children, so we made good use of both. The galleries for Tudor and Stuart Seafarers was packed with information about explorers and intricate models of boats, and there was lots to learn about the Battle of Trafalgar in the Nelson gallery. Because we went twice, we can advise that you skip the cafe in the museum itself, and instead head for a Greenwich pub.
The decommissioned warship on the Thames was very high on the boys’ list. They loved running all over the ship, seeing the guns, sitting in the captain’s chair, and playing with the interactive screens in the galley. The cafe was also quite good by London museum standards.
While we were visiting some family in North London, we visited the RAF Museum in Hendon. The half-dozen hangars are filled from different aircraft from World War I to the present day. Our aircraft aficionados loved seeing the planes up close and trying their hand at the interactive displays. This one was neck-and-neck with the HMS Belfast for the number 2 spot on the boys’ list of favourite museums.
Imperial War Museum
Are you sensing a theme on their favourite museums? The Imperial War Museum has a selection of vehicles, but we spent the best part of four hours going through the World War I and World War II galleries. The ‘Extraordinary Heroes‘ gallery on the top floor was the surprise hit — they have depicted a number of VC and GC stories as animations, which the kids really enjoyed. (NB: we did not visit the Holocaust gallery as it is not recommended for under 14s).
Natural History Museum
Lots of interesting animal life to be seen here, from fossils to taxidermied extinct birds. The animatronic dinosaurs were a big hit, natch, but an exhibit all about creepy-crawlies captured the imagination too. Definitely worth a morning’s commitment.
This was a bit of a disappointment. Back in the dark ages when Sam was a young thing, the Science Museum had a whole floor dedicated to kids’ play-based learning, with all sorts of sand tables and waterways that could be dug/diverted/messed around. That is no longer the case (another consequence, it seems, of COVID), and as a result the museum leans towards older kids, at best. There was a rather impressive aircraft display, and a pretty cool working Enigma machine, but this didn’t match up to the Deutsches Museum in Munich.
Bringing up the rear is the British Museum. The kids asked to leave after about an hour, and it was hard to blame them. From a kid’s perspective, it is mostly a collection of objects, without much in the way of narrative or context.