Taking day trips is a great way to explore a city’s surroundings without the hassle of checking in and out of hotels. On a trip to London, England, with our toddler we experienced much more than city life by arranging day trips to a variety of places. The royal palace in Windsor, the seaside resort town of Brighton, the historic city of Bath are a few options of day trips within 2-3 hours from London and ideal for taking the kids.
Day trips offer a convenient way to experience more than your main destination when you don’t have a lot of time to spare. We like to base ourselves at a central location when traveling with kids and explore surrounding areas by taking day trips. It helps to minimize time and energy wasted with the constant packing/unpacking when switching lodging every couple of days.
On our trip to London, we stayed at an apartment rental in Central London but went to the beach, visited a castle and saw the magnificent Stonehenge through day adventures. Here are a few suggestions for easy day trips from London that we experienced with our toddler son.
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1. Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. It is an official residence of Her Majesty, The Queen, who spends most of her private weekends at Windsor. She also takes up official residence for a month over Easter and for one week each June, when she attends the famous British horse racing event, the Royal Ascot.
Train is the easiest form of public transportation. You can also take a group tour that includes a ride from several bus stations in London. I recommend reserving tickets ahead of time but that doesn’t preclude you from waiting in line, especially in the morning.
A typical tour includes a visit to the State Apartments (grand room used by the Queen for entertaining), the Drawings Gallery, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and St. George’s Chapel and will take about 1.5 hours.
A trip to Windsor also offers an opportunity to watch the changing of the guard. The ceremony usually takes place Monday to Saturday at 11:00 in the Castle’s Lower Ward and lasts approximately 30 minutes.
Do budget some time for walking around the castle premises taking in the views from the hill top. The Windsor town is also a great place for souvenir shopping and grabbing a snack.
Bath is a beautiful city in southwest England, known for its natural hot springs and 18th-century Georgian architecture. A 90 minute train ride from London to Bath will give you a taste for the English countryside.
The Bath city center was a great spot for us to relax while keeping an eye on our son who was chasing pigeons. We loved strolling the streets at our leisure as we took in the beautiful landscaping and architecture. I would recommend focusing on one activity such as a guided tour of an original Roman style bath, a stroll around Victoria Art Gallery where work of local artists are featured or taking a city tour in a sightseeing bus.
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England about 2.5 hours from London and about one hour from Bath. Walking around the standing Stone Circle at dusk was the highlight of our visit to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.
To make the most of the spectacular view I recommend going in during morning or evening. You are not allowed to get close to the stone structures but you can spend hours outside marveling the structure in the backdrop of farm lands. There is also a visitor center and Neolithic house exhibits which gives a glimpse of the life of the Neolithic ancestors.
You can combine a trip to Windsor, Bath and Stonehenge if you’re inclined towards an organized tour with a packed itinerary.
Going to the beach isn’t what you would normally expect from a trip to London. Known for its pebble beach, Brighton is a seaside resort town about an hour South of London. Wanting to do something low key and fun for our toddler we headed to Brighton for the day for a chance to walk on the pebble beach, a very different feeling from sandy beaches we’re used to. But area surrounding the pier was typical of any boardwalk visit with kiosks for carnival games and treats.
Visiting the Lanes, a historic quarter that is a maze of twisting alleyways full of eclectic shops and restaurants, was one of my favorite things to do in Brighton.
We could easily navigate with a stroller through the narrow lanes
Royal Pavilion, a former Royal Residence of Prince of Wales is an architectural highlight of the city. Even though we didn’t do a tour, we took a walk through the gardens and appreciated the influence of Indian design on its colorful and ornate facade
As a former fishing village, the vibe in Brighton is laid back and quirky. It is a great place to experience a different side of English life.
Greenwich is a part of South London and easily accessible by land and water. Taking a ride in the River Bus on The Thames River with fantastic views of London makes the trip to Greenwich as exciting as the destination itself.
Visiting the Royal Observatory was the highlight for us. We got to learn about the history of British astronomy, Greenwich Mean Time and see the Prime Meridian of the World. The museum is small and not easily accessed with a stroller. My husband and I took turns at visiting the museum.
National Maritime Museum, an ode to Britain seafaring history, Queen’s House which houses an impressive collection of fine art, Cutty Sark one of the world’s most famous ships are few other attractions that will warrant you to spend the whole day in Greenwich. Since our son was too young to appreciate much of this history, what he loved most was the walk through a vast green park we explored the Royal Museums of Greenwich.
What are some other great day trip ideas from London that you would recommend? Here are more ideas for exploring London with kids.