We had a weekend in London as a family of 5 recently. It was our annual festive trip to London. (this seems to becoming one of our Family Christmas Traditions). This would entail a visit to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. A trip to see the London Palladium pantomime and anything else we could squeeze in. We had asked the extended family to join us but it was decided the 3 year olds were too small. My brother did pencil the winter wonderland visit in, but it clashed with his works xmas do.
In this post I am going to review all of our experiences in London as a family of 5. The pros and cons of the way we travelled for the weekend and the choices of hotel. Both my husband and I have lived in London in the past so I should say that we are quite knowledgeable about transport methods around London and the different areas.
We travel to London (when I say London I mean the centre of London) at least once a year. It feels like each time we come we have a different method of getting there. We are more than happy to drive but we also have a three year family and friends railcard that we can use. It normally depends on where in London we are visiting on whether we get the train or if we drive. For this visit we knew we were going to be staying in the centre of London so we decided to get the train.
Pros of getting a train
It means that no one has to drive (obviously)
We can all relax and toilet stops with the children is not an issue.
A picnic can be taken with us and eaten all together if we wish, or not. (I always think taking children on a train for a long journey is like taking a children on a school trip. As soon as we are on the train the children think it’s lunchtime, which reminds of my previous experiences of trips as a primary school teacher).
Don’t have to worry about parking (not that I would chose to park in the centre of London).
Cons of getting a train
It is less flexible than having the car, especially as we live 30 mins from the nearest train station.
Can get delayed.
Can be more costly (although this is an advantage of having a family railcard).
Depending on the time of travel it can be extremely busy. (On the Sunday night journey home the train was extremely busy with people standing in the middle of train from London to Reading)
I personally like the train, however I know the drive back afterwards isn’t always the nicest.
This is a biggy for us a family of 5. Since we have been 5, we have either made the decision to split into 2 rooms or snuck one daughter in a family room (usually 4). Now the girls are getting older this is not an option and to be fair we haven’t done it for a while. I have never felt very comfortable sneaking children anyway. I also don’t like splitting, but sometimes it is the cheapest option. Do you have a family of 5 or more? It would be great to hear other peoples opinions on visiting places as a family of 5, especially city breaks.
We chose the Hilton Metropole in London Edgware Road this time and booked via www.hotels.com. This gave us the option of being able to cancel upto a week before free of charge and we didn’t pay till we arrived.
I will write a review on this shortly.
Pros of family rooms of 5
We are all in one room.
No arguments over who sleeps in which room.
Cons of family rooms of 5
Usually a lot more expensive.
Less choice of where to stay- limited availability or hotels offering rooms for 5.
Need to be booked in advance due to the above point, so need to be more organised.
How was the weekend?
We chose to visit Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park on the Saturday afternoon after we had checked in our bags to the Hotel. The tickets for the pantomime were booked for Sunday afternoon. So we had all Saturday afternoon for Hyde Park.
Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park
It has to be said Winter Wonderland is huge at Hyde Park. I reckon you could spend all day and not complete everything. Last year we arrived in mid morning and being lighter I reckon its easier to navigate your way around. By the time we got rid of our bags and made our way there it was dusk. It was also pouring with rain so we had decided we would do what we could whilst everyone was still happy. It was quite cold as well compared to what it had been, so that was a factor too.
The first stop was a hot chocolate and a hat for me (why I don’t own a winter hat I will never know). The hot chocolate and coffee came to just over £12.
We then decided to walk around but DD2 had her eyes on a fun house so we did that. That cost us £5 each! We knew winter wonderland wasn’t going to be cheap. We had sort of planned for this as it was our weekend as a family of 5.
Next we came across a driving game which put all the participants in a driving car but it was remote control cars. It was a fun game with very hard to control cars. (in my opinion!)
Dodgems were on our hit list, however we were getting cold and wet and it was very difficult to find somewhere to warm up (and dry off). We went on the dodgems and by the time we came off them we were very cold and wet and decided to head back to the hotel. Each ride seemed to be around £5, however, we didn’t check out many of the bigger rides so they might have cost more. As a family of 5 we quickly spent a lot of money for the amount of time we were there. If you are planning a trip to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park then take plenty of money.
At Hyde Park there was also a circus show, ice skating, Santaland and many other prebookable activities. We didn’t do any of these so I can’t comment on them.
We headed back to the hotel in a short taxi ride. It gave us the chance to warm up and chill out. In fact we watched last weeks Strictly Come Dancing. We had food booked at Pizza Express for 7.30 which was exchanged our Tesco Clubcard vouchers for in advance. It turned out Pizza Express was 2 minutes walk away from the hotel so very handy. (on of the pros of staying in the centre of London that family friendly restaurants are never far away)
A very relaxed chilled morning in the hotel before we took our bags to the storage place at Paddington station before heading down Oxford St to see the pantomime in the Palladium. We were going to walk down Oxford St but time got on so we just go the bus.
Snow White at The London Palladium
The Palladium has started pantomimes the last couple of years and we have seen them all. The have never failed to entertain us as a family and there is humour for all ages.
Julian Clary has been cast this last few years and this year he was ‘The Man in the Mirror’. His costumes get bigger, better, more camp and more outrageous, but isn’t that the point. Gary Wilmot returned as the Dame and was just as funny. Paul Zurdin also returned with his ventriloquist act and probably up there as one of my favourite characters. He does a brilliant act with his sidekick Sam and is great fun for everyone especially the younger audience. Nigel Havers comes back as the token joke act, I did feel he didn’t have such a big part this year, my husband disagreed.
The Snow White and Prince Harry actors are made for the theatre and are fab at their parts.
Dawn French was cast as the Wicked Queen and did a fantastic job and fitted in really well with the rest of the cast.
The whole stage, cast, scenery, cast, production team, orchestra etc are amazing and I think it is well worth a family trip. We chose seats that had a slight view restriction but this meant they were half the price of any other tickets at £22.50 each.
We all had a fantastic weekend and when it is so close to Christmas and being a family of 5 it is great to spend the time together. The DD’s are currently 8,10 and 12 and life can be very busy so the time away from everyday life is a welcome relief. I love the pantomime production in The London Palladium and it seems it is now a tradition. (In fact we have already considered dates for next year!) Great belly laughs and great to see the girls faces. Winter Wonderland wasn’t as good as it was wet as well as cold and we struggled to get dry anywhere. However we did what we wanted and were able to have some down time too. On the whole a lovely weekend with the family.