Outdoor Fun

Prior to moving to Surrey, we lived in a London flat* for the first six weeks we were here. While in London, my goal each day was to find places for the kids to burn off some energy before having to have quiet feet in the evenings.  There are a few places that still keep my kids happy and entertained so they will visit another historical building, garden, museum, etc.
(ice cream doesn’t hurt either).

Dulwich Park (London)

These three-wheel ‘banana bikes’ are available for hire at this park. You sit in a chair with handles on either side of you and pedals in front of you. The paths are not very long, but they are wide and well travelled. The vendor also hires out adult and children’s tricycles, and tandems among other types.  Bikes for one person range from £8-£10/hour and those that

Meal Deals

Having grown–up with ‘buy one get one free’ and ‘buy one and get the second at half-price’, it is rare to see these types of offers in the UK. We have, however, been to a few places that share the spirit of this concept

Albion (Multiple)

Tried this café, bakery and food store on Southbank after visiting Tate Modern. We enjoyed a tasty soup, goat cheese salad and filling steak sandwich with mushrooms. As a neighborhood restaurant, the cafe is open all-day, seven days a week. They make their own ice cream (chocolate, vanilla, caramel and lemon sorbet and offers seasonal flavors too). If this wasn’t enough, they offer a Sunday Supper Club of fish, chips, mushy peas and glass of wine or bottle of craft beer for just £10 after 6 pm.
www.albioncaff.co.uk

Bodean’s BBQ Smokehouse (Multiple)

If you’re in the mood for Kansas City barbeque ribs in London, here’s your place. Other smoke pit specialties include chicken and pulled pork. Their Soho location also has American sports playing on giant screen TVs. Kids eat free everyday from Noon to 5 pm and eat for just £5 after that.
www.bodeansbbq.com

Launceston Place Restaurant (London)

It was a pleasant surprise to find a Michelin-rated restaurant offering a moderately priced three-course set lunch menu. Service and food are both top-notch in this intimate restaurant. Sign-up for their e-mail list to hear about special offers they have. We lucked out and had a two-course meal and ticket to a V&A exhibition for just £26/person.
www.launcestonplace-restaurant.co.uk+44 2079 376912
1a Launceston Place, London W8 5RL


Not your typical day (or night) out

If you are not into theatre, tired of just going out to eat or getting a drink at a pub, here are some fun outings that just take a bit of pre-planning and booking.

Bisley Shooting Ground (Multiple)

Set within 3,000 acres in Surrey, Bisley Shooting Ground is Europe’s largest sporting clay ground and one of the top shooting schools. Though I am not a fan of guns and the closest I have come to holding one was at amusement park shooting galleries, I decided while in England to give the sport a shot, literal. Being a complete novice, it was a bit intimidating to walk up to the Clubhouse and see women dressed in shooting vests and carrying their own shotgun holsters. We

For the Actively Inclined

As varied as these activities are, they are suitable for all levels of fitness. 
Getting the nerve to try them out though is another story.

AirHop (Guilford)

Imagine 50 trampolines connected together with padded walls and pits of foam and you have AirHop, the first of its kind in England.  You can now practice slam-dunking like Michael Jordon, play a game of dodge ball or practice moves you have only dreamed of.  This place is a great place for kids to burn off energy or 1,000 calories an hour for £10/person.

Dessert

The British like their puddings*. Traditional desserts include everything from Bakewell Tart* to Banoffee Pie*, Eaton Mess*, and Spotted Dick* (which I still haven’t managed to order at a restaurant yet). This list is a combination of traditional and those more similar to what you can get in the US.

By Arrangement

Whether you have an interest in archeology, embroidery, gardens, music or tea;
there is a specialty talk or tour that can be arranged for you.

Beatles VIP Tour (London)

If you are a Beatles aficionado, your guide actually knew John, Paul, George. Using the many anecdotes of his time with the Beatles, you'll get exclusive insight to the lives of the Beatles. Traveling by mini coach you'll be able to cover a wide-range of important Beatles locations in London 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

We are always on the hunt for proper chocolate chip cookies. The closest to ‘home’ are Ben's Cookies (Multiple) and Millie's Cookies (Multiple). The very best ones can be found in The Clink (Sutton), a restaurant located in a prison, really! It’s worth the extra security protocols and serves great food (beyond cookies) at great prices in an unusual setting.
www.benscookies.com         www.milliescookies.com
www.theclinkrestaurant.com+44 2071 476724
High Down Lane, Sutton SM2 5PJ


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UK Residents

While countless London attractions welcome overseas visitors, there are two where
UK residency and support from your MP comes in handy.

Climb Big Ben (London)

One of the must do London activities available only to UK residents.  Take an unforgettable climb up 334 steps to the top of the Clock Tower in time to hear world-famous Big Ben chime at noon.  Your guided tour includes history of the Tower and bell as well as its inner workings.
www.parliament.uk/bigben
Westminster, London SW1A 0AA

See London Differently

If you live here and find yourself taking visitors around, you may want to take them to do something you haven't done before or just want to see a different side of London.
These off-the-beaten path outings below may fit the bill.

Bond Boat Tour (London)

Take a 50-75 minute high-speed boat ride down the Thames with James Bond music blaring in the background.  The 245-horsepower of the RIB (rigid inflatable boat) allows the boats to travel over 30 knots past London’s famous landmarks and literally above the water at times.  Fun you need to hold on tight for!

www.londonribvoyages.com +44 2079 288933
London Eye Millennium Pier, London

London Film Walk (London)

Follow in the footsteps of Jude Law, Hugh Grant, Ralph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rene Zelwegger and other stars of the big screen. Discover some of London's film locations for movies such as Bridget Jones' Diary, Closer, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Shakespeare in Love. Your guide will also provide anecdotes about filming in the capital.
www.secretlondonwalkingtours.co.uk

Mark Mason (London)

Whether you have been here forever or just got here, you will never quite look at London the same way after these trivia-packed tours. Stops include Burlington Arcade where Paul McCartney is the only one allowed to whistle, Gordon's Wine Bar, the oldest wine bar in London (and possibly the world) where author Rudyard Kipling once lived and Green Park where no flowerbeds are allowed. Being trivial has ever been so interesting!
www.theimportanceofbeingtrivial.com

Beef

If you’ve lived in the US, you will quickly notice that beef in the UK has a different flavor. The short answer is that the cattle in UK are corn fed and generally contain less artificial hormones. Not to worry though, there are a few places where you can get your steak or burger fix.

…and making the most of the ones that are

On the other hand, these attractions regularly make the list of ‘must dos’ while visiting
or living in London. Here’s a take at how to make the most of your visit.

British Museum (London)

Considered one of the world's premier museums with more than 6 million visitors a year, the British Museum is a popular place to visit.  The question is how to make the most of your time there. The answer is scheduling an hour-long tour with one of their guides to see some of the 'top' pieces. This sampler will have you coming back for more.

www.britishmuseum.org +44 2073 238299
British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG


Science Museum (London)

What makes London truly unique is the number of museums that are free and this one is no different.  If your kids are IMAX movie fans, purchase a family membership — we easily made up the cost of the membership in two visits.
www.sciencemuseum.org.uk +44 8708 704868
Exhibition Rd, London SW7 2DD


Tower Bridge (London)

Visiting the Tower Bridge Exhibition, seeing the engine rooms and taking in panoramic views above the River Thames towards the East and West of the Thames are great ways to explore the most famous bridge in the world. To make it truly memorable, plan your visit to coincide with the Bridge lift times.
www.towerbridge.org.uk +44 2074 033761
Tower Bridge, London SE1 2AA


Asian: Chinese, Indian, Japanese & Vietnamese

You’ll quickly find that Indian food in London is commonplace, similar to Mexican food in Texas.

Dishoom (Multiple)

This Bombay café has several locations, and offers a great breakfast, lunch, afternoon chai and dinner. We enjoyed a wonderful paneer mango salad and house black dahl, cooked for 24 hours. Always busy and open late, so book ahead.
www.dishoom.com

Hakkasan (Multiple)

Not your typical Chinese restaurant with its sleek interior and unusual twists on traditional Cantonese dishes (cod with champagne and honey, Peking duck salad with pomelo). Apparently, their recipe for success works. Hakkasan is the only Michelin-rated Chinese restaurant in London and they have grown to 12 locations world-wide. Book one of their London locations to experience where it started.
www.hakkasan.com

Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar (London)

Generally, I am not as inclined to go to hotel restaurants versus stand-alone establishments. However, The Park Plaza hotel features a wonderful sushi restaurant that is fresh, yummy and located close to Waterloo with a great view of Big Ben. They also offer a reasonably priced sushi afternoon tea and sushi-making masterclasses.
www.ichisushi.co.uk ✆ +44 2076 207373
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, London SE1 7UT

Not on Top 10 Lists

If you search on-line for top 10 places to go in and around London, these places generally won’t come up, but they are definitely worth checking out.

What I love about this Museum is that they give out an age-specific scavenger hunt sheet for the kids to complete during the visit with a prize at the end.  The audiovisual displays and use of computer technology will hold the kids’ attention.  Trying their hand at picking up a bar of gold was a highlight.
www.bankofengland.co.uk +44 2076 014444
Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AH

Afternoon Tea

Beyond the world-famous Ritz London’s Afternoon Tea, there are traditional,
not so traditional and downright quirky teas, an English tradition
I’ve happily embraced!

Alice in Wonderland Tea Cruise (Guilford)

What better way to enjoy tea than on an Edwardian-style boat in picturesque Oxford?  Your guide, an authority on all things Oxford, will provide commentary and answer questions on your waterway cruise to the spots Lewis Carroll visited and inspired in the story of Alice in Wonderland.
www.oxfordwaterwalks.co.uk

Cafe in the Crypt (London)

Across the street from Trafalgar Square is St. Martin’s in the Fields Café. This 18th century building with its brick-vaulted ceilings is a great place to stop in and escape from the summer heat and stream of tourists. They offer a basic afternoon tea minus the fancy cake stand. They also have a good and inexpensive ‘cafeteria’ style lunch.
www.cafe-in-the-crypt +44 2077 661158
Ducannon Street, London WC2N 4JF


Fortnum & Mason (London)

The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon opened by HM The Queen is the perfect place to have traditional a very memorable afternoon tea. What made our visit particularly special was a tour led by the resident archivist, who is well versed in the institution’s 300-year history.
www.fortnumandmason.com +44 2077 348040
181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER


Mark Your Diary

While there are literally half a dozen things you can do every week of the year in London, these are the ones to mark on your diary*.

Get into London Theatre* (January)

Every January London theatres offer tickets as low as £10/seat for over 50 shows until mid-February as part of their annual 'Get into London Theatre' annual promotion.  This offer is a great opportunity to see some fab shows — including West End hits Billy Elliott, Lion King and War Horse along with other off-West End shows such as Curious Incident and Once or fun musical ones like Jersey Boys and Thriller. Book* early to get the best seats.
www.getintolondontheatre.co.uk

London Fashion Weekend (February & September)

London Fashion Week (LFW) is one of the highest profile fashion events in the world and one of the ‘big four’ (New York, London, Milan and Paris). London Fashion Week is limited to members of the press, buyers or if you are a celebrity. However, tickets for Vodaphone London Fashion Weekend, which follows directly from LFW, uses the same exhibition and catwalk venue. You can also add the designer shopping event to shop from designers of LFW caliber, from the high profile to the emerging and includes a ‘catwalk’ show. Go to soak up the atmosphere and inspire your wardrobe!
londonfashionweek.co.uk
Strand, London WC2R 1LA

Oxford Cambridge Boat Race (March or April)

The annual Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge Crews is one of the oldest sporting events. No ticket is needed — just turn up* and join the thousands who watch from the banks of The Tideway. The 17-20 minute race starts at Putney and ends at Chiswick Bridge. While you can watch
from the bank (which has the convenience of food and drink), it is exciting to watch from the middle of Putney, Hammersmith or Chiswick bridges as the teams head to the finish.
www.theboatrace.org

London via Surrey

Overwhelmed by what to do first?  Anxious to get it all in?
Tired of taking visitors to the same places over and over again?


London via Surrey is an insider's guide to the best of London and Surrey — with mini reviews of what to do, where to eat, tips on living here and more. The is the information I wish I had when I arrived. Each Wednesday, I will be sharing the first two to three listings of each section of the book app that's nearly ready to download — alternating between what to do and where to eat.

But before I can do any of that — I have to thank my dear friend Laura Mellberg for introducing me to Mod Maude and inspiring me with her blog; fellow foodie Lynn O’Brien for her recommendations of places to try; Betsy Cook Speer for sharing her expertise having written her first book; and Tracy Southwick who convinced me there would be more than an audience of one.

Lastly, just as many of you saved my many e-mails of ideas and tips, I saved each of your responses with your positive feedback and supportive comments. So thanks to each of you and all the others who joined me on the adventures that follow!