Overwhelmed by what to do first? Anxious to get it all in? Tired of taking visitors to the same places over and over again? Over 200 recommendations on what to do and where to eat, whether you are a short-term visitor, an expat or local – it’s all here! Get some of the ins and outs of exploring London, including what not to miss and insights into the off-the-beaten-path outings. Get practical answers to questions and tips about living here. Avoid rookie mistakes and take full advantage of what London and the Surrey area have to offer.
10. What to Watch
In our pre-kid years, we would make an annual trek to New York in March or April just before the Tony awards came out to catch all the top-rated shows. I can vouch for the fact that London's theatre scene and particularly shows in the West End are comparable to those found in New York. This being said, many of the best shows start ‘off West End’. If you are a theater buff, you’ll soon find there is so much to see and so little time!
Not surprisingly, our kids’ favorite West End productions have been Lion King and Matilda. The adult favorites include:
• Billy Elliott – Winner of 4 Olivier Awards, this show would be great for kids if it wasn’t for the language. The singing, acting and dancing of its lead character is simply amazing.
• Book of Mormon – Winner of 9 Tony and 4 Olivier Awards, this show is funny and completely irreverent. The run has been recently been extended.
• Jersey Boys – Winner of 4 Tony awards and Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, this musical goes back in time to the 60s. The lead singer that plays Frankie Valli and the supporting Four Season cast members are all solid performers.
• War Horse – Winner of 5 Tony awards, this play with its famous larger than life puppeteering is hands down one of the best shows we have seen (did you know that it started off at the National Theatre). It is listed for audiences 10 years and older. Given the intensity of some of the themes, you’ll need to gauge appropriateness based on your child’s sensitivity.
If you are up for theater, but managed to make it through all the big name productions, you might consider the two below. Both shows feature minimalistic sets, with strong lead character. The shows are appropriate for mature teens to adults.
• The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Winner of 7 Oliver awards, this play uses technology creatively. Be sure to stay to the end of the show (this is yet another production that originated at the National Theatre).
• Once – Winner of 8 Tony Awards, the singers and musicians are very talented and you’ll want to stay put during intermission.
9. 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. I’ve found that below are a few places that still keep my kids happy and entertained so they are willing to 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 seat two (or more) are £18-£20/hour. There are also free tennis courts, basketball, soccer goals, paddleboats for hire and a playground.
www.londonrecumbents.co.uk/bikes_we_hire.html • 02082 996636 • Rangers Yard, Dulwich Park,
College Road, Dulwich Village, London SE21 7BQ • West Dulwich Rail
8. 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. Built in 1865 at Wimbledon Common, the English Victorian Clubhouse was moved to its present location in 1895. The Prince of Wales has been President of the Group since 1977 and the British Olympic Gold medalist, Peter Wilson, is a frequent visitor to the Grounds. 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, literally. 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 were put in a group with three lovely English women and accompanied by an instructor who competes professionally. Once I got over the initial intimation, my paranoia turned to the question of whether I was going to hit anything. Thanks to expert instruction, this too was unfounded and I managed to hit two clays released in succession. We finished the day with a delicious homemade lunch. Even though it was Ladies Day, full portions of food were on offer. I can vouch that it’s worth skipping morning breakfast and mid-morning tea break to make it to the Victorian Sponge Cake.
11. What to Eat
Long gone are the days that you could only count on bangers* and mash*, fish and chips and pasties. London and the villages beyond it are full of gastro experiences, even for the most ardent foodies.
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!
A summary of the UK words and their US equivalent are listed below. An * denotes where the British word is used.
Banger = Sausage
Beigel = Bagel
Boot = Trunk of car
Book = Reserve
Brilliant = Outstanding
Centre = Center
Chips = Fries
Cuppa = Cup
Diary = Calendar
Flat = Apartment
Football = Soccer
Hire = Rent
Jewellery = Jewelry
Loads = A lot of
Loo = Restroom
Lovely = Nice
Mash = Mashed potatoes
Metre = Meter
Mobile = Cellular
Post code = Zip code
Proper = Good
Puddings = Dessert
Queue = To line up
Savory = Salty
Sledging = Sledding
Sparkling = Carbonated
Still = Non-carbonated
Take away = Take out
Theatre = Theater
Top Up = Add value to
Tube = London Underground
Tucked = Eat eagerly
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