For our first adventure from my London List, the Jam and I decided to explore Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park with Dad and our FFF. These Royal Parks run seamlessly into one another other and there is plenty do for kids and adults.
Our primary destination was the Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground so we headed there first. Entrance is monitored and adults have to be accompanied by a child, though there is a brief slot in the morning when they can have a quick peek inside. The staff also try to ensure it’s not too crowded, meaning that when we arrived there was a long queue at the gate, but it moved quickly and we were through within 10 minutes. The space is broken into several smaller playing areas, aimed at children of different ages. Some have sand and/or water as well as slides, swings etc. The centrepiece is a large pirate ship, which the Jam was keen to explore but as it was packed with ‘big kids’, we opted for the tee-pees and bridges instead. A lot of children were playing in swimwear, which we hadn’t considered but was a good choice for a hot day. There are also several grassy spots where families can enjoy a picnic within the playground area. For younger children, I would suggest visiting in term-time when it’s likely to be less crowded and they can try out all the equipment at their own pace – we’ll be returning in the autumn!
After a quick ride on the roundabout (which the Jam chose over the traditional carousel), we headed through the park to find the Serpentine. On the way we passed the Round Pond – smelly but lots of ducks and geese – and the Physical Energy Statue. The Serpentine was rather more pleasant than the pond and we walked along it into Hyde Park. We stopped to enjoy lunch and the view at the Lido cafe, which has a small children’s menu alongside the selection of salads, pizzas and burgers on offer for adults. It’s also licensed and has a tempting selection of cakes. (There are baby-changing facilities as well as toilets here but as it’s close to the Diana Memorial Fountain and the Serpentine Lido, they were busy and we had to queue.)
From there it was two minute walk to the Diana Memorial Fountain which was busy but great fun. Officially you’re only supposed to dip your toes in from the edge, but every child there was attempting a complete circuit, along with many parents. The Jam and I made it round, getting totally soaked in the process, while Dad took photos. Again, swimwear for kids (and a towel) would be wise.
While the Jam’s shorts dried off on the pushchair handle, we finished our day with a scenic stroll past the Serpentine Gallery – pausing for photos with the two big rocks – and the Albert Memorial. This part of the park is less exciting for kids, but definitely worth seeing and you also get a great view of the Albert Hall. At this point you could head down Exhibition Road towards the Natural History Museum and/or the Science Museum, but we decided to save those for another day.
Getting there – There are several tube stations near Kensington Gardens but I suggest catching the Central line to Queensway, which emerges less than a minute’s walk from the Diana Memorial Playground. HIgh Street Kensington (District & Circle line) is also very convenient for that side of the park and probably the closest to the Albert Memorial and Kensington Palace.
Other facilities – As well as the Lido in Hyde Park (described above), there is a cafe near the Diana Memorial Playground which caters specifically for families. This map shows all the toilets etc as well as the layout of the park.
(For more of our adventures, click on ‘The London List’ at the top of the page.)