London day trip itinerary with a preschooler – The Gruffalo and Buckingham Palace

I love going to London for a day trip.  It reminds me of my youth when our mum used to take us a couple of times a year to share the great sites and reminisce about her days living in London while she was at college for a bit.

So I love to take N when we can.  I do feel sad for people who don’t get to see their own capital city and enjoy the experience. The OH always moans that London isn’t safe, and says I’m mad going there, but I love it for the day.  Especially when there’s so much to do for free.

After last year’s successful trip to see The Tiger Who Came To Tea for Kids Week, I managed to get tickets again this year to see The Gruffalo.  It’s one of N’s favourite books, so I knew he’d love it.  When I first booked the tickets, he was a little anxious and kept asking if the Gruffalo was a person dressed up and not real, but as it got nearer the time, he was fine with it.

Kids week London day trip to Buckingham Palace and The Gruffalo

I’d chosen a Friday which meant there was only a 10am or 12pm show.  Not the greatest of times, but the 12pm one actually worked ok in the end.  I wanted us to do something beforehand, so I did have to pay for peak rate train tickets which was painful.  If I’d been going on my own, I’d have done the Oxford Tube but, but for children during the week you still pay full price, and it takes longer.  So the train it was, which makes it more fun for N and less driving for me.

St James Park and Buckingham Palace

We didn’t really have time before the show to go to a museum or similar, so I decided we’d head to see Buckingham Palace.  Getting off the tube at Green Park, we could walk through to see the palace, and then walk back up through St James’ Park before heading to Shaftesbury Avenue.

deck chairs in Green Park

N was intrigued to see the deckchairs set out in the park as we walked through, but more interesting in asking why there were so many people walking through.  I had to explain tourists and the royal family, then ended up trying to explain the difference between the monarchy and republics elsewhere.  I’m sure he wasn’t really that interested, but you never know, these things may sink in.

Gates at Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace

Although it wasn’t the warmest day out at that point, he wanted to stop for an ice cream, so after a brief look at Buckingham Palace, and the police cars around, we wandered off to St James’ Park with his ice lolly in hand.

We were so lucky as we were about to cross the road.  Around the corner came the mounted police blowing the whistle to stop the traffic, and escort the guards’ band along the road.  It was a sight that made N stop talking and watch because they came right alongside us.

band outside buckingham palace

I pointed out the different instruments, then explained who they were (with a bit of guesswork), and then we were on our way.

St James’ Park was fairly busy, but nice enough for a walk through.  We spotted a heron up really close, and lots of squirrels including one which was running along a fence to feed from people’s hands.  Lovely to see them so close, but it does annoy me a bit that people feed things to wild animals.  No wonder they eventually end up being pests and overrunning the place when they’ve essentially been trained to come and look for food from people.

wildflowers in St James Park London
heron on St James Park lake
London Eye over St James Park

N was quite happy walking the streets of London to get back to the tube.  I’m definitely a walker when I’m in London, so it’s great that he can walk a good way now without us having to get on and off the tube all the time.

flowers and buildings in London
striding to avoid the cracks on the pavement

The Gruffalo at the Lyric Theatre

We arrived at the Lyric theatre in good time, managed to find the dress circle and our seats, and then sat down to wait. I love the atmosphere in theatres, even when surrounded by noisy children, and adults who rock on up late and choose the longest route to push past seated people to reach their seats.  It always feels so lush and special with all the reds and gold dΓ©cor.

Chandelier at Lyric Theatre London

The Gruffalo was really cleverly done.  With clothes suggesting the animals’ features, it was still obvious they were people, with only the Gruffalo totally hidden.  When you read a book (along with accents) or watch a film so frequently, it feel a bit strange to hear different voices as the parts. But they were all really good, and the songs really helped with the story.

The Gruffalo stage show

I have to admit that the best was the snake.  So funny – a flamenco, spanish, drama queen snake (with queen being the operative word).  If you’ve not seen the show, the snake’s definitely one for the adults to amuse themselves with.  N thought he was funny too, but I think that was just the put on accent!  There were also a couple of points where he seemed to react to the audience and improvise.  Just very very laugh out loud funny.

Jamie Oliver’s Diner

An hour later and we were out on the street again, and ready for some lunch.  N was just telling me he wanted to go home, but telling him we needed lunch first, he did agree.  Nearby is Jamie Oliver’s Diner, so we headed there for quick lunch (unfortunately it’s now closed)

Jamie Oliver's Diner sign


N was pretty flaked after lunch, but I had promised him a trip to Hamleys.  Hamleys of course was rammed, but I’d said he could have some Lego so we headed up to the top floor.  N was in awe of everything, and following our view of Buckingham Palace he then met the Queen.

Lego Queen Elizabeth at Hamleys

I have to say that while the demo staff are good, trying to find items isn’t easy.  I asked someone about one of the demo products but they didn’t point me in the right place, and I couldn’t find the product anywhere, so it was a lego purchase only after standing in the queue for a long time.

A quick tube back to Marylebone to catch the train back home and we just managed to catch the fast train with a bit of running down the platform (I wouldn’t have done that if I’d been on my own but N insisted), and once the train was on the way he promptly fell asleep…snoring a bit loudly.

It was a lovely day out.  N seems to enjoy going to London (probably because he gets to go on the train) although I think he has a bit more energy when he’s got a friend with him, so maybe next time we’ll have to try and arrange to go with friends.  I’d like to show him the Christmas lights but that means later in the day when usually we’d be heading back out again.

Did you go to the theatre as part of kids week this year?Β  Where’re your favourite places to visit in London with children?

Like this post, try these other tips for nearby days out in London

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  1. So glad you had such a fun time on London. I do find it funny when people think it’s not safe…When you live there you just don’t really think about that. How great you saw the Queen guard band – what an experience. We are off to see the Gruffalo soon – looking forward to it. Thanks for linking to #citytripping x

  2. I hadn’t come across kids’ week before – and I live here! Must make a note for next year. I do love walking through the parks as well, sounds a great day. Thanks for joining up with #citytripping

  3. I studied in London and, just like your mom, I’d love to take my kids from time to time to show all the great places in the city! I’m sure Hamleys is always a favourite for any kid :))

  4. I hadn’t even heard of kids week until now! I think it’s great taking the little ones to theatre and a nice reason for a trip to London. I’ve still not seen the palace myself, I must go one day! Xx

  5. I love visits to the palace! We saw that lego Queen when we visited a while ago, so very impressive! Imagine how long that must have taken, crazy! I was terrified my son was going to destory it in 0.3 seconds lol. The show sounds fantastic, my little one would love it! x

  6. I absolutely love London, and have always really enjoyed heading there with my children. That said, I ALWAYS really enjoy that bit on the return train journey home when you pull into your hometown (or village in my case) station and everything is a little calmer. London is great to visit, but then great to leave too!

  7. We always get tickets for Kids Week, it’s our one outing to London theatre each year. Having said that the kids will have grown up and left home before I’m successful in getting tickets to see the Lion King! We saw Les Mis this year which my daughter loved, although it was still a bit old for my son. Glad you saw lots on your trip, I love day trips to London too πŸ™‚

  8. I love going to the theatre and the Gruffalo was one of my favourite books as a child. What a great day out you had and your walk looked perfect too, especially seeing the guards.

  9. What a great trip. The Gruffallo sounds amazing. We love trips to London at the moment, but I end up carrying my daughter a lot when she runs out of energy. Can’t bring myself to take London on with a pushchair

  10. Sounds like such a lovely day out just you and your little man, I would love to bring them to London, ye were lucky to catch the buckingham palace guards, he must have found that fun, I must try and bring the kids to a show maybe at Christmas

  11. Oh, that sounds like such a lovely trip! And you packed loads in too – I’ve only been to London once but I enjoyed it so much, will definitely plan another trip soon. Your post reminded me of walking around the fab parks in London.

  12. I can’t wait until my boys are a little older (they are 2 and 8 months old) and take them to London. I used to go loads as a child as we lived in Essex but being in Cheshire now it’s a bit more difficult. Would love to take them to the theatre, what age did you start taking your little one?

  13. Glad you had a lovely time, the pictures looked like you did. I have never been to London. I’m hoping we will get to go next year. Makes me ashamed really as I live in Manchester and i could quite easily get there haha

  14. London is such an amazing city! I really want to go… I only live 60 odd miles away, I SHOULD get the train there and go one day. The Guards Band looks awesome! Glad you had a lovely day. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚
    Have a lovely weekend. xx

  15. Glad you had a good time. They must have changed the timings as our Friday show was at 2pm. We always head for the Thames when we go to London and do the Thames Walk – Monkey loves it as there is always so much to see walking from Tower Bridge back up towards Westminster. London Transport Museum is a great place for kids (although not free) it’s well worth a visit.

    1. When I saw you’d done a 2pm, I checked again but it looked like only sessions earlier in the week were at 2. I had the transport museum on our list, but we didn’t have time in the morning or afternoon to have done that. Need a full half day really.

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