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Sure they might be jet-lagged and freaking out because their hair dryer doesn’t have right the kind of plug, but this is no time to nap and whine. The best way to beat jet lag is to pump up the hydro and get the party started by getting the lay of the land in their new kingdom.
Today your teens take a walking tour around London to get familiar with their new bestie––the Tube, otherwise known as The London Underground. Let’s face it, after being cooped up on a plane, breathing lots of fresh air and seeing cool stuff is just what your teenagers need. Let them feel large-and-in-charge by grabbing a Tube map, or App, to navigate the day’s journey.
Lunch at the neighborhood pub
Tube map in hand they’ll plot the journey and refuel over lunch at the local pub. You’ll be tripping over pubs all day as they are community meeting places. At times pubs have the feeling of being The Old Smoke’s living room. What’s up with all the clever, artful pub signs?
Albert Jack, author of The Old Dog and Duck: The Secret Meanings of Pub Names, says that back in the day when many people were illiterate, “…the habit was to paint a picture and display it outside any public meeting place, the pub. This way friends could say to each other, 'meet you at the Plough later,' or Haystack, King's Head, Horseshoe or whatever the sign depicted. This inevitably led to country pubs reflecting the industry of the area.”
They have hysterical names like Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (where Charles Dickens is rumored to have poured back a few), the Bucket of Blood (yes, blood rumor has it the well water came up red and well, er, a dead body was involved), John the Unicorn, and Filthy Fanny’s.
What teenager wouldn’t want a selfie in front of Dirty Dicks? And yes, you can have chips (fries) with that. Your sixteen year old can also sip a beer if you order it for them.
Liverpool Street Station -Alternative London Walking Tour
The guide, most likely a local street artist, will give you and your teens lots to talk about and admire on a magical walk into the history of the storied East End. The tour explores the most breathtaking art outside of museum walls, all uncommissioned. Your teens will have fun learning about the inspirations behind the weird and wonderful world of street art. Be sure to take plenty of selfies at your favorite spots and enjoy walking down the streets of London discovering things you’ll never find in your guide book. (Alternative London)
Knightsbridge Station -Tea at Harrods
If it’s four o’clock it’s tea time in England and the Commonwealth. So get your legendary tea on at one of the world’s most famous department stores. Start by visiting Harrods Tea Room and enjoy selecting your tea and eating the array of fun finger sandwiches. This might be something the family might want to do every day in London. It’s surprising how the habit becomes routine in the capital.
So how did this quaint, conversation-stimulating tradition begin? Not that long ago. In 1840, a lady named Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, couldn’t wait for the fashionably late dinner served at the castle every night. So, she requested tea at four. On the heels of the recent discovery of The Earl of Sandwich, finger sandwiches made an appearance on her snack menu.
After tea, enjoy exploring the extraordinary store where A. A. Milne once purchased a teddy bear for is son Christopher Robin, and the rest is history. Parents can run off and buy smoking jackets and tiaras while the kids explore. What teenager doesn’t love to shop?
Tower Hill Station -Tower of London
Time to check English castle off that bucket list at The tower of London, also known as Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London. You could spend a whole day here, but check it out in the evening because, well, it’s just creepier that way and much more dramatic, two things most teenagers love. Once the royal address of kings and queens, housing the Crown Jewels of England, it became a notorious prison in the 16th and 17th centuries. The scene of many executions, a few famous ones actually occurred on the property, but most transpired on Tower Hill.
The Medieval Banquet
Just down the street you’ll dine with knights, magicians and minstrels that will keep you entertained long into the night. The show begins around eight, but late entry is no problem. You can really get your medieval on by renting costumes for an added fee. Forget tea sandwiches, pass the turkey legs! A four-course meal will have you eating like kings and enjoying royal entertainment of another era. (The Medieval Banquet)
Now that you’ve gotten your bearings, hit some of London’s hotspots that will make your teachers back home proud!
A must-see, not just for the great selfies you’ll take with the overly serious, and super-focused soldiers of The Queen’s Guard, but also because it’s one of the most famous palaces in the world. Don’t miss the trail hike though the palace gardens. Got some artists in the family? They’ll have fun designing their own crown and coat of arms. The palace is much more than ballrooms and staterooms, though. You’ll also find a post office, police station, surgery room, a cinema and a pool on the property. Enjoy learning little known-facts about Buckingham Palace like when the monarchy decided to show solidarity with their subjects and chose not to leave it during The Blitz in WWII. Because of this, the palace was a target for German bombs and received nine direct hits.
The London Eye
The best view in London gives you the ultimate selfie on a ride built to commemorate the new millennium, once called The Millennium Wheel. It took seven years to complete but wasn’t the first gigantic wheel to be built by Londoners. In 1895 they built one for the Empire of India Exhibition which two million people rode before its demolition about a decade later. Enjoy the 25-mile view on the half-hour ride.
Westminster Cathedral and Big Ben
Daily worship has been observed here since the tenth century. Thousands of people have been put to rest within the Abbey. Some of the most famous people buried there include Charles Dickens, William Black, Queen Elizabeth I, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Rudyard Kipling. William Shakespeare’s grave can be found in the Poet’s Corner. But the Abbey isn’t just about memorials to lots of famous dead people. Its architecture was meant to awe and inspire. There’s nothing like just sitting and taking in its majesty. Even teenagers will be impressed. One of the legends of the Abbey is that it was built on the site of the river where a salmon fisherman spotted a vision of St. Peter. To this day the fisherman’s company offers a salmon to the Abbey each year in memory of the event. Sweet!
The Globe Theatre
Catch a show at the Globe Theatre because it’s just fun. Pretend your back in the days of Shakespeare and really play the part. The audience had a big part to play back in the day. And your teens will be able to impress thier English teacher back home by saying things like “When I saw MacBeth at the Globe ….” Buy your tickets early because shows sell out months in advance. If you’re not up for the show you can get your Shakespeare on with a tour of the famous theatre. Showtimes usually begin in the early afternoon with the last performance at 10 PM.
KIngs Cross Station -Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4
Best selfie ever. Bring your wand––just because. But your kids won’t have to imagine the Hogwarts Express pulling into the station to experience a vicarious adventure, because they’re already on the adventure of a lifetime.
The Slide at the ArcelorMittal Orbit
Your kids rode the Tube on their first day in London and on their last day, they’ll enjoy sliding down the highest and longest tube slide in the world, the UK’s tallest public artwork. Get your video camera ready to film your teens after the longest forty seconds of their life, including twelve orbits inside loops and curves with views of London’s famous skyline! A great reason to visit Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Your teens probably don’t care about this movie, but they’ll love the neighborhood’s bohemian vibe and artistic flare. Take a walk down Portobello Road, made famous in the movie that starred Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Pop your head in at The Ritz where many of the scenes took place. Die hard fans might want to make the journey to Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath where the Henry James film scenes took place. A stunning place for tea, stroll around the gardens and admire views of London––a photographer’s dream.
Dinner on the Thames
Stunning views of London lit up at night? Yes, please. Tours leave from Westminster Pier and cruise past all the famous spots you’ve visited on the historic river. If you’re not up for a dinner cruise there are plenty of shorter day cruises to choose from. A great way to wind down your trip, share some stories and dream about your next visit.