So its’ another rainy Saturday morning in London and The Terrorists are already climbing the walls (it’s 7.45am!). LSH hears my voice climb another 6 decibels in frustration and hastily declares that we need to leave the house and quick. It’s just too wet to make the walk to the train station so we jump in the car and drive to the Natural History Museum in Kensington.
Its’ so early that there’s no traffic and we’re there in 20 minutes, given it doesn’t open until 10.00 we park up (details of a great car park below) and head for a quick coffee in Le Pain Quotidien in Kensignton. Both of The Terrorists are baby chino connoisseurs and this one goes down a treat in their little bowl cups (even the plastic dinosaurs are given a taste!)
We are one of the first through the doors when they open at 10.00 and we head straight to the main draw – the dinosaurs. We marvel at the huge skeletons and join the queue to see the ‘big scary T Rex’ (The Bear’s favourite). After much roaring at plastic statues and skeletons we escape ahead of the crowd (by 11.00 you can’t move for hoards of people and the queue to marvel at the T Rex can take an hour).
We move on to take in the elephants and the lions, and spend 10 minutes looking in awe at the impossibly large blue whale (he is life size but still looking at him now I feel like a tiny child, totally unable to fathom how something can really exist that is that big!). The Bear has spent the car journey there constructing his must see list (the dodo – so he can say ‘doom on you’ like Ice Age, turtles, frogs, Rudolf – a tricky 5 minutes explaining why he doesn’t have a red nose, Kung Fu panda and a koala bear) so we spend the next hour on a hunt for each of these. Bollie thinks they are all fascinating but is more enamoured by the fact that there is endless space for her to bum shuffle and lots of places to pull herself up to a standing position (a new game).
My top moment came when we saw a lady wandering around perfectly normally carrying a dead stuffed kangaroo (amused LSH and I no end!)
2 hours in they are beginning to flag, so we find a quiet corner, pull out their picnic Yumboxes (see www.yumbox-uk.co.uk for more info) and settle down for a picnic (with a view of the turtles). The Bear loves it and shows the turtle all of the components of his lunch. Bollie finds a group of Spanish teenagers who think she’s cute and spends her lunch blowing them kisses and grinning at them. By this point the whole museum is heaving with people so we head out (past a queue the length of the street) and both of The Terrorists are fast asleep in their car seats by the end of the road, clutching their dinosaurs and no doubt dreaming of playing hide and seek with friendly T-Rex’s!
Top Tip – on weekends and school holidays arrive between 10 and 10.30am. At 10 there will be a big queue that builds before then. This is usually gobe by about 10.15 but is back again by about 11.00 (and there for the day)
Time to visit – our visit today was about 3 hours in total and we only did about 20% of what is on offer so I would say ½ to a full day
Highlights – the entrance hall (it is gorgeous) and the big dinosaur skeleton in it, the dinosaur section complete with huge moving Rex T, the life size plastic blue whale, the endless corridors of random rare animals to get lost in, the escalator into the centre of a molten world (The Terrorists don’t really get this yet but it is a huge draw for older kids)
Getting there – South Ken station has an exit right next to the museum, there are stairs involved but they are manageable. The other option is the Imperial College car park (just behind the Science Museum off Exhibition Road) which is open on bank holidays and weekends. It isn’t cheap (£11 for 4 hours, £16.00 for 6 hours and £21 if you are there for 9 hours) but it is very convenient
Pushchair access – the main entrance to the NHM (on Cromwell Road) has a lot of stairs, but if you head around the corner onto Exhibition Road there is a disabled entrance which is flat and takes you to a lift
Price – the museum and all of the exhibits (apart from the photography exhibition) are completely free at all times of the year. They do ask for a donation of £3 each which The Terrorists love as you get to put it into a huge money box. This contribution is, however, entirely voluntary
Food and Drink – the museum has lots of cafes which do lovely food but do get busy. South Kensington is only a 5 minute walk and has lots of restaurants and cafes (most of which are tight to navigate with a pushchair). We tend to take a picnic and there are lots of picnic areas and benches with great opportunities for people (and animal!) watching
Other attractions nearby – the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert are right next door. The Science Museum is awesome and is a day out in itself (another blog on this to follow)
Baby facilities – there is plenty of baby change, a cloakroom and lots of discreet places to breast feed