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I am travelling to London with my nearly-5-year-old son this coming Monday. The main purpose of the visit is to get him a new passport. We'll arrive on Monday evening and stay near Paddington Station. We'll visit the embassy at Grosvenor Square area on Tuesday morning. We plan to be there by 10am. The application process itself may take 1-2 hours, and we plan to leave London at 3pm. So we do have a bit of time before we leave.

Is there any good place to visit somewhere between Paddington Station and Grosvenor Square, something that is suited for a 5-year-old boy? I know Hyde Park is an option, but it is so big and I do not know anything of interest closer to the area we will be travelling. Anything slightly further would be fine, too, as long as it won't take much travel time.

By current forecast it looks like it is not going to rain, but it would be nice to have other options if it rains.

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Platform 9 3/4 comes to mind. – JoErNanO Jan 28 at 13:14
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@JoErNanO that is Kings' Cross so a bit out of the way and also 5 year olds are a bit young for that – Mark Jan 28 at 13:22
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I am baffled by the close votes. I have never known travel agents to be in the business of suggesting ideas for spending time while traveling to another city. – phoog Jan 28 at 13:56
    
My advice: don't waste such a short window on tourist places, you'll spend the majority of your time getting there. – Dom Jan 28 at 21:07
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@Oululainen: OP has answered below: travel.stackexchange.com/a/62379/2951 – Brian Nixon Feb 6 at 16:17

12 Answers 12

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'll answer as a father. I assume you are not stingy and you are willing to make your little boy happy. Also I assume you are talking about the US embassy, you haven't mentioned which embassy but it's the one that comes to my mind when you said Grosvenor Square.

Hamleys

My children feel in heaven when I take them there. The shop isn't available everywhere in the UK like Toys R Us for example so there is a good chance that your kid never been there before.

enter image description here

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On your way back to Paddington stop by Semiramis at 121b Edgware Road W2 2QZ and by him some amazing Dondurma

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+1 for Hamleys. It doesn't really matter if it's the US embassy or not -- Grosvenor Square itself isn't very big so the difference in journey time to Hamley's from one end of the square to the other isn't really significant. – David Richerby Jan 30 at 2:23
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Here is a warning as a Turk: Our desserts might be a bit way too sweet for... well, anyone, so going with Dondurma on semiratis rather than our desserts (baklava etc.) might be a good idea. – ardaozkal Jan 30 at 16:58
    
@ardaozkal the shop isn't Turkish nor it's products. – Ulkoma Jan 30 at 17:01
    
@Oululainen the linked blog of Semiramis includes pictures of Turkish desserts, hence I warned. – ardaozkal Jan 30 at 17:06
    
@ardaozkal it's Syrian – Ulkoma Jan 30 at 17:31

I'm surprised no one has suggested Paddington Station itself.

Paddington Station is the very same that gave Paddington Bear his name, so there are tons of shops and statues to keep a young child fascinated. If you plan to do the sightseeing and shopping on the way back there is no way you'll miss your train, as you are already at the station.

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I am afraid my son hardly knows Paddington Bear... – adipro Jan 29 at 13:43
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@adipro ...yet ;) – Tobias Kienzler Jan 29 at 13:49
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the original Paddington series is now available remastered on DVD. Well worth it for the adult nostaligia alone (it's aged surprisingly well, although the pace of the story is quite slow). But more importantly, my four year old has really enjoyed it, so yeah... introduce him to Paddington Bear. Then take him to the station. – Simba Jan 29 at 15:47
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@adipro There are teddy bear statues all over the train station. If your son doesn't know about Paddington Bear now, he will once you get to the station. – Lego Stormtroopr Jan 29 at 23:19

Bet you wouldn't have guessed, visiting horse stables -- In the middle of London!

A gem of London that's 5 minutes from Paddington station in direction of Grosvenor Sq. The area doesn't really have a huge selection of children's activities nearby, maybe toy shopping on Oxford Street... but, the stables are entertaining and educational for the young.

Working Horse Stables!

They're a hidden away and a little tricky to find but real a throw back to the 1800s, my kids loved the adventure of finding them and petting the horses when they were young. Three or four stables along one street that cater to the riding on Hyde Park, I don't know their history but they must date back to the era of horse and carts. Would be fascinating to find out more ...

Panoramio picture of Hyde Park Stables

To get there from Paddington Station Google Map Directions enter image description here

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Minor addition: This should go without saying but, you should never pet or feed horses (or any animal) without explicit permission from their caretakers. Feeding horses the wrong diet can cause a colic from which they can die if not treated (ex. some horses are allergic to hay). Horses being flight animals frighten easy, so if you must approach the animal, do it in a way so the animal can see you. If done improperly you might (literally) get quite the kick out of the experience. Also some horses may bite, and even if they don't mean it, a child's digit is separated rather quickly. – konqi Jan 30 at 15:01

There are several spectacular or weird and wonderful statues in the Marble Arch - Hyde Park area which I imagine would interest or amuse a 5-year-old.

Dunamis - Park Lane. A 9 meter tall statue of a man holding an elephant balanced on its trunk (apparently, this one is for sale). It's towards the bottom of Park Lane, so a very slight detour, but probably worth it, especially as you get the also-spectacular and more classic Wellington Arch complete with a famous and dramatic 1912 statue of the winged goddess of Victory Nike taming a war chariot (visible behind it below).

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Still water - Marble Arch. A 10 meter horse's head drinking from a pool.

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She Guardian - Marble Arch again. A rather fun/scary winged beast, shown here with the sculptor.

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I'm not sure how you define "close", but three or so hours is enough time to hop on a tube and get to the London Transport Museum, which if your five year old is anything like my four year old is an amazing museum.

The museum houses a large collection of authentic and replica trains, busses, trams, taxis, and other vehicles. Some examples:

1892 carriage

Interior of a carriage

1910 Electric tram

1930 Green bus

It also has a great play space if he needs to get out some energy!

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This museum fascinated me, my then-under-10 children, and my then-70+ parents (who couldn’t believe I was taking them). – Andrew Lazarus Jan 28 at 20:42
    
+1! I loved the transit museum when my parents took me around my 8th birthday. – davidvc Jan 29 at 2:54
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@adipro A few of them allow you to board (the pic above of the inside you could get in). Most of them were only outside though. The play area let you pretend to drive a bus also I think, and there were some other interactive things. (If he likes getting in the cars - does the UK have auto shows? Not relevant to this I suppose unless the timing is coincidental, but my boys love the Chicago auto show for precisely that reason - thousands of cars, mostly allowing you to get in and pretend to drive!) – Joe Jan 29 at 11:53
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One of London's best attractions for this age group! There's enough that you can get inside, there's a drive-the-tube-train simulator, it's all good. – A E Jan 29 at 17:39
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I see one problem here: how do you drag the kid out of the place after so few hours :) ? – chx Jan 30 at 23:02

As a former resident, I feel I should mention Little Venice, which is a very short walk from Paddington Station:

enter image description here

There are no activities tailored specifically to 5-year olds. However the canal-boat lined Regents and Grand Union Canals running through the middle of the streets is certainly an unusual and memorable sight. Its a quiet, peaceful corner of Central London, though at times it can get busy with tourists.

You can take a leisurely stroll along the towpath alongside Paddington Basin right to where it meets the two canals.

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Go a bit South to Kensington, you'll find the Natural History and the Science museum there. There are a lot of hands on activities suitable for children there.

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OP has been to both museums and thinks travel time is a bit long, it is in a comment to the first answer. – Willeke Jan 28 at 18:30
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@Willeke Best to avoid saying "the first answer" -- answers change order as they receive votes and different people may choose to order the answers differently (by votes, by date of posting, by date of last edit). – David Richerby Jan 28 at 19:32
    
@DavidRicherby, I would not have used 'first answer' in an answer, but in a comment posted within hours of that first one, I thought it acceptable. It is certainly to the point as it proof that answerer in question has not read A and comments before posting. – Willeke Jan 28 at 19:42
    
How is the travel time too long? You could walk there in 15 minutes (I realize a child couldn't - so jump in a cab) and South Ken station is convenient for getting to Paddington (on the Circle Line). – TheMathemagician Jan 29 at 15:57
    
I see, I didn't see that it was already mentioned. – Count Iblis Jan 30 at 19:14
  • Grange Park is a 20 - 40 minute bus journey (16) down the Edgware Road to Kilburn (Much longer from Oxford Street/Marble Arch). It's not the most exciting park in London but it's decent for a child. In the summer there is a large water fountain/sprinkler play area that the kids love. In addition to the childrens park, there is a tennis court, an astroturf football and basketball pitch and a big green area in the middle to play ball games. Additionally, one minute away from the Kilburn High Road exit there is a great little dessert shop call 'The Sweet Spot' that sells a wide variety of desserts that are hard to find elsewhere, as well as milkshakes and other delights.

  • Getting off the bus (16 or 98) a little bit earlier, at McDonalds in Kilburn, and following the road adjacent to it for 15 - 20 mins will bring you to Queens Park, which is much better than Grange Park, with a large childrens park, a small outdoor swimming pool (closed in Winter), a large sand pit and a small petting zoo, as well as a big green area in the middle to play ball games, a tennis court, some ping pong tables (bring your own bats and balls) and a fairly priced cafe selling ice cream and hot food.

  • Getting off of the bus much earlier in Maida Vale, about 20 mins away from Paddington, there is another park called Paddington Recreation Ground which has a decent adventure playground, a cafe, football pitches, tennis courts and a green area, but not much for kids bar the adventure playground.

  • All of the parks have a lot of dog walkers which my son loves.

  • In West Hampstead, 10 - 15 minutes away from Grange Park, there is a church which has a soft play area for babies and young children. I can only vouch for the babies play area but the young childrens area looks decent as well. £4 an hour for kids over 2.

  • A little bit of a longer bus ride away (actually 2 buses, 16/98 and 189), 45 - 60 mins, you can get to Brent Cross Shopping Centre, behind which there is a large soft play area which is undoubtedly much more entertaining than the one in West Hampstead, but comes at a much higher price of around £10 for a few hours.

A pretty quick train journey from Bond Street Station will get you to Kilburn or West Hampstead in a maximum of half an hour. Jumping off the underground at Kilburn and onto the overground 5 mins away (Brondesbury) would get you to Queens Park pretty quickly.

Personally, I prefer less crowded places than the typical tourist hotspots for my son, and I think your little one might to, but maybe if you're from a small town it could be exciting. I think it's a bit hit-or-miss - they'll either love it or get distressed by it.

Travelling around Central London and tourist areas is a nightmare and takes much longer, especially by bus.

Just remember that nothing is that far away in London, due to the comprehensive transport infrastructure - unless there's delays (usually on weekends). Hope this helps.

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Despite my profile saying Surrey, I moved out of London only about 6 months ago, before which I spent 23 years living in North West London. – Dom Jan 28 at 21:06

Marble Arch might be quite impressive for a 5 year old?

If you've got time to go round Hyde Park, there's the Diana Memorial Playground on the North-West corner (Marble Arch and Grosvenor Square are by the North East corner, or on the South Side there is the Science Museum and Natural History Museum on Exhibition Road - they have the advantage of being indoors if it's raining, and you can get the Circle Line back from South Kensington to Paddington (10-15 minutes) if he's too tired to walk it...

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We've been to the Diana Memorial Playground and both museums. I thought they are a bit far but will check again the travelling time. – adipro Jan 28 at 14:52

This was what we did in the end on Tuesday:

We left our hotel at about 8am, took a tube from Paddington station, got off at Bond Street. It was an experience taking a tube in the rush hour.

There was a toy store just out of Bond Street station exit, but it was still closed. So we decided to walk down to Grosvenor Square. It was drizzling, so we took a shelter at the 11 September Memorial Gardens at the east of the park. Was greeted by a robin, and was quite surprised it didn't seem to be scared of people, unlike where I live. It came close just by where we sat, and we fed the bird some crumbs. It then sang, perhaps to express its gratitude.

At about 930am we headed to the embassy and it was 1130am when we were done with the application.

I decided to follow @Oululainen's suggestion of visiting Hamleys. My son had a good time there. There were some toys to play with at the store, and he got what we wanted, so he was pleased. Had to break for lunch at about 1pm, which we had at a pub by the alley just behind the store. Went back to Hamleys after lunch; it was already 2pm. So we quickly made the purchases and proceeded by bus to Paddington Station to catch our train.

Realising that we would miss the 3pm train and would have to take the next one at 4pm, we stopped by at Semiramis to buy some ice cream for my son. The dondurma got nuts in it, and knowing that my son dislike nuts, I bought him the ordinary ice cream instead, which the shop also sells. He was happy.

We reached Paddington about 30mins early, so took a quick trip to the Paddington Bear store, where the Paddington Bear statue that @Lego Stormtroopr posted is now located.

That was our day on Tuesday. A word of caution to others visiting Hamleys: I think the shop assistants, many of whom were youngsters, were a bit annoying.

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Now you have had your day in town, can you select the answer you liked best/was the most useful for you? – Willeke Feb 6 at 17:42

From Paddington station hop on the Bakerloo line to Waterloo, from there it's not far to walk to the London Eye.

But the eye is not my suggestion for entertaining a 5-year old.

This is: http://www.londonducktours.co.uk/

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The OP doesn't mention the London Eye – blackbird57 Jan 29 at 17:50
    
@blackbird57 I suppose the tours start at the London Eye. – adipro Jan 30 at 8:08
    
Indeed, you need to be careful: youtube.com/watch?v=dBocu1btClk – Count Iblis Jan 30 at 19:13

Take some peanuts, feed the squirrels and birds in Hyde park.

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Please don't. Feral pigeons are vermin and squirrels are also considered pests. See, for example, the park's website: "over feeding of aggressive feral pigeons and squirrels threatens the native song birds as they are not able to compete with these pests." – David Richerby Jan 30 at 19:47
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...and much of the food left for pigeons and squirrels in cities actually gets eaten by rats. – user568458 Jan 31 at 1:20
    
I agree about pigeons but feeding the squirrels a few monkey nuts won't do any harm. Some are so tame that they'll come and seize the nut out of your hands. It's great fun for a child. – TheMathemagician Feb 2 at 11:06

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