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Things to do/see around Oxford University and London?


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#1 strawberryjam

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 12:19 AM

We will be in the UK this fall for about 2 weeks. I'm looking for educational ideas of things to experience in the area. We love museums so we'll try to hit all the major ones, but also open for ideas for things that might be less obvious. My kids are both very sciencey and into nature. Also looking for ideas of things to do/see specifically around Oxford University. Bath or Cornwall might be on the itinerary as well. TIA!

 

ETA: Guess my kids ages would help! almost 10 yr old boy and a 7 yr old girl


Edited by strawberryjam, 29 June 2016 - 12:20 AM.


#2 lailasmum

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 12:33 AM

Well in London there's the more obvious stuff like the Natural History museum and the British Museum. The British museum is huge though so it's worth being very targeted with what you want to look at. My 8yr old can only tolerate it for so long and I think it's due to sheer size and busyness.

In Bath the Roman Baths are very good, I would recommend getting there as the place opens in the morning as it's extremely busy as is the rest of Bath and it just gives you a few minutes head start on the crowds. There are audio tours for kids and adults.

I live on the Devon/Cornwall border. I think probably the Eden project and National Maritime Museum are two big ones to visit in the area. The Eden project is extremely expensive these days so it's worth looking for offers.
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#3 Shred Betty

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 01:17 AM

Oxford - obviously architecture. The Camera, Bodlyian library (spelling?), king's college. ( now every year when we listen to the Christmas radio program broadcast from Kings College Oxford, we enjoy reminiscing that we were there). We liked punting on the river, that's a nice outdoors activity. Memorize some great Churchill quotes while there. Read Narnia while there. High tea etc. act out some Shakespeare.

I LOVED getting to go see Hadrians wall as a high schooler. Doesn't sound like you will be there but very unique lessons about history Rome and Latin there.
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#4 Laura Corin

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 01:51 AM

You've been given some good ideas.  Be aware that driving times may be longer than you expect: yes, Britain is tiny in comparison to some other countries, but that creates its own problems with congestion.  Heading to Cornwall you may well hit some slow going, and roads are not always wide and fast.  A tip: I wouldn't recommend getting a large car.  The average family car in Britain is pretty small in US terms.  Getting something similar is a practical option because parking spaces are small and streets are often narrow with street parking on both sides.  This article about family cars shows you what the average is:

 

http://www.carbuyer....est-family-cars

 

I live in a tourist area and often see people in large SUVs having a hard time negotiating the medieval streets.


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#5 madteaparty

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 02:39 AM

We did the English bus tour (the Shakespeare, Cotswolds, Oxford one) (touristy I know, we were there for only a few days) and it was so great. I recommend it without shame :)
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#6 loesje22000

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 03:40 AM

We like this serie of Children guides:

https://www.amazon.c...ngland unlocked

 

I can recommend Lyme Regis (nearby Cornwall from my p.o.v.)

Oxford has a C.S.Lewis walk.

 

We have fond memories on Vindolanda at Hadrians Wall.

 

New Forest is in the south and has options to walk between the horses :) but ons is not allowed to touch them.

Lepe Loop is a nice walk, but you have to check the tide tables.

DD loves the British law wich give you permission to walk through meadows, fields (unless you see signs with 'no access' of course)

She is so used with our 'stay on the paths, do not pass/climb the border' mentality, that such a walk give her a sense of freedom.

After several England Holidays she is still not used to it :)

I always pick a signed walk, so we are sure not to break any laws.


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#7 SarahW

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 07:34 AM

For Oxford a nice (full) day is to get there early and do the botanical gardens next to Magdalen. Then go to the Bodlein museum (across the street from the library, which is restricted to students) which is nice (and free). Then walk down high street and souvenir shop / get lunch (OUP bookstore there, too, if you're interested). Hang a right and go the Ashmolen (also free), spend the afternoon there. Then continue down the road to the Eagle & Child for dinner.

 

English Heritage runs many historic sites, a look around their website will bring up lots of options.

 

Corwall is gorgeous. There's lots of Arthurian-ish type sites there. Lots of fun for kids. 



#8 regentrude

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 07:50 AM

We lived a year in Oxford when the kids were little and did a lot of day trips. 

 

Stone circles!

Rollright stones

Avebury

Stonehenge

 

Cotswold wildlife park

 

My kids loved playing at Shutover country park.

 

Other day trips:

Salisbury (gorgeous cathedral) and beach

Glastonbury and Cheddar Caves

Stratford (we combined with Rollright stones)

 


Edited by regentrude, 29 June 2016 - 07:57 AM.


#9 Alessandra

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 08:25 AM

You've been given some good ideas. Be aware that driving times may be longer than you expect: yes, Britain is tiny in comparison to some other countries, but that creates its own problems with congestion. Heading to Cornwall you may well hit some slow going, and roads are not always wide and fast. A tip: I wouldn't recommend getting a large car. The average family car in Britain is pretty small in US terms. Getting something similar is a practical option because parking spaces are small and streets are often narrow with street parking on both sides. This article about family cars shows you what the average is:

http://www.carbuyer....est-family-cars

I live in a tourist area and often see people in large SUVs having a hard time negotiating the medieval streets.


Yes, this.

That brings back memories. Even in a tiny car, I nearly had a nervous breakdown trying to park in Mousehole when I was in my 20's. Also, many of the roads were lanes narrower than my driveway, but bordered by high hedges. And they all looked the same. I am not naturally gifted at judging space, but I think it would be difficult for anyone. Get a small car, especially if you visit Cornwall.
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#10 nobeatenpath

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 08:40 AM

Hmm, I think you would be pushing it to really explore London (could easily spend two weeks there), Oxford, Bath AND Cornwall. Any particular reason you want to go to Cornwall - I mean it is nice and all, but not sure it is worth it with such short time if you don't have a specific reason.

It's been six years since I took Willem to Oxford ( :huh: ) but here is a post I wrote about that trip, with recommendations of places to see: http://www.nobeatenp...itional-oxford/

Most museums in London are free, which is great as it means you don't feel you have to cram everything in on a single visit - somewhere like the British Museum is best taken in chunks of a few hours at a time.

 

I also used to live near Stonehenge (as in walked to it from my house) so can advise about visiting that part of the world as well if you like.



#11 madteaparty

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 09:35 AM

One thing i forgot to mention in London is that the Natural History museum was so crowded but the British museum was really special. Something about being an empire.... :) do the highlights tour!

#12 horsellian

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 11:19 AM

For nature/science keen kids in Oxford I'd recommend both the Museum of Natural History and the History of Science Museum (both are free) rather than the Ashmolean, which is history and art (it's great for artifacts if you've recently been learning ancient history though).

Edited by horsellian, 29 June 2016 - 11:19 AM.

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#13 lailasmum

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 01:49 PM

Actually I agree Lyme Regis or Charmouth could be better than Cornwall. The museum in Lyme Regis is tiny but brilliant and there are lots of opportunities for fossil hunting. On charmouth beach you can easily pick up fossils and you can hire hammers from the little shop there. They also do guided fossil walks. Also in Lyme Regis you can walk down to the ammonite pavement and we went on a guided tour that way too with some PhD students which was brilliant. They're also just very traditional seaside places and if you were in Dorset there are other interesting places to visit like Corfe Castle. And it's only a couple of hours from Bath.

Edited by lailasmum, 29 June 2016 - 01:49 PM.

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#14 mumto2

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 02:02 PM

I'm not going to repeat what others have said. Lots of great ideas.

My family loves fossil hunting so I would try to fit that in. :)

If Cornwall Tintagel Castle is my kids favourite. Huge climb and probably not a great destination on a rainy day but my teens loved it last summer.

http://www.english-h...intagel-castle/

Edited by mumto2, 29 June 2016 - 02:02 PM.


#15 Momling

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 03:51 PM

My daughter loved the fashion museum in Bath at that age. Obviously all the big museums in London have already been mentioned. The museum of London is also nice. What about Harry Potter Warner Brothers studio? Not educational but it looks like fun.

#16 lailasmum

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 03:55 PM

Harry potter studios is brilliant. We went in February.
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#17 FriedClams

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 04:30 PM

Harry Potter Studio Tour was AMAZING!!!!

#18 MerryAtHope

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 05:07 PM

If you can get to Blenheim Palace (Winston Churchill), the grounds are beautiful and kids would really enjoy the butterfly garden and the hedge maze. We also had a great day going up to Warwick Castle. (Neither of these are in London, so they may be outside your plans--but they are within daytrip range and were highlights for me when I went as a teen.)

 

Westminster Abbey & St. Paul's Cathedral are beautiful (we hit Westminster when the boys choir was singing--the acoustics are amazing in there!)

 

Ride a double-decker bus, kids will enjoy :-).

 

If you go punting, start off upstream. You'll be thankful! (My mom and I went with a couple we met on a bus, and we started off downstream. A tug thankfully threw us a rope line and towed us back upstream, while people shouted from shore that we were cheating! We'd have never gotten back in time otherwise though!)

 

Have a great time!


Edited by MerryAtHope, 30 June 2016 - 09:35 AM.


#19 madteaparty

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 08:19 PM

I cannot believe I forgot to mention this. Churchill's war rooms are one of the best museum-things I have ever done.


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#20 Shred Betty

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Posted 29 June 2016 - 08:55 PM

+ 1 to Blenheim palace as well!

#21 Laura Corin

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Posted 30 June 2016 - 01:51 AM

+ 1 to Blenheim palace as well!

 

I personally wouldn't make Blenheim a goal.  Nice grounds, impressive house, but it didn't grab my children the way that a castle would.


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#22 FriedClams

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Posted 30 June 2016 - 08:22 AM

I second Avebury Manor. It was awesome. We then drove to Stonehenge, but didn't go in. After Avebury we didn't want to spent another 100 pounds to see rocks.

If you can, take a canal boat ride or rent one for a long weekend. Our week on the canal boat was the BEST vacation we've ever been on. It was relaxing and fun and just AMAZING.

Edited by FriedClams, 30 June 2016 - 08:22 AM.


#23 GailV

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Posted 30 June 2016 - 08:40 AM

We enjoyed the British Library. It doesn't take long to "do" and is right there next to St Pancras/Kings Crossing, so it's easy to tack onto other adventures.

 

 



#24 SporkUK

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Posted 30 June 2016 - 09:55 AM

It would depend on if they have particular interests. One of my kids loves planes so when we were in London we took a trip out to the RAF museum which was lovely [and going up the Northern line there was still a blue police box which made my older Doctor Who fan excited], but it's quite far from the other big museums - its not central at all - so I'd only recommend it if you or they had an interest in that or you had plenty of time for travel and then walking around the place. We also really like Stonehenge, and the exhibit/visitor building is great, but you can't actually go through it or touch the stones and many tourists, particularly little ones, aren't as fond of walking around big stones and get annoyed [though not as annoyed as my partner's former colleague who used to have to repeatedly clean burnt candle wax and incense and other stuff off] so that again will depend on interests and temperament.

 

One thing I really recommend and use for travel planning is this travel site: https://travel.sygic.com/ [used to be called Tripomatic and apparently the app is still under that name]. It shows you everything on a map, it'll give you details of everything included estimated time it takes to do something, and after you add things to your trip you can rearrange things and see travel times and distances. I love it - it really fun to just look through everything with the kids and my partner and make a big list and then see it on the map so we can see what it'll take to do things - that really helped us prioritize when we saw that two things were at the opposite sides of London and would take so much time that we really needed to choose. It helped make our trip so much better. 


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#25 GailV

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Posted 30 June 2016 - 10:00 AM

 

 

One thing I really recommend and use for travel planning is this travel site: https://travel.sygic.com/ [used to be called Tripomatic and apparently the app is still under that name]. It shows you everything on a map, it'll give you details of everything included estimated time it takes to do something, and after you add things to your trip you can rearrange things and see travel times and distances. I love it - it really fun to just look through everything with the kids and my partner and make a big list and then see it on the map so we can see what it'll take to do things - that really helped us prioritize when we saw that two things were at the opposite sides of London and would take so much time that we really needed to choose. It helped make our trip so much better. 

 

I forgot about Tripomatic!  We used it quite a bit while kicking around ideas of what we wanted to see.  It helped us get a grip on what was where.



#26 strawberryjam

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Posted 11 January 2018 - 11:37 AM

Just thought I'd update this thread as I've noticed there are a few others planning trips to London as well. Our trip was AMAZING!! Here is a link to our highlights video from our trip.

 

We ended up going to Magdalen College in Oxford where C.S. Lewis taught, it was *beautiful* and we had the entire grounds to ourselves! (pinch me!) Also checked out the Botanical Gardens and All Souls College (apparently the most difficult one to be accepted at, not much to see here but it was cool nonetheless). Had we more time and if our feet hadn't been so sore, I would have gone to Christ Church College too. The Natural History Museum in Oxford was amazing! We didn't get a chance to see all of the one in London (and I wasn't a fan of what I saw there ... not into the electric dinosaurs and it was super crowded with kids) so this was a treat. Loved the "touch" gallery for kids. We also went to the Musuem of the History of Science to see Einstein's chalkboard and other cool artifacts. It was small but good. The Ashmolean Musuem wasn't as great, especially after already having been to the British Museum. Skippable.

 

We did make it Blenheim Palace. The grounds and the exterior is absolutely stunning, minus the modern art exhibits which I thought ruined some parts of it. It's definitely more posh than any other place we visited and there were no other kids there. Still glad we went, we got some amazing photo's there. I would want to go back to explore the grounds further. Lot's of people came here to walk their dogs. The interior was skippable though. I probably wouldn't really go out of my way to visit here, but we were already close by. As far as castles and palaces go, I found the most impressive to be Hampton Court Palace by far (contains treasures worth almost as much as the Queens jewels, and they are kept at touching distance... just a note, if you go with kids! lol), and secondly Windsor Castle. What I loved about HCP was how you get so much history with it... one half is Henry the 8ths in a middle ages style, the other half from William and Mary (?) in a style similar to Versailles. We had a horse drawn carriage ride through the grounds which was included with entrance, and that was so fun!

 

We didn't make it to Cornwall but we did make it to Lyme Regis. Very cool! Looking for fossils was so fun. We didn't find any we could take home but once we got used to interpreting what we were seeing we started seeing lots of ammonite fossils in the boulders. The Durdle Door beach a little further south was even more beautiful than I imagined it would be. The small towns here are so charming. It made me want to come back and experience Cornwall some day.

 

I was disappointed by Westminster Abbey - it's so much smaller than I imagined! We went to the Tower of London an hour before it opened and had most of it to ourselves for the first hour. :) Just amazing.

 

The car we rented was a Sante Fe with GPS and it was perfect. GPS was MUCH needed! I've driven in Europe before so I expected it to be crazy, but the UK highways take the cake when it comes to craziness! That said, the traffic wasn't bad. We made it from the Cotswolds to Liverpool in 4 hours and from the Dorset coast to Legoland in 2 hours during rush hour, just as Google maps predicted. We were able to squish a lot into our itinerary and there is not much I would have changed. (Wish I could have changed the jet lag... but not much you can do about that! Also wish we had gone to Harrod's on a weekday morning instead of a weekend evening, it was too crowded to really enjoy.) By our last day in London we figured out that it is so worth it to just take the black taxi's everywhere in downtown London instead of relying on public transport, though the Citymapper App was invaluable to figuring out the transportation system. They literally tell you step by step exactly where to go and what to do so you don't even have to think about it.

 

Greenwich was another surprise. It's out of the way for a day in central London, but I'm glad we took the time to head out there anyways. It's so kid friendly and just beautiful. I would want to go back again and spend time at the observatory and explore the park, which we didn't get to do.

 

The reason we went all the way to Liverpool was to go to the Chester Zoo which is considered the UK's #1 zoo. It was worth going out of the way. We are really big into zoo's and this place was amazing. The southeast Asia exhibit made you feel like you were really there. It's brand new, high tech, well designed. Very cool animals. We only made it through about 1/3 in the entire day we were there.

 

This is what we ended up doing:

 

Our itinerary in a nutshell:
Day 1: Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Thames River Cruise.
Day 2: Tower of London, St. Pauls, Greenwich.
Day 3: Kensington Palace, St. Marys Hospital, Natural History Museum, drive through Nottinghill and Soho on the double decker city bus.
Day 4: Buckingham Palace, St. James Palace, St. James Park, British Museum, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Harrod's.
Day 5: Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle
Day 6: the Cotswolds, then drive to Liverpool
Day 7: Liverpool
Day 8: Chester Zoo, then drive back to Cotswolds.
Day 9: Oxford University
Day 10: Blenheim Palace, then drive to Dorset Coast.
Day 11: Jurassic Coast - Lulworth Cove and the Durdle Door beach
Day 12: Corfe Castle
Day 13: Drive from Dorset coast to Legoland Windsor early in the morning, fly home the next day from Heathrow.

 

What ended up being my personal favourite top 3 experiences, in order:

1. Hampton Court Palace
2. Oxford University
3. Tower of London

 

 


Edited by strawberryjam, 11 January 2018 - 11:44 AM.

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#27 Laura Corin

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Posted 11 January 2018 - 12:00 PM

I think the muffin issue (in your blog) is that they didn't come in until Starbucks arrived, so far as I remember - there were no American-style muffins when I was small.  So everyone copied the fancier muffins that the coffee shops brought in.  We don't have a wholesome-muffin tradition.


Edited by Laura Corin, 11 January 2018 - 12:00 PM.

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#28 Bluegoat

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Posted 11 January 2018 - 12:02 PM

I cannot believe I forgot to mention this. Churchill's war rooms are one of the best museum-things I have ever done.

 

Oh - I am very interested to hear you say that.  I'm going to London this summer, and it's on my list, but I've not been sure how much priority we should give it.