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.