What?: While it might not be one of London’s largest or best-known museums, the wildly underrated LTM is without question one of the capital’s most engaging, stylish and child-friendly days out.
On arrival families are issued with a Stamper Trail card, which is essentially a massive ticket designed to help kids follow the story as they move around the museum. Each zone houses a stamper station where you can punch a horse-, locomotive- or taxi-shaped hole into your ticket to correspond with that era’s key transport innovations.
Once you’ve been issued with your tickets you’re pointed in the direction of the time-machine lift, whose digital display rolls back the years until you reach the 19th century where the story begins. One-hundred-and-fifty-plus years of history unfold, and it’s a sensory delight, with so-naff-it’s-brilliant moquette tube upholstery to paw at, authentic audio accounts emanating from the unmoving mouths of customarily sinister old-worldy mannequins, and all manner of ancient stagecoaches, tube trains and buses to clamber through.
Should your kids tire of all this there’s even a two-storey play zone complete with half a double-decker bus, a soft-play DLR train for minis, a taxi fitted with a driver-to-passenger intercom system and the hilariously named ‘Thames Nipper’ ferry, because Thames Clipper.
Where?: The museum is housed in a former flower exchange in Covent Garden Piazza, due-East of the main market building. It’s exceptionally well connected, as one might hope of a museum of transport, with Covent Garden (Piccadilly) just a three-minute walk away, Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly) six, Charing Cross (mainline, Northern, Bakerloo) seven and Embankment (Circle, District, Bakerloo, Northern) eight.
Facilities: Baby changing; baby feeding room; picnic area; step-free access; buggy parking; weekend/holiday activities for 3-12 year-olds; singing and stories for under-5s on Tuesdays; All Aboard play zone for 0-7s; two cafes offering child-friendly food and drinks, plus high chairs.
Best Bits: This is such a great, well-thought-out little museum. I think as a Londoner (or even a non-Londoner), one can’t help but find the history of city’s transport system endlessly fascinating. Also obviously all kids are inexplicably obsessed with trains and buses, so all in all this is a genuinely brilliant day out for the whole family, as trite and TripAdvisory as that sounds.
Worst Bits: We encounter this problem a lot, but I didn’t think the play zone was massively suitable for Bab’s age group due to her being too big, clambery and fascinated by everything for the tiny, low-walled, baby-friendly soft-play area but too small for everything else, particularly given the presence of much older children and their total lack of shits where babies are concerned. We let her climb up onto the top deck of the bus but obviously we had to follow her, which caused a major traffic jam because everything is miniature and then I got stuck up there for ages and ended up feeling even more claustrophobic than I do on actual public transport, which wasn’t ideal.
Cost: A slightly eye-watering £17.50 per adult, though tickets grant admission for 12 months from the date of purchase and under-17s go free.
Would We Come Back?: Yes – and not just because we spent £35 on annual passes, but because it’s impossible to spend more than two hours in any one place when you have a small child in tow and Bab got screamy before I really felt I’d seen and read everything I wanted to. We will be back, hopefully when Bab is walking and can kick the older kids’ bums.
Bab goes mad with power aboard a bus in the All Aboard play zone at the London Transport Museum