London with kids: The RAF Museum
Father-Hood.co.uk’s guide to the best things to do with your kids in London continues with our review of the RAF Museum.
Where is it?
The Royal Air Force Museum London is located on Grahame Park Way in Hendon, North London. You can get there via bus, train and tube, but, given it’s relatively out of the way and has a big car park, driving is by far the easiest method.
How much does it cost?
Excitingly, there is no admission charge, but as of August 2019 car parking will set you back £4.50 for up to 3 hours, £6 for 3-6 hours and £9 for anyone who wants to stay up to 9 hours.
What are the best things about it?
A year ago, I would have told you it was the opportunity to gawp at a load of incredible planes and helicopters. However, in the aftermath of the museum’s big refurbishment to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the RAF, I’m not sure.
From a guidebook perspective, the key enhancement is a swish new hangar that’s packed with interactive exhibitions and designed to showcase the stories of RAF personnel through the years.
From the perspective of parents with young kids, the best upgrade is the new outdoor play area. The majority of the slides and climbing frames are based on helicopters (see above pic), planes and other RAF items, but there’s also a big house thing (see below pic) featuring a number of different climbing challenges.
And the worst?
At the time of writing, the Aeronauts Gallery indoor play area needs a bit of tender loving care. It’s a great place to take toddlers and younger school kids when all the displays are working, but the last time we went (early September 2018), they weren’t.
Is the food any good?
Yes. From hot meals, to giant pieces of red velvet cake via sandwiches, salads and paninis, the RAF Museum’s various eateries provide lots of options for adults and kids. But while good, it is also a fairly standard London museum price (i.e. expensive). Happily, the museum is more than happy to allow you to take your own food and cold drinks in with you. Unhappily, flasks of hot drinks are not permitted.
What are the toilets/baby changes like?
In the new bits of the museum, they are pretty good. In the old bits, they are okay, but a little rundown. Conclusion? If, like my wife, you need your toilets/baby change to be of a certain standard, use the ones in the new areas. If, like me, you view a toilet as a toilet, then go wherever you like.
Special insider tip
Why give one tip, when I can give two? First, the fact that the RAF Museum doesn’t charge an admission fee, has both indoor and outdoor picnic areas and allows you to take your own food in makes it a great birthday party venue.
Really? Yes, really. We had our son’s 2nd birthday party there and it was a big success. But, but – what about the parking? Isn’t it a bit much to ask people to pay £3 to attend a birthday party? Perhaps, which is why we had it on a Sunday, and told our friends they could avoid the charge by parking on the single yellow lines on the road outside. I know. I am a genius.
Second, make sure you don’t miss the headphones at the far end of the right hand wall of Hangar 6. They give you and your kids an opportunity to listen to the songs that were No.1 when important world events happened. And thus they gave me an opportunity to introduce my son to the game-changing cultural phenomenon that was “Oppan Gangnam Style”. Yes, I tried to do the dance. No, I don’t regret it.
The bottom line
Fasten your seat belts and head for Hendon, because the RAF Museum is a great year-round attraction that’s relatively easy on the wallet.