London with kids: Natural History Museum at South Kensington
Father-Hood’s guide to the best things to do with your kids in London continues with our review of the Natural History Museum at South Kensington.
Where is it?
The clue is in the title. Like the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum at South Kensington can be found in South Kensington. If you’re the type of person who needs to know the exact address, it’s Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD.
Parking in this area is limited and expensive, so most people tend to get here by tube, with the nearest stop being South Kensington (Piccadilly, Circle and District lines). The museum’s official website says the walk from the station takes five minutes, but, even with a pram, a child and a baby bag, I’d back myself to do it in less.
How much does it cost?
Special exhibitions, like the ever-popular Wildlife Photographer of the Year, charge an admission fee, but entrance to the museum itself is completely, utterly and gloriously free.
What are the best things about it?
Did I mention that it was free to get in? Aside from this, my favourite bit is the earthquake simulator. My wife’s favourite bit is the wonderfully designed central Hintze Hall. And our son’s favourite bit is the moving Tyrannosaurus Rex (see top pic). He can spend hours staring at it, usually while sitting on my shoulders.
And the worst?
A lot of people say it’s the queues to get in, but while these are often long on weekends and during school holidays, I’ve always found them to move quickly.
Given this, my main issue is that, while there is a lot for school-aged kids to get their teeth into, there really isn’t that much in the museum that excites toddlers. Yes, there are the dinosaurs and the big blue whale skeleton in the Hintze Hall. But apart from that? If your youngster isn’t into creepy crawlies or animals, they will have a better time at the Science Museum.
Is the food any good?
Yes. We tend to go to the T. rex Grill, as my son hearts hot food, but you can also buy sandwiches and wraps at The Kitchen or get a coffee and a cake at a couple more places (for full list click here). The only slight negative is the price (read: it’s not cheap). So if you’re looking to keep costs down, packed lunches are most definitely the way forward.
What are the toilets/baby change like?
The facilities are kept in good order, but sometimes you need to walk a decent distance in order to find them. Obviously, this isn’t an issue for adults, but it can be troublesome for parents looking to change a dirty nappy or avoid a potty training accident. My advice? Make sure you take note of where the toilets are at the beginning of your visit, as this could save vital seconds.
Any special insider tips?
- The queue tends to move faster at the Exhibition Road entrance.
- The T. rex Grill gets very busy between 12pm and 1pm, so lunching at 11.30am is a better option.
- If you visit between the end of October and January, you get additional entertainment in the form of the pop-up ice rink.
- Climb the steps in the Hintze Hall. Not only are there some decent exhibits on the upper floors, the platform at the top of the steps at the street end is THE BEST photo stop in the whole museum.
The bottom line
A free-to-enter London favourite that never disappoints, but does offer more for older kids than younger ones.