London with kids: London Elstree Aerodrome

Father-Hood.co.uk’s guide to the best things to do in London with your kids continues with our review of London Elstree Aerodrome…

Where is it?

London Elstree Aerodrome is just off the A41 near the towns of Bushey, Elstree and Radlett, and very close to Aldenham Country Park. Before anyone comments, yes, technically, it’s in Hertfordshire, but I’m including it my London with kids portfolio for three reasons.

First, you can drive here in under 30 minutes from anywhere in North London. Second, if you take the Thameslink and then a cab, you can get here in less than an hour from Blackfriars, Farringdon and St Pancras. Third, if your kid is into planes, coming here is far more enjoyable than schlepping to Heathrow.

Interested? Great, the address you need to chuck into your phone/Sat-Nav is Elstree Aerodrome, Hogg Lane, Elstree. Hertfordshire, WD6 3AR

How much does it cost?

Nothing. The glory of private airfields like London Elstree Aerodrome is that you can park your car right next to the runway and watch all the action, from the comfort of your seat, free of charge. This makes it a great spot to relax while your kids are napping, but if the little ones are awake and need some exercise, this aerodrome also has a great viewing hill right next to the control tower. It’s not huge, but it offers a fantastic view of the runway and has enough space for kids to sit and enjoy everything that’s going on (or, you know, run around, while intermittently screaming “plane”, “look daddy” or “helicopter”).

What are the best things about it?

Positives include: the fact it costs nothing, the fact you all get some fresh air and the fact there are usually some other families to chat with. But undoubtedly the top reason to come here is the volume of traffic. The aerodrome is home to a number of pilot training schools, so, on a sunny day, the planes and helicopters take off and land every couple of minutes.

Toddlers can get up close to the action at London Elstree Aerodrome.

And the worst?

The public transport links are pretty non-existent, so you’re really looking at coming here in your car, or in a taxi from Elstree & Borehamwood station. The staff in the on-site Greek café, Ikaron, are a bit Marmite (I like them, but others find them rude). There are no official baby change facilities (see below entry). Oh, and be sure to check the weather. Although the aerodrome won’t shut if it’s cloudy or raining, there will be far less flights and thus far less entertainment.

Is the food any good?

If you’re looking for a hearty meal, on-site Greek café Ikaron’s selection of cooked breakfasts, sandwiches, omelettes and daily specials will definitely sort you out. In terms of kids’ food, they offer smaller portions of the more kid-friendly items on their menu (e.g. spaghetti Bolognese), but another option is to share an omelette – my son and I regularly halve the “Ikaron” omelette, and it goes down a treat.

And if you merely fancy a coffee and a cake? You’re in luck, Ikaron offers both of these. Note: it also has indoor and outdoor seating.

What are the baby change facilities/toilets like?

The toilets in the main airport building are a little dated and basic, but the ones that adjoin the café are modern and nice. There is no baby change table, which sounds like a nightmare, but isn’t actually too bad. If you’ve got your car, the car park is very close (whenever my son has had an issue, I’ve always just opened the boot and used a portable changing mat). And if you don’t have a car, there are plenty of flat surfaces to lay your portable changing mat on.

Any special insider tips?

  1. After you’ve ordered your food, check out the back section of on-site café – the windows look into the hangar, enabling you and your kids to see loads more planes and helicopters close-up.
  2. The café only takes cards for transactions over £10, so make sure you bring cash.
  3. Say hello to the pilots – most are really friendly and a couple have even invited us onto the runway to check out their planes.

The bottom line

A bustling private airfield with a nice café where your kids can get close to loads of small planes and helicopters.

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