London with kids: ArcelorMittal Orbit

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

Where is it?

The ArcelorMittal Orbit (a.k.a. the UK’s tallest sculpture) can be found slap bang in the middle of Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which is a 10-minute walk from both Stratford and Stratford International stations. More of a bus fan? Jump on the D8 or 339.

How much does it cost?

The price you pay depends on the way you want to descend from Sir Anish Kapoor’s Olympic structure. If you fear nothing and want to jump off the side, the 80m abseiling experience costs from £85* (note: you have to be over 14).

If you fear little and want to take a 40-second, 15mph thrill ride down the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide, a views and slide ticket costs adults £16.50, seniors and students £13.50, and children aged between eight and 16 £10.50*. Children under the age of eight are not allowed to ride the slide.

And if you prefer to play safe and want to take the lift or walk down 445 stairs, a views only ticket costs £11.50 for adults, £8.50 for seniors and students, £5.50 for children aged between three and 16, and £0* for kids under three.

The view from the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit

What are the best things about it?

On a clear day, the views from the observation platforms at the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit are pretty special. And messing around in front of the concave mirrors on viewing platform 2 is good fun. But, when all is said and done, the main reason everyone comes here is to ride the tunnel slide created by German artist Carsten Höller. It’s 178m long, it has 12 twists and turns, it ends with a corkscrew section named the ‘bettfeder’ (that’s German for bedspring) and, if you like slides, it’s really rather good.

And the worst?

You only get to ride the slide once per visit. Logistically, I understand why this is the case, but this really is the type of experience that you get more out of second time round. The first time you don your pads and enter the slide, you are too worried about what might be around the next corner to lie back, enjoy the ride and check out the views from the transparent sections. The second time is different. You know what’s coming, feel more relaxed and are able to make the most of the 178m descent.

Is the food any good?

The bad news is there is nowhere to buy food in the ArcelorMittal Orbit. The good news is The Last Drop cafe is right next door, and offers a selection of sandwiches and rolls, toasties, a soup of the day, salads, treats, fruit and pasties. And if none of that tickles your fancy? Fear not. There are plenty of places to eat in nearby shopping centre Westfield Stratford City.

What are the baby change/toilets like?

As you’d expect, a lot of people need the toilet before they ride the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide. This means there are some fairly nice facilities on viewing platform one.

As you’d also expect, the ArcelorMittal Orbit doesn’t host a lot of babies (you need to be eight and at least 130cm to ride the slide). But that doesn’t mean it isn’t prepared for them. There are nappy changing facilities in the disabled and women’s toilets on viewing platform one.

And if you’re on the ground? You’ll find more toilets and changing facilities in The Last Drop.

Any special insider tips?

  1. Although you can only ride the slide once per ticket, you can ascend the tower as often as you like. So, if you fancy heading back up in the lift or walking up the stairs, go for it.
  2. It takes around 15 seconds for you to get from the first transparent section of the slide to the second transparent section of the slide. Why does this matter? It matters, because you want to have your eyes open for the clear bits of the slide.
  3. Don’t panic if you come to a stop in the tunnel a few metres before you get to the end of the slide. This is extremely common, as the slide is designed to slow you down before you hit the end.

The bottom line

A unique attraction that’s well worth a visit if your kids are old enough to ride the slide.

*online ticket prices as of September 2019.

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