Family days out on London’s South Bank

City Cruises Thames tour 610

Photo credit: Kate Tunstall

One of the perks of being a BritMums editor is occasionally being invited to some awesome events as their representative, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go along to a really fun press trip, courtesy of South Bank London to promote #SouthBankDreams – South Bank London’s summer family days out for 2017. Though the idea of taking the little ones into the city is enough to bring me out in hives, with the support of my hubby I decided it was worth it for Pixie…

We got the train into Liverpool Street and then for the sake of my sanity we jumped straight into a cab. The driver was really interesting to chat to, giving us a bit of an insight into ‘The Knowledge’! He was unaware of the pier we needed to pick our cruise up from, but as we talked he figured out where we meant, and he got us right to the door, which just made it so simple for us.

The tour itself was great – a City Cruise from Bankside Pier to London Eye Pier and we zigzagged across the Thames visiting landmarks along the shore, listening to a running commentary providing tourist information. The boat carried about 400 passengers and most of it was undercover, though there was also an outside area on the roof for if you happen to catch the one day of the year that is scorchio. It was clean and tidy – even the loos – and there is a small bar serving drinks and snacks. We were on board for about 90 minutes so it got a bit much for Pixie towards the end – mostly because she missed her nap as we didn’t take a pushchair for her!

Behind-the-scenes at SEA LIFE London

Photo credit: Kate Tunstall

We visited the London Aquarium next and I was very excited to be getting a ‘backstage tour’! I’d heard we’d be feeding the sharks which turned out to be a slight exaggeration! That said, when I saw a genuine sign advising how to treat shark bites I realised that I maybe wasn’t so keen to get up close and personal with these predators after all. Instead Pixie was able to feed the rays and a giant turtle which was an incredible experience – alas she’s too young to fully appreciate how lucky she is!

At the end of the tour we were taken outside to an ice cream van where the venue has brought out a range of new crazy but incredible flavours, and treated to one of our choice. I say incredible flavours, but I was actually totally gutted to be unable to partake myself since my newborn has recently been diagnosed with a dairy allergy. They did look amazing though, and I was able to have a little bit of candy floss (not quite the same without the sparkly cone).

A private skating lesson at House of Vans

Next up was a short walk to House of Vans. Never heard of it? I’d not either but it was brilliant. It’s essentially a disused network of underground tunnels turned into a really fantastic space. It’s run by the shoe brand Vans – but this is not the place to visit if you’re looking to acquire their merchandise. They have created this community area to provide free skateboarding lessons and to put on free gigs (The Foos once played there!), and to just be a really nice family environment to go and chill out – at no cost.

Photo credit: Kate Tunstall

I was totally overwhelmed at the generosity of spirit demonstrated by the venue and everybody who worked there, but mostly by the people at the top who have put this place together at their own cost. It’s not small (far from it actually – it’s cavernous) and I would hazard a guess that it’s no mean feat to keep it running. As a hangout, it’s also very quirky and cool. The manager, Henry, took the time to come and chat with me and he clearly loves what he does. (Incidentally, they were closed to the public that day and had opened especially to show us around.) The staff are very accommodating – I asked the chef whether the sandwiches they’d laid on happened to be dairy free, fully expecting to have to wait to eat. Instead he whipped me up a salad with falafel. I was bowled over by the place and highly recommend a visit.

Early evening cocktails on the terrace at Mondrian London

Finally we walked to the Mondrian hotel on the South Bank. It’s somewhere I’ve actually been once before for a work event, though at the time I knew nothing about it. I now know that one of their two bars (Dandelyan Bar) has recently been voted Best International Bar, and I’ve seen that despite being very smart and swanky, they’re also quite quirky and family friendly. They served us some lovely cocktails and invited me back with hubby just as soon as we’re ready (probably not for another year!) which was a bonus! It had a really cool and eclectic vibe, and though I felt comfortable there with the family, I’d love to return as a couple for an overnight stay!

Do you like visiting the South Bank? What do you plan to do there? Share your story in the comments.

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About Kate Tunstall

Cynic; Jedi Master; connoisseur of cake: Kate Tunstall blogs at The Less-Refined Mind and Huffington Post and has recently become the BritMums Current Affairs Round-up Editor. From petty peeves to politics, Kate doesn’t shy away from telling it like it is. As an inevitable role-model to her daughters, she even throws in the odd ‘inspirational’ post in an effort to quell her cynicism and promote positivity.

Kate resides in rural Essex with her champion husband and their young daughters, affectionately known as the ‘Devil Pixie’ and ‘Elfin Angel’ – only one of whom lives up to their moniker…

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