LondonistHighlights & Pictures: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park fully reopened last weekend. The ArcelorMittal Orbit can be climbed, new landscaping can be explored, rivers can be walked along, art installations can be hunted down and the kids can run wild in one of the various outdoor play areas. The Aquatics Centre can be swam in too (advance booking definitely recommended).
In short, there's masses to see and do. Have a look at the full range on offer via the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park website so you don't miss out on something special just round the corner from your picnic.
We were able to take a sneak peak of the park ahead of the crowds and we then joined the throng to visit the new open space during its opening weekend. Here are our highlights from our two visits:
The ArcelorMittal Orbit tower offers fantastic views from Crystal Palace to Ally Pally. From the viewing platform - which contains a house-of-mirrors type installation - you can also see straight down into the Olympic Stadium (although it's currently under construction to be reopened in 2016).
Most visitors will be grateful for the lift up to the viewing platform, but there's the chance to walk down via a spiral staircase that projects a London soundscape as you descend, including cheering crowds at Wembley, Whitechapel Bell Foundry and Columbia Road Flower Market. Our top tip: pick your lift spot carefully as a couple of small windows allow you a view of your 34 second ascent.
At the foot of The Orbit is The Podium visitor centre. As well as the usual guides and pointers, the centre also has a cafe, events space and a rooftop terrace. This is where you'll find the Pixel Wall art installation (pictured above).
Inject a bit of sportsmanship into your stroll down by the water, with the park's riverside bouldering wall (that's a low wall where climbers can scramble up on foot/handholds without being harnessed in). Available to anyone aged 11+, no booking is required so you can just turn up and get scrambling - plus there are handy ladders affixed to the wall so once you're up, you don't have to panic about how to get down.
Both the Competition Pool and the Training Pool are available for members of the public to make use of at the Aquatics Centre, plus a programme of activities such as family sessions, diving lessons, community swims. It's also Tom Daley's training ground so you may catch a glimpse of him.
A huge draw for little and big kids alike (we're looking at you, Dad) are the dancing water fountains. They are choreographed into different sequences and heights so the challenge of racing through without getting caught is a pretty tempting - and often soggy - one. Spare changes of clothes recommended!
An outdoor auditorium has been created by building staggered seating into the underside of two bridges that cross near Carpenters Lock (just round the corner from the climbing wall). The undersides of the bridges are mirrored making it an interesting place to visit, plus we've heard that outdoor screenings may be held there in the summer.
The park’s new promenade has been lined with 100 new trees as well as a number of food and drink kiosks. The round lanterns overhead have all been coloured slightly differently to create a blue-green spectrum (pictured above).