Take Your Family On A London Adventure With Kids' Guidebooks

By Londonist Last edited 35 months ago
Take Your Family On A London Adventure With Kids' Guidebooks

Books cover

The Step Outside London-based family adventure trails series of books is designed so children can lead the family on a tour.

The target age is nine and over but we reckon these books appeal to younger children too, because of the illustrated animal narrator. Older children, meanwhile, will appreciate the smart facts (and having some control over their day out). And as every family day out includes at least one adult, there are points of interest for grown-ups too.

The books contain plenty of planning advice such as time required, length of walk, public toilets en-route — plus there are puzzles, drawing pages, and the like for the regular 'rest your legs' pit stops.

It's liberating not to be dependent on a smartphone app or wi-fi — the directions are good enough to do without a map — simply remember to take a pen.

Apart from one, the books avoid attractions with admission charges and instead lead you to quirky sights, pointing out things you may not have noticed before. All the books focus on a walking route and some have stickers included (who doesn't like stickers?). Some itineraries keep to completely traffic-free areas and some have bus rides to enable you to cover more ground.

One word of warning: some of the trails are quite long to achieve in one day — although there's no reason you can't complete the route on another day.

Here's a quick guide to the series:

Book 1: The London Treasure Trail

Route: From Holborn to Kensington

Highlights: Hatton Garden, Sir John Soane's Museum, sightseeing bus ride (normal London bus) and flamingos.

Book 2: Down by The Thames

Route: From Tower Hill to Embankment

Highlights: Feel Tower Bridge wobble in the middle, walk up the spiral walkway in City Hall and read the Ben Okri poem, see the bird carvings on Blackfriars Bridge.

An except from the London Lion Hunt

Book 3: The London Lion Hunt

Route: From Westminster to Chinatown

Highlights: The South Bank Lion, lions inside a church, on street furniture, on buildings, in paintings. And, of course, in Trafalgar Square.

Book 4: Christmas in London

Route: From The City to Marble Arch

Highlights: Leadenhall Market, how St Mary Axe got its name (that's where the Gherkin stands), learn Cockney rhyming slang, see gold, frankincense and myrrh, plus a bus ride to see the Christmas lights.

Book 5: If Statues Could Talk

Route: From Westminster Abbey to St Paul's

*This book includes a Step Outside Special Family Ticket to Westminster Abbey for two adults, accompanied by at least one child (up to four children). A Westminster Abbey family ticket for two adults and two children costs £44 so this £5 book is very much worth buying.

Highlights: The 'Pearls of Wisdom' are good for adults and older children, offering facts such as Shakespeare introduced the words 'torture' and 'elbow' to the English language. Plus, St James's Park, unusual statues and London's first drinking fountain.

Book 6: Kensington Gardens and Beyond...

Route: Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park

Highlights: A decorated folly, The Albert Memorial explained and The Three Ps: Pond, Palace and Playground.

Step Outside Guides are £5 each and are available online or from independent bookshops and London attraction gift shops such as St Paul's Cathedral, Museum of London and the London Transport Museum.

See other London book reviews and more things to do in London with the family.

By Laura Porter

Last Updated 28 November 2014

Ray Coggin

The Palace of Westminster and Big Ben weren't exactly built in 1837. The House of Lords was finished in 1847 followed by the Commons in 1851. The Clock Tower wasn't finished until 1859. When it had reached a height of 150 feet, it was discovered that the clock was too big for its planned home and modifications had to be made to the space in the tower. Finally installed in April 1859 it didn't work!