Family-friendly museums in London

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  • V&A | Royal Academy | Horniman Museum | V&A Museum of Childhood | Imperial War Museum | More family-friendly museums

    Horniman Museum and Gardens

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    The welcome A stroll through the garden is a fine start to any museum visit, particularly one as lovely as the Horniman’s. This quirky repository of nature has entertained generations of youngsters, my two included.
    The experience A thoughtful renovation in 2002 brought a twenty-first-century flavour to the original building, but this was no cosmetic facelift – the £13.5 million extension (complete with eco-friendly turf roof) improved access and increased the space available for permanent attractions. New this April is the Nature Base, which promises scurrying harvest mice, beetles and a working beehive – something of a contrast to the taxidermy in the main hall. Some of the critters here look a little careworn – the famous walrus is rather comic (the story goes that the Victorian taxidermist had never seen a live one, so overstuffed by a considerable margin) – but it’s a wonderful place to introduce kids to natural history. The aquarium brought the loudest squeals from our two. It doesn’t have the variety of a larger, dedicated space; nor does it have the crowds or the price tag. Also new is ‘The Robot Zoo’, a collection of large-scale animatronic bugs and beasties, including a chameleon that can be controlled with buttons and joysticks.

    The restaurant Somewhat frantic but there’s a good selection of healthyish fare: a large lasagne with salad or chips is £5.90, ciabatta and salad is £4.90; sandwiches start at £2.50. A kids’ meal with two sides, a drink and a piece of fruit is £4.20, but you can take a packed lunch to eat in the wonderful Victorian conservatory. High chairs are provided.
    The loos Four options for baby changing: two disabled loos on the ground floor, plus the ladies’ and disabled on lower ground. Both ladies’ and gents’ were clean on our visit.
    The shop Worthy but fun. There’s a lot of influence from the museum’s African collection, with dejambe drums from £8.50 and other traditional instruments. A cuddly giraffe is £10 and there’s a good selection of books, cards and music CDs.
    Family-friendly verdict It’s surprising just how much is stuffed into this relatively small space: a gallery of musical instruments, anthropological oddities, a dedicated collection of African artefacts… What’s impressive is that they haven’t compromised their more highbrow collections or dumbed anything down. It’s everything a family-friendly museum should be: educational, a little irreverent and lots of fun. And anywhere with an overstuffed walrus gets our vote.
    Horniman Museum
    , 100 London Rd, SE23 3PQ (8699 1872/www.horniman.ac.uk). 10.30am-5.30pm daily. Free entry to the main collections, aquarium and garden. ‘The Robot Zoo’ (until Nov 8): £5; £2.50 children; £13 family ticket.


    V&A | Royal Academy | Horniman Museum | V&A Museum of Childhood | Imperial War Museum | More family-friendly museums

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Somewhat frantic but there’s a good selection of healthyish fare: a large lasagne with salad or chips is £5.90, ciabatta and salad is £4.90; sandwiches start at £2.50. A kids’ meal with two sides, a drink and a piece of fruit is £4.20, but you can take a packed lunch to eat in the wonderful Victorian conservatory. High chairs are provided. Four options for baby changing: two disabled loos on the ground floor, plus the ladies’ and disabled on lower ground. Both ladies’ and gents’ were clean on our visit. Worthy but fun. There’s a lot of influence from the museum’s African collection, with dejambe drums from £8.50 and other traditional instruments. A cuddly giraffe is £10 and there’s a good selection of books, cards and music CDs. It’s surprising just how much is stuffed into this relatively small space: a gallery of musical instruments, anthropological oddities, a dedicated collection of African artefacts… What’s impressive is that they haven’t compromised their more highbrow collections or dumbed anything down. It’s everything a family-friendly museum should be: educational, a little irreverent and lots of fun. And anywhere with an overstuffed walrus gets our vote.V&A | Royal Academy | Horniman Museum | V&A Museum of Childhood | Imperial War Museum | More family-friendly museums

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