Stroll along tree-lined promenades in London’s newest park
Take a stroll along one – or all – of the park’s tree-lined promenades and you’ll soon forget about phones, spreadsheets and deadlines. Promenades run all along the south side of the park, so you’ll pass community events, children laughing in adventure playgrounds and 100 newly planted mature trees.
Swim in the iconic Zaha Hadid-designed Aquatics Centre
On March 1, the London Aquatics Centre opened for the first time since the Games. In 2012 it saw many feats of sporting excellence, but is now available to families and swimmers of all abilities. A wide range of aquatic activities, including lane swimming, diving, swimming and diving lessons and community swimming sessions, are available in two 50m pools, a diving pool and a newly installed gym, all open seven days a week.
Relax and enjoy a picnic beside the tranquil waterways
During the summer of the Olympics, those who needed a break between events would often find a spot along one of the park’s waterways to relax and maybe catch something on the big screen. Now nature has returned to the waterside – the waterways are a haven for bird life and along their entire 6.5 km length there are peaceful spots to sit for quiet reflection.
Try all four Olympic cycling disciplines at Lee Valley VeloPark
In the north of the park, visitors can try their bicycle skills on the BMX track and, yes, the velodrome. Apart from BMX, you can try road, track and mountain biking – the VeloPark is the first venue in the world to offer the four Olympic cycling disciplines together in one place.
Explore themed walking trails with lots to discover
There are four themed walking trails to wander and explore – one of them taking in some fine landscaping by James Corner Field Operations, who created New York’s amazing High Line park. There are also educational walks for families and teachers, making learning outside the classroom enjoyable, with the added bonus of spotting some 25 art installations dotted around the park.
Play and watch at the multi-amazing Copper Box Arena
The Copper Box Arena hosts all kinds of entertainment, sports and community events year-round. Aside from a huge gym and two studios, the multi-purpose arena includes three basketball courts and nine badminton courts for community use. The 6,500-seat former Olympic venue is rocking when it hosts the home games of the London Lions basketball team and Leyton Netball Club.
Each spring London wakes up, shakes off the memory of a tough winter and becomes alive to a host of exciting possibilities. This year is no exception, with April seeing the reopening of the ArcelorMittal Orbit at the heart of a revitalised Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford.
Created by Turner Prize-winning artist Sir Anish Kapoor and designer Cecil Balmond, the ArcelorMittal Orbit became an instant emblem of contemporary UK design and engineering in the brilliant summer of 2012. Millions of people across the globe came to know it as a London landmark, whether lit by fireworks during the Olympic opening ceremony or standing resolutely in the background as a unique symbol of the capital during the Games. The 2,000-tonne steel structure was impossible to ignore, and at 114.5 metres in height, that’s not surprising: it’s the largest sculpture in the UK and taller than the Statue of Liberty.
On April 5, the ArcelorMittal Orbit will be open to the public, offering visitors a dazzling array of views in every direction. From the upper viewing platform you can see Wembley Stadium to the west, Alexandra Palace to the north, Crystal Palace to the south, City landmarks including St Paul's Cathedral, Canary Wharf in Docklands and many miles into Essex beyond east London.
After you’ve had your fill of spectacular views and you’ve come back down to earth, in both senses, you’ll be ready for a drink and something to eat. Thankfully, the East Twenty Bar and Kitchen sits at the base of the sculpture in the new Podium building. It’s open daily from breakfast time, and you can pick up everything from coffee and a pastry to lunch made with fresh, seasonal produce, locally sourced where possible. Even better, you can enjoy your food on the roof terrace overlooking the newly landscaped park. If you want to invite a few friends to join you at this cosy hangout spot, the kitchen can also cater for larger groups.
As well as a new sense of the city, visitors to the ArcelorMittal Orbit also get an unrivalled bird’s eye view of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. After you’ve scaled the heights, explore the exciting landscape at ground level. Swim at the Zaha Hadid-designed London Aquatics Centre, get on your bike at Lee Valley VeloPark, or just relax amid 560 acres of lush parkland. There are also four themed walking trails, and if you’re lucky you might even catch the London Lions (the city’s only pro basketball team) shooting some hoops in the Copper Box Arena.
Tickets for the ArcelorMittal Orbit cost £15 for adults, £12 for seniors/concs and £7 for under-16s, and local residents get £2 off the standard ticket prices. For tickets and information on group bookings, including for schools, find out more at arcelormittalorbit.com.
See our top picks for great things to do at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park below.