Our selection of six belt-tightening itineraries to help you have fun on a budget
The toughest thing about a day out with kids is that the little blighters can’t pay their own way. We’ve allocated £20 per blighter in this itinerary, and £40 per adult.
Start the day in Covent Garden
Most kids are happy to spend hours watching Covent Garden's(1) juggling/magic/painted-statue acts – and the truth is that some of them are quite impressive. Make sure you go prepared with a stash of small denomination coins.
Hit the shops
There are two shops in the Covent Garden area with a nostalgic appeal likely to enchant all ages.Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop(2) has been selling toy theatres in Covent Garden since the 1880s. These days stock includes charming music boxes and sewing cases.
Be firm; tell the kids it’s looking-only on this occasion but be prepared to splash a little cash at relative newcomer to the area Hope & Greenwood(3), a traditional sweetie shop, where the gobstoppers are stored in glass jars and you can get sugar-free gummy bears.
Take in some culture
Next, take a walk across Waterloo Bridge(4) and head to the Royal Festival Hall(5) to take advantage of the free loos and check out an exhibition. You can also visit Topolski Century(6), a vast rambling mural by the Polish expressionist Feliks Topolski in a railway arch close to Waterloo Station, which records many of the key events and important figures of the twentieth century.
Grab something to eat
At some point you’ll want to refuel. There are sandwiches for sale in both the Royal Festival Hall and the National Theatre (7) (and quiet spots where you could buy a drink and eat a discreet packed lunch) but there’s a handy branch of Pizza Express(8), and the chain’s a family favourite with good reason.
Visit an underwater wonderland
Heliot Steak House
There's certainly a sense of West End glamour at this Leicester Square restaurant - it's at the Hippodrome Casino, once a byword for London's lustre. It used to welcome the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dusty Springfield and Stevie Wonder. Today it remains a glitzy draw. Its restaurant, Heliot, offers a menu with more than a nod to Stateside steakhouses, with USDA cut, wings, ribs and seafood platters all on offer. Pan fried salmon with English asparagus and sweet lemon, mushroom ravioli with parmesan sauce, and the Heliot fish and chips provide alternatives. Keep an eye out for lunch menus, pre-theatre options and a '24 hour menu' with burgers, wraps, sliders, light bites and breakfast bits available around the clock. Good for the gamers of a more relentless bent, perhaps.