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
A hypercoloured graffiti mural covering the top four floors of the building sounds warning bells. Is Karpo going be a style-over-content kind of joint? Thankfully, no – the food delivers innovative flavours, the staff are friendly, and the location is ideal for an easy-going dinner date or catching up with friends near King’s Cross. A small entrance opens up to the main restaurant, giving a wide view on to chefs working in the kitchen. Dark decor and a quirky wall covered in plants keep the bohemian look going inside, but the focus is on the food. We started with cocktails in the railway-inspired basement bar, where you can also order nibbles such as soft-centered ham croquettes from the upstairs menu. From a seasonally-changing menu, mains are playful: roast venison came with an on-trend side serving of tender salt-baked celeriac, but it tried too hard with an overly-sweet chocolate garnish to the meat. Mac ’n’ cheese went retro, arriving in a hot cast-iron pan, and the mixed leaf salad had a tangy red wine vinegar dressing. To finish, rhubarb fool was a tasty jive off traditional trifle, coming with a rich custardy cream served between layers of stewed rhubarb, pistachio nibs and a fine shortbread crumb.
Venue says: “Karpo grill offers great steaks from Britain, aged a minimum of 28 days, complemented by fun dishes from far and beyond.”