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
With a name like Chicken Society, this new Finchley Central restaurant must specialise in chicken, right? Wrong. Well, half right. Despite its name and the chicken-themed decor, there isn’t just one bird on the menu here – it also serves rotisserie duck. But if you’re in any doubt as to the general remit, the walls are adorned with neon signs saying things like ‘fire it up’ and ‘bird is the word’ – it all feels slightly overdone. Happily, the chicken is not. Lightly seasoned with paprika, oregano and garlic, it was perfectly tender and served with a griddled lemon, which was a nice touch. It’s the best thing here. The duck, flavoured with a five-spice rub, was disappointingly dry. Both birds come in quarter, half or full portions. As well as mac ’n’ cheese and crinkle-cut chips (don’t bother with the parmesan and truffle version – they’re not worth £5), there’s also, er, spiralised courgettes. But don’t panic, they’re deep fried – the Hemsley sisters would not approve. The website promises that there’s ‘never been anywhere like the Chicken Society’, which seems a bit much. But it’s a decent enough option if you’re in the area.
Venue says: “Chicken and duck, marinated in herbs and spices, and spit-roasted until golden and gorgeous. Served alongside fresh tasty sides and morsels.”