Let’s face it, traveling with teenagers isn’t always 100% stress-free. Bored and hangry angst has a habit of throwing off that holiday groove you’ve spent ages planning. So, tempting as it may be to stock up the fridge and leave the kids at home with Netflix and junk food while you go to town on a bottle of rosé at a swanky rooftop bar, you know you’ll only feel guilty about it later. You’ll almost miss the mood swings!
The good news is that London is overflowing with world-class attractions and cultural experiences that’ll spark joy in even the most lovesick, hormone-stricken adolescent – they’ll even seem… almost… human! So stress not, here’s a handy list of some of London’s must-see attractions that’ll keep everyone thoroughly entertained.
Selfie with the stars at Madame Tussauds
It’s no secret that teens crave social media bragging rights, and what better way to boost that sensitive self-esteem than a selfie party with the biggest superstars in the world? Offering a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek ‘celebrity-meeting’ experience, Madame Tussauds is guaranteed to make your teenager go from ‘you don’t understand me’ to ‘OMG! It’s Ariana Grande!’ as fast as it takes to dodge a flailing selfie stick.
There are now over 20 Madame Tussauds worldwide. But the original is right here in London. First opened in 1835 on Baker Street, it’s grown over time to showcase over 400 painstakingly created wax figures of the world’s most recognizable people. Everyone from Prince Harry to Donald Trump, Miley Cyrus, and One Direction are represented here, so you can strike whatever pose you fancy with them. It makes for some serious belly laughs and pretty awesome pictures to immortalize the moment.
There are even some original pieces from the founder herself, and an incredible, record-smashing Hulk figure – the biggest wax statue of any Madame Tussauds in the world. On top of that, there are some truly spectacular multisensory attractions that will immerse you in the realms of Star Wars, Marvel, or Alien with state-of-the-art 4D cinematics and meticulously designed sets.
Dive into SEA LIFE Aquarium
Nothing inspires angsty teen poetry quite like watching a lunchtime piranha feeding frenzy. Aside from finding metaphors for their existential gloom while watching red-bellied piranhas shred their way through several pounds of flesh, your teenagers can ponder the life of a jellyfish, and wander through a giant ocean tunnel patrolled by dozens of razor-toothed sand tiger sharks and blacktip reef sharks – child’s play compared to the snarky sharks at school!
SEA LIFE London also offers a remarkable underwater safari of the world’s most stunning marine wildlife. There are graceful rays, beautiful sea turtles, sea horses, sea dragons, and hundreds of tropical fish species. You can also see some animals that spend time outside of water such as crocodiles, penguins, and even tarantulas big enough to devour birds.
The aquarium regularly engages in conservation efforts such as coral propagation and endangered species breeding programs, so it will surely please the socially aware Gen Z-sensibilities of the modern teenager. Look out for the aquarium’s Polar Adventure, which runs until early 2020 and includes an Antarctic simulation complete with augmented-reality polar bears and adorable seals. It’s a genuine London must-sea.
Take them to a trendy restaurant
- The dangerous combination of hungry and angry, caused by severe snack deficiency
Nothing spoils the holiday mood quite like a hangry teenager. Ward off those grumpy groans and hunger pangs by treating them at a cool dinner spot they can brag about to their friends. Try Inamo, a chain of swanky pan-Asian restaurants, which makes great use of cool technology. Not only can they order their dinner from touch screen tables, but they can also control the lighting, play retro games, make digital table art, and even watch the chef prepare their food with a kitchen-cam. Oh, and the food is also to die for!
If afternoon tea is more, well, your cup of tea, we recommend the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-themed tea at One Aldwych, which serves treats straight out of Roald Dahl’s classic story – only your little darlings won’t turn into a giant blueberry. Sometimes though, the only meal you need is cereal – many teens are aware of this fact. So, score a parenting win by dining in a unique, first-of-its-kind restaurant, Cereal Killer Cafe. This all-day breakfast joint offers too many types of cereal to count. From American sugar bomb classics to more exotic and nutritious fare.
Go down to the London Dungeon
Have your adolescents been acting up again? Send them to the dungeon! We’re joking – well, sort of. The London Dungeon is the perfect way to get your teenager to learn about the British capital’s incredible, albeit gruesome history while having tons of fun. You’ll step back into 1,000 years of London’s dramatic past on an immersive journey through 19 unique areas brought to life by fantastic actors, authentic sets, and special effects that chronicle the murky murderous events and characters of London’s bloody history.
For the thrill-seekers, the dungeon is also home to two very dark, very scary rides. Worried your kids might be too scared for this experience? Don’t fret, apart from the regular jump scares, the actors engage in hilarious comedic dialogue guaranteed to make even the jumpiest teen chuckle. Visitors may also opt out of the rides.
Shop till they drop
When in doubt, some retail therapy is always the answer. Teenagers love spending money, especially if it’s not theirs! We recommend starting with shopping mecca Oxford Street, where you’ll find shops like Primark, Lush, Topshop, and Miss Selfridge. Is your kid’s style on the edgier side?, London is full of hip, alternative markets featuring thrift and vintage stores, such as Covent Garden, Old Spitalfields, Camden, Greenwich, and Petticoat Lane.
Visit an educational museum
Your teens might resemble something from a zombie movie when they wake up for school each morning, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like to learn. With an abundance of free museums in London, getting schooled won’t cost you a dime, ahem, tuppence. Visit the Natural History Museum, with its vast array of Earth and geography-themed exhibitions, and its famous earthquake simulator.
If your teen thrives on being creative or regularly pores over fashion magazines, they’ll absolutely love the Victoria and Albert Museum. The world’s largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design houses countless creations from wild runway looks to historic smartphone apps like Flappy Bird – yep, that’s a part of cultural history now. Are they more into space and technology? The Science Museum will keep their curious minds intrigued for hours on end.
Add some of these excellent London attractions to your itinerary, and your teen will end the day with all the mental stimulation (and food) they need for a sound night’s sleep. Then, you can hit up that rooftop bar with a clear conscience (and rosé)!