There are so many things to do in London, but if you have the time, getting out of the city will allow you to experience the true beauty of England. With a fantastic rail system, London day trips are an easy and fun way to explore the UK with kids. Here, we will cover all the options that we think your family will love.
4.) Warner Brothers Studio Tour
13.) St. Albans
14.) The Cotswolds
15.) Windsor Castle and Maidenhead
16.) Leeds Castle
21.) Helpful Resources
How to Pick a Great London Day Trip
When we were planning our six days in London last year, we had an incredibly difficult time narrowing down what we wanted to do because there are so many options and so many things that our family is interested in. We spent hours pouring over our Lonely Planet guidebook and studying the walking tour and day trip options on London Walks.
Ultimately, we made individual to-do lists, then compared them to see what common threads there were. Harry Potter obviously topped the list, and so did Stonehenge. Wimbledon was only tops on Carrick’s list, but he enticed us all with promises of strawberries and cream and the knowledge that we were helping him tick an item off his bucket list. So, with these things in mind, we set off on our day trips from London, and much to my surprise, getting a little bit out of London is easy as can be.
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Salisbury and Stonehenge
We started our day trip adventures on a tour of Salisbury and Stonehenge with London Walks. I can’t say enough good things about this company. Their London walking tours and day trips are top-notch. You don’t need to make a reservation with them. Just meet them at the designated place at the scheduled time, and you’re good to go. The tour guides we’ve met have always been on time, easy to spot in a crowd, and very knowledgeable.
For this tour, we met at Waterloo Station, and we decided to arrive plenty early in order to find breakfast at the station. There were several quick options. You can choose to eat at the station or just pack some quick snacks for the train ride.
Our London Walks tour guide arrived right on time, and after paying him our fees, he purchased all of our train tickets, and he continued purchasing admission tickets for our group for the remainder of the day. This makes it faster and easier to get into the exhibits.
Making History Come to Life at Salisbury
Our first stop was Salisbury. We walked from the train station through this picturesque village and on to the cathedral where the Magna Carta is housed. Our guide told us about the history of the village and how that history related to the cathedral.
Inside Salisbury Cathedral
Once we reached the cathedral, our guide took us through the church and told us all sorts of fascinating tidbits. We learned about the world’s oldest working clock and about a knight from the crusades who was poisoned so another man could have his wealthy wife.
Our guide made the history come to life for the kids, too. Here is Cadence’s take on our day trip experiences:
Cadence: “My favorite day trip was Salisbury Cathedral. I liked Warner Bros. Studio a lot too, but Salisbury was the most interesting. We took a tour of the town and cathedral and saw the Magna Carta and the oldest working clock. We also learned about the knight William Longespee. William was a knight in the Crusade, and he did not come back, so the people tried to marry off his super rich wife. On the day before they got married, William came back, but then he died. When they looked at his body years later, they found a rat in his skull, but it still had fur. That means that he had arsenic poisoning in him. I think that all of London was a cool experience.”
When it was time to see the Magna Carta, our guide could not take us, as per the rules of the cathedral, so we were left on our own to view the document and find some lunch afterwards.
We chose to stay in the cathedral to eat at the cafe there. We didn’t want to venture too far back into the village because we had to meet our guide at the specified time to continue our day trip on to Stonehenge.
Stonehenge – More Than a Bunch of Rocks
On our way to Stonehenge, we took a gorgeous scenic bus ride that showcased some of England’s most beautiful thatched roof cottages. We learned more about the area and these interesting homes along the way.
Interesting Facts About Stonehenge
Upon our arrival at Stonehenge, our guide taught us so many things about the early Brittons who built these incredible structures.
We learned that it wasn’t actually the Druids who built it, and that there were many phases of construction through the years. We also learned that there are many other henges throughout Great Britain. After showing us some of the specific features of Stonehenge, our guide turned us loose to explore on our own. We had plenty of time to take pictures, appreciate the structure, and take a look at the visitors’ center. The visitors’ center has a cafe, restrooms, a gift shop, and a museum, so be sure to allow yourself some time there. Here is what Andrew has to say about our Stonehenge experience:
Andrew: “Stonehenge was my favorite because I learned who supposedly built it and about the small hills near it (people think that it was an ancient burial site). It think that the most interesting part of Stonehenge was the fact that it is an ancient mystery to this day about the real builders and what it was used for and what is buried there. I wonder if anyone will figure it out?”
Overall, it was a day well spent exploring, learning, and making memories with the kids. The tour was extremely well run, and our guide Richard was everything you’d want in a good tour guide – he was smart, funny, organized, friendly, and great with kids! And, we were back in London just in time to grab some dinner at the very first Hard Rock Cafe.
Stonehenge tours from London are plentiful, so pick what works best for you and your family, and then go! We think you’ll have a great time! Click here for the latest prices and a full list of Stonhenge tour options.
Wimbledon, a Tennis Lover’s Dream Come True
After getting our feet wet on our guided tour, we felt prepared to dive right in and plan our own out-of-town adventure when we went to Wimbledon.
We happened to be visiting London when the tournament was being played, and visiting this legendary tennis championship was a bucket list item for Carrick, so I think I’ll let him fill you in on the details of how we managed this day trip from London on our own.
Carrick: As a tennis player and longtime fan, I couldn’t let a trip to England go by without visiting Wimbledon. We didn’t plan our trip this way at first, but when I realized that the tournament was being played during our visit, I knew I had to make it work.
Wimbledon is a lovely marriage of posh British tradition and gritty athletic competition. It’s arguably the most elite of the four major tennis tournaments, and I wouldn’t argue.
The grounds at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club are beautiful. I loved the mix of British (and world’s) elite, and regular folks like us just looking for a picnic on the hill and some good tennis.
Wimbledon absolutely lived up to my expectations. If you get the chance to visit, you’ll love the museum, the Hall of Fame where all of the past champions are featured, and the signature strawberries and cream. It was totally worth the short trip!
Even though the line to get into the tournament was incredibly long, the whole family enjoyed what was perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us. Also, the famous Wimbledon treat of strawberries and clotted cream sealed the deal. For a cool behind-the-scenes look at Wimbledon, click here to get the latest prices.
Other Things to See in London with Kids
Be sure to check out our guide to things to do in London with kids. It's got 21 amazing things to see and how to get to each one! Cherio!
Other Great Day Trips from London with Kids
Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Another great day trip from London for kids is the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. This one is so awesome that we gave it its own post.
Our London Day Trips Shortlist
As I mentioned before, narrowing down which day trip we wanted to take was a difficult choice, so here are some of the other options that were on our shortlist.
This day trip from London would be a great one for kids because of its beaches and famous pier. The grand pavilion, shops, rides, museums, and other attractions are enough to keep the whole family entertained. Be sure to visit the world’s oldest operating aquarium, Sea Life Brighton. Find out more about this great city at visitbrighton.com. For other great Brighton tours, click here.
Bath has literary connections to Jane Austen, Chaucer, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens and many more. That alone was enough to get me excited about this day trip, but the city is full of Roman history as well. Find out how to take some great literary walking tours in Bath in the book Literary Walks in Bath: Eleven Excursions in the Company of Eminent Authors. For other tours of Bath, click here.
This day trip was on my short list for its obvious literary value. The birthplace of Shakespeare is full of things to see and do, including Shakespeare’s home and performances at the Royal Shakespeare’s Theatre. You can get booking information, along with suggestions on activities for children on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s website. There is also a butterfly garden, a river cruise, and there are several opportunities for walking tours. Don’t miss out on Holy Trinity Church, Shakespeare’s final resting place. For other Stratford-upon-Avon tours, click here.
The White Cliffs of Dover
This gorgeous stretch of coastline is made of white chalk cliffs that will give young explorers plenty to think about. This geological marvel is full of fossils, and there is also a series of tunnels that were used during World War II, which the history lovers in your family will enjoy. And, for the literary types, Jane Austen often visited this area to spend time with her brother, and Shakespeare used the cliffs in King Lear. Visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-white-cliffs-of-dover to learn more. Other Dover tours can be found by clicking here.
As with most of these day trips, Canterbury was on my short list for its literary appeal. Here is a blurb about this trip you could take with London Walks:
Like Chaucer’s pilgrims to Caunterbury we wende. And what tales Canterbury has to tell. Tales writ in the ancient cathedral towering moodily over the nearby pubs and shops. Tales gleaned from half-timbered, white-washed little houses lining narrow streets. Tales borne by the river Stour swabbling past brilliant flowerbeds and under arching stone bridges. In Canterbury we enter another world… we step into mediaeval history.And look, the getting there itself – faster than a speeding bullet! – couldn’t be more special. We take the Javelin High Speed Train, the only super high speed train line in the country. It’s whoosh! and we’re there.
Many other great day trips from London to Canterbury can be found here.
Do you like Harry Potter? If so, then a visit to Oxford should definitely be on your list. Many scenes from the movies were filmed on location at Christ Church, the largest of Oxford’s colleges and the one well known for its grand quad. In addition to Harry Potter, perhaps the strongest literary connection to Oxford that children will appreciate is Alice in Wonderland. The real Alice was the daughter of an Oxford dean, and both the girl and the town inspired Lewis Carroll’s work. Here is a great article about discovering Alice’s Oxford. It’s enough to make me want to plan another trip to London ASAP just to visit this amazing place. Click here for more great Oxford tour options.
More Great London Day Trip Options
Additionally, these are also excellent options, depending on your interests and schedule.
– Explore a university town with a tranquil setting. Architecture, scenery and museums abound.
– Historic sites, ships to explore, and the Clifton suspension bridge are just some of the interesting things that will keep families entertained for the day. An added bonus is that Bristol is the home to the street artist, Bansky, so you never know what fun things you might see.
-Referred to as England’s best kept secret, this picturesque town is a mere 20 minutes from London, and it is offered through London Walks.
– Another great one from London Walks:
The achingly beautiful Cotswolds, the fresh green lap of this fair isle. The Cotswolds of thatched roofs and honey-coloured stone. The Cotswolds of cottages wreathed in wisteria and honeysuckle. The Cotswolds of stone bridges and old mills and millponds. The Cotswolds of storybook villages and matchless flower gardens. The Cotswolds of… well, of rural England at its best.
– Boat rides, ascot carriages, a Spitfire simulator at the Maidenhead Heritage Center, Ride the Ducks, Legoland, LaplandUK (during Christmas), plus, the Queen’s home!? Yes, please.
– A maze, children’s playgrounds, and falconry displays would be enough to keep kids of all ages entertained for the day, but the history and the castle would be top priorities for our family at this awesome destination in Kent.
– The history of York lies in its chocolate, and I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to make me want to visit this city. But, for those of you whose interests go beyond chocolate, there are museums, gardens, stately homes, and other unique points of interest that are available through an assortment of walks and tours.
– The capital of Wales, Cardiff has plenty to offer its visitors, including a popular Natural History Museum, and Cardiff Castle. Oh, and Dr. Who.
– For all you Beatles fans, Liverpool is a must see. A little further away than some other locations, but still worth it. There is a Beatles Museum and plenty of unique architecture in this city.
One final day trip that you may want to consider is Paris. If you’re travelling via the Eurostar, Paris is just a short ride, and it opens up a whole host of things to do on a day trip. Be sure to check out this page for tips on travelling with Eurostar. It’s the most exhaustive resource out there. Our ride on the Eurostar was awesome!
Want to plan a family vacation to Paris?
We spent 4 days in Paris over Bastille Day and it was amazing! Read all about visiting Paris with kids here.
Other helpful tips for a great day trip from London
So, there you have it! London has an amazing array of day trips, and getting out of the city is quick and easy. Be sure to check out transit directions from Google maps or our favorite Rome2Rio. They will give you timetables and prices all in one place. It couldn’t be easier, which is perfect for families on the move!
Helpful Resources for Planning a Great London Day Trip
This is the guide that we used to plan much of our trip in and around London. It’s a great guide with a section at the end just for day trips outside the city. Note that this is the older 2014 version and they have appeared to have removed this section from the newer 2017 version of this guide.
This is new for 2017 and covers all the cities and tours listed in our guide and then some. It’s a comprehensive guide to all of Great Britain. We really love the ‘Discover’ series from Lonely Planet and this is sure to be a good one as well.
Has your family been to the UK? What were your favorite places to visit from London?
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