And so the last days of August are slipping away. The light already seems more autumnal and everyone’s thoughts are surely turning now from the salad days of summer holidays to the first weeks of the new term. For many, this will be the last week of the holidays, so, bearing in mind budgets are tightening towards the end of the month, this is a something that will fill a day but the activities are all free.
I am re-capping some of the things we have enjoyed doing in a series for The Little Pip novelly entitled Things to do in the school holidays… Sometimes I find even routine ideas can slip the mind, so I’ve been compiling a series of posts of ideas and things to do over the summer, or indeed, all the myriad half terms that will soon be on our radar.
Take a boat trip with MBNA Thames Clippers
Forget about the tourist boats – beat the queues at the various wharfs and catch one of the MBNA Thames Clippers. We boarded at Blackfriars and sailed east to The O2, returning later in the day to Bankside for the Tate Modern. The boat we caught had a bar/cafe on board and plenty of interior seating, as well as some seats outside at the stern of the boat (rear) and all of the boats had a toilet on board.
We were given a River Roamer ticket (£14.70 for an adult, under 5s travel free) which allowed us to get on and off as much as we liked between Vauxhall and Woolwich however you can also use your Oyster or contactless card to pay for a single fare too. We enjoyed the boat so much that we actually went the other way along the river as well during the evening after we’d collected Dad from work – we bought a picnic and ate it as we floated in the evening sun down the river to Putney.
Sky Studios and Nissan Innovation Station at the O2
After pretending we were on the boat David Beckham drove during the London 2012 opening ceremony, going along the river under Tower Bridge and passing Greenwich, we reached almost the far end of the Eastern zone of the MBNA Thames Clippers and the O2, where we disembarked and spent a few hours exploring their free exhibits. I’d not really given The O2 much thought beyond it being a venue, but, if you’re looking for some interesting but free things to do, you could do worse than spending a couple of hours at The O2. If you head to Sky Studios when it opens at 11am and then head to the Nissan Innovation Station for 12pm you’d likely find them pretty empty. We were first into Sky Studios and had the pick of the experiences – and it wasn’t specially put on for bloggers.
I particularly liked the use of technology at both experiences – Sky and Nissan are both sponsors of The O2 so these are essentially experiential marketing techniques for them both, but don’t let that put you off if you’re looking for free but vaguely interesting/educational things to do with your kids this week. Sign up with your smart phone at Sky Studios and swipe the QR code at each activity and at Nissan, you register on the way in with a pass which you swipe to get things emailed directly to you. Both have a good sports focus which we particularly enjoyed in the Rio 2016 excitement – Pip rode a Sky bike, we played several famous golf holes, signed for the Liverpool team and even presented Sky News with a real camera and teleprompter.
I love how funny I look in the photo above with Little Baby in a sling which is then covered in the Liverpool top. We both loved all of the green screen experiences, and I particularly loved that each experience had a member of staff to operate the camera and help you out.
At the Nissan Innovation Centre, we test drove an actual electric car (on rollers with a computer screen over the windscreen, Pip sat in the back and was very impressed), played Gran Turismo and Pip particularly enjoyed colouring a car which she then brought to life using a scanner on an iPad. The Nissan Innovation Centre is probably better if you have slightly older children, as there were a number of enticing sports/technology/body related things to try which looked fun, but Pip was too young and I couldn’t leave them!
We ate lunch at Ask Italian which was really nice as it was so child friendly. One of the staff even served my lasagne for me as I was nursing Little Baby and was struggling with one hand, and there were lovely clean easy to access baby facilities (although I’m not sure I want to remember my least finest moments of the day which included some interesting nappy changes and a suit which I had to throw away as I’d run out of nappy bags).
I’d forgotten that there is almost every chain restaurant known to London to be found in The O2, and during the day you really are spoilt for choice in a way that you couldn’t imagine if you’d only been there for an event. There is also a cinema, so you could pop along to the free exhibits in the morning, have lunch and then while away the afternoon in the cinema – totally perfect for a grey day.
We were guests of The O2 for the day