Originally Written: October 25, 2018
There’s no better place to spend a beautiful day than a park in London. Sprawling, shady, and quiet the rolling green lawns and generous walkways lend a hand in creating the perfect afternoon getaway. Sheer luck was on my family’s side the weekend we visited London; the temperature was in the low 60s, it was sunny, and fall was in full force. The streets might have been full of hustle and bustle, but inside the park gates was an autumn haven. I wanted to stay there forever.
Grab a book, a worn blanket, and stake out a spot on the grass for hours of reading and watching the dogs frolicking near the lakes. It might be one of my favorite places in the world, and if not then definitely up in the running against the Animal Kingdom park or jogging along the beach.
Hyde Park, along with Kensington Gardens, is one of the bigger parks that inhabit London and deserves several hours of your time. Alex and I decided to hit up the massive Diana Memorial Playground with the kids after a morning of touring a historical site, in order to let the little ones burn off their energy and be free to roam for awhile.
This was the same park we visited in my older London post: London Part 1 and the kids loved it as much as the first time around. They spent an hour rushing down slides and pretending to be pirates on the large play structure ship, taking home a piece of pirate booty when they left. (A small rock.)
Following the path outside Kensington Gardens, Alex and I let the kids run ahead as we walked in a giant circle around Hyde Park. We passed the Physical Energy Statue, the Peter Pan Statue, down to the Princess Diana Memorial Statue, and then finally exiting in the vicinity of the Albert Memorial.
This map kind of shows our route:
Amazing to us, the kids walked the entire time. In fact, they ran most of it. Plunging ahead of us and running circles around Alex and myself as we strolled along. It was the ideal way to spend a late afternoon with two young kids. They weren’t constrained to stay by our side and were free to do what children do best: explore.
If I had my way, I would have made this trip a walking tour of all of London’s best parks but, alas, we only had three days and other sites trumped the list. Fortunately for me, we were staying two blocks away from Buckingham Palace and the adjacent St. James’s Park. This made it a fitting morning escapade before our afternoon plans.
The playground in the park was small but we arrived right at its opening at 10 a.m. and therefore the kids got to play before it became too crowded. The gated area was on the far left side of the park, so once we wrangled the kids out, Alex and I were able to hook a right and walk farther into St. James’s.
This particular park focuses more on native foliage and keeping its space in its natural form. There were narrower sidewalks and much more space devoted to the birds that inhabited the waters. While Hyde Park felt very symmetrical and tidy, St. James’s seemed more organic and free flowing. Both were gorgeous in their own way, and I think which one you visit depends on the kind of day you’re having and what you’re wanting to take away from the park.
I feel like if I had an assignment or important work to be done, I’d want to go to St. James’s Park. Watching all the animals with their efficiency gave a kind of haste to the atmosphere. And book-ended by Buckingham Palace and the Horse Guards Road, you get a feeling that meaningful work is afloat.
Alex and I crossed over the Blue Bridge to see one of the loveliest views of London:
Took a quick detour so I could cross the Mall:
And sneaked a peek at the backside of St. James’s Palace:
Then we returned to the park and walked to the other end, where we were deposited on Horse Guard Road, allowing us to pass the Horse Guard Parade site, the Household Cavalry Museum, the backside of 10 Downing St, and the Churchill War Rooms. It was near there that we turned, walked down a few blocks and sneaked a peek at Westminster Abbey (and all its construction!) before hopping on the tube and returning back to our hotel.
I was surprised at how many Must See spots sat on either side of St. James’s Park. If the weather is nice and kids are in tow, it truly is the perfect way to get from Point A to Point B. Don’t waste time and money using the underground when there is wonderful natural scenery to take in inside the park.
Should I be lucky enough to go back to London a third time, I won’t be able to pass up another opportunity at visiting one of its amazing parks.