London Eye – Day out with the kids in London

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What is it?

One of London’s most iconic and famous attractions, despite only being erected in 2000. It’s a big wheel with killer views of the city. Find the Coca Cola London Eye (to give it its full name) on the South Bank of the River Thames, near Waterloo, Charing Cross and Westminster tube stations.

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Age most suitable for

Best for: 5 – 8 yr olds, 9 – 12 yr olds and 12 yrs+

OK for: Babies and Toddlers & Preschoolers

Cost

££ – Children under 4 go free, those aged between 4 and 15 pay slightly less than adults (anyone aged 16 or more). There are slightly cheaper family of four tickets, plus you’ll save money if you book online beforehand. If you have small children and don’t want to face the boarding queue (which can take 20 minutes or so) you can pay nearly £10 more for adults and £14 more for children per ticket for Fast Track.

What’s on offer

The Coca Cola London Eye offers a 30-minute ride in a capsule on the observation wheel, which is like a giant Ferris Wheel. The ride takes you once round from bottom to top and back round to the bottom again. It moves at a slow pace giving you views of Central London’s sights from all angles.

Tickets now include entry to a 4D cinema experience, which you watch before entering your capsule.

There are more luxurious packages too. As well as standard capsules shared with other passengers, you can spend a little more money to enjoy a champagne tasting, Hotel Chocolat tasting, whiskey tasting or a romantic Cupid’s Capsule in your own pod.

The ticket and boarding process is well organised into separate queues – on the day tickets, advanced tickets and priority queues for those who have booked fast tracks or more elaborate experiences.

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MFM Highlights

Great news if you have a baby or toddler. This is one of London’s main attractions where you can safely take a baby or very young child.

You can take a compact folding buggy on the London Eye, but it must be folded up. You can stow it under the seats in the middle of the pod.

There is also a free and secure buggy-storing area in the ticket office. But please note this is only for large buggies that don’t fold up compactly and space is limited, so it’s first come, first served. You also won’t be able to leave any bags, even a changing bag, with your buggy. Remember, you’re not able to take large, bulky buggies into the capsule.

The 4D cinema screening is an exciting and entertaining start to your visit. The movie about the London Eye is a 3D film with atmospheric twists, using in-theatre special effects such as mist, bubbles and wind.

The London Eye does offer sensational views, including the Thames in its full glory, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The capsules are quite spacious, with plenty of seats, so little ones can sit down after some inevitable excitable running around.

What to watch out for

– Younger children will be thrilled at first, but may struggle to maintain their enthusiasm throughout the half hour ride. You know your child best. If you have a little livewire who will get increasingly active (and let’s face it, may get increasingly annoying for the other passengers) then you may want to wait until his attention span is a bit more developed.

– If your child is very afraid of heights or severely claustrophobic, you may want to think about whether this is the right attraction. However, having done the experience with two people terrified of heights, plus three under 4s, it proved to be a really reassuring and fun ride for everyone. Nervous passengers can start the ride sitting safely on the middle seats, and most will feel able to move further outwards as the ride progresses. Even if you’re claustrophobic, take note that the capsules feel airy and are never overcrowded. There’s a maximum of 25 people in any pod.

– You are given a specified time slot for your ride. You must check in 15 minutes before the experience is due to begin.

– Though children under 4 do not pay, they do need to possess a ticket.

– The experience lasts 30 minutes, not including any queuing time. As you would imagine in a glass capsule, there’s nowhere to have a pee, so make sure your child has been to the loo first and you’ve changed your baby’s nappy. Smelly nappy contents and enclosed capsule are not best friends. It may also be worth limiting drinks while waiting to go on. You’re not allowed food or drink in the capsule, so again make sure your child is well prepared.

– Speaking of queue time, prepare to queue, especially on bank holidays and out-of-term time. Although you’ll have timed tickets, you’ll join a boarding queue of people who also have timed tickets just like you.

– If you’re pregnant, you’re fine to ride on the London Eye but at your own risk. It’s recommended that you sit in the central seat in the capsule (perhaps in case you feel sick or queasy). You may want to visit during quieter periods and avoid weekends and school holidays. Remember, too, that there are no toilets in the capsule, or while queuing.

– Under 14s cannot ride without being accompanied by an adult.If you book the Champagne Experience, your child will be provided with fruit juice instead of alcohol. Children can not be booked on the Cupid’s Capsule experience as it’s for over 18s only.

MFM tips

– Merlin, the company that runs several top London attractions, offers combination tickets for the London Eye, Madame Tussauds, London Dungeon and Sea Life London Aquarium. These can save you up to 40% depending on how many of these attractions you plan to see.

– It’s definitely worth buying your tickets in advance. That way you can save money and bypass the ticket sales queue.

– If you do buy tickets on the day, you’ll be able to buy them for a particular time slot. However, this slot is likely to be some time later (up to a few hours) so you may want to buy tickets then come back later. As we’ve said (yes, a couple of times) it’s easier to book online in advance.

–  Fast track tickets will seriously cut down queuing time, but will set you back another £10-£14 per ticket.

– There’s a baby changing area within the County Hall building, where the ticket hall is based. The main entrance to the ticket hall has steps. Use the disabled entrance round the side to ensure a step-free entry in to the ticket hall.

What the owners say

“At 135m, the Coca Cola London Eye is the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel. It was conceived and designed by Marks Barfield Architects and was launched in 2000. It has already won over 85 awards for national and international tourism, outstanding architectural quality and engineering achievement.”

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Visit the official London Eye website

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