Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – Review for families

Feel like an Olympic Champion with our essential days out guide to East London's newest park

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What is it?

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The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is where London hosted the Olympic Games in 2012. Now, it’s one of East London’s more unusual family things to do. Find it near the easily accessible Stratford station.

Best for:

5 – 8 / 9 – 12

OK for:

Babies / Toddlers & Preschool / 12 +

Cost:

Free to wander round, though visiting cafes, venues and the Arcelormittal Orbit will cost money.

What’s on offer

The park covers a total of 560 acres of East London and offers a unique range of attraction.

Perhaps the most obvious is the Arcelormittal Orbit, the UK’s tallest sculpture. It looks a bit like a giant helter skelter, but it’s actually the design collaboration between two well known artists/designers and steel company Arcelormittal. It was an unusual and iconic statement at the 2012 Olympic Games but it’s now available for the public to visit.

You can also view the stadiums in which the Games took place and get your children feeling active whilst playing sports, by booking time in Olympic venues such as the Aquatics Centre, the Lee Valley VeloPark and the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre.

The View Tube is an educational arts centre made from recycled shipping parts with the aim of teaching youngsters about sustainability. It’s got a cottage garden, bikes for hire and it’s own café. It’s also painted bright green – good luck missing it! The park is home to the Energy Centre, In addition, Three Mills Island, combines historical architecture with a family learning and play space.

The park also includes Westfield shopping mall, Timber Lodge café, numerous artistically designed and spacious ‘pleasure garden’ parklands (which hosts musical and theatrical events on occasion), as well as a Tumbling Bay playground for children.

There are accessible baby-changing facilities and toilets available.

Highlights

On a sunny day, the area looks great and has a nice, relaxing feel to it. Kids will enjoy getting stuck in at the Tumbling Bay playground and will especially enjoy the water fountains at the pleasure garden. Everyone will enjoy the views of the city from the Orbit.

Additionally, following walking tours and trails of the park are a great way to get your bearings and explore the area. You can make a game out of it, by playing I Spy as you walk around or pretending your children are little adventurers, by letting them lead the way.

Hidden somewhere behind the stadium is a lovely design park with a romantic bench swing, so if mum and dad need a little rest, this is the place to find!

What to watch out for

– The Olympic stadium is under going big renovations until 2016. Check the website to see what this means for your visit.

– The park loses some of its magic on an overcast, rainy or miserable day.

– The park is poorly signposted. Download a map or plan before arriving to help navigate the different areas. You can get a map at the Information Centre upon your arrival at the park’s entrance.

– Remember to bring towels and suitable clothing for water games and activities if it’s a super hot sunny day or you’re going for a swim.

– The cafés are a little bit overpriced, but there’s no better venue for a lovely family picnic than the parklands.

– While the park has many positive attributes, it’s not as atmospheric as it was in during the games!

MFM tips:

– If you’re just visiting the playground, plan for 1 – 2 hours here.

– If you want to make a day of it, book tickets for the stadiums and Orbital in advance and visit the impressive Westfield centre for a few hours of good food and retail therapy.

What the owners say

“A new heart for east London, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the city’s newest park. The Park is now open for the public to visit and is already coming alive as visitors explore its unique parklands, waterways, venues and attraction.”

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Visit the official Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park website

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