England offers many attractions that kids enjoy. Perhaps your main concern with having children along is pacing yourself with museum time. Our suggestion is to explore London for 2 days with family in tow, then spend a good part of the third day wandering around Windsor Castle and the little Thames town, followed by a fourth day in Brighton with some fun on the beach. On Days 5 and 6, head for Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick Castle, concluding with a final day in London and a side trip to Hampton Court Palace.
Days 1 & 2: Arrival in London
Your kid has probably been held captive on a long jet plane ride and will be eager for exercise. After a fortifying English breakfast, head for a stroll of an hour or two in Hyde Park, which is a great way to "find your legs" in a new city. You can walk around Serpentine Lake, created in the 1730s, and even take a boat out if you wish.
Follow this by booking a tour of 1 1/2 hours on the Original London Sightseeing Tour, which is a traditional double-decker bus with commentary, offering reduced prices for children (free for 4 and younger). This will give you a thorough grounding in the overview of London. Some tours feature the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, great English pomp and circumstance that thrills all ages.
After the tour, head for the British Airways London Eye, the world's largest observation wheel, which will take you for a grand sweep in the skies of London in a "pod." Kids love this, and so do adults.
In the afternoon, stroll by the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (more for yourself than for the kids), and call at Westminster Abbey. This is such an awesome sight that even if your kids aren't that interested in churches, they will find much to behold here. Later, take a ferry ride down the Thames to the Tower of London, a sure kid-pleaser, hooking up with one of the red-coated Beefeater tours.
On Day 2, descend on the British Museum in Bloomsbury when it opens. Even if your kid is not a museum buff, there is wonder here and at times utter fascination, especially in the Egyptian rooms with all those scary mummies.
After lunch in Bloomsbury, head for Madame Tussauds, where you'll encounter wax effigies of everybody from Mel Gibson to Saddam Hussein. Very young children may be disturbed by some of the "blood-and-gore" exhibitions. To finish off the afternoon, head for the London Zoo. A total of 8,000 animals, some of the rarest species on earth, wander about the 15-hectare (36-acre) site of fascination.
End your day with a fun-filled stroll through Battersea Park, where there is, among other attractions, a little zoo just for children.
Day 3: A Side Trip to Windsor Castle
Having sampled the charms of London in just 2 days, you can launch Day 3 by heading out of town to nearby Windsor Castle. In just half an hour, a train from London will deliver you to Windsor Castle. If you missed the Changing of the Guard ceremony in London, you can see an even more exciting pageant taking place here April to July Monday to Saturday at 11am (winter hours differ).
The highlight of Windsor Castle for younger children is a perfect miniature Queen Mary's Dolls' House, accurate to the minutest detail, even royal toilets that flush in all five bathrooms.
After lunch, stroll through Eton College, the most famous public school in England (it'd be called private in the United States), wandering the same grounds as Prince William.
For a final attraction, head for LEGOLAND, outside Windsor, a 61-hectare (150-acre) theme park, with everything from puppet theaters to "knight-and-dragon" castles. Return to London on a fast train for the night.
Day 4: A Side Trip to Brighton
On Day 4, while still based in London, take one of the fast trains from Victoria Station, which will put you in "London by the Sea," as Brighton is called, in 55 minutes.
Even children adore the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. This faux Indian mogul's palace is like something Disney might have created. Allow 2 hours for a visit.
After a tour and time out for lunch, enjoy the seaside amusements on the boardwalk and even the pebbly beaches if the weather is fair. The Palace Pier is filled with video arcades, games, and souvenir stands. Before leaving Brighton, stroll its maze of narrow alleyways, called the Lanes, found in the Old Town. Return to London for the night.
Days 5 & 6: Stratford-upon-Avon & Warwick Castle
Check out of your London hotel and take a train from Paddington Station, reaching the town of Stratford-upon-Avon in 2 hours. Check into one of the family-friendly B&Bs for 2 nights.
Few children will want to see plays by the Bard, but many of the sights associated with Shakespeare have appeal for all ages. Of most interest to children -- all of which can be seen in 1 day -- are Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Mary Arden's House and the Shakespeare Countryside Museum, and Shakespeare's Birthplace.
On Day 6, head north for 13km (8 miles) to Warwick Castle, the finest medieval castle in England. Surrounded by gardens, this 17th-century castle has fairy-tale aspects for most children -- and interests grown-ups, too. Kids, along with their families, see fascinating exhibits such as the dungeon and torture chamber (a little frightening for particularly young kids), and a Victorian rose garden and water garden. Family tickets are sold. Have lunch in Warwick and return to Stratford in the afternoon.
If you get back to Stratford in time, you might check out another two attractions of particular interest to children and a diversion from Shakespeareana. The Teddy Bear Museum, 19 Greenhill St. (tel. 01789/293160), contains dozens upon dozens of teddy bears in various shapes and sizes. Some of these were owned by famous personages such as the Baroness Margaret Thatcher. Hours are daily 9:30am to 5:30pm, and admission is £2.50.
Children also delight in the Stratford Butterfly Farm, Swan's Nest Lane (tel. 01789/299288), containing Europe's largest display of butterflies, with a mock rainforest as well. It is open June to August daily 10am to dusk, charging £4.50 for admission. After another overnight in Stratford, return to London in the morning for your final day in England.
Day 7: A Side Trip to Hampton Court Palace
On Day 7, leave your London hotel and take a train from Waterloo Station to Hampton Court Palace on the north side of the Thames, lying 21km (13 miles) west of London. You'll reach it in about half an hour. Allow at least 3 hours for an unhurried visit, nearly 1 hour of which you can spend wandering through the beautiful gardens. You can enjoy lunch at the complex.
From April to September you can take a boat back into London, a 4-hour journey that will bring you to Westminster Pier.
If time remains, use your final time in London to take the kids to the Natural History Museum. For children, the highlight of this exhibit is the display of 14 complete dinosaur skeletons, with such re-creations as a full-size robotic dinosaur lunching on a freshly killed Tenontosaurus.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.