London day trip: Oxford with children

On a recent visit to London, I looked forward to a day trip to nearby Oxford. Although I had not planned specific child-friendly activities, it was a pleasant surprise that my young children stumbled across so many entertaining things to do in that charming university town. As parents traveling with children know well, this is always a welcome surprise.

Here are some kid-friendly activities to incorporate into your Oxford visit:

Harry Potter’s dining room at Hogwart’s

This is the actual dining hall for students at Oxford’s Christ Church College , but the kids were more spellbound at the realization that this was the set for the Hogwart’s dining room in the Harry Potter films. The dining room has another point of interest for children. Alice Lidell, the young daughter of Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor, inspired author Lewis Carroll to write “Alice in Wonderland”. The dining hall’s stained glass windows contain beloved characters from the story.

Treasure hunt at Christ Church Abbey

Parents know that nothing dampens a child’s enthusiasm more than the dreaded words “Let’s go visit this church.” Luckily, the Christ Church Abbey offers a treasure hunt for children: drawings of images or sculptures with hints about their general location. We picked up the treasure hunt map at the entrance and then made our way around the church so that my kids could find all of the hidden objects. I even had a few moments of peace and quiet to admire this pretty Edward Burn-Jones stained-glass window as my children examined it carefully for the hidden object within.

Oxford Museum of Natural History

I was bound for an exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum – a fascinating anthropology museum, which also houses collections of special interest to children (African masks, weapons, sporting equipment from cultures worldwide) – when we stumbled across the attached Museum of Natural History .

Although not as extensive as London’s excellent museum, the smaller scale and thinner crowds were real advantages of our visit. The exhibitions are nicely displayed in this stunning Victorian-era museum.

Hands-on activities and knowledgeable, enthusiastic staff members offered fun and educational activities for all age levels (adults, too – I learned more than I ever cared to know about bugs and spiders).

Dragging the kids away proved the most difficult challenge of the day. Oxford is clearly a great European destination for both adults and children.

Oxford is an easy daytrip from London by car, train or bus. We used the Oxford Tube , a direct bus with convenient pick-up stops around London and frequent departures throughout the day. Kids travel for free.