The Museum of Docklands is a Grade 1-listed converted sugar warehouse which tells the history of London’s River Thames and the growth of the Docklands. Located just at the side of West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs in East London and spread over three floors, there’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained. Adults and kids alike will enjoy the interactive exhibitions as you journey through the ages learning about the history of the Docks. Kidadl's Kath says it's a “great experience with plenty of information on each part of the exhibitions. Educational. Enjoyed it so much had to go back and do it again." Entrance to the museum is free of charge and with a fully interactive children’s space on the ground floor plus its very own soft play area for toddlers up to 1m, this museum gets a big thumbs up from us
London, Sugar And Slavery
You’ll start your journey on the third floor where children will be given a free activity backpack full of activities for different age groups. These are available on a first come first served basis, but there is normally plenty to go round. This floor concentrates on London, sugar and slavery through a variety of interactive exhibits using touch screen games as part of the educational experience. Here you will also find two huge models of London Bridge and whale jaw bones found in the River Thames dating back to 1700s.
Venture into the dark alleyways of Sailortime on the second floor and immerse yourselves in a full-sized reconstruction of the streets of the 1840s riverside Wapping district. As you wander around the dark streets the kids can pretend to be Captains, dock workers and shop owners along the way. You’ll also find a small cinema room on this floor showing snippets of the Docklands at War gallery that really brings the subject to life.
Mudlarks Children’s Gallery And Soft Play
Our favourite part of the museum is on the ground floor where you’ll find Mudlarks Children’s Gallery, an interactive space for children under eight years old. Here they introduce the stories told within the museum in a hands-on stimulating environment where the kids can really get involved with lots of role-play activities. They can search for items on the shores of the River Thames where they have flowing water and gravel banks, load cargo on to make shift boats or have a go at being a builder using giant bricks and wheelbarrows. Mudlarks is free but you do need a timed ticked available from the front desk to prevent overcrowding. We love that there is also a soft play area for babies and younger children up to 1m, with a good space for them to crawl around and pretend to be drivers of a London bus or DLR train. The museum often runs workshops and storytelling sessions so make sure you visit the museums website for dates, times and availability before you visit so not to miss out.
Head to the museum's café on the ground floor for much needed refreshments serving freshly prepared salads, sandwiches, cakes, plus fair-trade coffees and Twinings teas. The café is very family-friendly with high chairs, colouring books and crayons. If you’d prefer to have a packed lunch then picnic areas are open on weekends and school holidays. Or, if you are looking for something more substantial then why don’t you visit Rum & Sugar, also on the ground floor, with an award-winning Caribbean menu. Offering 'kids eat free' for each child accompanied by an adult ordering a main course from the a la carte menu, this café is a firm favourite. Kidadler Laura says: 'A really great day out. Café is lovely, lots to see and the staff are outstanding. Thoroughly recommend.'
Museum of London Docklands, No.1 Warehouse, West India Quay, London E14 4AL
Kidadl’s Top Tips To Know Before You Go:
• Free entrance to the museum, Mudlarks children’s gallery and children’s soft play area.
• Open daily 10am- 6pm (galleries close at 5.40pm). Mudlarks Children’s gallery is open 10am-5.30pm on weekends and school holidays, or 2pm-5.30pm during term time. Get your free timed ticket for Mudlarks children’s gallery and soft play at the front desk on arrival at the museum, you can go back should you need more time here.
• Mudlarks Children’s gallery and soft play for babies and toddlers under 1m tall, located on the ground floor.
• The museum is fully accessible for wheelchairs and buggies and baby-changing facilities are available.
• Getting there: it's a five-minute walk from West India Quay DLR or a ten-minute walk from Canary Wharf tube station. Buses 135, 277, D3, D7, D8, 277, D6, 15, 115 all stop close to the museum. By car there’s a public car park directly behind the museum in Hertsmere Road.
• Free guided tours every Wednesday and Saturday from 3pm- 4pm.
• Gift shop selling a great range of souvenirs and books located on the ground floor.
• Lockers are available to hire for £1 per use. Purchase tokens at museum reception. Max. size 43x37x24cm. Larger luggage cannot be admitted. The lockers are located on the ground floor to the left of the café, behind the main staircase.
• Free WiFi available throughout.
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