Let's just start by stating what may be the obvious to many parents (but hadn't occurred to me) - depending on the age and temperament of your kids they may find the London Eye really, really cool or really, really excruciatingly boring. It doesn't much matter though because if your family is visiting London for the first time then you have to ride the Eye. In fact, school age kids will be clamouring to ride because they will want to tell their friends at home all about it.
Since its opening the London Eye has become an iconic landmark on the city's skyline. The Eye, which was launched in 2000 to celebrate the new millennium, is the world's largest cantilevered observation wheel at 135m high. It now carries 3.5 million passengers a year making it the UK's most popular paid-for attraction. Passengers ride in one of the 32 glass capsules that represent the 32 boroughs of London. Each rotation of the wheel takes 30 minutes at a speed of .9km/hour which is apparently twice as fast as a tortoise - in other words - SLOW. This speed, however, allows passengers to step on and off the wheel without it stopping. On a clear day one can see as far as Windsor Castle which is 40km away - of course, you would have to know what you were looking for to be able to pick it out of the landscape.
We attempted to ride the London Eye on our second full day in London, however, our teenager could not be roused from bed that morning so by the time we arrived it was late morning and the lines were long. Unfortunately, this has become a reoccurring theme on our travels and on this particular day we were having lunch at the home of friends in Wimbledon so we had to scrap the plans to ride the observation wheel until the following day. On our second attempt we arrived much earlier and were practically able to walk right on.
The immediate reaction as we began our flight was, "Wow, this is really cool!". As we ascended we spent the first few minutes pointing out the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and other easily recognizable landmarks.
Then Emma got bored. She announced that she had never been on a ride that moved this slowly and that she hated the London Eye. At this point, an American lady traveling with her teenage son gifted Emma with a copy of the London Eye 360 Mini-Guide and chatted her up for awhile. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers because that salvaged our ride on the Eye. The booklet shows what you will see as the capsule completes its revolution and includes interesting information about the landmarks of the city as well as facts and figures about the Eye itself. Emma spent the remainder of the 30 minute ride absorbed in matching the landscape she could see with the panoramic shots in the booklet.
The views of London from the capsules are breathtaking even if you are trying to convince some members of the family that this is a fun experience.
As the wheel rotates it makes for some interesting photographs of the other capsules.
Although the slow-moving observation wheel may not be the most exciting ride that your family ever takes it is definitely a must-see for visitors to London. And once you have done it then there will be no need to do it again.
The London Eye is located on the south bank of the Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament. Ticket offices are located inside County Hall. Ticket Prices vary but standard tickets will cost a family of four close to 60 pounds. Tickets can be purchased in advance.
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