hampton court palace
Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court was a favorite palace of the Tudors, particularly Henry VIII. Edward, Henry VIII's son, was born and christened at Hampton Court. Henry's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, tried running through the Haunted Gallery to avoid arrest, but was caught and imprisoned in her apartments (she lost her head too). Kids will enjoy a trip to Hampton Court Palace as a fun day trip from London.

Tip: Hampton Court Palace is included in the London Pass.

"Kings Beasts" - The walkway over the moat at the entrance to the palace is lined with statues of beasts (some mythical) and coats of arms of the Tudor and Seymour dynasties - lions, panther, greyhound, "yale" (antelope with lion tail), unicorn, dragons.
Information Centre - Pick up family brochures such as" Henry's Palace," "Henry's dinner" and "Is the Palace Haunted."
Henry VIII Kitchens - Henry VIII was a big guy, with a gargantuan appetite, and royal court to feed, as well as a very large staff who managed the castle. Wander through rooms where food was stored, prepared, boiled, roasted, stewed, before it was carried to the Great Hall or Great Watching Chamber. April through August are demonstrations of Tudor cookery.
Walk through Henry VIII's Apartments at your own pace. The Apartments route includes the magnificent Great Hall, decorated with tapestries, royal emblems, and stag horns, Great Watching Chamber (where courtiers dined), the Haunted Gallery (shades of Catherine Howard), ending with Henry VIII State Crown in the Royal Pew.
Chapel Royal - Built by Cardinal Wolsey (original occupant of Hampton Court Palace), Henry VIII added the stunning blue and gold ceiling with stars; the chapel is still in use today. At the entrance to the chapel, on either side are angels, with the coat of arms of Henry VIII (left), Jane Seymour (right), and underneath the royal motto "Dieu et mon Droit (God and my Right).
Chapel Court Garden - Step into this Tudor garden, with plantings typical of the 16th century, such as rosemary topiary in shape of a ship, and decorated with eight colorful heraldic beasts - lion, panther, dragon, "yale," greyhound, deer, bull, falcon.
Young Henry VIII Story - Paintings of famous events in king's life, and portraits of Henry VIII, Katherine and Ann Boleyn. Exhibits good for older kids.
Gardens - Head out to the extensive gardens around the palace.
Maze - The yew maze, built in 1690, is the oldest hedge maze in Great Britain. Follow the maze to the center, then have fun finding your way out. Tip: In the story of Paddington Bear, he used marmalade chunks to find his way (but we don't recommend that).
Magic Garden - Magic Garden is a children's play area with towers to climb up the survey your kingdom, slides, sandpits, mythical beasts and large dragon, and water play area. Open April through October.
Great Fountain Garden - Run around this large area, with gushing fountain, yew trees that look like giant umbrella-shaped mushrooms, ducks and swans on Long Water, deer grazing in Home Park. In summer months (April to October), take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the gardens.
Ghosts - Strange noises, eerie sounds, who knows. The Haunted Gallery is where Catherine Howard was arrested and sent off to be beheaded. Guests have reported feeling very cold in this gallery.
A lady in white has been seen in the Clock Court, carrying a candle ... could it be the ghost of Jane Seymour, who died at Hampton Court?
Also, a phantom dog walks the King's Staircase. Pick up the brochure "Is the palace haunted?" at the Information Centre.
In fall and winter months, there are ghost tours, nights at the palace, for kids 8 and up.
Tip: Bring a picnic, there are benches all around the Wilderness and Great Fountain Gardens. Or stop into the Tiltyard Cafe for lunch and snacks.
Christmas activities - During December, there is Christmas carol singing daily, interactive storytelling every Sunday, ice skating, and weekend family workshops, such as write a letter to Father Christmas, make tree decorations or hand-made gift tags.
To get to Hampton Court, it's a short 35 min train ride from Waterloo Station in London, or in the summer months, take a boat cruise on the Thames. Pick up the boats at Westminster Pier.