The RAF London Museum is a series of huge aircraft hangers stuffed with real planes. If you’ve a small person who’s into planes or helicopters, this would be a great outing. It’s about 10 minutes’ walk from Colindale on the Northern Line, and it’s free.
The whole place is on a huge scale, so there is lots of room for toddlers to run around. There are wide carpeted walkways between and sometimes under the planes, so it’s very buggy-friendly too. It’s made up of several hangars, and although part of the site is currently closed for development we didn’t even get round everything that was open.
There’s apparently a whole science interactive gallery for children called Aeronauts, which we didn’t get to this time!
In the main hangars there isn’t a lot of interactive stuff or exhibits specifically designed for children, but my two had a lot of fun with what was on offer: going inside the cargo area of a big military helicopter and peeping out the portholes (is that what they’re called on helicopters?). And sitting in the cockpit of a small plane, where they could use the real controls to move its tail fins.
Mostly though they just enjoyed exploring the space and looking at the impressive number of planes and other related vehicles (fire engine, ambulance, crazy looking boat planes, cars, helicopters).
There’s a spacious cafe that does sandwiches and cake, and a kid’s lunchbox deal for about £4. There are highchairs and baby changing. Staff were very friendly and helpful.
Finn did ask me what bombs are for – there are lots of them around, nestled beneath their planes, or displayed in attractive chevrons out front, like fruit on show outside a grocer.
Meanwhile I had a growing sense of the incredible creativity, hard work, resources and sheer energy that humans put into developing machines for killing each other. I felt there was little acknowledgement of the actual human cost of this enterprise in the museum itself (though I didn’t see the whole place and had limited reading time, so maybe I missed it). Some stuff about heroism in the face of danger, but the over all focus is definitely celebratory.
The highlight for me was this beautiful, paper-moth like plane that was the first to ever cross the channel and apparently made from bicycle parts and what looks like a wicker garden chair.
I got the tip for this unusual toddler day out from Little London, a brilliant resource which I’m going to review here soon.
Where? Colindale, North London. Nearest tube Colindale on the Northern Line. Map and directions here.
When? 10am – 6pm [last entry 5:30pm], March to October; 10am – 5pm [last entry 4.30pm], November to February
How much? Free. There’s a charge for car parking.
Facilities and access Very buggy and wheelchair-friendly, with some wheelchairs available to borrow. Cafe, baby changing, outdoor picnic area. Lots of other accessibility info, including an autism-friendly tour are available on this part of their website.