Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was built to host the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics. Today the park is a sporting and leisure complex with the Olympics still very much in it’s heart. The site comprises of a Velodrome, Aquatics Centre, The Olympic Stadium (now home to West Ham football team), ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower and Lee Valley hockey and Tennis centre…and the list goes on! Great efforts have been made to make the park accessible to the local community meaning that many of the outdoor spaces and play areas are free to use and perfect for families. We visited Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the first time at the start of June to experience it for ourselves. Here’s how we got on….
ArcelorMittal Orbit – £32 for a family of 4
The ArcelorMittal Orbit tower is a 114.5 metre sculpture which as Britain’s largest piece of public art dominates the skyline throughout the park. The Orbit tower is now open to the public to enjoy sweeping views across London. If you’re brave enough guests can even have a go on the largest and longest tunnel slide in the world which starts from the viewing platform at the top of the tower, whizzing dare-devils the 178m back down to the ground.
We arrived at Orbit Tower on a rather damp and soggy morning and were disappointed to find out that our session on the slide had been cancelled due to concerns about safety. Details regarding the specific reason for these concerns were vague but we were told by members of staff that wet weather can effect the speed of the slide and can cause bookings to be either postponed or cancelled. Despite our initial disappointment we were really impressed by the views from the top of the tower. The children loved spotting some of the better know landmarks across the London skyline…Canary Wharf, the O2 and St Paul’s Cathedral not to mention the Olympic venue right beneath us.
With the slide out of the picture we chose to descend via the 455 steps that curve around the outside of the tower (there is a lift if that sounds a bit much!) Not only is this a great work out for your calves but there’s a special ‘sounds of London’ experience to keep you going. You’ll hear heated debate at Westminster, East End market sellers, Bow Bells and Olympic glory from 2012. A great touch.
Lee & Stort Boat Trips – £22 for a family of 4
This was the unexpected highlight of our day! Lee and Stort offer 45 minute boat tours along the Lea River taking passengers past some of the iconic venues from the Games including the Stadium, London Aquatics Centre and Lee Valley Velodrome. We were received a very warm welcome from our skippers who showed us on-board and made us feel very at home. The waterbus has it’s own bar facilities and toilets so we bought a round of drinks to enjoy during the tour and settled back for the ride. Our guide, Mark was very knowledgeable about the history of the waterways, points of interest and plans for the future. Lee and Stort are the only company authorised to use the waterway on this part of the river so being there is a privilege in itself. The whole experience was really relaxing, informative and enjoyable for all the family. Highly recommend!
Play Areas and Spaces – FREE
There are two main play areas across the site. The Tumbling Bay near the Velodrome features sand pits, wobbly bridges, tree-houses and rock pools. The Pleasure Gardens play area offers a huge play space in front of the main Stadium with giant swings, more sandpits, slides, climbing walls and outdoor gym. Our children loved this area, even the teens. The parks are all landscaped beautifully with flower beds and features making them a joy to explore. We spent a good hour playing in just this one spot whilst enjoying a picnic and watching the kids play.
Olympic Trail – FREE
You can print or pick up free trail guides that take you to points of interest around the park. We really enjoyed following the 2012 trail which shared interesting facts and challenges related to the Games like trying to beat Greg Rutherford’s incredible 8.31m jump or ringing the Olympic Bell!
Water Fountains – FREE
Another big hit with the kids. The water fountains in front of the Stadium provided hours of free entertainment. We managed to leave this until the last activity fo the day which worked well as we only had a short walk back to teh car and a fresh change of clothes waiting for them . Be prepared. These fountains will get you soaked!
- Parking is available at Queen Elizabeth Park near the Aquatic Centre. But please be aware that unless you are using the Aquatic Centre you will be charged a flat rate of £45 / day to park there. I would advise parking at Westfield Shopping Centre which is close by and a reasonable price.
- Take a change of clothes if the weather’s good an you want to play in the fountains.
- The park is a great place for scooting or skating and a great way to save tired little legs.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of walking.
- Print out trail maps before you get there so you can plan what you want to see.