I’m not really a fan of attractions everyone says are “must do’s.” Well, that’s not exactly accurate. I’m all for historic sites like the Roman Forum or architectural wonders like walking the Brooklyn Bridge.
But there are lots of “must-do” experiences I can do without. Maybe it’s the contrarian in me. Yeah, that is a big part of it, actually.
For example, I’ve been to New York City three times and have yet to visit the Statue of Liberty. I’ve seen it from a distance, and that’s good enough. There are too many other great experiences in New York to spend a few hours taking a ferry to Liberty Island to see a statue I’ve seen many times from a distance.
Honestly, it’s probably a visit best saved for a visit with my son. And that thinking is what brought me to the London Eye for the first time on my most recent visit to the British capital.
This visit was our third trip to London, the first to include our then 5-year-old son. My wife and I would be happy if we never spent the time and money to ride the London Eye. She’s most happy shopping or looking at art. When in London I want to be in a pub or just walking the streets.
But our son, riding the London Eye and going up the Eiffel Tower was all he talked about for months leading up to this trip to the U.K. and France. And since it was a family trip activities had to be tailored to everyone’s interests.
But this detour up the London Eye didn’t include everyone. My wife, deeply scared of heights, got a pass. And that’s OK. While Colby and I visited the London Eye, Stacey visited The National Gallery, one of the great collections of European paintings found anywhere. And while we spent a pretty penny for two tickets on the London Eye, entrance to The National Gallery was free.
I’ve read about really long waits to ride the London Eye. That was not the case for us. Maybe it was our early evening timing — we arrived about 7 — or the fact our visit came ahead of the summer tourist crush in early May, but after standing in the ticket queue for about 20 minutes we were able to go right up to board the Eye.
To some the idea of boarding this huge wheel as it’s in constant motion might be daunting. It’s no big deal, though. Walk up and be ready; when motioned to board walk right on and get ready for the ride.
It takes about 30 minutes for the pods on the London Eye to rotate back to the start. A large bench is in the middle of pods if the idea of standing for half an hour near the glass exterior is a scary thought.
Colby? Well, this fearless child wanted to be next to the window every second of the journey.
I’ll admit to having a few butterflies as the pod crested the top. It just felt … weird. Nothing was higher than our pod was at that moment. I get that way on Ferris wheels too.
It really helped that our journey came on a clear evening. The setting sun got in the way a bit, but in general, views were outstanding. London weather is unpredictable, which is why I’d take pause before committing to booking a ticket in advance. Of course advance purchase, particularly online where there is a discount, is advisable to avoid any possible queues.
Deciding if the London Eye is worth the money depends on what’s important to you. For me, I’d feel OK about my British travel experiences if it never included the London Eye. At nearly 20 pounds for an adult ticket, that’s not money well spent, to me. But at nearly 20 pounds for an adult ticket and 12 pounds for a child ticket, it was worth the price.
Confused? Don’t be. When you’re a parent fortunate enough to be able to share travel experiences with your children, seeing their unbridled joy in a pod 135 meters above the River Thames, that’s worth every penny. Not every travel experience has to be about culture, people and history. Sometimes it’s about the absolute joy at watching a child experience something as magnificent as riding a slowly rotating wheel.
Throw in a sunny day with great views of the city, and I’ll go as far as calling it an unforgettable experience.
If You Go:
Hours vary depending on time of year, but in the late spring to late summer expect hours to generally be 10 a.m. to as late as 9:30 p.m.
Prices vary; go to website for options.