London with Teens in Tow

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Even for those who’ve already been to London, it’s a great time to re-visit—especially if you have clients who are thinking of going on a family vacation with their teenage kids. Besides getting ready for the 2012 Olympics, the city is in the midst of yet another flurry of activity, celebrating historical anniversaries, an “Only in London” campaign and so many reinventions, renovations and transformations, it’s almost impossible to keep up.

London is in perpetual movement, with whirls of people bustling by day and night on their way to the theater, their dinner date, their shopping time. Right now, it’s more alive and more exciting than any other city on earth, and what teenager wouldn’t be thrilled to be in the middle of it all.

lit-tripping & art spotting Visiting locations made famous by books, movies and TV are all the rage nowadays, and there is no place hotter for this right now than the UK. Last year, three British destinations—London, Stratford-upon-Avon and Edinburgh—won the first three places inTripAdvisor’s top 10 literary hotspots around the world. From Jane Austen to Clive Barker and from J. R. R. Tolkien to Agatha Christie (whose Devon home, Greenway, opened to the public this year under the guidance of the National Trust), the country has long sprouted minds bursting with imagination. And there’s plenty to enjoy these days: VisitBritain predicted that this year would be the year for “lit-tripping” as classic and new authors are in vogue again and making their way once more to not just bookshelves but movie theaters. Everyone’s favorite wizard just made its summer entrance with “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and “Sherlock Holmes” is opening in December. Also coming up is “Bright Star,” a movie exploring the relationship between poet John Keats and his neighbor.

Clients can purchase an Explore London Walking Pass from The Original Tour for approximately $24 and go on three guided walks throughout the city over a 48-hour period: London Legends, which shows memorable locations where The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and others made history; Changing of the Guard; and the Jack the Ripper Walk, which traces the infamous Londoner’s steps through Whitechapel (the walks are free when they purchase an Original Tour bus ticket).

Once they’re in the area, they’ll want to visit Whitechapel Art Gallery, built in 1901 and now bigger thanks to a recent merge with the adjacent library. This inspiring space for art has a history of showcasing emerging artists and has featured such “names” as Kahlo, Pollock, Rothko, and Picasso, whose “Guernica” was displayed here in 1939. There is no charge for admission.

royal exploration Don’t think teens won’t be fascinated by some of the quirky and downright naughty happenings of Britain’s royals history—many have been captivated by what they’ve learned from the movies and TV, which have been borrowing generously from the good old days in recent years. One of the anniversaries being celebrated this year in Great Britain is Henry VIII’s 500th anniversary of his accession to the throne, and his life and exploits are again being put on the spotlight with several events.

Hampton Court Palace, one of the former king’s favorite homes, is showcasing different presentations and displays (including his own council chamber, opened to the public for the first time, and tapestries commissioned by him that date back to 1540). The palace will enjoy a Tudor Christmas Dec. 28-Jan. 3 with musicians, games and all the dazzle of another era. Meanwhile, the Tower of London is exhibiting “Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill” through January bringing together the largest number of artifacts belonging to the famous monarch.

Kew Gardens, in southwest London, is also celebrating an anniversary—its 250th. The leading center of botanical research is also a paradise of both native and imported flora, with more than 14,000 trees, six huge glass greenhouses and magnificent fields in which to run. Guests can sign up for walking tours and the little ones can play and learn at the play zone, called Climbers and Creepers. There is a new Xstrata Treetop Walkway a mere 59 ft. above the ground that lets you touch some treetops and take in the view around you.

stays & tours The new Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street Hotel (formerly the Edwardian Marlborough), is located in a long-known hotspot of creative minds in Central London, perhaps best known by being the meeting place of the Bloomsbury Group, a group of influential artists and intellectuals who’d get together for informal pow-wows. In fact, the wall behind the lobby of the Radisson Edwardian Bloomsbury Street is covered with the pages of Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway”; the hotel has even started its own book club. The literary and creative theme extends to the streets outside of the hotel, of course, with lots of bookstores and garden squares in which to ruminate. Guests can walk to the British Museum and Covent Garden, and also visit Oxford Street. The hotel has tapped on the fun textures trend with padded walls behind the beds, tactile-friendly fabrics and warm reds and purples for creative inspiration inside as well as out. Rates start at $350 per night.