Family Outings: The London Eye and River Cruise Experience
Get a taste for the high life
Sunday 29 August 2004
The world's highest observation wheel, embedded in thousands of tons of concrete on the south bank of the River Thames. Rotating on a steel spindle, the wheel has 32 passenger capsules - which neatly amounts to one for each London borough - uniquely designed to allow a 360-degree panorama at the top.
The River Cruise Experience, departing from the adjacent pier, is a 40-minute circular voyage, with commentary, from the Houses of Parliament to Tower Bridge.
Something for children
If the idea of getting in a big wheel and rising 135 metres into the air isn't exciting enough, keep them occupied with one of the brilliant in-flight mini guides, which have pull-out picture cards highlighting the main sights.
Something for adults
Julia Barfield, who created the London Eye with her husband David Marks, sums it up by saying: "The ingredients of the wheel are simple - a universal desire to see the earth from a great height and the natural human fascination with scale, daring structure and beauty." You are as likely to spend time on your "flight" (as it's called) marvelling at the height and position of your capsule as looking north, south, east and west (signs above the windows reveal which direction is which) at the sights and gazing up to 25 miles into the distance. There are several ways to enhance your experience, including booking a flight with a host, who will point out all the landmarks, or taking a romantic Champagne Flight (if you're feeling really flush book a Cupid's Capsule for two). The River Cruise Experience is a well-run ride with an interesting commentary revealing little-known facts such as Waterloo Bridge being nicknamed "Ladies Bridge" because it was built mainly by women during the Second World War.
Costa Coffee has cafés inside County Hall, and outside, in the shadow of the wheel. Deals are available at some local restaurants.
From pencils to posters, the gift shop sells all sorts of Eye paraphernalia.
Admission and access
The quietest time to visit is during school term. Ensure that you arrive 30 minutes before the flight and 15 minutes before the cruise departs. For an extra fee you can book the Fast Track service and jump the queues.
London Eye: Until 5 September, 9.30am-10pm. From 5 September, 9.30am-8pm Monday to Thursday; 9.30am-9pm, Friday to Sunday. October to December, 9.30am-8pm. Bank holidays 9.30am-9pm. Tuesdays outside school holidays, first flight 10.30am.
Admission: adults £11.50, children five to 15 years £5.75. Concessions.
River Cruise Experience: 1 April to 31 October, weekends and school holidays. Admission: adults £21.50, children five to 15 years £10.75. Concessions.
Full disabled access and special booking line (0870-990 8885).
How to get there
London Eye and River Cruise Experience, London SE1 (0870- 5000 600; www.londoneye.com).
By public transport The eye is five minutes' walk from Waterloo station and 15 minutes' walk from Charing Cross station (08457 484950; www.nationalrail.co.uk). The number 211, 24 and 11 buses stop nearby; London Travel Information (020-7222 1234; www.tfl.gov.uk).
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