Yesterday I told you about our stay at the Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes Hotel in London's Baker Street. Since we were in the area, it seemed a good idea to visit one of London's most well known family destinations, Madame Tussauds. This exhibition has been open for over 200 years, and is still as phenomenally popular as ever.
I'd been to visit the waxworks as a child on a school trip, and have vague memories of looking politely at roped off figures which were more than a little...er...waxen.
Much has changed since those times. For a start, you're now encouraged to get up close and personal with the celebrity lookalikes (though perhaps not as close as the people I saw smoothing Hitler's hair and poking Britney Spears in the boob). The figures are no longer roped off, so you can stand right next to everyone from David Beckham to Barack Obama for a photo opportunity. Apparently a pair of ladies' knickers were once found in the Brad Pitt figure's pocket. I bet the real version gets that a lot too.
The figures also look much more realistic than I remember them – it was really quite unnerving at times. My daughter became convinced that real eyeballs must have been used in their construction.
The emphasis is very much on the A-List international stars. Other displays focus on sports stars, historical figures, Bollywood stars, musicians and world leaders.
Younger children may not recognise many of the figures on display. I loved seeing the stars, but my ten-year-old daughter was non-plussed:
Me: It's John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson from Pulp Fiction! (Daughter: I have no idea what you're talking about)
Me: Will you take a picture of me with Oscar Wilde? (I would if I knew who he was)
Eventually we found someone she recognised: Look, it's the Dalai Lama. I've seen him on The Simpsons.
The infamously scary Chamber of Horrors was signposted as being suitable for age 12 and over, so we gave it a miss. Instead we enjoyed the Spirit of London ride, which involved a trip through the capital's past in a mini black cab. We also had fun pretending to lift the Olympic torch, and cosying up to Henry VIII.
Over all, I would say that this exhibition is best suited to older children and teens. WH Smith are currently giving away two for the price of one tokens for a range of attractions including Madame Tussauds, so do pick one of these up before you go.
The down side of this place is simply that it is so popular. We went at 11am on a Saturday morning, and a long queue had already formed, though it only took 10 minutes to get to the door. Once inside, the place was absolutely packed, to the extent that it was quite warm and difficult to move around.
Whilst this attraction is great fun, I would aim to avoid weekends and school holidays if you can, or get there early before it gets too crowded. Also, leave your inner pedant at home, or else she will drive you mad wondering about correct placement of apostrophes, and whether the sign should really read Madame Tussaud's.
Address: Madame Tussauds, Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LR
Nearest tube: Baker Street
Opening hours: Open at 9:30am, with last admission at 5:30pm, every day of the year. Open from 9am to 6pm at weekends and during UK school holidays, except Christmas Day.
Day Tickets: Adults £25.54 Children £21.46 Save 10% by booking online here, or pick up a two for one voucher with any purchase in WH Smith