Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was home to the unforgettable 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. We visited the Paralympics and had an amazing time watching athletics, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis; that day will stay with me forever!
The park has undergone major redevelopment since then. Some of the Olympic venues have gone and other areas are still being redeveloped. New attractions in the North Park, such as a large playground and cafe, welcomed visitors last summer whilst the South Park reopened in April 2014. I was intrigued to see what changes had been made so we spent a day exploring the Olympic park.
Our first stop was the information point to pick up a map and trail leaflets. There’s a great choice of trails covering London 2012, children and art in the park. I was impressed by the quality of the trails, even better that they were all free.
Our route into the park took us past the London Aquatics Centre. The pool is open for public swimming sessions now but it’s best to book in advance. All of the kids sessions were fully booked on the day of our visit so we had to content ourselves with a peep inside (no Tom Daley to be seen).
The Orbit, or ArcelorMittal Orbit as it is now known, has also re-opened. Created by Sir Anish Kapoor for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games it’s the tallest sculpture in the UK. Visitors can take the lift up 80m to a viewing platform for a panoramic view across London. When you’re ready to leave there are 455 steps back down to the ground! We didn’t go up as I couldn’t justify the cost, but it’s an impressive sculpture to walk around.
From the Orbit we followed the trails to the North Park. These took us past play fountains, a playground for younger children, climbing walls and lots of wooden deck chairs to relax on.
We found a listening station and relived the cheers of Super Saturday when Team GB won three gold medals in the stadium. We also attempted to jump as far as Greg Rutherford’s winning jump. Not surprisingly we couldn’t!
The only disappointment of the day was the Timber Lodge Cafe. We visited on a busy day and the cafe was having problems coping with the numbers. The tables were all dirty, the queues horrendous and the food not great. On a positive note the prices were reasonable for London and I’m sure that on a quieter day it’s probably a decent cafe. But our experience was pretty poor!
The Tumbling Bay playground was a HUGE hit with the kids. They spent a while playing with water pumps, damming channels and running along a wobbly rope bridge. It was only when I went to leave that I realised there was another much larger section with wooden tree houses, rope nets and loads of climbing opportunities. This part was aimed at older children (I’d suggest 6+), and looked amazing. All of the kids were enjoying themselves, running around and scrambling up and down the tree structures.
After I managed to drag the children away from the playground we walked on to the velodrome. It’s open to the public, and visitors can also book taster sessions on the BMX track and mountain bike route. We sat and watched some cyclists tackling the velodrome, the banks looked pretty scary close up.
Before leaving there was time for one last photo, my daughter couldn’t resist a Usain Bolt pose on the podium.
We had a great day out at the park. I thought I might be disappointed returning to a place that held such great memories but there are different things to see and do now. We’ll certainly visit again to see the bits we missed and perhaps use some of the sporting facilities. Definitely recommended!
- The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is free to enter. The nearest tube is Stratford, it’s about a 10 minute walk via Westfield Shopping Centre. The park is open 24 hours a day, whilst the information point is open from 10am-3pm. The website has loads of information and is worth a browse before you visit.
- Standard swimming sessions at the Aquatics Centre cost £4.50 for adults, £2.50 for children. During the school holidays the pool runs Aqua Splash obstacle courses; these cost slightly more but sound great fun. Book your swimming session in advance here.
- A family ticket to the Orbit is £40. Alternatively an adult ticket is £15, a child ticket is £7. Kids under 3 are free. It’s open from 10am-6pm during the summer with slightly reduced hours the rest of the year. The Orbit is fully accessible to wheelchairs. More details can be found on the Orbit website.