The London Transport Museum Acton Depot only opens for three Open Weekends per year. The Museum Depot at Acton is a huge warehouse that holds the majority of the Museum’s collection which is not on display at the main Museum in Covent Garden. The Depot houses over 320,000 items of all types, including many original works of art used for the Museum’s celebrated poster collection, signs, models, photographs, engineering drawings, uniforms and of course lots of different vehicles from throughout the ages. Sounds perfect for transport geeks, but is it any fun for a three year old? We went along to the Acton Depot Open Weekend: Family Fun to find out…
Acton Depot Open Weekend: Family Fun – Surprises and tips
There were several surprising things about the weekend. First was that for once I had been organised and pre-booked tickets and even arrived on time. This meant that there was a fairly large queue to get in if you had pre-booked tickets, along with other families and transport enthusiasts. However, there appeared to be no queue for buying tickets on the door. I’m not sure of these events sell out, but could be a good tip for avoiding the queue.
As my second tip is, do get there when it opens. A number of the activities are limited by number, so to ensure you get to do everything you want to do, get there early and sign up. We grabbed a guide whilst we were in the queue, which has a plan of the store and listings of all the day’s activities. This guide is essential so that you know all the different things going on across the depot and helps you get the best out of your visit.
The most surprising thing about the weekend was how great it was for a three year old. To be honest, neither I nor the little one are that excited by the extensive transport memorabilia on display (that is more to keep Daddy entertained). The access to lots of different types of underground trains and buses would be great for little ones who are, though. What impressed my little one and I were the number of free / low cost activities available; we were there pretty much the whole day.
The first activity we took part in was a puppet show in a bus, run by Bus King Theatre. This was perfect tone and length for a fidgity three year old. Following the show, there was a half hour crafting session on the top deck where she had great fun getting messy with scissors and glue. A fantastic start.
Another entertaining activity was to decorate a seed tray with a transport theme. This gave a bit of quiet time and you were given a small bag of soil and seeds to take away and grow at home. A great idea!
Both of these activities took place in the courtyard at the the back. Out here there was also a bus bouncy castle (note a £1 charge for this) and face painting. Heritage buses were open to look round, along with a working steam engine. There were several food stands for when you need a snack. Of course you can bring your own food to eat in the picnic areas too. Toilets and baby change facilities are also located in the courtyard.
You may be forgiven for thinking that we spent the entire day crafting and eating in the courtyard. Which would be no bad way of spending the day of course. However, we did engage with some transport exhibits when we headed back inside the depot. There were huge numbers of model railways on show. Along with lots of nervous owners imploring children not to touch. Fortunately the Lego model railway exhibit had some Lego available for building to keep little hands busy. Be warned that a number of the stalls have trains and Lego for sale. There is a large London Transport Museum shop here too, which may be best avoided if you are saving the pennies.
Back near the entrance at the mezzanine level was another family zone. Here you could get creative with more craft materials or join in playing with an enormous train set. Back at ground level near the shop was a room with a quiet corner for the little ones with a range of books and jigsaws. All transport themed of course. Regular music sessions were held in this room too. There were a range of instruments to try and some rather loud music created.
Back out front is where you pick up a restored heritage bus ride. These free short rides depart fairly frequently from outside the front of the depot. It’s the bus that is the star of the show. The views on the circular drive around Acton are not that thrilling. In fact, my little one dropped off for a snooze at the end of a long day. Despite the suspension on these old buses not really being up to speed bumps, oof!
There is also a little miniature train for both adults and children. You can take a short ride along the side of the depot and back (again, note a £1 charge for this).
London Transport Museum Depot Open Weekends take place three times a year, usually in April, July and September.
The Acton Depot Open Weekend: Family Fun took place in July in 2019.
For further information and future dates visit: https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/open-weekends
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