FLYING 90m ABOVE THE RIVER THAMES | Darrin Henry
The London Emirates cable car price of £3.50 one way is probably one of the best value kids attractions in the city. We had been searching for fun activities in London and this did not disappoint.
The Emirates Air Line cable car (to give it its official name) climbed so steeply and quickly out of the ground station it took all four of us by surprise, triggering a spontaneous and very noisy, laugh out loud combination of nervousness and excitement!
It was exhilarating as we soared upwards and the people and boats below shrunk down to a toy set. We had a whole carriage to ourselves, or ‘cabin’ as it’s called. Apart from the free national museums and the Sky Garden on Fenchurch Street, this was already money well spent.
‘Taking off’ from near the Millennium Dome, the ‘flight’ in the Emirates Air Line cable car took just under 10 minutes, climbing to 90m above the river with 360 degree views of this part of the city of London.
We were looking down on the Millennium Dome, or O2 Greenwich as it’s currently called and a bunch of other famous sights. The Canary Wharf skyscrapers, the ExCel London building, the Thames Barrier, the Royal Victoria Docks and planes climbing out of London City Airport. The River Thames map on our ticket brochure helped us pick out the city’s cool buildings and famous London landmarks.
In fact, it was just too much to take in all at once. We kept calling out to each other to “come look at this” or “wow, look down here!” We wanted to look out every side and take selfies all at the same time, it was mad!
Things To Do In London Over The Holidays
It was the last day of summer holidays in UK. Looking for things to do in London with children on a day out with our nieces, Inka and Elizabeth, we went online and bought a family day ticket for £50. This included the all-day hop on, hop off river ferry, a return ‘flight’ on the Emirates Air Line and access to their airport exhibit.
The Emirates cable car opening times vary slightly between summer and winter seasons, so check their website for latest times. But summer ‘flights’ begin at 7am on weekdays, 8am on Saturdays and 9am on Sundays.
The family ticket was brilliant! The boat ride up the Thames on a MBNA Thames Clipper (despite the unfortunately grey, City of London weather) was fantastic, a river tour of the amazing skyline including the London Eye.
One of my favourite River Thames facts is that two-thirds of London’s drinking water is sourced from it.
After a stop at Greenwich to have some lunch and take a quick look at the Cutty Sark, another of the superb Greenwich Peninsula tourist attractions, we caught the boat again to the North Greenwich Pier. Alighting near the Millennium Dome we had a two-minute walk to the Emirates Greenwich Peninsula, aka the cable car ground station.
Boarding was easy. The cable car moves continuously, but slows to a crawl inside the station to allow easy access.
The Airbus A380-800 Experience
I was surprised there weren’t more people. Central London is always heaving, perhaps the north Greenwich cable car was too far out of the way. But on the plus side, it meant we got a whole cabin to ourselves, so no need to be embarrassed about getting excited!
At the Emirates Royal Docks ground station, the other end of the ride, we disembarked and went in search of an ice-cream.
Then the flight back across the Thames to the Greenwich Peninsula. Again, smooth as you like, although this time we were less hyper, knowing what to expect, and took in more detail. We noticed in particular there’s a gentle ‘bouncing’ of the cabin on the cable car lines at the mid-point across the river. It was quite noticeable as the cabins travelling in the other direction were rising up above then down below us.
Sharon and I have fond memories of the Millennium Dome, now an iconic London image. We had visited on a bitterly cold October day in 2000, the year it opened. It didn’t get the best reception from the British public back then because of the construction costs, but we both thought it was a great place to visit. The diameter of the Millennium Dome is 365m, representing the number of days in a year.
Once back at the ground station we used the same Emirates cable car tickets to gain access to the Emirates Aviation Experience. It’s a state-of-the-art exhibition room which had something for everyone, including an Airbus A380-800 aircraft mock-up (the nose part anyway). The kids loved the interactive challenge to load and balance an aircraft to prepare it for a flight, while the ‘how a jet engine works’ display I found superb. We were all wide-eyed sitting in the mock-up Airbus A380-800 cockpit which was huge! If that’s to scale then it’s much, much bigger than I expected.
We finally dragged the kids away from the aircraft loading game. Their best effort saw the plane 125 mins late for departure but we didn’t have time for any more attempts. It was first day of school next day.
Making use of the Thames river services we boarded the ferry we went and back along the river again. Clutching our complimentary panoramic souvenir pull-out brochure from our flight, we headed home, tired but happy with stories to tell of one day in London when we ‘flew’ across the River Thames.
Best Bang For Your Buck In London
If you’re planning a kids day out, London has great options. I would highly recommend ‘flying’ the Emirates Air Line.
London attraction tickets can be expensive, but we bought the ‘Emirates Air Line and MBNA Thames Clippers River Roamer’ family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) at £50. This allowed all day hop-on, hop-off travel with MBNA Thames Clippers to 15 piers plus the Air Line flight and Aviation Experience centre at the North Greenwich cable car station. Purchasing online and printing out our ticket made the travel quick and easy.
You can also access it with a regular Oyster card where the charge is £3.50 one way.
In comparison it was £26 per person to ride the London Eye, so this Emirates experience was easily better value (longer and higher ride) and the views are brilliant. Combined with a river cruise or visiting the O2 North Greenwich, it makes a sightseeing trip out to this part of the city one of the most memorable and fun things to do in London with kids.
To access the Emirates Air Line from the Royal Victoria Docks end is just as easy. The Royal Victoria DLR (Docklands Light Railway) station is just 158 metres from the cable car station.
Emirates Air Line Quick Facts:
The Emirates Air Line opened on 28 June, 2012, in time for the London 2012 Olympics.
The cable across the river is 1.1km long, suspended across three helix towers.
There are 34 cabins which can accommodate up to 10 people each and fly between 2.2m and 4m per second.
Construction of the Air Line took just under a year.