I had a good friend come to stay with myself and monkey this week and she brought her 2 year old little girl with her. It’s given me a great opportunity to show them both round the city and really experience Glasgow through the eyes of a tourist. It gets a bad rep sometimes but as soon as anyone I know has visited they’ve fallen in love with it as quickly as I did. Now to be honest I do live in one of the nicest parts – the West End; so I’m surrounded by beautiful parks and within walking distance of lots of major attractions. But I still think Glasgow is a very misunderstood and unfairly represented city. If anyone gets the chance and hasn’t been I can’t recommend it enough.
During the few days my friend and her little girl stayed with us, me (and the monkey) showed them round as many sights as we could. The days started early and finished late – the mums and toddlers were exhausted but in that good way that occurs when you’re on a packed full holiday. The weather was pretty changeable all week but that meant we got to experience a wide variety of kid friendly activities. The following is a little summary of what we did – so if you have young kids you are now hopefully armed with some info on what you can do in the city of Glasgow (rain or shine).
On the 1st day it was forecast to rain so we decided to visit a great little soft play area in the West End called Jungle In The City – it’s on a little side street at 8 Gardner Street off Dumbarton Road. Unlike the huge massive warehouse set ups it’s in a smaller building but still has all the same equipment and ball pits, and big apparatus just on a smaller scale. The bonus of this is you can view the whole room from a chair or sofa and there isn’t that horrible echoey effect either. There’s plenty of stuff available for babies (walkers, bouncy chairs, high chairs for feeding and toys etc) up to about 8-10 year olds depending on height. Also during the week it’s only £4.95 for all day play and a kids packed lunch (soup or sandwich, raisins, yogurt. crisps and a juice). The adult food is also simple and cheap but tasty. I can’t recommend this place enough to let the kids let off steam on a rainy day. A great time is always had by the kids.
After soft play fun we decided to head down Dumbarton Road and have a wander round Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This is a real family museum with a large range of activities for everyone and it also boasts a great art collection including the Glasgow Boys collection and the Dali piece Christ of St John The Cross which is truly stunning. But for the kids there’s a lot of interactive stuff for older children and for toddlers there’s all the animals and dinosaur life size figures that both girls loved just wondering round and looking at, along with the fashion items and all the Rennie Mackintosh furniture. At around 1pm there’s an organ player that comes on each day and does a 30 minute show too. After a good run round all the exhibits the girls wanted to see we headed down for a quick look in the gift shop before heading home. It was absolutely pouring with rain when we left so we did end up getting side tracked and nipping into a great New York restaurant called Tribeca (also on Dumbarton Road) to wait for the rain to at least calm down before we headed on – this place does all the real american diner stuff and cocktails and everything in-between; it also has truly American size portions and the great service we hear comes as standard across the pond.
On our 2nd day it was a much nicer day so we headed off and walked to the Transport Museum situated on the River Clyde in a new sparkly building. I love this place – it’s filled to the rafters with every vehicle you can think of. Old fashioned trams, trains, cars, prams, bikes, motorbikes, horse and carriages. If you can name it then it’s probably in there. They also have an historical cobbled street all set up with the horse and carriages on and loads of little interactive shops. More for older kids admittedly but the girls loved running in and out of them – there’s cobblers, a bridle/saddler shop, a pawn shop all that kind of stuff with lots of interactive screens giving loads of information about the history and the time. After we’d exhausted all the stuff the girls wanted to look at and had climbed on the trains and trams we were allowed on we headed out the back door where there’s the magnificent spectacle that is the Tall Ship. It’s free to go on and like the museum has information and general activities for the kids to look at and play with. Most people would probably assume it was for older kids but the girls really did have a nice time running up and down the length of the ship, looking at the ropes and barrels and a replica mast and all the other stuff there. There was also a mini soft play area again and they had lots of fun running in and out of the tunnels and generally going mad. We had a cup of tea in the little cafe too to get some energy back. The ship is fully set up with lifts to every level – I had the monkey in her brilliant back carrier (made by the awesome Madame Googoo) but my friend had her pushchair and we were able to access all the areas and get about very easily. There was also baby change facilities on the ship and in the museum.
Once we’d done all this I decided that they couldn’t come all the way up and not experience the Willow Tea Rooms in town – a real Glasgow institution designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and serving up some great tea and traditional Scottish food, alongside everyday stuff. We went to the one on Buchanan Street as it’s a little bigger and easier with all the kids stuff like the pram etc. Now it’s not overly toddler friendly; you have to get up a big flight of stairs but we folded the pram up and got up there. They do have high chairs and also provide colouring for the kids, I think people maybe don’t expect you to take little kids in so there may have been some sideways glances from elderly people who were wanting a quiet cup of tea (I may have imagined this though!). Either way we just ignored them and enjoyed our tea, tried to stop my monkey from grabbing things off the table etc etc. The only minor complaint I would have is that despite having the high chairs and colouring they insist on serving the kids food and drink in glasses and porcelain plates so it’s a bit nerve wracking in that respect. Still, I’m glad I was able to take them there as I really love the decor and the tea is great.
The sun was still beaming down afterwards so we headed home via the gorgeous Kelvingrove Park (the number 4a bus goes from outside Central station and up Woodlands road where you can get off and access the park through one of the many entrances). We took the kids to go on the swings and slides – there’s a great playground here for kids of all ages and even a skate park. If the weather is nice then Kelvingrove Park is a must; they have also just renovated the band stand and opened it up so I expect more events will be taking place. The other weekend I took monkey to Glasgow Mela; a free event all weekend that filled the park with all kinds of multicultural music, dance, food and drink. It was a really great weekend so it’s worth keeping on eye out for what’s happening.
This pretty much concludes what we managed to fit in over a couple of days. This is just a taster too – I didn’t manage to take them to the Botanics which is another lovely spot, Glasgow Green is also nice and the People’s Palace is there which is a great thing for older kids – telling them all about the history of the working classes in Glasgow; introducing a lot of sociological concepts and themes at an early age which is great in my opinion. Glasgow is definitely a city with a complex and often fraught history.
I hope I’ve maybe convinced some people to come and visit and given an idea of just some of the child friendly activities around – I haven’t mentioned that apart from Jungle In the City and of course the Willow tea room, all these activities were free so perfect if you’re on a strict budget! I think my friend was definitely taken by the city as she was very quickly saying she could easily live here – I think people are always surprised by how much they like Glasgow if they’ve never been.