Yeah, yeah, yeah: The absolute best of Liverpool for kids
A day out in Liverpool is a race against time. With world-class galleries to dip in and out of, a maritime history to dig into, and more tea stops than you can dunk a digestive in, you won’t run out of things to do. Oh, and there’s The Beatles too.
A new concept to start your day
To start your day with an adrenaline rush, have breakfast at Ziferblat in Liverpool’s Albert Dock. This is a whole new concept of café and the only thing you are charged for at this café franchise is your time. I admit it was a nervous half hour for me. Or should I say 21 minutes? I know this because I paid for every minute. Per person! The key to ‘pay as you stay’ is to multitask. Make toast, pour juice, eat cake, select filter coffee or froth, (or both at once), tinkle the piano keys and have a game of Scrabble. But make sure you don’t get caught in a queue for the washing up.
Take a trot to the Tate
Tate Liverpool is a hop, skip and a jump away. This is a must for families. The Tate Collection is matched with exciting temporary exhibitions over four floors. We take our kids here often - our last visit was to the free Matisse exhibition and a one-off chance to see his massive masterpiece, The Snail, in the north.
Discover the docks
The nearby Maritime Museum is full of colourful stories of smuggling, and if your day out is on a Tuesday or Wednesday be sure to take a tour of the Old Dock, led by museum guides Danny and Yazz. The cheerful pair smuggle you deep under Liverpool One shopping centre and give you their quirky commentary on the world’s first commercial enclosed wet dock, which you’ll see a chunk of in all its excavated glory. In the underground atmospheric light I mentally drifted away from the rest of the party as I imagined the moon drawing the tide in and out while dockside workers shifted bags of cotton and tobacco and tea. I visualized determined seagulls fighting over scraps and wondered what emigrants felt as they said goodbye to their loved ones and made for an unknown life in the new world. Meanwhile our guides made the kids laugh with jokes about lightbulbs.
“As we say in Liverpool, it’s chucking out time,” the double act joked as they left us in Liverpool One, the huge shopping paradise built on the foundations of this icon of trade.
Before leaving the docklands, take the obligatory selfie at the Liver Birds. On certain days you may also be able to wave to cruise ships as they sail in to the home of Cunard.
Wonder at the wigwam that isn’t what it seems
Hungry again? Liverpool is full of interesting lunch spots and new ones are always emerging. Like cycle café Ryde on Stanhope Street, and restored The Pen Factory next to the fab Everyman Theatre, which offers a good selection of tapas. Then it’s a brisk walk to a Liverpool icon – Paddy’s Wigwam. No, not an Irish tepee, but one of the city’s two cathedrals. The Metropolitan Cathedral’s circular architecture and stained glass windows do wondrous things with the afternoon light. Stop for a moment. Absorb the atmosphere.
Stimulate their brains (and yours)
But only for a moment. There’s more art to be consumed at nearby FACT. The Foundation for Art and Creative Technology is one of my favourite places in the city. Its exhibitions on contemporary and social subjects always make my brain work faster, and the tech themes always engage my teens.
If your kids are studying art then The Bluecoat is also worth popping into. This centre for contemporary arts is the oldest building in the city centre. Last time we were there we donated our teeth to artist Gina Czarnecki’s Palaces sculpture. But that’s not necessary for all visitors!
If all that art has made you hungry again, then head to Bold Street, an independent foodie mecca. Leaf Liverpool tea house offers just about every variety of tea that ever hit a teapot.(I recommend a pot with floating rose buds - it is a little work of art.) We had five pots of tea and a stand full of cakes and sandwiches in an hour of perfect Englishness. The kids loved it as much as we did. Perhaps this is because owner Natalie Haywood started the venue to make tea more accessible to young people.
If your teens can’t get on with tea then try them with the American-themed Ameriesko, with its deluxe hot chocolates, pancakes and chilli dogs.
Let the music play
Opportunities for art are endless but it’s music that this city is famous for. (Aside from football, but that’s for another day.) There are several Beatles-related attractions and it’s practically compulsory to do at least one (The Beatles Story in the Albert Dock, The Magical Mystery Tour bus, the Beatles statues and more). Alternatively you can take a ferry across the Mersey, hum the tune, and look back on a fun-filled city where time flies so fast you’ll be glad that no one else has thought to charge for it.