Awaken a love of literature in your kids, with an Alice in Wonderland themed trip to England, taking in a Mad Hatter’s tea party in London, a Looking Glass themed cottage in Brighton and a whimsical Alice inspired punting trip in Oxford. Zoey Goto puts together a 3-city itinerary for a truly memorable adventure in Wonderland that your children will never forget.
Following Alice down the Rabbit Hole in London
Start your Alice in Wonderland adventure with a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum, who are hosting a major Wonderland exhibition that runs until early 2021. The Alice extravaganza spans over 300 objects, with highlights including Lewis Carroll’s original handwritten manuscript, Disney illustrations, large-scale theatre sets and immersive environments, guaranteed to bring the enchanting Alice stories to life for both adults and kids. Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser runs from 27th June 2020 to the 10 January 2021 and tickets are priced at around 39 AUD, with children under 12 free. Visit the website here.
Next stop on the Alice in Wonderland trail is the Sanderson hotel, home of the famous Mad Hatter’s Tea Party afternoon tea. The magical experience features miniature bottles of ‘Drink Me’ fruit potions, Queen of Hearts jammy dodgers and macaroons shaped as miniature pocket watches. Adding to the eccentricity, crockery is decorated with Wonderland motifs and plants sprout out of teacups. The tea of great for kids of all ages and remember to arrive hungry as the food is limitless, so you’ll be encouraged to ask for seconds of your favourites! 94AUD per adult and 68AUD per child.
From the Sanderson hotel, it’s a short walk into London’s West End to visit the Through the Looking Glass shop. It’s one of those quirky independent stores that London is renowned for, and specialises in rare illustrated editions of the Lewis Carroll’s books and Alice-themed collaborations with artists.
Round your afternoon off with some feline-stroking at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, a Wonderland-themed cat-cafe in East London. The café is home to 15 rescue cats, who while away their days dozing inside giant Mad Hatter top hats or lounging on painting-the-roses-red cushions. There’s a 29 AUD entrance fee and this is one for older children as under 12s are not permitted.
A Wonderland Weekend in Brighton
Around an hour from London on the train, Brighton is a lively seaside town with plenty to offer families. It’s also home to not one, but two, Alice in Wonderland themed sleepover options.
Smaller groups may prefer the Looking Glass Cottage, located in Brighton’s Lanes and sleeping up to 8 guests. This Alice themed cottage is also Brighton’s oldest house, and includes White Rabbit lamps and looking glass adorned walls. From 285 AUD per night.
Round up some friends or have a multi-gen mini-break at the Wonderland House on Brighton’s seafront. The regency house has 6 Alice-themed bedrooms, sleeping up to 24 guests. At the centre of the house you’ll find the Mad Hatter banqueting room with teacup chairs and vintage crockery, providing the ideal spot for a Wonderland tea party that will have the kids grinning like Cheshire cats. From 980 AUD to 3000 AUD per night.
A daytrip to the City of Dreaming Spires
No Wonderland themed tour of England would be complete without a visit to Oxford, where the Alice books were born. This beautiful university city is under an hour by train from London, making it the perfect literary daycation.
Alice in Wonderland’s author Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Dodgson) lived for most of his life at Oxford’s Christ Church College, as a scholar and teacher. It was here that he first met Alice Liddell, the 10-year-old daughter of the college dean, who would inspire the beloved Alice character in his enchanting tales.
A visit to the impressive Christ Church College is one of the stops on the Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland 2-hour walking tour, organised by Experience Oxford. Potterheads will love seeing the inspiration for the Hogwarts dining hall, whilst Alice fans with a keen eye will be able to spot details including the Wonderland themed stained glass window, plus the mysterious creaking doorways and odd firedogs with their impossibly long necks that inspired Lewis Carroll’s fantastical writings. The tour also includes stop-offs at other Oxford attractions including the Bodleian Library and adjoining Divinity School, and the enthusiastic guides are expert at engaging children of all ages. Adults 55AUD, children 41AUD, under 5s free.
Just across the road from Christ Church you’ll find Alice’s Shop, a former grocery shop where Alice Liddell often brought her sweets, which also provided the setting for the ‘wool and water’ chapter in Alice: Through The Looking Glass. This small shop, housed in a 15th-century building, is crammed full of Alice related gifts and souvenirs and offers the chance for kids to stand in the same spot that the real Alice once stood, 150 years later.
A couple of doors down you’ll find Café Loco, a quaint café with views of Christ Church and its meadows. The family-friendly café has walls adorned with Alice illustrations and serves a Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea, which goes down a storm with children on the Alice trail.
Sustained with finger sandwiches and delicious cakes, it is just a short walk into Oxford’s centre to visit The Story Museum. The recently revamped museum does a fantastic job of breathing life into children’s literature, with a whispering wood where kids can listen to trees telling fairy tales, a Narnia themed reading room and the enchanted library – a immersive exhibition where you can virtually fall down the rabbit hole with Alice. Adults 15 AUD, children 10 AUD, under 2s free.
Make sure you stop off at Oxford’s Museum of Natural History to pay your respects to the world’s best-preserved Dodo. The Dodo cast is on permanent display alongside a painting by Dutch painter Jan Savery, thought to have inspired Lewis Carroll’s caricature character in his stories. Entrance is free.
Finally, should you be blessed with sunshine, recreate Lewis Carroll and the Liddell sisters dreamy boating adventures by hiring a wooden punt from the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse. Lewis Carroll would often take the Liddell sisters on picnic punting trips, entertaining them with tales along the way, which eventually developed into the famous books. A quintessentially Oxford pastime, punting offers the perfect mode to drift along the picturesque waterways, idling away a golden afternoon, just as Alice would have. Punts for up to 5 people from 43 AUD per hour. More info here.
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