03 May Channel Your Inner Monarch: A London Itinerary that Celebrates The Queen's 90th Birthday
Queen Elizabeth turned 90 on April 21, but festivities celebrating the nonagenarian will continue for weeks, adding a layer of celebratory verve to those visiting the U.K. this spring.
Here is my piece for TODAY on how to tap into the royal hoopla if you’re planning a trip across the pond this summer.
1. Visit Windsor Castle in May.
The oldest occupied castle in the world is an ideal day trip for families. Though tickets are sold out to the official four-night celebration of the queen’s birthday, from May 12-15, a visit to the quaint Berkshire county allows you to tap into the jollity. A castle tour (make sure to catch the changing of the guard at 11 a.m.) is a must. Then, spend a pleasant afternoon taking a horse-drawn carriage ride, having a classic afternoon tea and boating down the River Thames.
2. Check out the Trooping the Colour Parade in June.
Catch the Queen’s annual pomp-and-circumstance-filled birthday parade called Trooping the Colour on June 11. This military ceremony (it dates back to the 17th century) involves 1,400 soldiers from the Household Division, 200 horses and 400 musicians marching alongside Her Royal Highness, who rides by carriage from Buckingham Palace along The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall and back again before she is joined by the royal family for a balcony appearance and Royal Air Force fly-by. Again, it’s sold out. But, hanging out in The Mall and watching the royal spectacle on jumbo screens in St. James’s Park is equally thrilling.
3. Give noble sightseeing a try.
There are certain buildings that figure prominently in the queen’s life. Buckingham Palace, of course, is a must-see spot. Catching the changing of the guard (11 a.m. daily) is a highlight for children.Parliament and Big Ben are mandatory. The queen, of course, presides over the opening of Parliament each year. There’s also Westminster Abbey, the 10th century architectural marvel that also served as the site of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation (and that of all monarchs). Explore the incredible collection of stained glass, artwork and the highlight: the royal coronation chair. The site of royal burial tombs can also make for a fun game for children, with a search for the names of kings, queens and esteemed British luminaries.
4. Craft your own royal program.
For the more independent traveler, fashion a DIY royal program in London by visiting the queen’s preferred hangouts, and sampling her favorite foods, goods and services. This way, you can celebrate the festivities on your own timetable — without the crowds.
How? Since the Middle Ages, the British monarchy has bestowed a mark of distinction upon top drawer “tradespeople” called the royal warrant. Selected for use by the queen, holders of the warrant are permitted to feature the “by appointment to her majesty the queen” endorsement on their products and marketing materials. Visiting these vaunted spots makes for a fun family itinerary.