The London Eye is Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel and is located on the South Bank of the River Thames. Originally the structure was built in 1999 to celebrate the Millennium and wasn’t intended to be a permanent fixture. However, 17 years on and it is hard to imagine the London skyline without it. The London Eye is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom with over 3.75 million visitors annually.
We arrived at South Bank via the Waterloo Underground at mid day on a very busy Saturday. We knew that the London Eye would be a highlight of Adam’s London adventure due to its size. When he saw the London Eye for the first time his reaction was “it so big”.
We walked past the base of the London Eye and was pleased to see that the queue was moving quite quickly. We were optimistic about getting on the attraction promptly. At this point we had no idea that this was only a small proportion of the wait.
With our 365 Tickets in hand we entered the Ticket Office which is located inside County Hall. Here we could see several queues. To start with it was difficult to find out which line to join. Eventually we were directed to join the “ticket collection” queue. We waited in this line for 30 minutes. The queue for ticket sales was considerably longer.
Despite the long wait, we decided to opt for the 4D Cinema Experience. The show is free and is included in your ticket. We were pleased that we didn’t have to wait at all as the next show was then about to start. There are no seats in the cinema so if you have children I would suggest waiting for a front row position. We lifted Adam up so he could see. The show is certainly worthwhile. It is the first live action 4D attraction film ever produced in the UK and contains the first ever 3D aerial photography over London.
The story is about a little girl walking around London with her father. She gets frustrated that she can not see anything due to the adults in front of her. She wants to be higher to get a better view. She starts imagining what it would be like to see London from a bird’s eye view. The stunning footage follows a seagull around London. During the film your senses are involved too. The effects include wind, bubbles, snow and mist. The 4D Cinema Experience is certainly worth doing.
After a quick green screen photograph (which we didn’t purchase) we went back to the base of the Eye and attempted to join the queue. It was here that we realised that this was only a small section of the line and that opposite the walk way was a further queue. We also discovered that our tickets were not valid until 3.30pm. We decided to visit the Sea Life London Aquarium in between.
After our wonderful experience at the Aquarium and an ice cream, we were ready to join the queue again. The line zig zaggs back quite some way. We were told that the wait from here would be 40 minutes. Unfortunately it was 70 minutes. The line does move constantly. However, there is no where to sit and no shade.
Remarkably Adam waited patiently throughout. This is a testament to how far he has come on his Sensory Processing Disorder/ Autism journey. He spent the majority of the time sitting on Daddy’s shoulders attempting to watch his Hudl. Unfortunately, the sun was too bright for this to distract him but he enjoyed the views of the London Eye. Another distraction technique was swinging on the railings – can’t beat a bit of proprioceptive input.
Eventually we got to the base of the London Eye. The structure is 443 feet tall and has 32 passenger capsules which hold up to 25 people. The wheel rotates at 26cm per second (around 0.6 mph) and one revolution takes 30 minutes. The rotation rate is slow enough for you to walk on and off the moving capsules. We were thankful that Adam dealt with this transition well and went straight inside the capsule.
Adam was captivated during the entire 30 minutes. He was in heaven with the amount of different types of transport he could see from above – ferries, trains, boats, buses, airplanes, helicopters. As a result, he spent most of the time in one spot, facing the rail crossing to Embankment.
We had been concerned about how to occupy Adam in a confined space for any length of time. There is obviously no escape from the capsule once you are inside. However, Adam could have easily spent all day on the London Eye. He was fascinated by the views, buildings and how tiny everything looked from above.
When the capsule reached the top of the rotation we managed to get Adam to move to the left hand side of the capsule. Here he could get great views of Big Ben and more buses. We were able to point out the main London landmarks.
Despite the capsules being full, we felt comfortable inside and could always get a good view. A couple of times the rotation of the Eye stopped to allow disable passengers to board. It wasn’t until the rotation stopped that you were really aware of any movement.
We thoroughly enjoyed our London Eye experience, despite the long queues. If you visit during school holidays or the summer months be prepared to wait. You are able to upgrade your tickets for an additional cost to join the Fast Track line.
Disclaimer: We were asked to review the London Eye as part of our 365 Tickets Best of London experience. All thoughts and opinions are our own.
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