Park guests can climb to the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for spectacular views. // © 2014 Lynn Houghton
Feature image (see above): Adults and kids can splash in the London Aquatics Centre pools for a small fee. // © 2014 Lynn Houghton
On a clear day, you can see nearly all the way to England’s south coast from the top of the soaring ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture and viewing tower in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the East End of London. The view encompasses Canary Wharf and its unique skyscrapers, the Crystal Palace transmitting station and the chalk hills of the North and South Downs.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park opened in April after being re-imagined and reconstructed to change its function after the conclusion of the London 2012 Olympic games. It is now a public park open to everyone, and the ArcelorMittal Orbit is undeniably the standout feature here. At about 376 feet tall, it is Britain’s largest piece of public art.
Created by artist and sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor and structural engineer Cecil Balmond of Arup Group Limited, the engineering marvel seems to symbolize the entire area’s aspirations: The red metal twists and turns in a straining ascent to the sky and then shouts its importance to the surrounding neighborhood when reaching the top.
The reinvention of this part of London’s East End has been nothing short of remarkable. Decades ago, the island was being used by battery manufacturers who left behind significant amounts of toxic waste. Though the cleanup project was extremely expensive, but worth creating a striking Olympic park and leaving a public space as a legacy for future generations.
The Athletes’ Village has been turned into trendy new accommodations, and Westfield London Shopping Centre is buzzing with activity every weekend, offering shopping and restaurants.
Here are the top five things to do at the reinvented Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Ascend the ArcelorMittal Orbit
Tour cost is a bit pricey at about $24 for a single adult, $11 for a child and $65 for a family of four, but well worth the spectacular views from the top. Getting to the top of the red steel structure requires an elevator ride, but visitors can walk down the 455 steps. There are two viewing platforms at the top that hold 150 people each.
Bike the Track at Lee Valley Velopark
In the park’s Lee Valley Velopark, visitors can cycle in the iconic velodrome; race on the road circuit; tackle the mountain bike trails; or jump and bump on the berms of the remodeled Olympic BMX track. The price is about $50 for a track taster session per adult, including use of a bike and a helmet.
Go for a Swim at London Aquatics Centre
For about $7 for adults and $4 for children (during peak times), entire families can have fun swimming. There are three pools that can accommodate a range of swimming activities. These include the competition pool featured in the Olympic games; a training pool that is located next to the family changing room and is perfect for children; and a dive pool.
Relax and Play on Various Facilities
There are fountains, climbing walls, a slide and a funky forest/jungle gym area for children to enjoy. Bordered by spectacular flowerbeds, beautiful lawns in the park can be used for picnics or just lounging.
Take the Canal Boat Ride on the Lea River
Requiring a modest ticket price, you can board a canal boat and sail on the Lea River around the entire perimeter of the park in 45 minutes. Aa wonderful view from the water is a definite perk.