Inspired by the sunshine and the very exciting new “Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures” show on Cbeebies, we have recently been to Crystal Palace Park twice in one week. I had forgotten all about it although it’s only a 10 minute drive from our house. But while watching a small child stamping around the kitchen at 7.30am with his backpack packed, wearing his dinosaur shoes with flashing red lights and shouting “I’m going on dinosaur adventures!” it suddenly seemed like the perfect place to go.
The park covers a huge area. At the Crystal Palace end, at the top of the hill, you can still see the ruins of the old Crystal Palace that housed the Great Exhibition and was moved here from Hyde Park in 1851. Statues of dinosaurs were commissioned the following year and put in place around the lake next to Thicket Road. The Crystal Palace dinosaurs were restored in 2002 and are now grade 1 listed monuments. Sadly they don’t include a t-Rex but remain very impressive nonetheless.
The dinosaur theme has been continued in the playground near the lake. A small farm can be found inside the park just downhill from Crystal Palace station, with sheep, goats, ponies, alpacas, rabbits and chickens. There is also a maze, a huge sports centre and a small woodland area at the far side towards Sydenham Hill.
Best bits: The huge sandpit in the playground complete with dinosaur bones, eggs and fossils to discover, and the dinosaur statues around the lake.
Travel: Penge West and Crystal Palace stations are both next to the park. Penge East is a 5 minute walk.
A small car park inside the Penge gate on Thicket Road is handy for the cafe, lake and playground. Another huge car park that serves the sports centre as well as the park always has spaces and is accessible from Anerley Hill. All parking is free.
Where to eat: The park cafe has a good range of kid-friendly food and nice salads.
Note: The farm has quite limited opening hours: from 12 to 4 every day except Wednesday. The paths around the dinosaur lake are quite hilly and not tarmacked so are not scooter friendly.