The other missed opportunity was just before the Olympics when Mr and a friend were taking part in a 5 mile run around the park starting at the Orbit and finishing in the stadium. I was 8 months pregnant but looking forward to a spectator's sneak peek of the park but K ended up feeling ill so I stayed home with her.
The Orbit and the Olympic Stadium
When I was offered tickets to visit the ArcelorMittal Orbit, which is the UK’s tallest sculpture by Turner-Prize winning artist Sir Anish Kapoor, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to make a day of it and look around the park as well so we headed there early to beat the traffic and find parking (there are good links by public transport too).
The kids enjoyed scooting along the canal and paths into the park. What struck me was how huge and open the space is and how peaceful it was. There's lots of quirky street art and installations around which make even a grey, dreary day seem much more vibrant.
After a stop off at the playground we got to the Orbit but were informed that as the weather wasn't good they'd stopped the lifts and we should check back in half an hour.
We took the opportunity for an early lunch and headed (via a nose in the Aquatics Centre) to nearby Westfield Stratford. I recommend the Gyros from Olive Oil & Oregano, K recommends the fancy toilets that are "the best ever" apparently. We made Lego minifigures of ourselves at the Lego store...
... and then walked back to the Orbit where we were told that everything was up and running. Once through security you exit doors to the base of the structure. There's a buggy park so we could leave the scooters safely.
The staff were knowledgeable and full of facts and figures about the installation and they escorted us up in the lift - it has portholes so you can watch the red bars whizzing by - to the first viewing deck. There you'll find the strangest concave mirrors displaying an upside-down skyline - or person.
Concave mirror by Anish Kapoor
There's an outside viewing deck with some mesh between you and a 376 foot drop. It seemed fairly quiet when we visited (perhaps because of the weather) and we didn't feel rushed.
I've always thought that the Orbit looks like a rollercoaster, and from this view down the centre I think it really does.
Down on the lower viewing deck there are interactive screens, a small gift shop and coffee area and toilets.
The huge floor to ceiling windows give an excellent panorama of the city. We could spot Crystal Palace transmitter up the road from us, and many London landmarks: the Shard, Canary Wharf, the Gherkin and of course you have a birds-eye view of the Olympic Park itself.
Once you're done you have the option to take the lift back down or walk down 455 steps with sound snippets of local places like Colombia Road Flower Market, West Ham FC, and Bow Bells playing through speakers along the journey. Anish Kapoor says on his website that "You need to journey round the object, and through it. Like a Tower of Babel, it requires real participation from the public” So we took the stairs and my legs were like jelly at the bottom and ached for several days afterwards! There is also a third* option for descent... abseil.
Back at the base you are free to wander and take in the sheer size and complexity of the structure. The kids seemed to think it was a huge climbing frame and loved jumping and hanging off it. At least you know it's not like they are going to break it!
We'll definitely be visiting the park again. Next time we'll pack swim suits for the fountains, the kids were desperate to run through them.
Prices for tickets to the ArcelorMittal Orbit in advance are adults £10, children £5, family £26 (two adults/two children) and concessions £7. Walk up tickets: adults £12, children £6, family £32 and concessions £10. For more detailed ticket information and details on events - there's a kids arts and crafts event this August - visit www.arcelormittalorbit.com or call 0333 800 8099.
*Since my visit, a fourth way of getting back to ground level has been given the go ahead... a giant slide! Due to open next year, you can read about on the BBC website.
Disclosure: I was given a family ticket for the purpose of this review. All words, opinions and images are my own.