One of my guide books suggested booking tickets online before you visit the Tower, and this was definitely wise advice. We are here in the off-season, but the lines to buy tickets were still long. I can only imagine what they would have been like on a Saturday in July. Buying online, we bypassed the crowds. If I planned more in advance they would have mailed the ticket (I bought a family pass), but since I bought it the night before, I just wrote down my confirmation code (it said to print out the e-mail confirmation, but I don't have a printer here and writing down the number worked just as well) presented it at the Welcome Center and picked up my ticket.
One of the Yeoman Warder guided tours was just starting as we entered and we joined along. This was worth the time. The guide was funny, informative and we learned a lot more about the history of the Tower than we otherwise would have.
When the tour ended, we went in to see the Crown Jewels. They have all sorts of movies playing to keep the crowds occupied while they wait to see the good stuff, but since we were there in the off-season, we didn't actually have to wait through much of a crowd and didn't stop to watch much of the movies, though the kids were happy to have gotten to see a bit of Elizabeth being crowned. Seeing that footage before seeing the jewels made them a bit more interesting to everyone.
The jewels were certainly interesting, but actually the solid gold punch bowl about the size of a small bathtub was almost as interesting and you could spend your time looking at time. The most valuable stuff is placed so you stand on a moving walkway to view it and don't have much time to gaze in wonder at the size of the massive diamonds and other jewels.
After stopping for a picnic lunch at one of the outside benches of the sandwiches and other things I'd brought along, we headed into the White Tower. That is the central palace in the place, and a must see, but it almost did me in. You can't take a stroller in, the three year old was tired and insisted that her father carry her almost the whole time, which meant I had to put the sixteen month old in the sling and carry him up and down several flights of stairs and through the many rooms and exhibits. He may still be lighter than most kids his age, but he's heavy enough that by the time we got out of the White Tower I was exhausted, grumpy, sore and ready to leave. I simply cannot carry him for long periods of time any more (remember that not only is he getting heavy, but I am five months or so pregnant, so probably most normal people would not have problems at all).
I would have gone on for more, tired as I was, but it was getting on towards closing time for the Tower, so I was spared further ordeal.