From Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Street - you have two options. 1.) Get on a crowded tube for one stop, and if you haven't got a Travelcard, pay lots for the privilege, or 2.) Take 10 minutes to walk outside along Shaftesbury Avenue and experience London in a microcosm. Unless you're going through on a long journey, it really is as quick to walk, and much more interesting.
Historically the road was built in the 19th century, and was supposed to provide accommodation for London's dispossessed poor as part of slum clearances, but this didn't quite work. Today, it's a non-stop neon-lit hive of activity, running from Piccadilly Circus to New Oxford Street, and crossing Charing Cross Road at Cambridge Circus. In this short journey it intersects two London Boroughs, crossing from the City of Westminster into the London Borough of Camden. The name Shaftesbury links to both a place (in Dorset), and a peerage; the title Earl of Shaftesbury was created in 1672, and remains to the modern day.
If you want entertainment, your options are varied. Cineworld have a cinema here where you can catch the latest blockbuster, and there are several other cinemas to choose from.
Much more importantly, this road is the heart of London's West End, and the glittering lights of the theatre will call you down its length. The Apollo, Lyric, Gielgud and Queen's theatres are all in this short stretch, and the Palace and Shaftesbury Theatres at different ends.
You might need to eat before your night out, in which case there are restaurants including Jamie Oliver's Diner, Caffe Concerto or the Rainforest Cafe. Jamie Oliver is better known for Italian restaurants, but here you'll find an American theme. It's only a pop-up though, so visit while you can. The cakes in Caffe Concerto look particularly inviting, and a stop here makes for a more unusual tea-time as you're serenaded by top musicians.
With cuddly toys of animals galore crowding out the window, it might be hard to work out exactly what is going on in the Rainforest Cafe, but it is worth visiting for a great child-friendly, imaginative, interactive eatery.
Down side streets you catch glimpses of the exciting worlds that are Soho and Chinatown, with Chinese decorations spreading splashes of colour around. The influence spills out onto Shaftesbury Avenue itself, and there are plenty of shops where you can buy food and trinkets from China. Importantly there's also a rare branch of the Japan Centre, which offers fresh Japanese bakery goods as well as a great variety of other Japanese foods, including everything you need to make, serve and eat your own sushi.
London's rickshaw market it increasing rapidly, and you may even find yourself experience the terrifying thrill of wheeling around a corner in a low-slung, unstable chair. It's worth trying... once.
So, you can get some exercise walking, reflect on London's history, shop, stop for a meal and have a night out on the town, all in half a mile. Shaftesbury Avenue is amazing!
With underground stations at either end it is extremely easy to get to. The stations lie on the Bakerloo line. At Oxford Circus you can pick up the Central and Victoria lines, while at Piccadilly Circus you can switch to the Piccadilly Line.