Holly Cave suggests some potential daytime activities suitable for a family visit.
Planning the perfect family day out can be an exhausting task and an extensive undertaking. Luckily, there are tons of amazing places to visit throughout the UK, and GTW have pulled out some of the best ranked attractions to add to your to-do list.
EDUCATING THROUGH PLAY
The National Space Centre is located in the heart of the Midlands, two miles from the bustling of Leicester’s city centre. It’s not hard to find due to its characteristic appearance, with the 42metre high Rocket Tower visible from miles around. Kick off your trip with a visit to the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium – the largest in the UK – for a 360° journey through our Solar System. Kids and adults alike will enjoy a 3D mission aboard the Spaceflight Induction Module.
Much of the displays and interactive exhibitions are perhaps more suited to older children aged six and over. Special events fill the holiday periods and it’s also a top choice for birthday parties. The UK’s cities are full of fantastic museums and many are free to enter. Anyone who has visited the Natural History Museum in London during their youth will remember it fondly. Generations have walked into the soaring Central Hall and gazed up in awe at the fossilised Diplodocus skeleton, or tried to reach up to touch the belly of the 27metre long Blue Whale model suspended from the gallery ceiling. The Museum is so vast, with such a variety of exhibits, that it would be easy to tailor the experience to children of all ages and abilities within your group. Kids of most ages will love the animatronic dinosaurs. GTW recommends arriving early on the day to avoid lengthly queues.
The National Showcaves Centre for Wales is also bound to prove popular with children with a vast interest in dinosaurs. The Dinosaur Park is packed with over 220 life-size models – some hard to miss and others lurking in the undergrowth. The separate caves are the main attraction however, where visitors can walk through all three. Groups should prepare for some steep sections.
GETTING CLOSE TO NATURE
Families visiting the National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham can see over 2,000 creatures from all over the planet, from the coast of Britain and the chilly Antarctic, to the tropical waters of the Caribbean and the mangroves swamps of South East Asia.
The Centre’s newest attraction is Penguin Ice Adventure, where visitors come face-to-face with a colony of Gentoo Penguins. If your kids loved Happy Feet – they’ll love this. The attraction takes visitors on an expedition into the rarely seen Antarctic landscape, where they can marvel at the cheeky antics of these endearing birds from multiple viewing platforms, watching them dive beneath the freezing waters and play in their icy home. Kids can get hands-on with the daily Interactive Rock Pool Experience, getting up close to creatures such as crabs and starfish. Meanwhile, expert staff provide educational talks, where you can discover the truth about the misunderstood shark, the plight of endangered sea turtles, as well as the remarkable life of the seahorse. You’ll also be able to observe daily feeding sessions for otters, sharks and rays.
There are plenty of zoos and wildlife parks around Britain, but Chester Zoo recently scooped second place in TripAdvisor’s poll of the best zoos in Europe – ranking the highest in the UK. It is home to over 11,000 animals and 400 different species. It wins praise for the landscaping and variety of the enclosures, with plenty of room to roam for inhabitants and visitors alike. Children especially will adore the bat cave, where the bats will often brush you as they fly past. 2015 sees the opening of the ambitious new Islands project, allowing visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the ecosystems of Indonesia and the Philippines, including Sumatra and Bali.
WEAR THEM OUT
Sometimes kids just need to run around in the mud, and luckily we have plenty of opportunities for that here in the UK. Landmark Forest Adventure Park near Aviemore in Scotland is a winner for the whole family, and promises to make sure everyone sleeps well the night of visiting. Activities include water slides, climbing walls, a labyrinth, nature trails, a Tarzan Trail assault course, a runaway train rollercoaster and the mind-bending Bamboozeleum. The bravest in the family can even try a ‘skydive’ – leaping from a 50foot platform on a rig to the forest floor below.
Situated in North Yorkshire, the Forbidden Corner is a walled garden with more than one twist, featuring a warren of pathways, underground tunnels and walkways. This spot gets rather muddy in the wrong weather, so GTW suggests your group come dressed for the occasion. Also, some of the surprises are designed to shock, meaning this attraction may not be suitable for smaller children. Although, these points are marked on the map and can be avoided if desired.
FOR LITTLE ONES
Peppa Pig World is designed to appeal to the younger generation. Based on the popular children’s cartoon, there’s a great indoor soft play area, splash zones, parks and lots of rides suitable for little ones. Looking around Peppa Pig’s House will definitely be a popular choice for kids who love the series. The attraction is part of the larger Paulton’s Family Theme Park, with gardens, rides and activities suitable for older children and adults. Gulliver’s World is designed for children aged two to 13 years of age. As well as the original park in Warrington, Cheshire, there are slightly smaller but similar versions of Gulliver’s World now open in Milton Keynes and Matlock. The kid-friendly theme park has thrill rides, shows and play areas.
Seven Stories is the National Centre for Children’s Books, located in the heart of Newcastle. The seven floors (hence the name) of this converted Victorian warehouse is an incredible place. If your children love their bedtime stories, then they’ll find this a very special visit.
Aside from the precious original manuscripts and illustrations from over 100 British writers and artists stored here, children will find fun exhibitions, immersive events and creative inspiration. Grab a Sensory Explorer Bag from reception and follow the story of Alice in Wonderland, The Gruffalo, Mr Stink, Peter Pan or Cinderella through sounds, smells and textures in the galleries. Seven Stories is also home to one of the largest independent children’s bookshops in the country. It’s hard to go wrong with Harry Potter. Even people who aren’t a huge fan of the stories will probably enjoy the Studio Tour at Leavesden in Hertfordshire. While there are a plethora of original props, drawings, sets, costumes and animatronics, much of the focus lies on the technical skill behind making the movies. The content is sophisticated, with a couple of interactive exhibits such as the broomstick green screen experience, which is really best suited to adults and older children. Since opening, visitors have been hammering the doors down, so booking well in advance is essential.
THRILLS AND SPILLS
Like the children’s toy, LEGOLAND Windsor is perennially popular. As well as the impressive brick models – recreating everything from Buckingham Palace to the Eiffel Tower – there are 55 rides and plenty more things to do in the park. Like all major theme parks, queues here can be long enough to make tantrums a threat. GTW’s tip is to save the busiest rides until the end of the day. After 1600hrs, the queues are considerably reduced as families head off for the day.
Definitely one for older children and teenagers, Alton Towers Resort is home to some of the most thrilling rides in the country. Its latest addition, The Smiler, whips you around 14 loops, Rita thrusts you from a standstill to 100kilometres per hour in less than three seconds, and the vertical drop of Oblivion plummets you into a hole in the ground. There are also lots of rides requiring less adrenaline, including the Congo River Rapids. There are fantastic options for eating in the park, and the neighbouring Water Park would fill another entire day if you’re in the area for a short break.
Alton Towers Resort hosts special events throughout the year, meaning there are plenty of reasons to return – that’s the summer holidays sorted! You don’t have to treat your children to exciting new experiences every day, and often the best fun can be had closer to home. However, it’s always worth doing something extra special.