We round up the family-friendly attractions guaranteed to keep groups of all ages entertained
Keeping the whole family entertained on a group day out or short break is always going to be a challenge, but as more and more attractions invest millions in child-friendly theme parks, rides, hotels and restaurants, it’s becoming all the more easy to plan an itinerary that will cater for all ages, tastes and interests. From tiny tots to thrill-seeking teenagers, there’s a day out or short break to suit, with lots to keep parents entertained, too, whether they’re the type to dive straight on to the highest, fastest, scariest roller-coaster, or are happy to have their windscreen wipers ripped off by an over-zealous monkey on a safari drive-through!
Ideal for younger children
Great for younger members of the family, West Midland Safari Park, with its safari drive-through,Tiny Tots Theme Park and new animatronic dinosaur attraction, will keep your little ones entertained for hours. Groups can save up to 40% off the standard admission price, and GTOs go free at the Worcestershire-based attraction that’s also home to wild animals, an adventure theme park and a Discovery Trail. Find out more at www.wmsp.co.uk If dining out in a make-believe jungle is more your children’s scene – as a tropical storm rages in the background – they’ll love the Rainforest Café in London’s Picadilly Circus. Where else could you sip a banana milkshake in the shadow of a gorilla’s stare? Or tuck into a bowl of jungle safari soup under a canopy of trees, all crawling with wildlife? Plus it’s just a short hop from world-famous toy shop, Hamleys. For more on both attractions, visit www.therainforestcafe.co.uk and www.hamleys.com
Designed with the under-10s in mind, Sundown Adventureland, which lies on the Nottingham/Lincolnshire border is to young children what Alton Towers is to adrenalin junkies. They can cruise (gently) down the river barrel ride, take a train around Rocky Mountain, pretend to drive a tractor, follow in the footsteps of Robin Hood and enjoy the new Angry Birds attraction. Everything’s geared towards youngsters, including a large indoor play area and café area where they can let off steam on the climbing frame and slides. Discounts are available for groups of 20 or more. Visit www.sundownadventureland.co.uk for details, and make a weekend of it in the nearby cathedral city of Lincoln.
Also aimed at younger thrill-seekers is the Leicestershire-based Twinlakes Family Theme Park, with its small child-friendly log flume, roller-coaster, rides, zoo and falconry centre, themed zones and more. Find out more at www.twinlakespark.co.uk
Ideal for teenagers
Visit the award-winning Beamish Museum in County Durham and take a trip back in time. It’s a unique ‘living, working’ taste of what life was like in the north for people in the 19th and 20th centuries, and children will love the chance to get properly hands-on. There are no stuffy ‘do not touch’ signs here, or objects locked away in glass cases. Instead, there are people in period costumes happy to chat about life in the old days and how things used to work. They can ride on the steam trains, trams and steam carousel, take a tour underground at a real coal mine, sample the treats on offer in the sweetshop and much, much more. Groups benefit from discounted entrance fees (for groups of 15 or more), free admission for both the coach driver and GTO, and free coach parking. If you’re taking a school group, one supervising adults gets in free with every 10 children. For more information visit www.beamish.org.uk/group-visits Also set to appeal to teenagers, especially if they have a sweet tooth, is one of Birmingham’s top attractions, Cadbury World. This Bournville-based attraction is home to 14 zones, each exploring the magic and making of Cadbury chocolate. Groups can enjoy a self-guided tour through the attraction, taking in the Aztec Jungle, Advertising Avenue and the popular Chocolate Making zone, as well as the newly revamped Purple Planet, which features a range of fun interactive games – all with a chocolatey twist, of course. Not-to-be-missed is the 4D Chocolate Adventure Zone, which launched last year. This interactive cinema experience gives visitors the opportunity to ‘dive’ into a pot of melted Cadbury Dairy Milk, ride the Crunchie Rollercoaster and take to the skies in a Cadbury Creme Egg airship, piloted by the Caramel Bunny – all without leaving their seat. With lots more on offer, including the world’s biggest Cadbury shop, the Cadbury Café and the outdoor African Adventure play area for children, Cadbury World is the perfect destination for a chocolate-themed trip. Special discounted entry rates are available for groups of 15 or more, with free coach parking as well as free admission and a meal for the driver. Organisers of groups of 20 or more will also receive free admission for the GTO. For group brochures and booking enquiries, visit www.cadburyworld.co.uk or call 0844 880 7667.
Exclusive ticket offer!
Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire is offering GTW readers an exclusive discount off group tickets. Buy 20 or more tickets for a single day’s entry and you’ll get a massive £8 discount, with tickets costing just £9 (usual price £17). To take advantage of this offer, visit www.pwpark.com or call 01992 470490. The park’s home to five adventure play areas, an undercover farmyard, paddling pools, a woodland railway, a walk-through rainforest and more. While its events diary includes a tiger conservation weekend at the end of August and a ‘bat night’ in mid-September. Find out more via the website.
Ideal for all the family
One of the world’s leading theme parks, Germany’s Europa-Park is home to more than 100 attractions and shows, 11 roller-coasters and 13 European-themes areas, with plenty to keep the whole family entertained, from the beaches and water parks of Children’s World (ideal for youngsters), to the ‘Megacoaster’ roller-coaster that’s better suited to thrill-seeking teenagers. Based in Rust, in the border region where Germany, France and Switzerland meet, it’s one of Germany’s most popular visitor attractions, and the ideal spot to base a short break or holiday around. Stay at one of the Europa-Park hotels on site (details are available on the website at www.europapark.de), and spend a few days exploring all the park has to offer, or book a hotel close by.
Great Yarmouth is a superb base for any leisure break by the sea, with plenty to keep visitors occupied, including the world-famous Norfolk Broads. The three-star Comfort Hotel is a flexible and family-friendly hotel, located a minutes’ walk from the famous ‘Golden Mile’ and its glorious beaches and seafront attractions. The Comfort Hotel has won numerous local, national and international awards, including finalist for ‘International Comfort Hotel Of The Year.’ The Comfort Hotel houses 50 bedrooms with en-suite facilities and modern amenities, such as flat screen multichannel televisions, tea and coffee making facilities, hairdryers and free Wi-Fi access. The Comfort Hotel has family rooms available for up to five guests, interconnecting rooms, double rooms, twin rooms, single rooms and a fully equipped wet room for guests with specific mobility requirements. Cots and highchairs are provided free of charge.
If holidaying in the UK is more your style, take your family to one of Britain’s many world-class theme parks. Alton Towers Resort in Staffordshire is a theme park, water park and hotel complex that’s got plenty to keep children of all ages entertained (find out more at www.altontowers.com). Or head to nearby Drayton Manor Theme Park – home to the new, improved Thomas Land, which has just undergone a £2.5 million upgrade, giving younger visitors the chance to meet Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends. Find out more about this, and the park’s more dare-devil rides at draytonmanor.co.uk, where you’ll also find information to help you plan a short break at the attraction. Continuing with the railway theme, the family-friendly West Somerset Railway travels for more than 20 miles through some of the west country’s finest scenery, between Taunton and Minehead. Children of all ages will love the carefully converted carriages, pulled by diesel and steam engines worthy of a Thomas the Tank Engine book. Find out more at www.westsomersetrailway.vticket.co.uk
A little further east and your family can enjoy the thrills, spills and adventure on offer at Thorpe Park Resort, which sits just a short drive from London in Surrey. It caters for all ages, but is especially geared towards thrill-seeking teenagers and adults who happily pay to be scared witless by the extreme roller-coasters! Make a weekend or short break of it at the on-site Thorpe Shark Hotel which, despite its name, is on dry land. Find out more at www.thorpepark.com
New exhibition at the Museum of London
For the first time, objects from the Metropolitan Police’s Crime Museum will be put on public display at the Museum of London. The Crime Museum Uncovered is scheduled to run from October 9, 2015 until April 10, 2016. Established in 1875, the Crime Museum is exclusively open to police professionals, with the Museum of London showcasing arteacts on a much broader scale. The Crime Museum Uncovered has been created with the support of the Metropolitan Police Service and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), and will bring visitors closer to evidence from the Acid Bath Murder of 1949, the Great Train Robbery of 1963 and the Millennium Dome Diamond Heist of 2000, amongst others. Exclusive rates are available for groups, with admission costing £10 Thursday-Tuesday and £8 on Wednesday. Crime Museum Curator Talk lasts approximately 45 minutes and is available for parties of up to 20 people. For more information visit www. museumoflondon.org.uk/ crimemuseum
New family travel show
The Family Travel Show, an exciting new show that’s the UK’s first exhibition dedicated to family travel adventures, will be held at London’s Olympia this autumn. It will bring together specialist operators and family holiday providers, covering everything from all-inclusive luxury getaways and cruises to family-friendly villas and incredible wildlife safaris. As well as exclusive show-only offers, visitors are also invited to enjoy the show’s interactive features, including an Explorers’ Corner and the Incredible Holidays Theatre.
The highlight of the show is set to be the Family Travel Auditorium, with travel ideas and practical advice from celebrity speakers, travel writers and bloggers, journalists and family travel experts. The Family Travel Show runs from 31 October to 1 November, 2015. Tickets cost £8 in advance or £12 on the door and under-16s are free. To book tickets visit www.familytravelshow.com or call 0844 209 7360 (calls cost 10p per minute plus network extras).