22 Fab Family Day Trips
Fancy a trip beyond the borders? We’ve scoured the best things to do in the surrounding counties of Berkshire, Surrey, Wiltshire, Glos, Herts, Warks, Northants and a little cheeky jaunt or two into London – far enough to make a special day out; close enough to make it home for dinner!
HERITAGE DAYS OUT
Warwick Castle, Warwick
Looking for something exciting to entertain kids aged 8+? This is Warwick Castle’s first night-time experience telling the tale of 10th century warrior Guy as he battles monsters and dragons in a bid to gain a knighthood and win the heart of his one true love – Princess Felice, daughter of the Earl of Warwick. It’s an explosive epic tale depicted over the course of an evening using live action, animation, equestrian acrobatics, fire and pyrotechnics. Boom! There’s also the regular birds of prey demos, the mighty trebuchet, archery and ramparts to rampage for day time fun.
Tickets start from £15 for show only with immersive dining packages also available, warwick-castle.com/dragonslayer
Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe, Glos
With its great adventure playground and Summer Children’s Wednesdays – where there’ll be bouncy castles, an inflatable activity centre for under fives, storytelling and arts and craft – this stunning castle set in equally stunning grounds is a day out no-brainer.
Hampton Court Palace, Richmond
There’s always loads to see and do at this beautiful immaculately kept palace but if you go along Sat 25 – 27 August, you can also scoff and quaff to your heart’s content at the Hampton Court Palace Food Festival. Enjoy live cookery demos from top chefs, including Michel Roux Jr, hands on masterclasses, fantastic food and drink, live music, family fun and more.
Knebworth House, Herts
Always a pleasure. There’s so much to do at Knebworth House and people come from far and wide to be thrilled by the dinosaurs. There’s one lurking in the trees on the road between Codicote and Hitchin and it startles me every time. A great day out.
Zip Now London, Southbank London, now – Sun 9 Sept
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope it’s a human torpedo whizzing down a 738ft wire, 100ft above Archbishop’s Park at 50mph. Beats the tube anyway of the week. What we’ll do to avoid our faces been wedged in someone’s sweaty armpit. Get yourself down to South Bank, climb to the top the tower and wheeeeeeee. It’s not cheap – adults pay £22.50 and children get to ride it for £16.50. Suitable from 8+, book online.
Multi activity days, Bray Lake Watersports, Berks, all summer
Ready, set… get wet. Drag your tech obsessed kids away from their screens and throw them out into the fresh air. Bray Lake Watersports near Maidenhead offer daily or weekly watery activities – sailing, paddle sports, windsurfing, or multi activity fun for kids 8+. Drop them off for the day, they’re occupied and you can get some work/ life admin done. Everybody wins.
Puzzlewood, Coleford, Forest of Dean, Glos
This beautiful woodland in the heart of the Forest of Dean is like something out of a fairy tale – or a film or the telly, literally; Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Dr Who and Merlin were all filmed here. Puzzleford’s unworldly, 14-acre forest has plenty of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered, including winding vine paths and a willow maze. And if you want to stay for the weekend, you can even book your own cottage tucked away in the greenery and enjoy a weekend in your own little mythical utopia.
Lydiard Park, near Swindon, Wilts
The super stunning Lydiard Park set in 260 acres of beautiful parkland has a jam-packed schedule of events over the holidays that could keep you busy all summer, including outdoor cinema nights, teddy bear picnics and family fun days.
National Dive Centre, Tidenham, Chepstow, Glos
Surrounded by a jaw-dropping quarry and slightly terrifying cliff edge, the National Dive Centre has a whole host of wet and dry fun to keep any adrenaline-junkie family happy. Soar through the water with fly boards or go deep below in diving classes. And if you fancy keeping dry, the giant 3G swing or zip wire will get your heart pumping. And if you want to stay over, there are fab glamping pods to hole up in.
Rushden Lakes, Northants
For those of you who thought Rushden Lakes was just about the fabulous shops and eateries, think again! Set in the heart of the beautiful Nene Valley, Rushden Lakes is a haven for wildlife lovers – with over 200 acres of natural wetlands to explore by foot, bike or, thanks to Canoe2, by boat. Spend the day in the fresh air, then pop to the shops for some retail therapy and a large glass of reviving grape juice and a bite to eat.
Summer of Fun, Legoland Windsor, Berks, now – Sun 2 Sep
This way to the beach… As the Lego figures wrestle with their Love Island style short shorts and high cut wedgie swimwear, your kids can go wild at Legoland Windsor’s first ever Beach Party with pop music, activities, challenges, sandy beach, splash safari and drench towers.
Zombie Hunt, Thorpe Park, Surrey, Sat 21 Jul – Mon 3 Sep
Tramadol at the ready if you’re going to join your teen in this live action battle with the walking dead. Basically it’s an elaborate laser quest from the Thorpe Park woodland back to safety of the the park. Only on during the summer, it sounds horrific. Your kids will love it.
T Rex The Killer Question, Longleat Safari Park Wiltshire, now – 3 Sept
Enter a land of adventure where lions roam, tigers stalk, monkeys swing and predators terrify in the new Predators Season – yep, the UK’s No 1 safari park just keeps getting better and better. With a safari drive-through, Longleat House and Grounds, Jungle Kingdom, Adventure Castle, Family Farmyard, Longleat Railway, Little Explorers Garden and a penguin walk-through (and that’s just for starters) it’ll keep your Mudlets entertained for a day or three. Or book into The Bath Arms next door and bunk up for the whole summer…New this July are the Amur tigers (the largest big cats in the world. Yikes), painted pop-up pandas everywhere you look and of course T.rex: The Killer Question. All the way from the Natural History Museum, T.rex is a prehistoric installation of epic proportions with 8 animatronic dinosaur models taking you on a journey to decide: was the T.rex a predator or a scavenger? Phew!
The Making of Harry Potter, Watford, Herts, until Sun 23 Sept
This WB Studio Tour company never runs out of new reasons to get families back to this paean to the boy wizard. A new special feature dedicated entirely to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth instalment of the magical film series, revealing secrets behind the characters, costumes and props that made it so special.
Cadbury’s World, Bournville, Birmingham
Good for a chocolate-fuelled rainy day. Inside this huge historic factory in the pretty Quaker village of Bournville you can watch the talented chocolatiers in action, discover how chocolate is made and the world’s biggest Cadbury shop.
Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Richmond, throughout summer
Throughout the summer, there’s plenty of fun stuff for the kids like the giant badger set and treetop walk plus indoor play centre in case of rain. You may want to tie your visit in with The Great Georgian Wedding Weekend, a family-friendly weekend of festivities outside Queen Charlotte’s Cottage complete with garden games and costumed characters on Sat 28 – 29 July.
Jurassic Discovery at RHS Gardens, Wisley, Surrey
Plenty of activities at RHS Gardens Wisley during the summer holidays and many with a dinosaur theme. Kids can paint a giant mural of jurassic plants and dinosaurs and there will be dinosaur story telling sessions from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. There’s sow and grow workshops, craft activities, and music plus the Wishworks Puppet theatre. Grab a map and explore the gardens on the Jurassic Trail.
Festival of Wild Life, Panshanger Park, Herts, Sat 28 – Sun 29 July
ART & MUSEUMS
Life in the Dark, Natural History Museum, London, now until Jan 2019
Touch and smell the animals as you immerse yourself in a sensory journey into worlds where animals survive and thrive without light. How do they do it? You will find out! Feel your way through a cave full of fluttery bats and watch a deep sea light show. FREE for under-16s!
Brooklands Museum, Surrey, throughout summer
Lots of different free drop-in activities at Brooklands throughout the Summer. Build your own marble rollercoaster and discover more about the way the Brooklands race-track worked. Join the Brooklands Learning Team and dig for artefacts in the sand, find out about the history of Brooklands and record what you find. Using your finger print as inspiration, design a picture related to your favourite Brooklands Museum object. Experiment with propulsion by using different tools to launch a plane or move a car. There are also vintage car rides up Test Hill and kids tours on Concorde.
The Future Starts Here, V&A London, now – Sun 4 Nov
With phone obsessed kidults in mind, the V&A’s new The Future Starts Here exhibition is a brilliant day out with older kids. The V&A’s Sainsbury Gallery has been turned into an interactive playground of techy gadgets, detailed dioramas and video installations – there’s even a sandpit to run your RSI-riddled fingers through, an emotion-reading mirror, a self-rocking crib and a robotic cuddly seal designed to keep dementia-sufferers company. Basically, it’s the V&A does the Science Museum, and might even spark a conversation with your teen that’s longer than a series of grunts.
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, Piccadilly, London, until 19 Aug
Take your kids to the RA Summer Exhbition. With Grayson Perry’s curation, this year is the best ever. Paintings and sculptures by new artists sit cheek by jowl with work by Royal Academicians and Harry Hill. A great family outing.