Stuff to do for kids of all ages this summer
We reckon we've nailed it - we've found activities for every age, from babies to teens. Read on for the best of art, sport, festivals, music and dinos in Bucks and Oxon in July and August 2021
The somewhat adorable Kew Little Pigs is running two pig keeper courses for 9-16 year-olds on 2 Aug or 3 Aug, offering your pre/teen the chance to leave their pig sty for the day and visit a real one! There’s the pig keeping (feeding, mucking out, applying suncream?!), then an agility course, plus a goodie bag and ice cream, all for £80.
Cogges Farm near Witney has Woodland Club on offer with activities such as mud kitchens, den building, bug hunting and marshmallow toasting for 3-11 year olds (27 Jul – 17 Aug, £6 for one hour), or there’s Creative Drama Tasters for the older kids. It’s free and aimed at 14-17 year olds, on 29 July.
Whipsnade Zoo, just over the Beds border, is this summer hosting an immersive exhibition of life-size animatronic dinosaurs sure to thrill any dino-mad kids (and grown-ups), 24 July – 25 Sept. ALSO stay overnight at the Snorassic Sleepover 31 July. Epic!
Cotswold Wildlife Park, nr Burford, is a guaranteed hit with kids who love all things furry, creepy and crawly. It has the little fellas – penguins, lemurs and reptiles – as well as the big guns, including lions, zebras, rhinos and giraffes (try out the Giraffe Walkway where you can stroll up to eye-level with the animals). There’s also the adventure playground and children’s farmyard, although the mini railway is still temporarily closed (that’s your pre-visit tantrum avoiding warning).
FESTIVALS & EVENTS
With news that both Truck Festival and Cropredy have been cancelled, it’s good to know that the Oxon and Bucks festival scene isn’t looking completely ravaged as yet… There are still a handful of tickets available for Wilderness Festival at Cornbury Park, which works for kids of different ages. Line up includes Foals, Supergrass and Jamie of XX fame. Blur’s Alex James is also still planning to open his farm to the hungry hordes on 27-29 August for The Big Feastival with Sigala, Tom Grennan and Rag n Bone man among the acts to take to the stage, and food galore, of course, as well as a massive family-friendly activity area.
The Theatre at Chipping Norton has a whole lot of fun planned for kids this summer including indoor and outdoor events. The Jungle Book (1 Aug) and Mr Stink (11 Aug) are among the winning performances planned for various venues around the Cotswolds.
This year’s Giffords Circus spectacular is The Hooley – a riot of fairies, trolls, pixies, leprechauns, wild horses, Celtic music and dancing that will appeal to kids of all ages. It’s on at Stonor Park from 22 July–2 August and Barrington from 5-16 Aug.
Waddesdon Manor is host to the antics of the Tudor Tales with Unbound Theatre on 25 July, a ‘hilarious whistle-stop sketch show’ with performances at the Woodland Cafe 2-4.30pm. It’s free with a ticket to the Waddesdon grounds or house. Also on the outdoor summer stage is Wind in the Willows on 7 Aug and Treasure Island on 21 Aug.
For those in West Oxfordshire it’s an easy hop to Cirencester Park, just over the border in Glos. There’s all sorts of exciting happenings going on including glamping, a food festival (14-15 Aug) and an immersive and interactive ‘adventure trail’ involving a dinosaur and a fairy… what’s not to love?
Colourscape is back at Waddesdon Manor on 28 July – 8 Aug. Expect a rainbow of interlinked blow-up chambers to navigate and a fiesta of light and sound. Adult £6, Child £4. The Bucks manor is also hosting a Children’s Literature Festival with story-telling, performances and activities for free, 19-22 Aug.
There’s so much about Japanese culture to interest teens, so give the big summer exhibition a go at Oxford’s most famous museum. Tokyo: Art & Photography, promises to explore Japan’s incredible capital through the city’s art over the past 400 years. At the Ashmoleon, 29 July – 3 Aug. If that doesn’t light their fire, afternoon tea on the rooftop afterwards should do the trick.
This summer the Roald Dahl Museum has laid on an Imagining Fantastic Mr Fox exhibition, celebrating 50 years since the title’s publication. On until 31 Aug. Tickets £7.40 for adults £4.90 for kids.
Also over that way, Bucks County Museum, in Aylesbury, has gone big on its summer exhibition, Dinosaurs Uncovered. The temporary exhibition of skeleton casts and fossils from every kids fave animal and other prehistoric beasts will be open until 18 September. Tickets £3.75 for adults and £3.30 for kids. Booking ahead essential.
Nearby the cute, Wycombe Museum, has sold out on its forest school days, but there’s still the on-site cafe and museum gardens, displays showing the area’s social history, and even better, admission is free!
The lovely River and Rowing Museum in Henley has a new John Piper exhibition, featuring the beautiful stained glass works by the former Henley-based artist. If that doesn’t enthrall the kids, they will love the Wind in the Willows exhibition and the interactive bits. Pre-booking essential: adults, £9, children, £6.
If you’re heading to central Oxford, Muddy Award-winning Pitt Rivers Museum is always worth a look around for its collections of just about everything, from violins to canoes (and of course those shrunken heads and voodoo skulls). Or just round the corner there’s the History of Science Museum where you can see Lewis Carroll’s photography kit, Einstein’s blackboard from 1931 and the first cultures of the life-saving antibiotic Penicillin. And all for free!
At The Story Museum in Oxford, they’ve hit on a winning formula – Lego! The Master Builders Clubs for 5-7 and 8-11 year olds run throughout August for £15 for a two-hour session. Kids must be accompanied by an adult (sorry – no sneaking off for a browse round Westgate). There are also week-long courses and workshops aimed for all ages, up to teens.
Coders will love learning about the code breakers at Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes but younger kids will be more interested in this summer’s teddy bear trail inspired by Alan Turing’s teddy bear, Porgy. Pick up a map and find the bears hidden in secret locations around Bletchley Park. Adults £21, teens £12.50, under 12s free.
Waterperry Gardens is fab for little kids, with tons of space to run and hide in the acres of gardens, hedges, riverbanks and nooks. There’s also the garden centre, cafe, gift shops and art gallery. Older kids may be interested in the outdoor theatre, film screenings or even (calling all divas!) the young artists workshop to learn how stars are made in the world of opera.
Millets Maize Maze opens 20 July with a bee theme. There’s also a fort, play areas, quizzes, clues to find and a mini maze for littlies. Always a winner as it can be teamed with Millets PYO, cafe, farm animals, garden centre and farm shop. Everyone’s happy!
Bekonscot, Beaconsfield’s charming model village is always a winner with the littlies and likewise, the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre is every kids train driving dream. Days with Thomas have sold out but you can still join Peppa Pig in August.
Throughout the summer, Blenheim Palace is running Camp Wilderness: three to five day, back-to-basics residential camping experiences for children aged 8 – 14 years. There’s also a chance for day visitors to sample archery and tomahawk throwing… perfect for settling those family disputes.
Or, try the gentler choice of Family Friendly Art at Oxford Botanic Garden on 29 July. There are two workshops for 4-7 and 7+, working with powdered water colour to produce expressionistic masterpieces, or at least that’s the aim. Tickets £20.
The Cholsey & Wallingford Railway is running steam days on 25 & 29 July and 5 Aug and on 29 Aug is a special children’s event. Expect choo-choos, rolling countryside and good honest fun.
There are castles and stately homes aplenty in our neck of the woods (who needs Normandy…sob…). Broughton Castle, nr Banbury, is one of my favourite local spots, not too touristy with smaller crowds, and large gardens for the kids to bomb about in. A 15-minute drive down the road there’s Upton House or over near Chipping Norton there’s Chastleton House which has plenty of space to run around in. Or there’s Buscot Park, nr Faringdon- the formal gardens really are stunning with loads of different areas to explore (the Walled Garden and Peto Water Garden are top of my list).
Other heritage buildings worth a meander are Claydon House nr Buckingham (amazing 18th century interiors – the kids can lie on Florence Nightingale’s bed!), William Morris’s Cotswolds retreat Kelmscott Manor. And finally, over in Berks, Highclere Castle (of Downton Abbey fame) is a great day out.
Kids climbing the walls? Send them up trees instead! High rope courses are a fab option for all ages. There are Go Ape courses at Wendover Woods and Black Park and the Treetop Extreme course at Willen Lake near Milton Keynes. The Wendover option is great for groups of mixed ages because it has woodland bike, walking and running trails and the new Wendover Woods Café. The Gruffalo Activity Trail will also keep the minis amused.
The outdoor climbing tower and bouldering area at Far Peak, just off the A40 on the way to Cheltenham, also has indoor areas, pizza oven and a camping area. Triple win!
Meanwhile, Rush Trampoline Park, in High Wycombe has 100 wall-to-wall trampolines, so it’s the perfect spot for wearing out energetic children. And yes, there’s a mezzanine café for you to sit sedately while the madness unfolds.
ON THE WATER
Willen Lake in Milton Keynes is a dead cert and has a flash new watersports centre with posh changing rooms and cafes. Go for canoeing, wakebording, windsurfing, swimming and other watery shindigs.
There’s kayaking and canoeing galore in Oxon and Bucks thanks to the many lakes and rivers. One is Thrupp Canoe and Kayak, just outside Kidlington, from where you can explore the Oxford canal and River Cherwell. It is accepting bookings in advance (no walk-ins) and Annie’s tea room is open for a warming cuppa afterwards (currently Fri-Sun only).
If that all sound like too much hard work (teen alert!) you could hire an electric boat. Wallingford’s Pure Boating is taking bookings for boats for up to 11 people that you can drive down to Benson Lock or towards Moulsford (pub alert!). Hobbs of Henley also has a self-drive fleet, and there’s Benson’s AV Boats for kayak, paddleboard and electric boat hire.
More ideas to keep them entertained…
Missed these ones…? Better put a reminder in for next year!
Pinch yourself alert!! Book a spot and drop off your kids, aged 4-13, at the Kids Active Zone where they will be put through their paces and entertained FOR FREE!! while you peruse the stalls and food – and of course the many taster classes and workshops at FitFest Oxford. It’s a family friendly festival dedicated to healthy eating and exercise. It’s on 3 July at Oxford City FC and tickets cost £20 for adults, £15 for teens, kids 13 and under go free.
Rev up your little and big kids for some classic and super car action at Bremont Stonor Supercar Sunday on 4 July. Alongside the cars to oooo and ahhh at, there’s fabulous foodie stalls and kids can access the Tumblestone Hollow adventure playground for free (tickets usually cost from £6.50). Tickets for the Supercar event cost £20; kids aged 6-15 £15, under 5s free.
Around 600 young musicians, aged 4–18 will be performing on two stages in the open air, with groups, ensembles and choirs at the Bucks Music Trust Summer Festival at Chiltern Open Air Museum, 4 July. The music will be from 12.30 – 6.30pm and there will also be food and craft stalls as well as the museum itself to visit. Tickets cost £12.50 for adults, £8.50 for kids (under 4s free).
If you’re after your wonderfully archetypal village fete experience, Missenden Abbey has a fab little summer fair on 11 July with all the usuals – dog agility, pony rides, dance shows, choirs, fairground rides, food stalls, face painting, tombola and 60 craft and gift stalls… ok so maybe not so little, but oh so very English summer. Tickets cost £3 for adults, £2 for children (aged 3-12).
The Sinodun Players are staying local with their choice of production this year – ‘Wind in the Willows’ at the Corn Exchange Wallingford. It’s been adapted to a single act, and has new characters. Join them on a boat trip down the River Thames to Toad Hall. It’s on 14-17 July at 7.30pm with a matinee at 3pm on July 17. Adults £8, kids £5.
The variety of Dancin’ Oxford performances at Oxford Playhouse, Pegasus Theatre, and Florence Park over the summer will appeal to kids of all ages. Teens, especially, will be engaged by the street dance and hip hop at Florence Park on July 3 and by Rouge, created by pop’s coolest choreographer, Marion Motin’s (who’s worked with Dua Lipa (IDGAF) and Christine and the Queens) , performed by Rambert’s daring dancers on 15 – 17 July as a live stream.
The Make Play sessions at Modern Art Oxford are a stay-and-play affair for kids aged 6 months to 5 years. A chance to get stuck into art activities, which this summer are themed around the museum’s exhibition Samson Kambalu: New Liberia (that’s high culture baby!) Each session is different so you could try them all!1, 8 & 15 July, 11am–12pm and 1–2pm. £2 per session or £7.50 for all 5 sessions, booking essential.