The May Half Term Muddy Guide, Fri 27 May – Sun 5 June
It’s been, er, quite the experience bringing out a bumper half-term Muddy Guide whilst in the throes of holding the Muddy Stilettos Awards. Who’s the idiot in charge of diary co-ordination? Oh hang on, that’s me. Oh well, the pain is over and here’s your curated digital best buddy, here to help you find the coolest things to do (with or without children) over the next week.
Below are events that go on all week as they clog up the calendar to repeat them daily, but more detailed DAY TO DAY LISTINGS can be found HERE and I’d encourage you to use that as the one-off events worth knowing about are all on here. Have fun y’all!
EVENTS HAPPENING ALL WEEK
I’ve booted my kids into these for years and they absolutely love them. Monday (Bank Holiday) is a Family Activity Day where you can try stuff out together (or encourage your children into the zorb while you take knock back a coffee – mea culpa!). Then Tues-Fri children can go for the whole day – 8.30-4pm (£40) or 8.30 to 5.30pm (£50) doing a range of outdoor activities like wall climbing, the leap of faith, raft building, kayaking etc. It includes lunch too so it’s incredible value, and you’re literally tickling Marlow’s belly, it takes about 2 minutes to drive into town from Longridge.
Giffords Circus, Daylesford Farm, 3-6 June
Finally, my Gifford’s fix is here! This Cotswolds touring family circus is out of the starting blocks with a new show The Painted Wagon – a comedic homage to the Wild West. Tweedy the clown, my total comedy crush, is back for another year, there are some new performers to keep things interesting, and as usual it’s live music and a whole load of quirky brilliance. Increasingly famous, Gifford’s are now spending less time at smaller village greens (goodbye Stadhampton *wail*) and more in the larger spaces and money-maker London venues, but you can catch them at Sudeley Castle until 31 May and Daylesford Farm in Kingham from 3-6 June before they head to Blenheim Palace and Oxford’s University Parks in mid June onwards.
Whipsnade Zoo, various
I went here a few weeks back and saw the lovely butterfly enclosure for the first time (I know it’s been there for a year, so sue me!). There’s all the usual stuff to see, plus for half term a special Vets Live week with demos, talks and an opportunity for kids to become part of the action as they help Whipsnade vets conduct toy examinations at the ‘animal hospital’. Sweeeeet!
The Oxford Playhouse rocks 3 great shows
Jungle Book (Fri 3 – Sat 4 June), where Kipling’s classic tale comes crashing into the 21st century, featuring street dance, circus and a female Mowgli. If you see one thing with your kids this half-term, make it this one. Gruffalos, Ladybirds and Other Beasts (Mon 30 May – Weds 1 June) Julia Donaldson brings her enchanting Edinburgh Fringe show to Oxford. See her stories and songs acted out by a cast of five, including guitar-playing husband Malcolm! Julia will be signing books after the show. The Encounter (Weds 25 – Sat 28 May) received 5 stars from everyone from The Daily Telegraph and The Independent to Time Out, telling the true story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre who became lost in a remote part of the Brazilian rainforest in 1969 while searching for the Mayoruna people. Threading scenes of his own life with details of McIntyre’s journey, Simon McBurney incorporates objects and sound effects to evoke a rainforest landscape through headphones. Unusual, immersive, a bit odd, probably brilliant.
Green Dragon Eco Farm, Half Term Activities
This Eco Farm has plenty to keep little ones interested – my 7 and 9 year old didn’t want to leave when I took them a few months back. In addition to the usual playbarns, go-karting and animal patting, this half-term they’re running their popular ‘Farmer for a Day’ where children spend 5 busy hours on the farm, collecting eggs, grooming animals, mucking out and harvesting veg. There’s a new family Summer Trail around the Wildlife Walk with activities to do along the way, and there are Activity Day Camps run jointly with Kids Play Childcare’s Camp MK for kids 4-11 years old. The outdoor pizza oven – shaped like a dragon’s head! – will be fired up too for fast, easy lunches.
Colourscape, Waddesdon Manor, Sat 28 May to Sun 5 June Colourscape is back at Waddesdon Manor for the second year, offering visitors of all ages an extraordinary experience of colour, music and light. Colourscape is a large labyrinth of 74 interlinked chambers where you can encounter unusual musical experiences during your colourful journey. Slightly trippy, and fun for the kids.
10.30am-4.30pm, music plays from 11am-3.30pm
Creation Theatre, Put on a Play in a Week, St Andrew’s Church, Oxford
Thespy kids? Boot them into Put on a Play in a Week by respected Oxford-based Creation Theatre. It’s a high seas nautical theme for this half term, with groups split into 6-8 years or 9-12 years.
It’s English Wine Week! Sat 28 May – Sun 5 June
We’re spoilt for vineyards around these parts, and over the next week there are various private tours and tastings and events to coincide with English Wine Week. You can take a picnic to some vineyards too – no need to bring a bottle, mind.
Love Marlow Week, Thurs 2 – Sun 12 June
So much fun that this 10 day event actually feels like, um, a week?! This year’s ‘LOVE Marlow’ festival is jam-packed with community activities – a Paint and Prosecco event, kids cycle ride, litter pick, wine tastings, Longridge taster day, and loads of other stuff in this fab town.
Half Term Kids’ Workshops at The Cartoon Museum
A whole week of animation inspiration, where children can learn everything from Designing a Beano Cover and Manga Storytelling to making short films from clay characters or superheroes. Catnip for your kids.
Cartoon Museum, Little Russell Street, London WC1
Annie Themed Musical Theatre Course, Milton Keynes Theatre, Tues 31 May – Fri 3 June
A four day course for 7-12 year olds learning routines and scenes from Annie, in Milton Keynes Theatre itself. The second day of the course will involve a group trip to watch the Wednesday matinee of Annie. No prior experience is necessary but clearly love of dance, singing and acting is essential!
11am -4pm (Tue, Thu & Fri) 11am-5pm (Wed). £90 pp. Ages 7-12.
Aladdin at the West End
Whoo-hoo! A brand new Disney musical of Aladdin, from the producer of The Lion King, featuring all the songs from the Academy Award-winning score at Covent Garden’s Prince Edward Theatre. Catch the pre-premiere performances before it officially opens on 27 June. For kids 6+ years.
I haven’t seen this yet, but my editorial assistant Sarah loved it. Recently opened at the awesome V&A Museum, there’s plenty of time to peel away the layers of this exhibition (see what I did there?!) as it runs to March 2017, but if you find yourself with an hour or two free in London here’s one way to spend it.
Horrible Histories and Terrible Tudors at Hampton Court Palace, Thurs 26 May – Thurs 2 June
Slightly out of the way but I like the idea of Terrible Tudors actually being performed in a Tudor palace! Performed by the Birmingham Stage Company, performances last one hour and take place in the East Front Gardens of the palace. Open air, unreserved grass seating, so bring a blanket with you!
Half Term Hi Jinks at Warwick Castle, Thurs 28 May – Sat 5 June
Even though it’s expensive, I always think Warwick Castle is a good value day out because they’re forever adding to their offering. This year they’re performing a Horrible Histories Wicked Warwick Live Stage Show; sword skills taught by Warwick Castle’s own heroic knight; and a six-strong aerial birds of prey display, in addition to the recently-opened Horrible Histories Maze where visitors have to rearrange history into the right order.
Half Term Gnometastic Fun at Waterperry Gardens.
A very gentle two hours for children zipping around the incredibly pretty Waterperry Gardens. This half-term they can hunt the naughty gnomes around the Gardens and collect a prize when they’ve found them all. There’s a sweet garden cafe with lots of outdoor seating and grass for rolypolys for afterwards.
£2 per child accompanied by a paying adult
Goosebumps at The Waterloo Vaults – ends 5 June
Last chance to see this amazing immersive experience underground in the Waterloo Vaults. For ages 5- 11, there’s Goosebumps Kids, a 50 minute scary-ish experience (my daughter is scared by the River & Rowing’s Wind in the Willows exhibition so I’ve no hope), or there’s Goosebumps Alive for the grown ups, a chilling modern update of the 90’s cult horror series. Journey through the dark, abandoned vaults under Waterloo and walk the knife’s edge of fright and fun, reimagined from the classic tales of R. L. Stine.
Udderbelly Festival, South Bank, London, Now to Sun 17 July
Lots of quirky stuff going on at Udderbelly, the annual theatre, alternative comedy, dance, acrobatics and kids festival. Head down to the South Bank (Udderbelly has London’s longest bar – just saying), pick a couple of shows, and enjoy the river vibe.
Crowns and Coronations, Family week, Windsor Castle, Sat 28 May 2016 to Sun 5 June
To celebrate the anniversary of The Queen’s coronation, a whole week of sparkling crown making, activity trails around the State Apartments, storytelling and dress up at Windsor Castle. No nicking the ashtrays!
Running Wild, by Michael Morpurgo, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
A boy escaping a tsnumani in Indonesia runs straight into the jungle, miles from civilisation. Wonder and adventure turns to thoughts of his mum left behind on the beach, tigers prowling, hunger, and Will must learn how to survive in the rainforest. A new adapation of Running Wild. Let’s be blunt, it’s not going to be laugh-a-minute stuff, but moving? Without doubt.
It’s worth seeing Basildon Park’s stunning sea of buttercup flowers across the grade one listed 400 acre parkland. Kid will love The Great Ball Run is back at Basildon Park for 2016 created using upcycling materials. Buy a ball and use it all summer!
Number Four Privet Drive, Harry Potter Studios, Fri 27 May – Mon 6 June
A limited opportunity to step inside Number Four, Privet Drive and peer into the Dursleys’ living room as the exterior set is opened especially for the Studio Tour’s anniversary celebrations of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. During production, set decorators had lots of fun sourcing the ugliest sofas, worst tiles and most vulgar curtains possible. See for yourself and rejoice in your good taste!
Go to DAY TO DAY LISTINGS