21 Things To Do with the kids at Half Term
Gah, it's horrific! Yes, hours and days of young people around your feet, waiting to be entertained. Half Term Muddy guide to the rescue!
Xscape, Milton Keynes, Sat 26 May – Sun 2 June
How cool is this? We’ve already had a test of the new Rush VR (virtual reality) immersive experience and it’s totally awesome! Nothing like fighting zombies building castles or wandering through a Mayan maze after a few coffees. If you’re heading up to Xscape, you can also check out Hollywood Bowl – it’s putting on activities between 4 and 6pm with pink pin games, treasure hunts and face painting. Boom – a day of half-term sorted.
Colourscape, Waddesdon Manor, Sat 26 May – Sun 3 June
For the fourth year in a row, the spectacular Colourscape returns to Waddesdon with 56 interlinked chambers for the trippiest experience outside of Glastonbury. There’s a new structure to fit the Aviary glade with long views of intense colour and light plus music and pleasingly bazaar dance performances inside the larger spaces – just whizz off down another bouncy tunnel if they’re just too, erm, ethnic, for you. My kids proclaimed this the best thing they went to all last year, and even my grunting 15 year old was impressed, so persevere with the snaking queues – it’s one of the most unusual experiences around.
Shapes and Sculptures, River and Rowing Museum, Henley, Thurs 31 May 10.30am – 4pm
This well-curated gentle museum is always ON IT when it comes to kids’ activities and this half term your little artists can be inspired by the work of sculptors Barbara Hepworth. The exhibition Barbara Hepworth: Finding Form has been on since early Feb but is ending on Sunday so it’s your last chance to catch it, plus the kids can help make a giant sculpture from recycled materials and a mini masterpiece to keep with weaving and collage (all totes free with admission). Also worth checking the other daily workshops – shell sculptures, banner-making, and weaving. Then take a picnic and wander down to the river, smug in the knowledge that you’ve given your kids a dose of culture.
Warwick Castle, War of the Roses Live, from Sat May 26
This spectacular castle just over the border is always a winner with Muddy and they are very good at luring us back. Not only is there the return of the live action show, War of the Roses (more stunts and tricks than you can shake a stick at) but there’s a new family-friendly challenge – The Escape Room. Set in an underground prison, actors lead castle visitors as they battle the clock to set a knight free through puzzles, clues and stories. Think Crystal Maze meets The Krypton Factor. Add the regular birds of prey demos, the mighty trebuchet, archery and ramparts to rampage and it’s good value. (Top tip: if it’s a sunny day it might be worth your while to bring a picnic, you can queue for ages for food).
Superheroes and Villains, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Dunstable, Beds, Fri 26 May – Sun 3 June
Personally I prefer the breezy spaces of Whipsnade to the relative claustrophobia of London Zoo, and if you have young kids they’ll absolutely love the train ride, enormous play park, and the bird of prey and seal displays. This half term there’s also a whole load of activities and events to celebrate those superheroes who tackle threats to wildlife, plus a self-guided Superpowers Trail of animals with amazing superpowers.
Gnometastic, Waterperry Gardens, Sat 26 May – 3 June
Waterperry Gardens is defiantly lo-fi in its approach to children’s entertainment and I rather like them for it. The gardens are just starting to blossom, perfect floral hiding places for the ‘spot the gnome’ trail. There’s a decent sized play frame thingy, a gift shop for your children to poke and prod their way around, a huge nursery (floral not child-minder unfortunately) and lollies or lunch at the tea shop.
Oxford Brookes Climbing Centre, Tues 29, Thurs 31 May and Fri 1 June
Kids driving you up the wall? Send them up one instead! Brookes Climb Oxford is offering taster sessions with instructors on Tues and Thurs 2.30 – 4pm and Fri 4.30 – 6pm. £6.50 per child.
Chiltern Open Air Museum, Sun 27 – Mon 28 May
Togas at the ready as the Roman Gladiators (as seen on CBBC’s Horrible Histories and Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, no less) battle criminals, barbarians and other thrill seekers at this Bank Holiday event. The excitement and brutality of the Roman period is brought to life with combat displays (squeamish alert – lots of fake blood) but if you’re after a more gentle experience, take a wander round a wychert cottage, Iron Age roundhouse, vicarage room or working farm that also inhabit the site.
Mead Open Farm, Stanbridge, Bedfordshire, Repitle Week, Fri 26 May – Sun 3 June
Bored with bunnies? Given up on guinea pigs? Then slither over the border to Beds where Safari Stu will be revealing his reptiles all week long at Mead Open Farm. Let a tarantula cross your palm (ARE YOU JOKING ME?!!), stroke a lizard or hold a python as Stu teaches you all you ever wanted to know (or not know) about reptiles. Tickets are just under £15 but the usual furry farm animals and indoor and outdoor play are included in the admission price.
Highclere Country Show, Highclere Castle, Berks, Sun 27 – Mon 28 May
The usual dog shows, bouncy castle, birds of prey and ferret racing but I’m particularly liking the look of the gold panning in the hope that Lord Carnarvon might have mislaid an Eqyptian treasure. Under 16s go free – result!
Queens Park Centre, Aylesbury, Tues 29 May – Fri 1 June
This arts centre, tucked away down a back street in the not-very-glamorous surrounds of Aylesbury, always punches above its weight and runs great courses for kids and adults. A series of 1 day workshops in half term is selling out quick (no space for wood carving, pottery ugly mugs or seahorses) but you can still make Little Bub and his woolly house on 29 May, Sparkle Spider and the Whizz Wizard (inspired by the Whizzfizzing Festival) on 31 May or Sew a Pet on 1 June. All suitable for 7 + from 10am – 3pm so packed lunch required (and you can whizz fizz yourself off somewhere more glamorous).
The Great Big Tree Climb, various locations, 28 May – 1 Jun
Fancy getting a new perspective on the world? The Great Big Tree Climbing Company will teach you and yours how to enter a tree’s canopy using ropes, knots and karabiners (no idea what that is, let’s move on) before doing the fun bit and taking the zip wire back down. Seeing my husband land in the woodchips after a speedy zip wire descent is still one of my Top 3 funniest moments of all time, so I strongly advise you to encourage your other half to do it. Coming to Cliveden Mon 28 – Tues 29 May, Stonor Wed 30 – Thurs 31 May and Hughenden Fri 1 June. Minimum age: 6.
Living Nightmare Extreme, Thorpe Park, Fri 25 May – Sun 3 June
Tramadol at the ready if you’re going to join your teen in this live action horror maze where double the amount of walkers (I’m guessing people, not walking aids) are in your way to safety as you experience terrifying scenes from the horror franchise. Only on during half term, it sounds horrific. Your kids will love it.
Blenheim Palace Food Festival, Blenheim, Oxon, Sat 26 – Mon 28 May
Raymond Blanc and Kenny Tutt (this year’s Masterchef champ), will be appearing at this stately festival where you can gorge yourself at 130 food and drink stalls before gaining some ‘me-time’ by booting your kids into the maze at the pleasure gardens. As long as they make it out before five they’ll be fine!
Bucks County Museum, Aylesbury, Sat 26 May – Fri 1 June
Lots happening at this small but inventive museum. Over the next week kids can go behind the scenes to explore the basements, hidden rooms and tunnels under the museum (Sat 26, Tues 29, Wed 30 May); join the Roman army with re-enactors and learn drills, tactics and moves fit for a gladiator (Mon 28 May); watch Beowulf and Viking Tales Medieval puppets shows (Wed 30 and Thurs 31); and get hands-on by meeting the curators and handling some of the museum’s treasures.
Wedding Bells of Windsor Music Festival, Moat Garden Windsor Castle, Sat 26 May
Just over the border in Berks, the Wedding celebrations are gonna be eeked out until autumn, I reckon. A week after the I dos, Windsor Castle will celebrate royal wedding past and present with a music festival in the Moat Garden. Take part in special wedding-themed storytelling sessions, picnic beneath the Round Tower and listen to live music throughout the day. Perfect opportunity to catch up on some zzzz in the sunshine. royalcollection.org.uk
Royal Wedding and Windsor Castle, Legoland Windsor
Haven’t had enough of the Royal Wedding? Pass the prosecco we’re going in. Relive the whole things in Lego brick form. Legoland Windsor has pieced together Harry and Meghan’s big day with a 39,960 brick Windsor Castle, plus 1,500 more for the Ascot carriage, plus endless mini bricks to complete the senior Royals, horses and flag waving well wishers. Not your bag? Then Ninjago World and rollercoasters should hit the spot.
T Rex The Killer Question, Longleat Safari Park Wiltshire, now – 3 Sept
Longlat is positively prehistoric – and no we’re not referring to Lord Bath (aristocracy’s answer to Hugh Hefner). T Rex has arrived at the safari park all the way from the National History Museum to star in T Rex: the Killer Question – a prehistoric installation of epic proportions; 8 animatronic models and static scenes will take you on a journey of discovery. But was Big T more of a scavenger than predator? You decide. Longleat.co.uk
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. The V&A does the Science Museum, and might even spark a conversation with your teen that’s longer than a series of grunts. vam.ac.uk
Underbelly Festival, Southbank London, Fri 25 May – Sat 2 Jun
Underbelly Festival is back and it’s 10 years old! If you’ve never been, then make beeline for Southbank this summer. Brilliant for littlies, teens and grown ups, the line up is a superb mix of top comedy, cabaret, kids theatre and eye popping circus acts. There’s a real festival atmosphere with street food and crafty drinks. It’s an absolute must visit. underbellyfestival.com
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.