Half term's nearly here (*smiles through gritted teeth*). Please the little people and save your sanity by checking out these 23 top family day trips.
There’s nothing lovelier than hanging out in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire (except, um Cap Ferrat, California and the Caribbean – but there, I’m being churlish). If you’re looking for half term happiness locally click right here. But for those who are venturing beyond the county boundaries, here are 23 family-friendly day trips. Have fun!
KENT: Children’s Book Festival, Dreamland, Margate, Sat 16 Feb
Dreamland hosts its first ever Children’s Book Festival this February half term. The action-packed line up includes a very special appearance from The Gruffalo, plus screenings of film adaptations of Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler classics by Magic Light Pictures, including Room On The Broom, Stick Man, The Highway Rat, The Gruffalo and their highly-anticipated latest release Zog! Tickets are £6 + booking fee in advance, or £22 + booking fee in advance for family tickets (up to 4 people).
WILTS: Longleat, Warminster, Sat 16 – Sun 24 Feb
New at Longleat for 2019 – you’re invited to enter the Astonishing Kingdom and discover the latest arrivals; giant animals from the waters of Central and South America that have taken up residence in the heart of Wiltshire. Growing up to 1.7 metres in length, Longleat’s giant otters propel themselves through the water with their powerful tails, making their distinctive loud calls. Then, take a walk into the neighbouring tropical, swamp-like habitat, and you’ll find vines growing all around and butterflies flitting through the air. But, look down at the water and you’ll see the new reptilian residents – 5 foot long Cuban crocodiles! Yikes.
BEDS: Vets in Action, Whipsnade Zoo, until Sun 24 Feb
Have a little animal lover on your hands? Youngsters can experience first-hand the life of a vet in the Animal Hospital at the UK’s largest zoo. Budding vets will learn how to examine, x-ray and perform treatments on different animals and practice on soft toys. Activities included in entrance price.
WARKS: The Science of Power, British Motor Museum, Sat 16 – Sun 24 Feb
Get ’em away from the telly and out learning something with the British Motor Museum’s half term activities looking a power and the science behind it, from jet powered cars to rockets. There’s a family trail to find the speediest auto, make your own car workshops (I’ll take a lambourghini please!) and science shows at 11am and 2.30pm daily.
HANTS: New Forest Activities, Baileys Hard, Beaulieu, Sat 16 – Sun 24 Feb
For your little Rambos and Rambettes – get the face paint on and dig in as the New Forest gets ready for battle. Ok, so maybe a little less gory and a little more laser-taggy, but dashing around the trees shooting the bad guys (their siblings) will be more fun than they can shake a stick at. Plus the grown-ups can have a go and get rid of some of that stress. New Forest Activities also offer winter paddling in canoes and on the River Beaulieu for something a little bit more relaxed.
CAMBS: Thomas the Tank Engine, Nene Valley Railway, Wansford Station, Sat 16, Sun 17, Sat 23, Sun 24 Feb
All aboard! Thomas returns to Wansford just in time for half term with games on the platform, goody bags, children’s tombola and storytelling. You can catch a ride on Thomas’ tracks at 10am, 11.45am and 14.00.
KENT: Living with Nature, Hever Castle, Sat 16 Feb – Sun 24 Feb
Get out this Half-Term and let your kids discover more about conservation and local wildlife as part of Hever Castle’s ‘Living with Nature’ event. One of the most beautiful castles in the south, this childhood home of Anne Boleyn offers a ‘Wildlife Detective’ walk led by the gardening team to investigate animal footprints and tracks. Kids can also take part in a wildlife workshop or a follow a trail around the Castle.
BERKS: Circus of Screams, Forbury Gardens Reading, Sat 16 Feb, Sat 23 Feb, Sat 2 Mar
Roll up and race round Reading for A Circus of Screams – a three-hour Murder Mystery where you must find hidden evidence and catch a circus killer against the clock! Brilliant for teens who are glued to a screen or mumbling boredom. Get them out of the house with a group of mates and test their powers of deduction on a treasure hunt/whodunnit against the clock. The whole town becomes the set for this real-life whodunnit. Crack clues using smartphones, converse with characters and find hidden evidence before the time runs out.
Get tickets here
HANTS: The Kitchen, Chewton Glen, Sat 23 Feb
Get them into the kitchen and learning some practical skills this half-term with the fantastic Adult and Me cookery classes from The Kitchen at Chewton Glen. A one-stop shop of how to make the perfect pizza with your brood, tickets cost £65 for each pair (kids need to be between 6-11 years). There’s also a range of teen classes and other activities on during the week.
GLOS: Go Ape, Mallards Pike Lake & Beechenhurst Lodge, Forest of Dean
There’s not one but two Go Apes, the treetop adventure playground for Tarzans and Janes, in the Forest of Dean, England’s largest oak woodland. The site at Mallards Pike Lake is home to the original Tree Top Adventure and Forest Segway, while three miles down the road, Beechenhurst Lodge is the place to go for a Tree Top Junior Adventure. The site was completely redesigned recently and now includes new obstacles including the Tank Trap, The Shuffle, Net Bridge and Itchen Crossing among the zip wires, Tarzan swings and rope ladders. And if you need a bit of rest after all that but still want to explore the leafy surroundings, you can hop on a forest Segway and go in search of wild boar, deer and birds of prey.
SURREY: Brooklands Museum, Weybridge, Surrey, Mon 18 – Fri 22 Feb
There’s plenty going at Brooklands Museum to keep even the most avid fan of planes, cars and busses happy. Take a trip in a vintage-style car up Test Hill and along the Members’ Banking old Race Track, or hop on a bus ride and tour the local area from the London Bus Museum at Brooklands. Step inside the Brooklands Aircraft Factory and Flight Shed and find out about 80 years of flying, testing and manufacture at the immersive exhibition space. Kids can also experience supersonic flight on special Kids’ Tours on the Concorde. For the youngsters, there will be free pedal planes to try, the chance to meet Bertie Bear the Brooklands mascot and the free drop-in workshop.
EXHIBITION: Peter Rabbit: Mischief and Mayhem, Rugby Art Gallery & Museum, now until April 27, Warks
This exhibition tells the story of the creation of Beatrix Potter’s most famous story character. It includes original, rarely exhibited artworks and manuscripts. Younger children will enjoy the activity play room where they can help Mrs Tiggy-Winkle hang up the laundry, plant carrots in Mr. McGregor’s garden, visit Mrs. Rabbit in her burrow or curl up with one of the books in the story corner. A Peter Rabbit themed spring activity family programme runs through to Easter with events including Mr McGregor’s welly hunt through the gallery and town centre in Feb half-term and The Wonderful World of Hedgehogs with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Senior Hedgehog Officer on April 5.
See here for the full spring programme.
BERKS: Ski & Snowboarding Camps, JNL Sports Complex Bracknell, Mon 18 – Fri 22 Feb
If you’re not heading off the Alps *sniff*, treat yourself to some hot wine and a cheese fondu – and pack your kids off to the dry slope in Bracknell for ski or snowboarding camps. Trust me all the cool kids are doing it, with our current top-flight tricksters at the Winter Olympics having honed their skills on the white carpet. JNL Sports is Bracknell is running camps over half term for skiers and boarders of all abilities. Lessons begin at 9.30am and finish at 4.30pm but if you need to work, you can drop the kids off early and pick them up as late as 6pm. How good is that! jnlbracknell.co.uk
WARKS: Warwick Castle
The live-action daily shows are back. Witness the Mighty Trebuchet, the Flight of the Eagles, the Bowman Show and the Castle Dungeon plus get lost in the Horrible Histories maze in this beautiful historic castle. There’s a lot to see and do in a day so you might want to splash out and stay the night in one of their luxury suites or in the wooden lodges of the Knights Village. Hmmm, stay in a suite with a four-poster built for royalty or a themed wooden lodge in the grounds? Sadly I know my kids will want to do the latter.
KENT: Faversham Literary Festival, Faversham, Thur 21 – 24 Feb
Jo Brand, Will Self, Lionel Shriver and Jenni Murray head a stellar line-up at Faversham’s second literary festival. More than 30 events to choose from, including fiction, nature writing, political debate, psychogeography, writings on the refugee crisis, history, cookery, poetry and more. Most ticket prices are £3 and £5, with a few special events priced slightly higher – check with Festival website for full details.
BERKS: Charge The Castle, Windsor Castle, Mon 17 – Fri 23 Feb
Chaaaaaarge! Windsor Castle its under siege and it’s up to your mini knights to fight them off pronto. Don’t worry they’ll have all the gear – armour and weapons- did someone say risk assessment? Charge The Castle is on every Saturday in Feb, and every day over half term.
Let’s Play Festival, Coal Drops Yard
Loads going on for kids over at Kings Cross’ new shopping district, only an hour or so on the train, but there’s also free parking especially for the festival. You’ll find drawing pop-ups, a cool installation of illuminated musical see saws and craft workshops in resident art-hub, STORE, including slime making, clay moulding and more. There’ll also be – deep breath- activity groups at the Crossing Space, baby bootcamp, family film screenings, bubble shows, street performers, story telling and puppet making. Wowsers.
Imagine Children’s Festival, Southbank
With over 12 days of activities (50% of them free), this festival offers the best children’s theatre, literature and music so worth popping into town for. Authors such as Jacqueline Wilson, Malorie Blackman and Chris Riddell are coming in to talk about their books, there’s a Peppa Pig concert to introduce little ones to orchestral music, there’s outdoor games, a giant blackboard and sound pit, a screening of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt with a live orchestra, hip-hop workshops and more, more, more.
The V&A Museum
As always there’s loads of cool stuff happening over at the V&A Museum and it’s going all out for half term with heaps of free, drop in activities including The Imagination Station with workshops based on the museum’s videogame exhibit, until Sun 24, pop-up performances running throughout the week, a family trail and more.
The Winter’s Tale for Young Audiences, National Theatre, Wed 6 – Thurs 21 Feb
This is a great way to introduce primary-age children to Shakespeare – it’s only an hour long! The Winter’s Tale, the story of Perdita, the girl who was once lost but is found, returns to the National Theatre in February 2019 following a sell-out run at the Dorfman Theatre last year. Adapted by Justin Audibert and directed by Ruth Mary Johnson, the show will also be accompanied by interactive family workshops on Mon 18 and Tues 19 Feb.
Matilda The Musical, Cambridge Theatre
Inspired by the twisted genius of Roald Dahl, Matilda revels in the anarchy of childhood, the power of imagination and the inspiring story of a girl who dares to change her destiny.
Life in the Baroque Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Sat 16 – Sun 24 Feb
Experience life in the Baroque Palace and meet characters from the past this February half term at Hampton Court. Perfect for all the family, visitors can enjoy live drama and hands-on activities exploring the stories of Queen Anne and her courtiers. Included in Hampton Court Palace admission.
London Puddle Jumping Championships, WWT London Wetland Centre, Sat 16 – Sun 24 Feb
Join the Wetland Centre for the London Puddle Jumping Championships this half-term where children of all ages are encouraged to grab their wellies and have fun jumping in puddles. Jumping is free with paid admission to the centre and free to WWT members.
Knight School, Tower of London, Sat 16 – Sun 24 Feb
This February half term, become a knight and defend the Tower of London. From manners, etiquette and entertainment, to martial skills and fitness, learn the essential components of a Knight’s arsenal. The training culminates in a knighting ceremony, where new recruits are enlisted to defend the Tower and keep the great landmark safe from marauding invaders.