The dreaded phrase: ‘I’m boooooooored’ has struck fear into the hearts of many parents. What to do to entertain the dearest darlings when they’re on holiday and at the weekend?
Don’t fear to hear that phrase any longer. We’ve helpfully compiled a ‘what to do on a family day out’ guide hand-picking the best the UK has to offer.
We’ve also included a price list, because in these difficult times, recession, credit crunch, blah, blah, blah …No wait, it’s always good to save money and keep an eye on the pennies as costs soon add up when you’re trying to keep the whole family entertained.
Alton Towers, Staffordshire
Alton Towers was voted ‘Best UK Theme Park’ in 2011 and boasts rides such as Nemesis, which reaches G forces bigger than a space shuttle, Rita, which catapults you from 0 to 100 kmph in 2.5 seconds and mother’s favourite Air (“it feels like I’m flying!” etc.) With the water park Splash Landings also on site there something to do even when you tire of thrill seeking. And, if thrill seeking was never your thing to begin with don’t despair, stay at the Alton Towers Hotel or the Splash Landings hotel with a choice of many themed restaurants to dine in, or book yourself into the Alton Towers Spa for a relaxing pampering sesh.
Book online to get cheaper prices: Adult, £27, Child, £21.60, Family, £24.30 (Theme park only)
Chessington World of Adventures, Surrey
Chessington is great for small children with its Zoo and child-friendly rides. The Safari Skyway is a highlight of this site; an elevated monorail travels around the Zoo allowing visitors to see the animals from above. The park is split into two halves, the Trails of the Kings and Creature Features. The Trails of the Kings is a walkthrough attraction home to gorillas, tigers, lions and binturong (Asian Bearcat). The Creature Features area hosts smaller animals such as capybaras, rhea, mara, wallabies, meerkats and agouti. There is also a sea lion area and a reptile house as well as a children’s zoo where children can feed domestic farm animals.
Bonus! If it rains on the day you visit, you can visit again for free!
(Online, more than 7 days in advance) Adult, £25.20, Child, £18
Thorpe Park, Surrey
At Thorpe Park you can scream yourself silly on rides such as Colossus, an Intamin multi-looping roller-coaster with a record breaking 10 inversions, Saw, the ride based on the film franchise with the steepest free-fall drop in the world, and Logger’s Leap the tallest log flume in the UK. The newest ride Swarm is the tallest and fastest winged (where nothing is above or below the rider) roller coaster in Europe and there are over 25 rides to keep you entertained throughout your visitl.
(Online, 14 days in advance) Adult, £25.92, Child, £20.16, Family (2 adults, 2 children) £82.80
Legoland is home to millions of small plastic bricks, which create, among other landmarks, the Millennium Bridge, Canary Wharf and Tower Bridge. At this 150 acre park you can go on Lego-themed rides and watch adventure films. Highlights include the Kingdom of the Pharaohs and Laser Riders, a ride through an ancient tomb. Calling all Star Wars fans, don’t miss the Star Wars Miniland Adventure where you can take a trip to a galaxy far, far away.
(Online, more than 7 days in advance) Adult, £33.30, Child, £26.55
Oakwood Theme Park, Pembrokeshire
Entrance fee includes entry to rides such as Megafobia, Bobsleigh and The Bounce (reaching speeds of 70mph), a ride which supposedly turns the rider into a “human bullet”. Look out for Matt the Magic Man who performs his magic tricks and circus skills daily (except Mondays and Tuesdays in peak season) and take a break from the rides with a game of mini golf.
13+ years, £21, 3-12 years, £15, Family of 4, £66, Family of 5, £79.50
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire
When you think of Blackpool Pleasure Beach you’ll no doubt conjure up an image of the vast rollercoaster that takes centre stage, the Pepsi Max Big One, one of the tallest rollercoaster in Europe. In this 2 acre site family fun takes priority, you can join Alice in her Wonderland or jump on the Flying Machines for the ultimate flying experience. Plus there are 12 rides in the UK’s only Nickelodeon Land just waiting for you to hop on board them.
12 years and over, £25, 11 years and under, £20, family of four, £86
The Flambards Experience, Cornwall
This glorified funfair boasts themed family rides, such as Space Race and The Shuttle, together with more challenging rides such as the Hornet roller-coaster and Extreme Force in the Big Ride Zone. Mark’s Ark allows you to get close to pythons and lizards, and there are hands-on science and shows throughout the site. It’s educational too, with exhibitions on including Britain in the Blitz and Victorian Village.
Adult, £21.95, Child, £13.95,
Family, (2 people=£16.95) then you add on single tickets, adult, £16.50, child, £12.50
Zoos and aquariums
Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire
Head to Woburn to spot white rhinos, lions, tigers, buffaloes and giraffes. There is a daily feeding times of bears, river hogs, sea lions and lemurs. Adjacent is Woburn Abbey, with deer park and gardens. Explore the park by Road Safari where you can go round as many times as you like, and by the Foot Safari where you can mingle with the animals.
Adult, £19.99, Child, £14.99, (online, more than 7 days in advance) Family of 4, £63.99, Family of 5, £78.99
Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire
This safari park was the first ground breaking safari to open in Britain. It was the home of BBC’s hugely popular Animal Park series. You can hop on board a Safari Boat for a sea lion-escorted cruise, have fun getting lost in the Longleat Hedge Maze, and visit Jungle Kingdom where you can get up close to the animals. You can even visit Longleat House, one of the most stunning stately homes in Britain, set in 100 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscape. Children get their own ‘historic’ castle to explore in the Adventure Castle a kid’s adventure playground. If you’re a big fan of apes then Gorilla Colony, a lakeside retreat where you can view the gorillas from the boat in a habitat of waterfalls and trees, will be right up your street. The Lemur Walkthrough and giraffe feeding at the brand new Safari Watering Hole in the African Village are not to be missed.
(Online) Adult, £25.07, Child, £17.85
Paignton Zoo, Devon
The zoo covers an 80-acre area containing a crocodile swamp and six habitats, including savannah, forest and wetland, plus botanic gardens. See giraffes, lions, gorillas, cheetahs and crocodiles, plus cheeky meerkats, snakes and monkeys all in their natural habitats. There are also indoor play areas and the Jungle Express train which makes for an entertaining day out in the South West.
Adult, £14.45, Child, £10.20, Family (2 adults, 2 children), £45.40
National Marine Aquarium, Devon
At the aquarium you can explore life in estuaries, shallow seas and a deep reef. Aquatic creatures on show include sharks, sea horses, turtles and colourful exotic fish. The Atlantic Reef is the focus of the aquarium where you can see bass, whiting and pollack through huge picture windows. There is a jam packed daily programme of events which include talks on sharks, a rockpool ramble and various dive shows.
Adult, £11.75, Child, £7.75, 4 years and younger FREE, Family (2 adults and 2 children), £33
Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Gloucestershire
Children can get soaking wet in this centre, where they’re encouraged to build dams, jump in puddles and generally have a great time in the water. You can do some pond dipping in Pond Zone, go on a land rover safari, see a toad demonstration in Toad Hall and jump on board a canoe safari. Get up close to see young ducks and goslings and see the UK’s largest flock of flamingos in Flamingo Lagoon.
Adult, £10.95, Child, £5.95, Family, (2 adults, 2 children) £30.70 (all with gift aid)
Anglesey Sea Zoo, Isle of Anglesey
Highlights of this sea zoo include the Shark Pool, Big Fish Forest and Shipwreck which uses huge tanks stocked with marine life found in the waters around the local coastline. Also on site is Octojump bouncy castle, adventure playground and radio-controlled boats.
Adult, £7.50, Child, £6.50, Family, (2 adults, 2 children) £26, (2 adults, 3 children) £31
Family friendly Castles, Gardens, and Stately Homes
Warwick Castle, Warwickshire
Children and adults alike will love the guided tour of the scary Dungeons, which have housed prisoners over the centuries. Other tourist highlights include the newly added Dragon Tower ‘Merlin Experience’ as well as the Princess tower. There are regularly falconry displays in the castle grounds and you can even get hands-on and try archery for yourself. Make like a medieval guard and climb the ramparts, and look for potential invaders amongst the fabulous examples of the castle’s architectural defence features. Warwick Castle ticks all the boxes of what you’d expect to see at a medieval castle: murder holes, two drawbridges, machicolated stone-work and portcullises.
(If you book seven days in advance online)
Adult, £18.36, Child, £15.48, Family of 4, £64.44, Family of 5, £79.20
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
At Chatsworth there is a bounty of countryside pleasures to indulge in: the house, the garden, an adventure playground, and farmyard are just waiting for your family to explore. The 105 acre garden has giant water features, sculptures, beautiful flowers and magnificent views of the park to revel and relax in. You can meet the animals at the farm and see how the farm is run. Children can enjoy the adventure playground, including the new climbing forest and there are lots of activities for children throughout the year so you can leave them and have the freedom to explore the house and gardens by yourself if you so wish.
On the day: Adult, £18, Child, £12, complete family ticket (2+3) for house, garden, farmyard and playground, £50.00 (If you book in advance online 10% off this price)
Bodnant Garden, Conwy
There are eighty acres of terraces, informal lawns, river valley and wild gardens with plants from all over the world to discover in Bodnant Gardens. You can pick up family trails with puzzles, activity sheets and questions from reception. Also available are three themed Tracker Backpacks (you choose between Artist, Bugs & Plants or Fairy) to keep the little ones quiet. The garden-related Activity Sheets including Brambly Hedge, Beatrix Potter, Wind in the Willows, Stonework and Statuary, Mad about Trees, and Flower Fairies, are family friendly winners, plus a new adventure playground has just opened this year.
Adult, £8.95, Child, £4.48, (including gift aid)
Crathes Castle and Gardens, Aberdeenshire
This atmospheric 16th-century castle is set in superb gardens with fountain and rose gardens, yew hedges and colourful borders. There is an adventure playground, six family trails, children’s quizzes, and picnic areas which make it ideal for a family day out. It is also, one of the best places in Scotland to look for bats. Nearby Go Ape Centre is very popular with children.
Culzean Castle and Country Park, Ayrshire
This 18th-century castle on a rocky promontory by the Firth of Clyde, with Robert Adam interiors and castle armoury is a picturesque grand castle. There are marked paths through the woodland and deer park. They have two Children’s Weeks in the summer, with a programme of crafts, mini-beast safaris, conservation challenges and games.
Ironbridge at Shropshire
The World Heritage Site of Ironbridge, near Telford, has a total of ten Ironbridge Gorge museums. You might think that’s a bit much but this is where the Industrial revolution started! The museums are placed either side of the River Severn and tell the story from the Industrial Revolution in the early 1700's to the Victorian era 100 years later. The museums are located both inside and outside around this gorge. The tenth and most recent museum to open in this World Heritage Site is Enginuity, an interactive museum allowing visitors to experience life as an apprentice engineer. At this hands-on museum you can also investigate how everyday things work like buggies, cranes and bridges. They only do annual passes, which is great because you can visit again if you didn’t have chance to go round all ten museums.
Adult, £23.25, Child, £15.25, Family (2 adults and all your children) £64, Family (1 adult and all your children) £47.50
Jorvik Viking Centre, North Yorkshire
The remains of 1,000 year old houses are on show beneath your feet, objects taken from the excavations are explored and Viking-age timbers are on display. New audio and video displays help you to investigate all of the information gathered from the 5-year long dig at Coppergate and piece together everything about the Vikings. Entertaining spectacles include current exhibition Valhalla which discovers how the Vikings commemorated their dead, and in the centre you can see a reconstruction of a Viking-Age street as it would have looked 1000 years ago, four exciting exhibitions and you get the opportunity to come face to face with a Viking.
YAT pass gives you access to all the Jorvik sites in York for a whole year: Adult, £16.00, Child, £11.25, Family of four, £46.50, Family of five, £51.00
Eden Camp, North Yorkshire
Originally a Forties prisoner-of-war camp, over 30 huts now display wartime reconstructions, including the Blitz, officers’ mess rooms, prisoners’ canteen, U-boats and torpedoes. Around the camp there’s a collection of tanks, weapons and planes. Plus, the kids will love the two assault courses.
Adults, £6, Children £5
Bekonskot Model Village, Buckinghamshire
Bekonscot is the oldest original model village and has over 80 years of history, a huge model railway, and a well-kept 1.5 acre garden. The buildings of the model village show what life used to be like in the 1930s. A playground, remote control boats and a Thomas the Tank Engine simulator ride will keep the children happy.
Adult, £9, Child, £5.50, Family (2 adults, 2 children), £26
National Railway Museum, North Yorkshire
On display at this museum are a Japanese bullet train, a huge Chinese locomotive, Queen Victoria’s railway carriage and what was once the fastest steam train in the world, the Mallard. The site also has a model railway, outdoor play are, train-ride simulator, and fairground rides (carousel, helter-skelter) cost £1.50 per go.
Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, West Sussex
About 50 historic buildings, including barns, a Victorian school, timber-framed farmhouse, market hall and water mill, all rescued from demolition makeup this reconstructed village on a grassy site. Authentically dressed staff add further atmosphere by demonstrating traditional crafts.
Adult, £10, Child, £5.40, Family (2 adults, 3 children), £28
Eden Project, Cornwall
The Eden Project is made up of vast walk-through ‘biomes’, one with a rainforest ecosystem that is the largest indoor rainforest in captivity, the other with Mediterranean trees and plants. Plus the education centre The Core gets the children doing hands on activities and learning about being green!
(Online open ticket) Adult, £21.15, Child, £8.55 (cheaper if you take public transport)
Discovery Point, Dundee
At the Discovery Point you can follow the story of the RRS Discovery and Scott’s voyage to Antarctica in 1901 on a tour of the ship with the help of audio-visual shows, interactive exhibitions and original artefacts. On the main deck of this three-masted sailing ship, you can get a taste of the voyages undertaken by the crew and the horrible conditions they lived and worked in.
Adult, £8.25, Child, £5, Family (two adults, two children), £22
Big Pit Mining Museum, Torfaen
Guided tours of the mine start with a 300ft descent by pit cage down the mine shaft, equipped with helmets and cap lamps; or you can opt to take a new multimedia virtual tour of a modern coal mine. The original winding engine house, blacksmith’s forge and fan house are open to visitors and there are exhibitions in the Pithead Baths. Plus with free entry, what’s not to like?
The Great Outdoors
Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
There are two main museums in this area which are great for families. The Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery explores the story of Rome’s north west frontier and the Roman occupation of the north of Britain. The Living Wall exhibition shows what it’s like to live in a divided country and the multimedia and interactive displays are great for families. Art the Roman Army Museum you can get an insight into the life of a Roman soldier and experience life on the front line of Emperor Hadrian’s formidable British frontier. Though perhaps the greatest, and the cheapest, way to see the wall is by walking and cycling around Hadrian’s Wall Country.
Tullie House Musem and Art Gallery, Adults, £5.20, Child, 50p, under 5s free
Roman Army Museum, Adult, £4.20, Child, £2.50, Family, £11.50.
Brighton Palace Pier, East Sussex
This tradtional19th-century pier offers adrenalin-fuelled rides such as Wild River Flume, The Crazy Mouse and Super Booster (where four passengers at a time are dropped 125 feet in three seconds, over the sea). But there are also, children’s rides, traditional rides, side stalls and the Palace of Fun and The Dome amusement arcades. The entry is free and you pay with tokens for individual rides.
Wookey Hole Caves, Somerset
This child orientated attraction has a converted 19th century paper mill which houses Victorian attractions such as the Victorian Penny Arcade, Magical Mirror Maze, Crazy Mirrors, Cave Museum, Pirate Zap Zone and Soft Play Areas. You can expect a visit from the witch of Wookey Hole who makes an appearance in the Magic Circus Show. Designed for families with younger children to explore there are themed areas such as Dinosaur Valley, Monster Mill and Fairy Garden. You can also join a 35-minute tour of the prehistoric caves.
(Online) Adult, £13.60, Child, £9.35
So no longer struggle to entertain the children and indeed yourselves. Explore castles, zoos, theme parks and the great outdoors, the UK has so much to offer you and your family.