July 30, 2018
Now that the school holidays are here, parents up and down the country will be desperately thinking of ways to keep the kids entertained for six or more weeks.
Days out are a great option as they are a treat for all of the family, an opportunity to bond and even offer the chance to learn something new. But with so much choice in the UK, where do you start? Here are our suggestions on five traditional and five more unusual options…
Thrill-seekers of all ages will squeal with excitement as they try out some of the rides on offer in the UK’s theme parks this summer. If you live near Surrey, consider Thorpe Park as an option. In 2017, Derren Brown's Ghost Train was given a spooky upgrade and this year's main attraction is the immersive 'Zombie Hunt' experience, suitable for ages eight and up.
Or, if you are within a commutable distance from Staffordshire, Drayton Manor is worth considering. Thomas Land is sure to impress younger fans of the tank engine’s adventures while older members of your party will love the more thrilling rides such as Apocalypse, G Force and Shockwave.
Other good options include Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Chessington World of Adventure and Gulliver’s World.
For any theme park day out, make sure that you pre-book your tickets online in advance to benefit from significantly lower prices and keep an eye out for money-saving vouchers and offers on everything from entrance costs to food and drink while you’re there.
Don’t dismiss the UK’s museums as a boring option as there are so many exhibitions and events on over summer, you’ll be spoilt for choice. And, a big bonus of these educational days out is that so many cost absolutely nothing.
In Manchester Museum, for example, crafty children can make their own clay amulets, junk model creatures or sock pets in one of the museum’s many free drop-in sessions. And there are free family backpacks and object handling sessions on offer for the kids who are keen to explore the museum itself.
Elsewhere, the Museum of London has free school holiday workshops including a game session where kids can make their very own Top Trumps-style cards, and an engaging talk about the 1858 Great Stink, London's smelliest summer.
Other big-name museums offering free entry in our capital include The British Museum, the V&A and the Science Museum.
If you fancy the feeling of sand between your toes this summer, why not head to one of the UK’s many spectacular beaches – you never know, the sun might make another surprise appearance too.
In 2018, 65 UK beaches were awarded the coveted Blue Flag status meaning that they had excellent water quality, safety and environmental management. And, if you’ve never ventured to one of the country’s many beautiful sandy beaches in areas such as Devon, Dorest, Cornwall or Northumberland, you’ll be surprised by their beauty.
Or, if you and the kids are fans of traditional seaside fun, you’ll have a ball in a resort such as Blackpool, Brighton or Bournemouth. In Blackpool, for example, you can complement a trip to one of the exciting attractions such as Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Blackpool Tower or Madame Tussauds with free activities such as strolls down the pier, a giggle on the Comedy Carpet and even a family sandcastle building competition.
If you’re looking for a morning or afternoon activity, why not treat the kids to a trip to the cinema? With so many big releases – including ‘Incredibles 2’, ‘Hotel Transylvania 3’ and ‘Sherlock Gnomes’ – out this summer, your children may even have their own must-see wish list ready.
And, there’s no need to pay a small fortune to watch a film as both Odeon and Vue cinemas have special screenings for children at the weekend for a discounted price. Odeon offers weekend morning viewings from as little as £2.50 while Vue has kids’ films on for as little as £2.49. Don’t forget to take your own food and drink too to prevent paying over the odds for snacks there.
Or, for something a little different, make the most of the warmer weather and take the kids to an outdoor screening this summer. There are outdoor cinemas at Somerset House in London and Spinningfields in Manchester, for example, and look out for others in your area.
Whether you and your family are city dwellers and fancy an escape for the day, or just want to see more of the great British countryside, why not get out and about for a walk, a picnic or a potter around an interesting town or village this summer? There are beautiful pockets of countryside around the UK within easy driving distance of some of the country’s biggest cities such as the Peak District, Northumberland and the Cotswolds. And there are plenty of outdoor attractions that will fascinate all of the family including Giant’s Causeway and Loch Ness – will you spot Nessie?
Not only will some countryside air and a walk energise all of the family, but you can all spot wildlife together, admire rural attractions such as stately homes and learn something new about some of the countryside on your doorstep. And, if younger members of your group need some encouragement on the virtues of a day in the great outdoors, set up some activities along the way such as a treasure hunt or an I-Spy game to keep their interest. Or, plan a trip to an attraction as a treat at the end of your walk such as Alnwick Castle (the setting for Harry Potter) or The World of Beatrix Potter in the Lake District.
If you’ve exhausted all of the opportunities in your local area or are just looking for something a little different to do with the kids this summer, why not try one of the UK’s new and different attractions? For example, earlier this year, the fastest zip line in Europe opened in Bethesda, near Bangor. So if you and your family love adrenaline rushes and spectacular views, Zip World could be the attraction for you.
Find out more about the attraction and see our travel expert, Bob Atkinson, braving one of the wires, in our video below.
Or, if you live near Norfolk, you could pay a visit to Pensthorpe Wildlife and Gardens where a brand new activity area has just opened allowing kids to build sandcastles, splash through streams, build dens and even explore tunnels and burrows.
Whether all of the family have bikes in the garage gathering dust or you’re cycling fanatics, use your time together this summer as an opportunity to get out and about on two wheels.
If you’re not confident in planning cycle routes yourself or need some inspiration, there are a number of free arranged events taking place across the UK. For example, Sky Ride Local events travel along scenic routes led by a British Cycling ride leader. Take a look for an event in your area here. The rides are graded in terms of their difficulty, distance and who they are suitable for, so you’ll be able to filter through the results to find the best one for your group.
Or, if you’d rather stick to cycling in your group only but need a few pointers, the Sustrans website is a good resource as there’s everything on there from how to teach your child to ride a bike to where to cycle with children.
While many families will happily jet off overseas to explore a city, some haven’t looked around the ones that are just up the road. And, there’s so much going on in the UK’s cities this summer, you could couple a visit to an event or attraction with an hour or two exploring its attractions.
For example, if you live in the South West, why not head to Bristol and follow part of the Gromit Unleashed trail with the kids? On this, you’ll be able to spot 67 sculptures of the friendly animated dog around the city which have been decorated by artists such as Paula Bowles (the illustrator of ‘Time for Bed, Tiger’) and Wes Anderson (the director behind ‘Isle of Dogs), as well as a gian Lego Gromit at Cabot Circus.
Or, if you have dinosaur-mad children, you could treat all of the family to a trip to a live show in Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, ‘Dinosaur World Live’. Running from August 14 - September 9, the show will bring the dinosaur world to life and will even let the kids get up close and personal with the towering creatures after the performance.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a free dinosaur-themed attraction in London, head to Crystal Palace Park in south London where you can spot giant models of dinosaurs built by the Victorians.
If you and the kids love nights out at the theatre, take a look for outdoor performances near you this summer. You can all pack a picnic and enjoy some fantastic shows in unusual locations.
Family-friendly performances on offer include ‘Montersaurus’ on August 7-12 at London's Southbank centre, and a variety of outdoor productions such as ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and ‘Alice – An Extraordinary Adventure’ are being held in National Trust for Scotland properties throughout the country.
The summer is festival season in the UK, so plan a different day out with the kids and to take in what’s on offer whether you love music, the great outdoors or want to sample some local food and drink.
One family-friendly option is Bristol International Balloon Fiesta on August 9-12. During the free event, more than 150 hot air balloons take off from Ashton Court Estate plus there are plenty of other child-friendly options such as fairground rides, face painting and displays by the Red Arrows.
Or, if you’ll be in Cardiff this summer, take a look at what’s on in the city as part of the Cardiff Festival. For example, Cardiff Bay Beach has been built for the summer with a shallow play area, volleyball nets, live music and entertainment while the annual Cardiff Carnival takes place in the city on August 3-11. For more festival inspiration, read Clare Walsh’s blog post ‘This summer’s top events and festivals’.