Great family days out
No more wondering what you can do to amuse the kids – and have a good time yourself – we’ve scoured the length and breadth of the country to find some super days out. What’s more, some of these trips won’t cost you a penny!
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Price: Passes: adults, £27; kids, £22
Opens: 10.30am-5pm (or later), May-Oct
Good for: All ages from tots to teens
Has more than 125 rides, including the world’s only suspended looping rollercoaster entirely over water and the 71m drop of the Pepsi Max Big One. Plenty for little ones, too, with television characters visiting and kiddie rides, ice skating, shops galore and shows including the Spectacular Dancing Water Show.
Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Martin Mere Wetland Centre, Burscough, Lancashire
Price: Adults, £8.45; kids, £4.25
Opens: 9.30am-5.30pm, daily
Good for: Seeing birds close up
Visitors can explore a diverse mix of wetland, woodland and a wildlife reserve – home to endangered wildfowl, flocks of wild waders, grey herons, as well as frogs and dragonflies. Visit the beaver enclosure, hand-feed the birds in the waterfowl garden or attend a talk on otters and flamingoes.
Whitley Bay, near Cullercoats, Northumberland
Good for: A nice, relaxing, old-fashioned day at the seaside
Dating to Victorian times, Whitley Bay has retained its old-fashioned charm, but has plenty to keep 21st-century kids entertained – sandy beaches and traditional amusements, plus, for adults, buzzing bars and clubs.
Blue Reef Aquarium, Tynemouth, Tyne & Wear
Price: Adults, £8.30; kids, £5.95 OPENS 10am-5pm
Good for: Educational and watery fun
See seahorses, giant crabs, sharks and other ocean life.
Newcastle United Stadium Tours, St James’ Park, Newcastle
Price: Adults, £10; kids, £7 OPENS Call 0844 372 1892
Good for: Footie fans
See the changing rooms, dugouts, stand pitchside, and go up to the highest point of the stadium.
High Force Waterfall, Forest in Teesdale, County Durham
Price: Adults, £1.50; kids, free OPENS 10am-5pm
Good for: Letting nature amaze you
A twisting and turning woodland path leads to England’s highest uninterrupted waterfall.
National Space Centre, Leicester
Price: Adults, £13; kids, £11
Opens: 10am-4pm or 5pm daily, except Mondays
Good for: Space travel insight
Journey through six hands-on interactive galleries, taking in the world’s largest 360˚ full-dome planetarium and challenging yourself on one of more than 150 hands-on activities, including the zero-gravity chair, blasting off
on a simulator ride or taking a look at the rocket tower.
Sundown Adventureland, Retford, Nottinghamshire
Price: Adults and kids, £10
Opens: 10am-4pm, 5pm or 6pm, daily Mar-Dec
Good for: Fun for little ones
Aimed specifically at the under-10s, this theme park has lots of rides for little ones. You can meet outlaws on
the Robin Hood ride, travel on the mountain railroad, see the Wizard of Oz and drop into Crash Landings, a four-storey soft play area.
Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway
Price: Adults, £6.50; kids, £4.50
Opens: 10am-dusk, Feb-Nov
Good for: Learning about animals and conservation
With 150 animals from all around the world, you can wander in a natural woody setting of ‘large and imaginative enclosures’. Animals include otters, porcupines, red pandas and meerkats.
Codana’s Aberdeen Beach Amusement Park, Aberdeen
Price: Adults, £13.99; kids £11.99
Opens: Times and dates may vary, Apr-Oct
Good for: All-weather excitement
From the white-knuckle rides of the Looping Star rollercoaster to the kiddies’ Star Train, there is something for all ages. The big wheel offers great views of Aberdeen. Inside, you can enjoy 10-pin bowling, American pool, video games and adventure golf.
David Marshall Lodge Visitor Centre, Aberfoyle, Stirlingshire
Opens: 10am-5pm, May-Nov
Good for: Outdoor adventure
The starting point for exploring the stunning Queen Elizabeth Forest Park with its spectacular views across Ben Lomond. Join ranger-run activities, experience the Go Ape! high-wire course or just enjoy the many routed walks.
Eden Project, Cornwall
Price: Adults, £18; kids, £6.75
Opens: 6pm (last entry 4.30pm). Some late opening days in summer (check website)
Good for: Appreciating green issues
It’s made up of fantastic-looking biospheres, where you can find out what a rainforest is like, explore spectacular gardens or follow trails and enjoy play areas. The whole project gives a valuable insight into climate change.
Pontins Holiday Park, Camber Sands, East Sussex
Price: Adults, £10; kids, £5 inc. meal
Opens: 9am-midnight, usually daily
Good for: Fabulous entertainment
Pontins is a great place for a day visit. Plunge into the fabulous swimming zone or have a go at outdoor activities, such as abseiling, karting and climbing. In the evenings, join the talent contests or simply dance the night away.
Lundy Island, Devon
Good for: Getting away from it all
This tiny island off the coast of North Devon is lush with wildlife and plants. Peaceful and unspoilt, there are plenty of outdoor activities on offer, including country walking, birdwatching, photography and climbing.
Woburn Safari Park, Buckinghamshire
Price: Adults, £18.95; kids, £14.20
Opens: 10am-5pm (last entry), closing at 6pm, Mar-Oct
Good for: To see animals roam free
Take a road safari and see Asian elephants, tigers, monkeys, rhinos and giraffes. Then spend the rest of the day at the Wild World Leisure area for smaller animals, or at the Mammoth Play Ark for indoor fun. Visit the website to check animal feeding times, too!
Diggerland, Strood, Kent
Price: Adults and kids, £14.99
Opens: 10am-5pm, closed 29-30 June and 1, 4-8 July. See website
Good for: Driving machinery
Ride JCB diggers, dumper trucks, robots and go-karts. Children can take up mini-JCB challenges, or you can dig a hole on a giant dirt digger and take in the views from the
Sky Shuttle, 15m up in the air!
Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth
Price: Adults, £8; kids, £6.30
Opens: 10am-5.30pm (or later), daily
Good for: Great views
Scale the 170m tower in Portsmouth for stunning views of Portsmouth Harbour and the Isle of Wight. Dare to ‘walk on air’ on the vast glass floor!
Shepherd Meadows and Sandhurst Memorial Park, Berkshire
Good for: Flora and fauna
Shepherd Meadows has 100 acres of wet wildflower meadow and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Sandhurst Memorial Park offers sports, plus walking and nature trails.
Drayton Manor Theme Park, Tamworth, Staffordshire
Price: Adults, £32; kids, £25
Good for: An action-packed family outing Thomas-themed rides, plus scarier rides for older kids.
Sandwell Valley Country Park, West Bromwich
Good for: A taste of fresh air
Wander around woodland, lakes and a priory’s ruins.
Black Country Living Museum, Dudley, West Midlands
Price: Adults, £13.60; kids, £7.10
Good for: Learning about the area’s history
Rebuilt buildings give an insight into life in times past. Or, explore a coalmine or take a trip on a narrowboat.
This article was first published in at home’s ’Parenting with Jo Frost’ July 2011. [Read the digital edition here]