Half term's here (*smiles through gritted teeth*). Please the little people and save your sanity by checking out these 28 top family day trips.
There’s nothing lovelier than hanging out in Berkshire (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 28 family-friendly day trips. Have fun!
GLOS: National Diving and Activity Centre, Chepstow
Right, step up to the plate adrenalin junkies, because there’s a special half-term 50% off at the National Diving and Activity Centre (17 – 21 Feb) at Tidenham, Glos. Who’ll buckle first? You or the kids! (Show no fear we say). Fly like nature never intended on a knee-wobbling zip wire 700m above a flooded quarry or swing (with your eyes firmly closed while they scream with joy) on the giant 3G sky swing which launches its lucky riders 75m over the edge of a steep quarry. Activities are recommended for ages 12 and upwards. For younger ones, check in to the fabulously fun aqua adventure park here – for ages 8 upwards.
BUCKS: Paint Park, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, now – Sun 1 Mar
Who would have thought it was the year of ‘phygital’ painting (a combination of physical and digital, keep up!)? Alison Goodyear’s Paint Park exhibition at MK Gallery’s Project Space involves donning a VR headset, leaving you feeling like you just jumped into a painting à la Mary Poppins. A great one to take your kids to – just make sure you let them have a turn with the headset.
HANTS: Shipwreck Explorers: Royal Romance, The Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth, now – Sun 23 Feb
Henry VIII was known for his erm… love affairs and this half-term sees a very special Shipwreck Explorers all about Tudor lurvveeee. Find out about the love tokens they gave each other, how they celebrated V. Day and what was the best way to keep your head if you were married to the King (Clue… it involved having a son).
KENT: Dinosaur Forest, Port Lympne Wildlife Park
Come face to face with prehistoric life sized creatures in the UK’s largest dinosaur forest and make them come to life with Port Lympne’s virtual reality app! As you journey through three acres of natural woodland, you’ll discover amazing facts and information about the prehistoric world. Just download the App in the IOS App Store (best to do it before you go and it’s free) and bring the dinosaurs to life! The kids will love it. You’ll also find an interactive map, lots of exciting and useful facts about the animals as well as a handy spotter’s guide. aspinallfoundation.org
CAMBS: Twilight at the Museums, Wed 19 Feb
Grab your torches and get ready for a fascinating insight into our city’s most wonderful museums. On Wednesday 19 February, the University of Cambridge Museums’ annual Twilight at the Museums returns with 15 local haunts opening their doors after dark to families to wander the darkened galleries by torchlight. It’s a great way to get kids interested in the local culture and there are also free drop-in and bookable activities, outside entertainment and refreshments. The Museum of Zoology is my top pick!
OXON: Bleak House, Blackwell’s Oxford, now – Sat 7 Mar
Over in Oxford’s historic Blackwell’s bookshop, there’s Bleak House. Where better to watch a classic Charles Dickens mystery than surrounded by over three miles of bookshelves in Blackwell’s imposing Norrington Room? A typically inventive production by Creation Theatre – the live music and five actors playing multiple roles should be enough to transport you away to a world of intrigue – read the Muddy review here (1 Feb – 7 Mar, 12+).
BUCKS: Waddesdon Manor National Trust, Aylesbury
As always Waddesdon is on it for half term with one-day family cookery lessons where you and the kids can make lunch in the Manor Restaurant, as well as sweet and savoury treats to take home; plus there’s space-themed orienteering challenges around the grounds with three routes for different ages. The adventure playground and stables cafe and shops are also a big draw. Spend the whole day up here and knacker your kids out good and proper.
HANTS: Winchester Science Centre, now – Fri 21 Feb
The Science Centre can always be relied upon to keep the sproglets busy and secretly learning (we won’t tell, don’t worry) with their holiday activities. This half-term they are running their super popular Holiday Club with Bright Sparks. Suitable for ages 5-9, for a week’s tuition of £140, you can drop them off in the morning to expand their minds with sciencey activities, safe in the knowledge they won’t destroy your kitchen with their tinkering. What’s even better they also offer a breakfast and afternoon session if you need some wraparound care.
If you want to stick around the kids then check out their Simply Space live show throughout the week along with plenty of other out-of-this-world activities and screenings.
BERKS: Bonnets, Bustles and Top Hats, Windsor Castle, Sat 15 – Sun 23 Feb
Best bib and tucker for a visit to see the queen at Windsor Castle… Queen Victoria, that is. Let your kids run wild-ish and immerse themselves in the bonkers world of Victorian fashion, try on a costume and make a fashion accessory. Plus you’ll get to hear the inside scoop on Queen Victoria’s wedding, which took place 180 years ago this month.
BEDS: Vets in Action, Whipsnade Zoo
Got a budding vet on your hands? There’s a specially created animal hospital for Vets in Action at Whipsnade Zoo this Half Term where they can get hands-on experience carrying out treatments on soft toys, from checking chimps’ heartbeats to helping stranded seals from the real zookeepers. And it’s all included in your zoo entry price (suitable for ages 5-11).
BERKS: Wellington Country Park, Riseley
Whoop whoop! Wellington Country Park is one of the first family fun palaces to reopen in 2020. Set an alarm for Sat 15 Feb and go go go. It’s got it all – an awesome adventure play area with giant zip wire, dinosaurs, mini golf, animal farm, jumbo bouncy pillow, miniature railway and more more. Plus from 17 Feb they’re running Space Crafts as well. It’s a guaranteed hit for those with younger children. There’s also a superb cafe serving quality local produce –much it from Wellington Estate itself.
BERKS: Go Ape, Swinley Forest Bracknell
No matter what the weather, if you want to get outdoors, get some fresh air and have some fun head to Swinley Forest and tackle the Go Ape course. You’ll enjoy a fun-filled hour exploring the canopy, trailblazing and tackling obstacles – finishing on the zip wire. The Junior Adventure is aimed at 6-12-year-old Tarzans, but if your child is under 6 but over a metre tall they can still join in.
LONDON: Imagine Children’s Festival, Southbank Centre, London
While you’re in old London Town, head saaaaarf for the Imagine Children’s Festival at the Southbank Centre (12-23 Feb). Twelve days of jam-packed half-term fun in this brilliant annual kids festival. Aimed at 0-12-year-olds, there’s a mind-boggling array of activities and events, hang out with Michael Rosen, Dermot O’Leary, Cressida Cowell and Konnie Huq.
BEDS: Feb Fest, Luton
There’s a whole raft of arty fun for all ages happening throughout Luton’s Culture Trust venues – Feb Fest runs from 15-21 Feb and has a jam-packed with storytelling, shows, dance, and workshops, as well as a free creative space called The Imagination Station open throughout.
WARKS: Kenilworth Castle, until 23 Feb
Get set for a truly historic half term and discover what it was like to live, work and fight in a real-life castle. Whether it’s learning to sword fight or transforming into a little lord or lady, there’s plenty of hands-on fun to keep the kids entertained. And once the little adventurers have put their skills to the test, let imaginations run wild as you explore Kenilworth’s mighty castle walls, 11am – 4pm. English Heritage/KenilworthCastle
SUFFOLK: Ring Quest Challenge, West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village, Bury St Edmunds
Get them away from the TV and enjoying some more wholesome takes on their favourite film with The Lord of the Rings-themed family challenge at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village and Country Park this half term. There’s a Ring Quest to be completed – find the rings and runes to save Middle Earth. If you’re arachnophobic, look away now because there are also the huge spiders of Mirkwood and a dragon guarding its treasure to see.
SOMERSET: Cheddar Gorge & Caves, Cheddar
Put on overalls, wellies and hard hat with torch and descend into the depths of the iconic, prehistoric Cheddar Gorge & Caves. Start in Gough’s Cave (where they found Cheddar Man), then explore the Mushroom Chamber, Sand Chamber, the Bottomless Pit (eek) and out through the Letterbox, all in about 90 mins.
KENT: Wildwood, Canterbury
Looking for the perfect family day? Come and see Wildwood’s wolf pack in their huge woodland enclosure, watch their rescued bears play fighting in the pool and marvel at the acrobatic red squirrels leaping from tree to tree in the new red squirrel walkthrough. Grab a bite to eat at the cafe or bring a picnic as the kids run wild in the adventure play park with climbing walls, rope bridges, slides and scary drop slide. They’ve also got a range of FREE events happening this Half Term for Prehistoric Week, discover which dinosaurs once roamed across Kent on their free Dino Trail, find them on the posters around the park and collect their names for a chance to win Wildwood vouchers. Hold real fossils millions of years old and even learn how to hunt a mammoth. There’s also daily hourly talks given by the expert team at Wildwood, 11am – 3pm. Full for their full timetable of events: kent.wildwoodtrust.org
SURREY: Half Term at Hampton Court, now – Sun 23 Feb
Queen Elizabeth I is in residence at Hampton Court Palace and is on the hunt for trainee spymasters to solve clues, uncover evidence and stop potential treasonous plots! Little ones will have the chance to become a spy, meeting some of the suspects in her court along the way, whilst deciphering mysterious codes and listening in on secret conversations. It will then be time to report back to the Queen on the discoveries about her wayward courtiers! Visitors can also pay a visit to The Lost Dress of Elizabeth I display, which showcases what is believed to be the only surviving item from her wardrobe. hrp.org.uk
KENT: Hever Castle, Nr Edenbridge
Get back in touch with the great outdoors this February half term at Hever Castle! Watch the free falconry displays, play in their playgrounds, follow the nature trail in the grounds or create a ladybug or bumblebee in a free craft workshop. The castle will be looking more beautiful than usual with the arrival of their snowdrops! Around 80,000 snowdrop bulbs have been planted in the Garden over the years so it’ll be a beautiful sight to see this February. hevercastle.co.uk
NORTHANTS: Deene Park, nr Corby
Deene Park near Corby is open on 16th and 23rd Feb for visitors to enjoy the pretty banks of snowdrops that are abundant during half term, perfect for letting the little horr… err, darlings run free and tire themselves out. You can take the family pooch here too, as long as they’re on a lead.
HANTS: Marwell Zoo, Marwell Zoo, nr Winchester
Marwell is always a good day out, with a chance to see tigers, flamingos and other exotic animals. And for the whole of 2020 you can get the kids on the hunt with their Explorer’s Trail. For a suggested donation of £1 you can get the kids actually paying attention to the exhibits and hunting down the clues before receiving the most coveted of prizes, a sticker (kids love a sticker!!) from the cafe at the end. marwell.org.uk
NORTHANTS: The Silverstone Experience, Silverstone
Fancy some fun as a family? Here’s one for the speed freaks, The Silverstone Experience has a fab kids’ trail, interactive cinema and a journey through the past, present and future of motor racing. Zoom!
SUSSEX: South Downs Dark Skies festival, various locations, now – Sun 23 Feb
Wrap up warm and get out for this annual celebration of the South Downs being designated a dark sky site. There are several guided stargazing events and tie-in activities, many of them free or low cost at locations in West Sussex, East Sussex and Hampshire.
SURREY: Bateman’s, Burwash
The ex-gaff of The Jungle Book creator Rudyard Kipling, this 17th century house has loads of thing to do – 50 to be precise – within it’s walls and grounds. You can download the 50 Things To Do at Bateman’s this winter guide here, which includes playing Pooh Sticks, den building, bird watching and, erm, making friends with a bug (I think I’ll pass on that one).
WARKS: Fresh Air February Weekend, Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park, Sat 22–Sun 23 Feb
Wrap up warm, pack a picnic and head to Compton Verney for two special open weekends. There will be family-friendly, outdoor activities at the Forest School and playground and plenty to explore throughout the park, with an opportunity to try a new history trail. Look out for snowdrops and maybe some daffodils, 10.30am – 3pm. **New for 2020** dogs will be permitted to join their owners on a visit. Access will be restricted to certain areas to protect the art gallery and the local ecology, and there will be a code of conduct for owners to follow. February Half Term is the perfect opportunity for dog owners to be among the first to test out pooch-friendly paths and walking routes. Admission: £5, Under 5s free. Forest School: £3 per child.
WARKS: Explore the Future of Transport, British Motor Museum, now – Sat 1 Mar
Themed around the exhibition ‘The Car. The Future. Me.’ holiday activities will allow children to investigate what the cars of their future might look like through science shows, STEM activity, family trails, and tours. FUTURE science shows run at 11am and 2.30pm from Mon Feb 17 to Sun 23 February when Professor Pickle and Doctor Pumpkin will explore different sources of power and bring them to life with a bang! Every day children can make their own car of the future using recycled materials, then light it up with LEDs. Every day at 1.30pm visitors can join the Family ‘FUTURE’ Tour with either Professor Pickle or Dr. Pumpkin. Then excitingly on Thur Feb 20 – for one day only – the STEM ambassadors from MOD Kineton will be offering visitors the chance to code the futuristic Rover Robots (Sphero RVR’s) to successfully negotiate their specially designed assault course. Very James Bond!
LONDON: Wonderlab, Science Museum
Heading to the Big Smoke? There’s the brilliant Science Museum‘s ongoing cool interactive gallery – Wonderlab, with over 50 exhibitions including hands-on, live experiments at the Chemistry Bar and daily shows. The Space and AI tech exhibitions are also worth seeing. sciencemuseum.org.uk