The Daily Telegraph - Travel
Go now, before they grow up!
Use the half-term break for a family-friendly day out that provides welcome entertainment – and sparks curiosity. Joanne O’Connor picks 20 of her favourites
If your children think they’ve seen it all, they’re wrong. From spacewalks to adventure trails, performances to experiments, there are plenty of exciting attractions out there. Here is my pick of the 20 things you should experience with your children before they grow up.
The Natural HistoryMuseum
Why go: This is the grandfather of all London museums, from the beauty of the building to the mind-boggling exhibits. If time is limited, make a beeline for the dinosaur gallery, with its animatronic T-Rex, and the Earth Hall, with its earthquake simulator. Go this year to see Dippy, the diplodocus skeleton. Best for: Children aged five and over.
Details: General admission is free, but there is a charge for some exhibitions (nhm.ac.uk).
Why go: Set in some 50 acres of woodland on the outskirts of Wroxham, this is the perfect antidote to the commercialism of many theme parks. There are no rides – just outdoor fun to be had climbing trees, crossing rope bridges, building dens and hiding out in treehouses, plus craft activities and seasonal events. Behind scenes at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, above; outdoor fun at Bewilderwood, below Best for: Toddlers to early teens. Younger children will love the storytelling sessions, while older children tackle the Sky Maze.
Details: Prices are based on height: under 92cm free; 92cm-105cm £13.50; over 105cm £15.50 (bewilderwood.co.uk).
Why go: Some 80million Lego bricks have gone into the creation of this colourful park; 500,000 will be added this year in the form of a Lego model of the Death Star. Yes, the queues can be lengthy (unless you pay extra for the queue-jumping Qbot device) but the 150 acres of Windsor parkland, imaginative rides and entertaining live shows make up for it. Best for: Under-10 are well catered for in Duplo Valley’s rides and water-play park, as are pre-schoolers.
Details: £50.40 adults; £46.20 children; under-3s free; there is a 25 per cent discount for booking online in advance (legoland.co.uk).
Why go: It may be a little frayed around the edges, but for traditional seaside fun, Blackpool still has it in buckets and spades. When you’ve finished exploring the Golden Mile, with its sandy beach, donkey rides and amusement arcades, the white-knuckle thrills of Blackpool Pleasure Beach – and its sister park for younger children, Nickelodeon Land – await. Rainy days are catered for at the Sandcastle, the UK’s largest indoor waterpark. Best for: Everyone.
Details: The Blackpool Resort Pass gives entry to the town’s top attractions at a reduced rate. From £55 for a pass giving entry to six attractions (blackpoolresortpass.com; visitblackpool.com).
Why go: This beautiful valley along the River Severn was once home to factories, furnaces and workshops, whose story is told in 10 museums. Costumed actors bring life to cottages, shops and places of work. At the nearby Enginuity centre, learn about locomotives and robots, while the Coalport China and Jackfield Tile museums run craft workshops. Best for: School-age children will get the most out of the hands-on exhibits.
Details: The Annual Passport Ticket allows unlimited admission to all 10 museums for one year: £25 adults, £15 children, £68 family (ironbridge.org.uk).
Museum of Science and Industry
Why go: Displays are themed around transport, power, textiles, communications and computing, which sounds dry, but the hands-on gadgets and demonstrations keep things lively. In the Experiment! interactive gallery, children can create a tornado, see their own skeleton and test their reactions against the speed of light. The museum is on the site of the world’s first railway station, Manchester Liverpool Road, and at weekends you can ride a steam train. Best for: Pre-schoolers to teens – parents, too. Admission is free, with charges for special events (msimanchester.org.uk).
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Why go: The excellent guides vividly evoke life on board ships, including HMS Victory, of Lord Nelson and Battle of Trafalgar fame. You can also climb on board Britain’s only remaining Second World War-era submarine. The interactive Action Stations has the UK’s tallest indoor climbing tower, a Laser Quest game, rope course and various simulators, offering children space to burn off steam. New for this year is Boathouse 4, with hands-on children’s activities and a Mast and Rigging climbing experience. Best for: Children aged five and over.
Details: An All Attraction Ticket: £33 adults; £23 children; from £64.50 family ticket, 20 per cent discount for booking online. All tickets give unlimited entry for one year (historicdockyard.co.uk).