What’s on locally this summer for kids?
Need fresh ideas to occupy the kids this summer? We’ve got it covered for Suffolk and Cambs, from outside cinema screenings to farmyard escapades
School’s nearly out for summer, but how to fill those long eight weeks? Don’t panic we’ve got your back, with plenty of ideas to help keep your calendar full, your kids entertained and you sane. Choose from action-packed adventure courses to contemporary art shows and outside theatre experiences that you’ll enjoy as much as they will.
Best for aquatic adventures
If your kids are spirited (ok, exhausting and hyperactive), the Multi-activity Discovery Clubs at Grafham Water Centre are a winner. Ideal for older kids (8-16) who want the chance to try lots of new stuff, including sailing, canoeing and windsurfing plus some land-based options too, like archery and climbing. They runs throughout August, you can choose from one to five-day sessions and a bonus ‘healthy’ packed lunch is included in the price.
Feel like your family missed out on the lockdown paddleboard craze? Well this could be the summer they finally learn to SUP (or kayak/sail) at Alton Watersports (pictured) where we’re very much into the idea of sitting in the sunshine watching them master a new skill while someone else shouts instructions. Book them in for anything from an hour’s tuition to a full-day session.
Jumping around the inflatable obstacle course at Cambridge Aqua Park at Hannam’s Wake Hub is a 50-minute blast from start to finish. Kids from six upwards can have a go (if they can swim up to 25 metres) and you might just be tempted to squeeze on a wetsuit and lifejacket yourself (both are provided free of charge).
For little ones keen to make a splash there’s Lammas Land Pool where shallow paddling pools, water play areas and splash pads are free to use and make a noisy-yet-cooling place to hang out with your tot on a hot summer’s day. It’s set to reopen on July 19 and there’s a big playground next-door with a kiosk selling drinks and snacks too. Day out sorted.
Best for animal encounters
Future David Attenborough’s will thank you for a trip to Africa Alive! Zoo and Conservation Centre in Kessingland, where there’s the chance to get close (but not too close, don’t worry) to lions, rhinos, zebra, chimps and lemurs spread out over more than 100 acres. Endangered wild animals aside, we also love the Discovery Zone, safari train and soft play area as backup entertainment if the weather turns bad.
A great day out for under 10s, Easton Farm Park in Woodbridge has mini kids’ tractors to ride, a giant bouncing pillow and animal encounters galore, from cuddling bunnies to feeding sheep. There’s a cafe to get a caffeine fix and pick up children’s picnic boxes and if you want to make a weekend of it, book one of the on-site holiday cottages or camping spots.
Jimmy’s Farm continues to expand. If you haven’t been for a while it’s well worth visiting this summer to see the new invertebrate enclosure in the tropical house, home to sun beetles and African train millipedes – larger than we’re comfortable with but a big hit with the kids. Also a hit are the new freshly made pizzas in the rustic woodland pub. When you’re done dining and looking at giant anteaters, African pygmy goats and meerkats, pick up some local treats from the reopened farm shop on your way out.
Best for young explorers
Getting lost in the puzzling pathways of 12-acre Skylark Maize Maze then finding your way back out again is a surprisingly satisfying way to while away an afternoon of the summer holidays. Running from 22 July-31 Aug, the enormous maze is cut annually – this year it’s a Minecraft theme but past designs have included Buzz and Woody from Toy Story and 2020’s touching ‘Thanks NHS’, which look a-maizing (sorry not sorry) in aerial photos. When you’re not trying to find your way out of a field of corn, there’s also a wooden castle with mega slides, den building, pedal go-karts, a bale mountain and a zip wire to tire the kids out.
News flash: Cambridge University’s Botanic Garden’s history has mysteriously disappeared from its trail map. The challenge? To uncover hidden stories dotted around the gardens to help restore its missing history, which spans 175 years fact fans. With stepping stones, exotic plants and clues along the way, we can think of worse ways to while away a summer’s afternoon. Runs July 10-Sept 5.
Best for rainy days
Ideas to keep on the back burner for those days in the holidays when the sun don’t shine but you know that staying in the house all day together could send you over the edge.
Educational, interesting and dry (surely every parents’ dream), The Moon: Meet Our Nearest Neighbour exhibition at Ipswich Art Gallery kicks off on 31 July and runs until 10 October. It’s free and highlights include a giant inflatable luna orb and the chance to see rock from the moon’s surface.
Or, head to Cambridge’s Museum of Zoology for the new Breaking Point exhibition, from July, where clay art work inspired by environmental change is dotted amongst the always fascinating elephant, Komodo dragon and whale skeletons, taxidermy and specimens in jars.
Best for teens
Romeo & Juliet The Greatest Love Story of all Time (26-27 July) plays out the all too familiar scenario of teenagers disobeying their elders and moping around in lovelorn angst. A modern twist on Shakespeare’s classic star-crossed lovers, expect music, comedy and heartbreak in the magical setting of Thorington Theatre, an outside, natural amphitheatre in Suffolk woodland. Check out the box office for plenty of other must-see shows, including The Great Gatsby and Stand-up Under the Stars with Sara Pascoe (18 July).
Teens can also watch a range of films al fresco courtesy of cool The Star & Mouse Picture Show at Burwash Manor, where pre-film entertainment includes giant jenga, live music and fire pits to sit around before sinking into a striped deckchair and watching classics like Pretty Woman (24 July) and Midnight in Paris (25 July). See the full summer schedule here.
Budding artists might want to catch Moments: An Exhibition of Modern Art at Moyses Hall (runs until 30 September), for the chance to see works by Banksy, Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst up close.
Best for all ages
Europe’s largest air museum IWM Duxford Summer Air Show is holding its annual air show this summer (24-25 July) and we’re here for it. There’s some genuinely impressive stuff on – it’s not just a load of old aeroplanes droning by – even teens might be impressed by dare devil wingwalkers, tank demos, flight line experiences and parachute displays in the skies above. It’s fast-paced, noisy and you might think you’re doing this for the children, but you’ll be grinning like a kid yourself when the Red Arrows fly by in formation.
Whether you have a pre-school or a teen, or someone inbetween, help keep boredom at bay with a five-day Kings Camp, which offers programmes crammed with sports and games. Split into age-appropriate groups from 5-17 years, courses throughout August cover everything from football to water fights on Wet Wednesdays, all taking place in the tranquil surroundings of The Perse School in Cambridge. Your children will arrive home exhausted but happy, guaranteed.