17 fantastic family day trips
We've scoured the best things to do this summer in Cambridgeshire's surrounding counties, plus a little cheeky jaunt or two into London.
HERITAGE DAYS OUT
Audley End House, Essex
This pretty mansion house is running a series of ‘Bringing Audley End to Life’ events across various dates in the summer. It’s the perfect way to convince kids that history isn’t all boring, as they get to meet the servants, taste Victorian treats in the kitchen and help the stable-hand to groom the horses.
Hampton Court Palace, Richmond
There’s always loads to see and do at this beautiful immaculately kept palace but if you go along Sat 25 – 27 August, you can also scoff and quaff to your heart’s content at the Hampton Court Palace Food Festival. Enjoy live cookery demos from top chefs, including Michel Roux Jr, hands on masterclasses, fantastic food and drink, live music, family fun and more.
Knebworth House, Herts
Always a pleasure. There’s so much to do at Knebworth House and people come from far and wide to be thrilled by the dinosaurs. There’s one lurking in the trees on the road between Codicote and Hitchin and it startles me every time. A great day out.
Ickworth House, Suffolk
This National Trust property and park is made for a day out with little ones. This summer they’re running a ’50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4′. Kids pick up a booklet from the Porter’s Lodge and then the fun begins. There’s a great play ground and picnic area too, plus the very kid-friendly Orangery restaurant and the trim trail to burn off a bit of energy.
Zip Now London, Southbank London, now – Sun 9 Sept
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope it’s a human torpedo whizzing down a 738ft wire, 100ft above Archbishop’s Park at 50mph. Beats the tube anyway of the week. What we’ll do to avoid our faces been wedged in someone’s sweaty armpit. Get yourself down to South Bank, climb to the top the tower and wheeeeeeee. It’s not cheap – adults pay £22.50 and children get to ride it for £16.50. Suitable from 8+, book online.
Rushden Lakes, Northants
For those of you who thought Rushden Lakes was just about the fabulous shops and eateries, think again! Set in the heart of the beautiful Nene Valley, Rushden Lakes is a haven for wildlife lovers – with over 200 acres of natural wetlands to explore by foot, bike or, thanks to Canoe2, by boat. Spend the day in the fresh air, then pop to the shops for some retail therapy and a large glass of reviving grape juice and a bite to eat.
Holkham Hall Estate, Norfolk
Holkham Hall is an absolute must on your ‘to do’ list this summer. You can easily spend a day exploring the estate and that’s before you hit the beach! There’s the Field to Fork Experience with its very cool tractor simulator, cycle hire, nature trails around the park and a brilliant Children’s Woodland Adventure Play Area. If you’re brave enough you can let them loose on the lake in a boat, too. It’s also worth checking out their programme of events as they have some great outdoor theatre performances kicking off on 25 July with The Railway Children.
Wicksteed Park, Kettering, Northants
You might need more than just a day to enjoy everything this amusement park has to offer: archery, slides, carousels, rollercoasters, a boating lake, crazy golf, meerkats… you get the idea. There’s something for all ages too, so everyone will be happy.
Willows Activity Farm, St Albans, Hertfordshire
If you’ve got little ones who are addicted to Peter Rabbit (talking from experience here!) then this activity farm is heaven on earth. All the characters from the hit TV show are there in giant form, and little ones can explore everything from Mr Tod’s lair to Squirrel Nutkin’s treehouse. Even older kids, who are way too cool for Peter Rabbit, will love the runaway tractor rides, the bouncy castles, petting zoo and fun assault courses.
The Making of Harry Potter, Watford, Herts, until Sun 23 Sept
This WB Studio Tour company never runs out of new reasons to get families back to this paean to the boy wizard. A new special feature dedicated entirely to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth instalment of the magical film series, revealing secrets behind the characters, costumes and props that made it so special.
Bewilderwood, Hoveton, Norfolk
Home to Swampy and his friends – Mildrid the Crocklebog, Thornyclod the Shoe Loving Spider and Hazel the Wood Witch – Bewilderwood is a seriously creative adventure park. This summer there will be daily silly parades where you’ll get to meet creatures who you may never see anywhere else in world! Perfect for toddlers to teens (mums and dads – you can jump on the zip wires and slides too), there’s plenty of fun and frolics to keep the family amused!
Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Richmond, throughout summer
Throughout the summer, there’s plenty of fun stuff for the kids like the giant badger set and treetop walk plus indoor play centre in case of rain. You may want to tie your visit in with The Great Georgian Wedding Weekend, a family-friendly weekend of festivities outside Queen Charlotte’s Cottage complete with garden games and costumed characters on Sat 28 – 29 July.
Jurassic Discovery at RHS Gardens, Wisley, Surrey
Plenty of activities at RHS Gardens Wisley during the summer holidays and many with a dinosaur theme. Kids can paint a giant mural of jurassic plants and dinosaurs and there will be dinosaur story telling sessions from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. There’s sow and grow workshops, craft activities, and music plus the Wishworks Puppet theatre. Grab a map and explore the gardens on the Jurassic Trail.
Festival of Wild Life, Panshanger Park, Herts, Sat 28 – Sun 29 July
ART & MUSEUMS
Life in the Dark, Natural History Museum, London, now until Jan 2019
Touch and smell the animals as you immerse yourself in a sensory journey into worlds where animals survive and thrive without light. How do they do it? You will find out! Feel your way through a cave full of fluttery bats and watch a deep sea light show. FREE for under-16s!
The Future Starts Here, V&A London, now – Sun 4 Nov
With phone obsessed kidults in mind, the V&A’s new The Future Starts Here exhibition is a brilliant day out with older kids. The V&A’s Sainsbury Gallery has been turned into an interactive playground of techy gadgets, detailed dioramas and video installations – there’s even a sandpit to run your RSI-riddled fingers through, an emotion-reading mirror, a self-rocking crib and a robotic cuddly seal designed to keep dementia-sufferers company. Basically, it’s the V&A does the Science Museum, and might even spark a conversation with your teen that’s longer than a series of grunts.
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, Piccadilly, London, until 19 Aug
Take your kids to the RA Summer Exhbition. With Grayson Perry’s curation, this year is the best ever. Paintings and sculptures by new artists sit cheek by jowl with work by Royal Academicians and Harry Hill. A great family outing.