Our rundown of the best family day trips in the UK features farms, festivals, wild watery adventures and even a spot of digger driving. Here's the most exciting places to take your children in the UK.
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1. Getting wet and wild on the Pembrokeshire coast
There are family day trips that involve being a spectator or sitting down for a ride. And then there are family day trips with Preseli Venture in Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire. The enthusiastic team at this outdoor adventure specialist have cooked up one of the best family day trips in the UK that is all about getting active, getting wet and getting fully immersed in the natural environment.
Pick two out of three activities - coasteering, sea kayaking and surfing - then don wet suits and take the plunge to explore the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast. What makes the whole day sheer joy is that the instructors take on the responsibility of the tuition, kit and safety, leaving families with the freedom to focus on having fun together.
All trips set out from Preseli Venture's impressive Eco Lodge, and if there are any family members who don't fancy the adrenaline hit - or haven't yet reached the minimum age of ten - there's plenty to do nearby. Stroll to the beach at Aber Mawr, drive out to Strumble Head lighthouse, cycle country lanes or visit dinky St David's, Britain's smallest city.
Get ready to explore Britain on this unique tailor-made Great British Road Trip. Choose the car of your liking before you hit the road: from the Cotswolds and its picturesque villages over the Beatle's favourite hang-out in Liverpool to Scotland's capital Edinburgh.
2. Having a Eureka! moment in Halifax
As you approach Eureka!, the only purpose-built children's discovery centre in the UK, the echoes of The Wizard of Oz are unmistakable. You follow the yellow brick road and leave behind Kansas-monochrome Halifax for the vivid colours of Oz. Once inside, it's all primary colours. The kids are primary, too - Eureka! is designed specifically for children up to the age of 11.
As you enter, to the right Archimedes waits to be dunked in his bath. Our Global Garden provides an early highlight, ranging across six world environments, from the jungle to the arctic. At either end, toddlers' sections encourage under-5s to roam and explore.
In Living & Working Together, a role-play area teaches older kids how to get to grips with grown-up life. In the bank (Halifax of course) they can take cash out of an ATM, sit on a chair made of a million pounds (not, alas, real notes) and dodge the alarms in the bank vaults.
A hundred other hands-on activities crowd the M&S shop, a post office, and a garage. Everything - phone box, lift, front door - is used to elucidate and explain and educate.
3. Falling into Oblivion at Alton Towers Theme Park
Imagine yourself as an astronaut during the launch: facing upwards, strapped into a fire-breathing space shuttle, with 3Gs of force squeezing down on every fibre of your body. You'd probably be terrified. Reverse this situation so you're facing downwards, and then pile on another 1.5Gs of force, and you're some way to describing how it feels to ride Oblivion, the world's first vertical roller coaster, at Alton Towers.
Admittedly, the ride can't compete with a space shuttle's 17,500mph top speed. But you don't need any training to enjoy it. All you have to do is join the queue and begin preparing yourself for a 150ft drop into a steaming black hole. Eyes open or eyes closed, that drop feels incredible. For the first second or two of carefree euphoria, you'll surge straight down towards the earth.
Then you'll tunnel below the surface on a terrifyingly gloomy section of track, before emerging into the daylight for a 190-degree banked turn that makes your skin rumble with delight. Right then, even without a space shuttle, you'll feel like a hero.
4. Making a date for panto in Glasgow
With spectacular colourful costumes, beautiful princesses, valiant heroes, raucous sing-alongs, slapstick and communal shouting, pantomime is undoubtedly fabulous no-holds-barred entertainment for kids. Even the smallest and shyest shed their inhibitions to boo the baddies, applaud the goodies, and laugh heartily as custard pies shoot back and forth across the stage.
The fast-talking Dame - invariably a man despite the name - rules over this particular brand of chaos, with the most outrageous outfits and by far the best and funniest lines.
There are no better fast-talkers than Glaswegians, which makes the city a great venue for panto fun at Christmas. For the traditional panto experience, head to the King's Theatre. Here classics such as Snow White, Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk will introduce the nippers to both frolicsome entertainment and fairy-tale archetypes.
Meanwhile, the much-loved Citizens Theatre, the second oldest working theatre in the UK and a venue with a strong reputation for innovation and diversity, has refined its panto tradition into what they prefer to term a Christmas Show.
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5. Wallowing around Jimmy's Farm, Ipswich
Who would've thought it possible! A derelict farm revived, hundreds of pigs raised, a range of food products, numerous TV shows, a book, a butterfly house and a restaurant, all within seven years. The amount of work that has gone into Jimmy Doherty's farm in Ipswich since he bought it in 2003 is staggering, and still, he builds and expands and adds.
Once you've arrived, checked out the farm shop and herb garden and had a snack in the Field Kitchen, head through into the heart of the farm via the "Nature Trail", where the fun really begins. Well-thought-through fun. With pigs.
Over 400 wallow and stamp in knee-deep mud - their pens stretch into the distance and each of the rare-breed beauties has a good-sized plot to themselves. From the lookout point, kids can watch Essex pigs, Gloucestershire Old Spots and Saddlebacks. If it's the right time of year, plenty of piglets run and jump and fight and squeal.
There's more: Guinea pigs live in grand Lilliputian style in their village of brightly painted houses. Pygmy goats and Jacob sheep are reliably curious about anyone who wanders close to their pens. Ferrets peep out of hollowed-out logs, and on the chicken safari, rare-breed poultry frantically tries to avoid the advances of curious toddlers.
6. Surviving mud and mayhem at Shambala Festival
Pitch your tent, pull on some wellies, don a pair of fluorescent tights, a set of wings and some facial hair, and you're all set for four days of unabashed wackiness at Britain's most family-friendly festival.
Set in a secret location and with a line-up of undisclosed musical acts, Shambala remains small in scale and free of corporate sponsorship. This event is srongly ecologically sound and retains an inclusive ethos that embraces both families and serious partiers.
The organizers of Shambala excel at pleasing everyone, with adult stuff that pleases kids - radical circus performances, thumping dance music, site-specific art. But also kids' stuff that pleases adults - hula hooping, crazy golf, even advanced tree climbing.
Still, most families with kids under 8 find themselves hanging out in the children's area, where they can get busy with messy play at Artful Splodgers. Or, baking and straw flower-making at Biddie's Bingo Hall, and enjoy the clownish antics of the performers in the Big Top.
7. Feeling the magic at Harry Potter Studio Tour
Kids and Harry Potter fans will love The Making of Harry Potter tour in the Warner Bros studios in Leavesden. Impressively, they’ve managed to keep it interesting for everyone else, too. The self-guided tour takes you around the studios where much of the footage for the eight Harry Potter movies was shot, and every space is crammed with paraphernalia from filming.
You can geek out over individual characters’ wands and original costumes. Or you can marvel at the films’ creature technology – like the animatronic spiders – and the hand-drawn, hyper-detailed architectural plans.
Allow a few hours to get the most out of the tour and avoid rushing at the end – they save the best for last. If you can, time your visit to coincide with one of the seasonal events. These include Dark Arts at the end of October, and Hogwarts in the Snow, when the sets are decked out with fake snow and Christmas trees.
8. Losing yourself in Bewilderwood, Norfolk
Welcome to Bewilderwood, a homespun fantasy world that is one of Britain's most unusual attractions for children. Based on a series of books by local author Tom Blofeld, it's the reedy, watery environment of the Broads brought to life for kids. Both a land of make-believe based on the characters in the books and an overgrown adventure playground full of rope bridges and ladders, zip wires and rickety tree houses.
You get around by way of marshland walkways and forest paths, and a boat takes you around a tiny broad where Mildred the lisping vegetarian crocklebog blows water at you.
Its mixture of spooky fantasy and adventure has something for kids of all ages, from toddlers to daredevil teenagers.
9. Driving your own JCB at Diggerland, Devon
Isn't driving a JCB every boy's dream? Well, it's not just boys of all ages clamouring to get behind the wheel of construction machinery at Diggerland Devon: the girls and even grannies and grandpas are flocking for a piece of the action.
The series of muddy fields that make up Diggerland may not be a beauty hotspot. But to any kid for whom messing about in tractors, dumping some dirt and excavating terrain is just about a perfect day out, it is a simple and brilliant invention.
There are JCBs, tractors, dumper trucks, giant diggers, dirt diggers and more to get behind the wheel of. But even then the fun is far from over. Get high in the flying bucket of the Spindizzy, hop on the Dig-a-Round and take in a bird's-eye view from the vertiginous Sky Shuttle. Young drivers can legally joyride as they navigate a 4WD police car around a bumpy course, while pre-teens can drive battery-powered Land Rovers.
10. Exploring pools of bright water on Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire
Whether you're hiking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path or simply dipping into southwest Wales for the day, you'll have seen plenty of fine national park scenery by the time you arrive at Marloes Sands. Even so, this glorious sweep of silver-beige sand will take your breath away.
So generous to an extent that you'll scarcely believe your luck, Marloes Sands is a beach for kids to cartwheel, hopscotch and run until their hearts pound as loudly as the waves. Utterly unspoilt, it's also perfect for swimming on warm, sunny days.
Peering into a rock pool feels rather like gazing at an underwater miniature garden, bright with fronds of seaweed. The deeper pools, replenished by each tide, are always busy with creatures that need to stay submerged to survive. Look carefully enough and you may see tiny shrimps and gobies, shore crabs, sea spiders and insect-like sea slaters.
Equipped with a net, a bucket, a magnifying glass and an identification chart, kids can count up the species, scoring points as they go. If they're competitive, they'll want to check the periwinkle shells, just in case there's a hermit crab tucked inside - definitely worth a bonus score.
11. Discovering Tallulah, Tudors and tractors at Tatton Park
With one Mr G. Osborne as its MP and a resident population of the bejewelled and perma-tanned, Tatton, in leafy Cheshire, is among the UK's wealthiest constituencies. At its heart sits Tatton Park, a vast estate that's one of the best family day trips in the northwest.
The herds of deer roaming the 1000-acre park will make children's heads swivel on the drive through the gates. The mansion and formal gardens are glorious, but the big attractions for kids are the well-designed Adventure Playground, with over thirty rides, and the Home Farm.
Here children can stroke, feed, groom and cuddle an assortment of goats, hens, ducks, pigs, horses and donkeys and visit a period cottage and working pottery. Stars of the show are Tallulah the massive Tamworth pig, Blossom the Clydesdale and Rosie the Red Poll, each with adorable offspring.
Any child with even a vague interest in animals will love it, and if they've fallen for a particular creature they can revisit/stalk it online, thanks to the farm's webcams, or even adopt one of the Big Three.
12. Learning about animals at Chester Zoo
Chester’s most popular attraction is Chester Zoo, one of the best in Europe. It is also the second largest in Britain (after London’s), with over eleven thousand animals spread over a hundred landscaped acres.
The zoo is well known for its conservation projects and has had notable success with its Asiatic lions and giant Komodo dragons. Animals are grouped by region in large paddocks viewed from a maze of pathways, from the monorail or the waterbus.
Kids will particularly be amazed by the main attractions including the baby animals, the Tropical Realm and the Chimpanzee Forest, which has the biggest climbing frame in the country.
13. Going back in time at Warwick Castle
A family day trip to the small town of Warwick is a fascinating experience for kids and adults alike. Towering above the River Avon at the foot of the town centre, Warwick Castle is often proclaimed the “greatest medieval castle in Britain”. This claim is valid enough if bulk equals greatness, but actually, much of the existing structure is the result of extensive nineteenth-century tinkering.
Today, the entrance to the castle is through the old stable block at the foot of Castle St. Beyond, a footpath leads around to the imposing moated and mounded East Gate. Over the footbridge – and beyond the protective towers – is the main courtyard.
You can stroll along the ramparts and climb the towers, but most visitors head straight for one or other of the special, very touristy displays installed inside the castle’s many chambers and towers.
The grounds are perhaps more enjoyable, offering acres of woodland and lawn inhabited by peacocks and including a large glass conservatory. A footbridge leads over the River Avon to River Island, the site of jousting tournaments and another such medieval hoopla.
14. Getting creative at Legoland Windsor - one of the best family day trips
Legoland is a fantastic family day trip destination and one of the most popular theme parks in the UK. The park offers a wide variety of rides and attractions suitable for all ages.
Here you'll find something for everyone in the family, from gently-going rides for small children to thrilling roller coasters and water rides for teens and adults. Some of the most famous rides are the Dragon Rollercoaster, Viking River Splash, Flight of the Sky Lion and NINJAGO The Ride.
One of the main attractions at Legoland is Miniland, where guests can explore famous sights completely recreated from LEGO bricks. From miniature versions of iconic buildings to scenes from famous films such as Star Wars and Marvel Universe movies, Miniland offers an amazing experience for children and adults alike.
In addition to the rides, the park also hosts entertaining live shows such as 4D film screenings, puppet shows and interactive performances. During these shows, children will have a delightful experience watching their favourite LEGO characters come to life.
15. Wandering around Kew Gardens
Established in 1759, Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens manage the extremely difficult task of being both a world leader in botanic research and an extraordinarily beautiful and popular public park. There’s always something to see, whatever the season. However, to get the most out of the place comes sometime between spring and autumn, bring your kids on a picnic and stay for the day.
Of all the glasshouses, by far the most celebrated is the Palm House, a curvaceous mound of glass and wrought iron, designed by Decimus Burton in the 1840s. Its drippingly humid atmosphere nurtures most of the known palm species.
Elsewhere in the gardens, you’ll find the Treetop Walkway, which lifts you 60ft off the ground, and gives you a novel view of the tree canopy, a 163ft-high Pagoda, an art gallery, and various follies and semi-wild areas.
The newest addition is the Hive, a 17m-high honeycomb structure that takes you inside the world of honeybees using 900 LED lights and the sound of 40,000 bees.
For more inspiring ideas for your future family trips in the UK also read our guide to great alternative UK city breaks. Find more family-centred inspiration in our feature on magical places to visit with children before they grow up.
If you prefer to plan and book your trip to the UK without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.
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