The secret to Calm and Confident Parenting. An official Gina Ford website

Family Days Out
by Dawn Fozard

There are hundreds of themed adventure parks across the UK, and some are more suitable for young children than others.  My suggestion would be to check up on the park you are planning on visiting beforehand. For example, if the park offers rides, check the age restrictions. We once took our boys to a "family friendly" theme park only to find they were too young to be allowed on anything at all, which led to tears and disappointment.
It is worth remembering that, just because a destination isn't finely focused on the needs of children, it doesn't mean they won't enjoy it. Wildlife parks, zoos, steam railways, bird sanctuaries, castles or National Trust houses can sometimes be just as much fun as places targeted specifically at children. Young children love the chance to run around a big garden, see unusual animals or explore different buildings.
Choosing somewhere with a variety of activities on offer can be a big advantage. If you break the day up, it can save everyone getting grumpy and overtired when it's time to go home. A good run around when you arrive makes sense, followed by sitting down together for lunch. A train or boat ride at the end of the day is a great idea when everyone's energy levels are running low. And on the subject of the end of the day - quit while you're ahead! It can be tempting to eke every moment out of the day, but you can avoid tears and tantrums by leaving while everyone's still good tempered and can be tempted back into the car with a snack to enjoy on the way home.

Planning Ahead

Once you've chosen your day out, work out the journey times so you can plan the best times to eat and travel. A little planning will help your day go more smoothly and will mean you are less likely to be put on the spot if it turns out that the cafe is full or closed. Let go of the routine for the day and relax. As long as everyone eats something regularly and doesn't get overtired you should have no problem re-establishing the routine the next day.
If you have a long drive in the morning, make sure everyone enjoys a big breakfast before heading off. If the children can be outside in the garden (and not in front of the television) while you pack the car, then they will be less fidgety once you set off. Try not to let potty-trained children drink too much or you'll be stopping every half hour! A CD or tape with children's songs or a story on can make the journey more fun as well. Older children can play I-Spy and you can all chat about where you are going. Preparing them for what they might see can help make the most of your day out.
Check the weather forecast and, if it looks unsettled, pop wellies and cagoules in the boot of the car. If it promises to stay dry, you might decide to take a picnic instead of eating at the place you are going. The advantages of a picnic are that you can choose what to take and children tend to prefer sitting on a rug on the grass to squashing round a table in a crowded cafe. On the other hand, you deserve a day off from cooking and might decide to take your chances with the facilities on offer. Whatever your decision, try to avoid too many sugary snacks. Children can get overtired once the sugar rush subsides, and it can make them cranky at going-home time.


Once you become a parent, the days of leaving the house with just your keys and purse become a memory. Along with your usual 'mummy bag', containing nappies and food, use the checklist below to help your day go more smoothly:
  • Sunscreen and hats for hot weather.
  • Small tube of cream for insect bites or stings.
  • Simple first aid kit containing plasters, antiseptic wipes and Calpol.
  • Spare clothes in case of any accidents (include pants for the newly potty trained).
  • Wet weather gear if rain is likely.
  • Special toy and blanket for the car - make sure this stays in the car when you get to your destination! You can cuddle the bear or toy up in the blanket and explain that teddy is looking after the car until it's time to go home.
  • Plenty of water for when you get there. Dehydration can happen very quickly in hot sun.
  • Pushchair if there's a lot of walking involved and you think a little one might need a catnap later in the day.

Members' Recommendations

The following suggestions have been made by members and are arranged by county. 

Before setting out do check websites for opening hours and for details of what's on and what's available as there are often changes or additions to attractions which may not be reflected in our brief summaries.

We hope that you will enjoy some days out with your children over the summer and would love to hear any further suggestions. But wherever you choose to go, the main thing is to have fun!



Zoos and Safari Parks
Woburn Safari Park
Woburn Park
MK17 9QN

Enjoy a family day out at Woburn Safari Park.  Attractions include the Elephant Encounter, Sea Lion displays and Birds of Prey Flying Demonstrations.  Lots of play activities for the kids with five exciting and safe play environments, such as the Tree Tops Action Trail, a safari train and, especially for under-fives, a badger theme playground. 


Warwick Road
Buckinghamshire HP9 2PL

This is the oldest model village in the world. A glimpse of rural life in the 1930's can be seen as you wander through the six villages laid out complete with residents going about their daily business. A gauge 1 miniature railway runs past the castles, houses and thatched cottages bringing the whole place to life. A recent addition is a miniature Tramway.


Zoos and Safari Parks
Nr Sawtry
Cambridgeshire PE28 5RE

This small zoo opened as a conservation sanctuary in 1990. Set in 15 acres of parkland it specializes in rare, endangered and unusual animals, including some you may never even have heard of. The specially designed enclosures have windows at child height allowing for close viewing.
There is direct supervised contact with hand reared baby owls, Giant Millipedes or Land Snails. Keeper-talk sessions are held regularly.
There are play areas for babies and toddlers and for older children.



St Aubyns Bay
Channel Islands JE1

For 300 years Jersey has been defended by this large fortress which is built on an islet in St Aubyns Bay. Inside are exhibitions and demonstrations of the island's military past from the Civil War to the German occupation.
You may access the castle at low tide by walking over the causeway. At other times a ferry service runs.


Zoos and Safari Parks
Chester Zoo

A visit to Chester Zoo is an excellent family day out.   There are 500 different species of animals and lots of activities to keep children amused and entertained.  There is an adventure play area and baby-changing facilities.



The Eden Project
St Austell
PL24 2SG

The Eden Project near St Austell is a must for anyone visiting the county and can be a great alternative to the beach on a wet day. It is a unique natural park containing two extraordinary biomes with different climates. Kids love running around the gardens, which contain regularly changing displays, and you'll find fun and educational information at child-level. You can see pineapple plants, banana trees and oranges growing in groves. A recent addition is a play area made from canes and bamboo.

Trenance Park
Cornwall TR7 2LZ

Set in exotic landscape gardens, this zoo is home to many of the world's endangered species such as the shy red panda.
The zoo's tropical house creates the environment of a steamy rainforest. Birds, reptiles and mini beasts, whose natural habitat this is, can be seen.
There are feeding time and meet the keeper talks most days and events run throughout the season.


The Old Mill
Sherbourne Street
Bourton on the Water
Cheltenham GL54 2BY

Although mainly devoted to motoring exhibits, including Britain's largest collection of historic motoring signs, the toy collection is worth a visit. Here can be seen teddy bears, aeroplanes and rare pedal cars. This museum also house Brum, the little yellow car featured in the TV series which was filmed here. There are no refreshment facilities in the museum, but there are lots of restaurants close by.

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Children's farm and wildlife parks

Bassenthwaite lake
Cumbria CA12 4RD

A wildlife park which is home to plenty of familiar animals as well as birds of prey, reptiles and endangered species.  Much of the attraction is undercover so a visit can take place whatever the weather.


Theme Parks
The Milky Way Adventure Park
EX39 5RY

A visit to The Milky Way Adventure Theme Park in North Devon is a great day out for all the family.  Rain or shine, you will find plenty to keep everyone amused.  For under-fives, there is a Fantasy Farm and Toddler Town, with fun and activities to keep this age group happy for hours!  There is a Pets Corner, where children can make friends with rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and chipmunks, plus lambs and goats, which they can help to feed.  

Devon EX34 9SL
Plenty of rides and other amusements for all ages can be enjoyed such as Tube slides, River Ride, swingboats, aeroplane rides, Sealion Water, Merry go Land and Musical Water Show. Set in attractive gardens with maze and picnic area.


Zoos and Safari Parks

Monkey World
BH20 6HH

The Award winning Monkey World Sanctuary is set in 65 acres of the Dorset countryside.  It is home to over 150 primates, including Chimpanzees,Orangutans, Woolly Monkeys, Siamang Gibbons and Lemurs. Originally set up as a sanctuary for abused Spanish Chimpanzees, today the Centre looks after rescued chimps from many countries and works closely with governments from around the world to try and stop the illegal smuggling of apes. As well as the primates, there is an adventure play area, a pets' zoo, boats and an indoor play area. 

Sealife Centres
Lodmoor Country Park
Dorset DT4 7SX
One of the many Sea Life centres to be found across Europe, this houses some of the strangest forms of marine life such as the prehistoric horseshoe crab and puffer fish which will expand to double their size when threatened.
Sea Life centres are among the world's leading experts on Sea horses.


9, College Court
Gloucestershire GL1 2NJ

This is the actual house depicted in Beatrix Potter's illustrations for "The Tailor of Gloucester". Displays and models within the house bring the story to life again. It now also contains a shop which sells Beatrix Potter merchandise.  Beatrix Potter wrote her story based on a local folk tale about a tailor called John Pritchard who was commissioned to make a fine suit of clothes for the Mayor of Gloucester but was unable to finish as he had "no more twist". Mysteriously, the suit of clothes was finished by someone unknown.

Gloucestershire GL54 5JD

The castle has had many royal connections in the past, the best known as the home of Katherine Parr who is buried in the church within the grounds. As the castle is still lived in it is only open by prior arrangement.
The 14 acres of grounds which surround it are a mixture of formal gardens such as the Queens Garden with its double row of yew hedges and the Tudor Knot garden alongside the modern and ambitious planting laid out around the Tithe Barn Ruins. Plenty of events are held throughout the summer.

Zoos and Safari Parks
Bristol Zoo Gardens
Clifton, Bristol BS8 3HA
Bristol Zoo is an amazing place.  The fifth oldest zoo in the world, it is home to more than 400 different species.  In addition to visiting the animals, there are numerous activities and play areas.


Milford-on- Sea

This castle is perched on the end of Hurst Point, one mile into the sea and so commanding an all round view of the Solent, the Isle of Wight and the English coastline. You can walk across the shingle to reach it or catch a boat from Keyhaven. The twelve-sided three storey keep dates form Tudor times and may be climbed, giving a great view from the roof. The castle was used as a fortification in the Napoleonic wars; a 38 tonne cannon remains from these times. Barrack rooms used in the last two World Wars still remain.
Several displays may be seen including one recently opened about lighthouses. Next to the castle is a working lighthouse.

Children's Farms
Finkley Down
Hampshire SP11 6NF

This farm park has plenty of animals for children to see and touch. They are able to feed the ducks, hold a rabbit and groom a pony. As well as the animals the farm has playgrounds, sandpits, trampolines and mini tractors. Undercover areas include the barn of Bygones, Romany Barn and Shepherds Hut.

Hampshire SO40 7EH

As well as all the usual activities for children, such as ponies to groom and rabbits to cuddle, children can take on chores such as mucking out pigsties and feeding calves. For letting off steam there are both indoor and outdoor play areas, trampolines and ball pools.

Country Parks and Nature Reserves
Middle Park Way
Hampshire PO9 5HB

This park has the only remaining ornamental farm in the country. Here children can meet llamas, peacocks, goats and other animals. The 1000 acres of parkland also contain huge glasshouses, walled gardens, a Sensory garden, Golden Jubilee Maze and a folly.


Tunbridge Wells

Set in 200 acres, a visit to Groombridge Place Gardens is an excellent way to spend a few hours. There are several exciting and challenging adventure areas for children, including the Enchanted Forest. The gardens are spectacular and Groombridge Place provided the setting for 'Pride and Prejudice'. You can take a trip on a canal boat, visit the vineyard, enjoy a meal in the restaurant, or picnic in one of the specially designated areas.


Tipton Road
West Midlands DY1 4SQ

Historic buildings from around the Black Country have been moved and rebuilt at the museum to create an open air living museum. Costumed demonstrators and working craftsmen can be found as you wander down the streets, seeing various houses, shops and working buildings. It is possible to attend a lesson in the school room or take a trip down the underground mine. You can ride on a tram or have a fairground swingboat ride.


Steam Railways
Thetford Road
Norfolk IP22 2AP

Started in 1947, the Bressingham Steam Museum has grown considerably. Three working narrow gauge railways operate taking you on a trip through the gardens. The extensive locomotive sheds house steam engines, pumps, steam operated carousels, the Royal Coaches and much more.


Alnwick Castle
NE66 1NQ

There are lots of things to see and do at the spectacular and medieval Alnwick Castle.  Set in the beautiful Northumbrian countryside, the castle has been used as a film location for everything from Harry Potter to Blackadder.  You can also enjoy history, art, children's activities and educational events for all ages, or pay a visit to the magnificent garden. Please note that, because of the age of the castle, there is only partial access for wheelchairs and pushchairs.


Windmill Lane
Nottinghamshire NG2 4QB

This is one of the few working inner- city windmills in the country. George Green was a 19th century miller who was also a mathematician and scientist; the museum within the mill tells his story. There are plenty of hands-on experiments exploring magnetism, electricity and light, three subjects which interested this fascinating miller.  The windmill can be toured to discover the process of turning grain into flour.  Events are held throughout the season.


Children's Farm Parks
Court Farm
Wolvershill Road
Somerset BS29 6DL

Over 20,000 sq ft of undercover attractions and playgrounds means this farm can be visited whatever the weather. There are plenty of friendly animals to be seen and handled.  Feeding sessions take place as well as tractor or pony rides and ferret shows. The two large indoor playgrounds cater for all ages.


Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm
Mill Lane
Suffolk IP6 8LG
For a wonderful day out with all the family visit Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm in the middle of Suffolk, just six miles from Ipswich.  It is a small livestock farm breeding farm animals that were once common but are now rare.   These include rare sheep, cattle, pygmy goats, chickens and pigs, including Kune Kunes, the friendly Maori pigs from New Zealand.  There is also a riverside walk and a place to picnic, and the main area of the farm is wheelchair and pushchair friendly.  
Gardens and Theme Parks

Chessington World of Adventures
0870 999 0045

A family day out at Chessington World of Adventures offers something for everyone.  The Zoo and Theme Park have lots of activities and rides, including special sections for toddlers and exciting rides and adventures for older children. A wide choice of restaurants and excellent baby-changing and feeding facilities, including bottle-warmers, are provided.


Gardens and Theme Parks
The Forbidden Corner
The Tupgill Park Estate
North Yorkshire

For an exciting and different day out, pay a visit to The Forbidden Corner.  Children and adults will meet challenges around every corner, while following a labyrinth of tunnels and passages, and will have to make quick decisions to avoid being caught out! Some parts of the garden are only accessible via steps and the Forbidden Corner is only open for part of the year.  Please Note: admission is only by prior arrangement - contact the Forbidden Corner for details

North Stainley
North Yorkshire HG4 3HT
This is a family theme park with plenty to entertain all ages with many rides to thrill older children and adults alike. For the younger children there are slower and smaller rides. As well as the rides you can take a boat out on the lake or ride through the park on a train. Nature trails have been laid out through the woodlands nearby where you may like to picnic.
Children's Farms and Wildlife Parks
Low Row
North Yorkshire DL11 6NE
This is an award winning organic livestock farm run in the heart of Swaledale. As well as taking a guided tour around the farm seeing all the animals, understand more about farming through displays, exhibitions and a video. Seasonal demonstrations such as lambing can be seen along with local craft workers who practise skills such as shepherding and spinning.
Children's indoor and outdoor play areas are provided or take a riverside nature trail or walk through hay meadows and moorland.
Canal Gardens
Roundhay Park
West Yorkshire LS8 2ER
Set within the large Roundhay Park this is a tropical island-themed park with "beaches", a rainforest, waterfalls and butterfly house. There is plenty to see al around you; terrapins and carp, bats, monkeys and meerkats as well as weird tropical insects, snakes and spiders. A nocturnal zone can be viewed.
Country Parks and Nature Reserves
North Yorkshire LA6 3AW
This is the longest showcave in Britain. Sculptured by nature over thousands of years you are taken on an 80 minute guided tour which covers a mile underground. Waterfalls and gushing streams lead you to a huge Ice Age cavern decorated with thousands of stalactites and the 330ft Battlefield cavern all beautifully lit. .
Sealife Centres
Hull HU1 4DP
This centre, built in the shape of a ship, tells the story of the world's oceans. To get beneath the sea creatures, who are in a 10m deep tankr, you need to travel in the world's only underwater lift. Overhead you will see seven species of sharks, rays, eels and many other fascinating creatures of the deep. There are lots of hands-on and interactive activities.



Sealife Centres
Deep Sea World
Battery Quarry
North Queensferry
KY11 1JR

Just a short drive from Edinburgh, a visit to Deep Sea World promises to be an exciting day out.  Lots to see, including seals, sharks and a huge variety of colourful fish.  The underwater tunnel is 112 Metres long (one of the longest in the world) and is the best way to observe the sharks! 


Zoos and Safari Parks
Auchingarrich Wildlife Park

Auchingarrich Wildlife Park, near Comrie in Perthshire, offers a great family day out.  The Park is home to a large variety of animals, including Beavers, Deer, Chinchillas, Donkeys, Meerkats, Prairie Dogs, Rabbits and Wallabies.  The imaginative play areas include an area specially created for under-fives.


Farm Parks
Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park
SA43 1PR
This beautiful Farm Park provides the best view of seals in Wales, where a colony of Atlantic Grey Seals can often be seen.  This area is also home to bottlenose dolphins.    There is an adventure playground with sand pit and picnic area, and there are also farm animals to be seen, including Shetland ponies, cattle, wallabies, llamas, emus, goats, guinea pigs and lambs. 
North Wales LL13 OYT
The house and garden give a fascinating insight into the domestic life of the 18th and 19th centuries. When donated to the National Trust in the 1970's, the house revealed that its owners and servants had never thrown anything away. The trivial and trite lay alongside priceless works of art and furniture.
A visit begins in the outbuildings full of workshops, carriages and cars. Then move into the kitchens, bakehouse and laundry areas. The walls are hung with photos of past servants who were held in high regard by their employers. Above stairs you can visit the family rooms including the dining room, State bedroom, nursery and finally the servants' quarters in the attics.
In the grounds is one of the best preserved examples of a walled 18th century garden, where rare fruit trees still thrive. You can take a carriage drive to view the grounds.
North Wales NP4 9XP

This museum has been created from a working coal mine, which closed in 1980. Hour-long underground tours are led by ex-miners. The tour begins with travelling down to the mine in a pit cage, then following the underground roadways. Above ground the colliery may be explored including the winding engine house and blacksmiths workshop.

Steam railway

Harbour Station
North Wales LL49 9NF

The Ffestiniog railway is the oldest independent railway in the world. The track takes you 13 miles through the Snowdonia National Park from coastline to mountains.

Do check websites of any attractions you want to visit for opening hours and the latest details of what's on and what's available as there are often new additions or changes - these may not always be reflected in our summaries which are intended to give a brief taste of what's on offer!

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