With the Easter holidays approaching fast we’ve scoured the land to find the best day trips and attractions to excite, educate and scare the socks off the little ones. So pack some patience along with those snacks as it’s going to be busy.
This animatronic experience will see life-sized dinosaurs popping up in parks across the UK, giving you the chance to live out your own Jurassic Park fantasies. Opening at west London’s Osterley Park on 1 April, Jurassic Kingdom will include a 16 metre-high Diplodocus and an 18-metre-high T Rex. The event will also be held at venues across Bristol, Manchester, Blackpool, Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds and Birmingham. This is either going to be brilliant or very, very scary.
If it’s real dinosaurs you’re after then few things can be more exciting than going on the hunt for bona fide fossils and the Jurassic Coast is undoubtedly the best place in Britain to do so. You can look on your own or join a guided fossil walk but whatever you do, hunt responsibly, ie only take loose fossils and never hammer or dig into the rock.
The Jurassic Coast, Devon & Dorset
Surely the ‘daddy’ of all days out, particularly for those of us who never managed to part with our childhood LEGO collection and were sneakily introducing it to our little ones as soon as they were past the put-everything-in-your-mouth phase, (whether they were interested in it or not). Because let’s face it, LEGO never gets old and now we have kids we can pretend that our excitement is all for them, even if we do occasionally buy ourselves a set just so we can work on it without any interference from the kids. Legoland is extortionately expensive but you can’t put a price on LEGO fun (although you should keep an eye out for two-for-one vouchers, because you’re not MADE of money).
Legoland, Windsor Park Ltd, Winkfield Road, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 4AY
At the National Maritime Museum (a lot more fun than it sounds) there is a really cool interactive play area, aptly called AHOY! where the kids can stoke the boiler of a steamship, stand on a ship’s bow and, heck, even build your own hull (although it will close from 18 April to 27 June while they build the new Exploration Wing). They’ve got everything maritime covered here, plus it’s within walking distance of the Cutty Sark and (so exciting) the Royal Observatory (http://www.rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory), home of Greenwich Mean Time, where you can teach the kids everything they never thought they wanted to know about time.
A theme park where all the rides are on real-life diggers – need we say more? OK, how about if we add you can drive your own tractor, operate a JCB, or put the kids behind the wheel of a mini Landrover, all while learning lots of ‘fun facts’ about the machines? Plus, with theme parks in Kent, Durham, Devon, Yorkshire and Worcestershire, you can get your fix wherever you are.
As if we didn’t already love this museum in the heart of Kensington’s museum land enough (have you SEEN the space room?) now they’ve only gone and introduced an astonishing Robots exhibition, which runs until September. Be warned though: it’s less about the mechanics behind robots and more to do with our centuries-old obsession with creating humanoids so it is best suited for older children, lest you want to terrify the poor mites.
Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD
Life Science Centre
So popular have North East LEGO Landmarks and Brick History proven to be that the closing date has now been extended to 14 May. As you might expect, the former includes LEGO versions of some of the northeast’s biggest landmarks, such as the Angel of the North, while Brick History recreates 50 pivotal moments in history using (you guessed it) LEGO. Proving once more that there is literally nothing that can’t be improved upon with these iconic bricks.
Life Science Centre, Times Square, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4EP
Star Wars Identities
If we didn’t have kids we would have to borrow a friend’s to justify this as there are few things sadder than a middle-aged man attending a Star Wars exhibition, but bring a kid along and hey presto, it’s totally socially acceptable. This interactive show includes 200 props, models and costumes from the original films (be still our beating hearts) and it also promises to help you discover who your inner Star Wars character is.
The o2, Peninsula Square, London SE10 0DX
One of the best things about being a dad is that we’re allowed, nay encouraged, to play again and while sometimes we may elicit a few raised eyebrows at the playground by getting a bit too much into things, at the underground adventure playground of Blaenau Ffestinogg, you can really let loose. Set in a former slate mine and aimed at children aged 7 and up, the fun takes place amid an enormous network of caverns and includes huge slides (the size of two double decker buses) and four levels of trampolines. Just make sure you let the kids have a turn too.
Bounce Below, Zip World Slate Caverns, Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog LL41 3NB
Wookey Holes Caves
This major attraction set within a series of limestone caverns on the edge of the Mendip Hills is basically all the things kids love rolled into one. Dinosaurs? Check. Fairies? Uhuh. Pirates? You bet. How about a live-action laser show? Whaaat? Yes, you read that correctly. The Sci-Fi Circus Show, (weekends only until Easter) includes acrobats, trapeze artists, jugglers and some familiar science fiction characters. And all set in a magical subterranean world in ancient caves. Seriously, what’s not to like?
Wookey Holes Caves, The Mill, High St, Wookey Hole, Wells BA5 1BB
Kind thanks to Sally Coffey, editor of Britain magazine for compiling this list for us.