Great restaurants, new hotels and family-friendly attractions – there’s lots going on in Margate right now. Plus, it’s only 90 minutes from London on the train. Spend the day at Dreamland amusement park, a great option for multi-generational days out by the sea. One of the oldest-surviving amusement parks in the UK, it has vintage-inspired rides, an amusement arcade and a roller disco room – all of which are open on weekends and during school holidays. Check out the large-scale art installations before stopping for food and drink in the park – or enjoy fish and chips along the seafront.
Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre
The Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre is located in the quaint village of Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, a 90-minute drive from central London. Families can come face to face with Fantastic Mr Fox in a fun exhibition, measure up to Quentin Blake’s illustrations and discover Roald Dahl's Writing Hut – the birthplace of his famous characters. Over the holidays, kids can take part in activities as part of the ‘Big Friendly Summer’ based inspired by The BFG. Choose from ‘snozzcumber’ clay making sessions, dream jar crafting classes, and a ‘swishwiffling’ experience in the science workshop. You can also follow a walk around Great Missenden which inspired many of Dahl’s stories.
London Wetland Centre
The London Wetland Centre in Barnes is home to a wide variety of duck species, from the brightly coloured Mandarin to whistling ducks. This year, the team has created an Easter duck trail, where kids will need to put their detective hats on to crack clues and hunt down bright yellow ducks hiding in the wetlands. Children will also be able to see the real male ducks displaying their bright breeding feathers. Other activities on offer include taking part in an otter feed, visiting the indoor and outdoor play areas and taking on the ‘Wild Walk’ course.
New Forest National Park
The New Forest has countless activities the whole family will love. A 90-minute drive will get you there from London, where you can explore over 200 miles of woodland. There are over 40 walking routes to choose from and the area is largely flat – a great option for leisurely bike rides and other outdoor activities. Littles ones can enjoy a tractor ride or visit a petting zoo at Longdown Activity Farm and spot native reptiles at the New Forest Reptile Centre. The park is also home to Peppa Pig World with amusement rides and attractions, as well as Burley Villa School of Riding where children from the age of four can enjoy pony rides. If you have older grandchildren, book paddle boarding lessons or head on a kayaking trip to explore the stunning New Forest coastline.
Just two hours from London by train or car, Warwick Castle has a roster of family events taking place this summer. From today until November, the UK's biggest bird of prey show returns to the castle. During The Falconer’s Quest, little ones can join the Falconer to learn about the most magnificent birds in a dynamic display of aerial acrobatics overlooking the river within the castle grounds. Kids can also get lost in the Horrible Histories Maze to rediscover the Vicious Vikings and Stormin’ Normans, meet the castle’s resident bowman as he demonstrates his archery skills and uncover hidden riddles at The Princess Tower. There’s also the newly opened Zog playground, inspired by Julia Donaldson’s books – there’s a dragon zip wire, princess tower, dragon slides and swings, and adventure tunnels.
Woburn Safari Park
With more than 80 species of wild and exotic animals, Woburn Safari Park is set in over 300 acres of beautiful Bedfordshire parkland. Children will be able to spot some of the world's most endangered animals on a drive-through tour, including rhinos, tigers, lions and giraffes, before continuing the journey in the walk-through Foot Safari to discover more animal enclosures. There are also talks from keepers and animal demonstrations, as well as a spacious leisure area where families can head on a ‘swan boat’ trip or a miniature train ride. Be sure to look out for the newest North American black bear cub who was born at the park just a few months ago, then stop for a bite to eat at the Safari Restaurant.
Probably best known for its annual Royal Regatta every summer, Henley-on-Thames has plenty to offer families. Within easy reach by rail or road, the town teems with independent shops, brilliant pubs, lively cafés and great restaurants. First, make a beeline for the River & Rowing Museum which is home to a collection of over 20,000 items that illustrate the history of rowing, the town and the River Thames. There’s also an immersive ‘Wind in the Willows’ gallery for kids of all ages, plus a great little café where you can enjoy brunch overlooking the river. Warburg Nature Reserve is also worth a visit – here, kids are given a wildlife explorer pack (full of activities and tasks) to follow the trail through the grassy glades, woods and pond. Stop for lunch at riverside pub The Angel on the Bridge for hearty British fare
Just 90 minutes from London by car, Hever Castle is steeped in history. The estate, once the seat of the Boleyn family, dates back to the 13th century and has 125 acres of beautiful grounds to explore. This Easter, there are plenty of family activities for children of all ages, taking place daily until Monday 18th April. Little ones can take part in an Easter hunt around the beautiful grounds, following the trail of colourful carrots to find the Golden Carrot, then go on an egg hunt to find hidden chocolate. There’s also a free craft workshop, an interactive audio guide to listen to inside the castle and a special woodland walk. Kids can find their way out of the Yew Maze, then round off the day with home-cooked food and cakes at one of the on-site cafés.
Hampton Court Palace
The famous Grade-I listed home of Henry VIII and his wives will keep kids entertained for hours. Less than an hour outside London, visitors can take a tour around the vast estate, including the beautiful gardens and historic maze, and learn about life at court in the 16th century. This summer, there’s a medieval-inspired jousting tournament, a minibeast hunt and the Hampton Court Palace Food Festival with over 150 brands, pop-up food and drinks stalls, and live music. Kids can also play in the Magic Garden adventure playground filled with mythical beasts.
From fun museums for kids to a treasure trove of antique shops for adults, Winchester has something for everyone – and it’s less than an hour away from London by train. A few hours are best spent at Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium to learn about our planet and the universe. There’s currently an ‘Ice World’ exhibition where kids can find out how ice has sculpted and transformed the Solar System, and ‘Wonder-full Wednesdays’ activities which includes science shows, demos and interactive exhibits every Wednesday. Marwell Zoo, home to hundreds of endangered and exotic species spread over 140 acres of land, is well worth a visit, as is Hensting Alpaca farm where you can walk an alpaca and learn how to care for one.