The 50 Best: The Easter break starts right here

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The Independent Culture
There's more to do at Easter than watch your children overdose on chocolate eggs. A host of family attractions, from theme parks to stately homes, are now open for the season, and many are hosting special events over the holiday. Nikki Spencer takes notes as our expert panel share their favourite places for an Easter excursion







l Fiona Fullerton, actress and writer, presents Out and About with Fiona Fullerton on Anglia. She has a daughter, Lucy, three, and a son, James, nine.

l Steve Hocking is the new editor of BBC's Blue Peter. He has three children aged from four to seven.

l Floella Benjamin makes the children's programme Jamboree for ITV. She lives in south London with her son, Aston, 17, and daughter Alvina, 10.

l Fiona Stapley is the deputy editor of The Good Guide to Britain and The Good Pub Guide (Ebury). She has two sons, William, 11, and Edward, seven.

l Jim White is a writer and a presenter on BBC's The Travel Show. He lives in Oxfordshire with his three children - Hugo, 10, Ellie, nine, and Barney, seven.



"A perfect castle for children," says Fiona Stapley, who enthuses about the massive walls, round drum towers and romantic moat at this 14th-century National Trust property. Over the Easter break, the castle will be hosting a medieval weekend, with dancing and demonstrations of chivalry. To extend your day out, Fiona suggests taking a boat trip from Newenden (01797 280363) which you can link with a trip on the Kent and Sussex Steam Railway at Tenterden (see No 18).

Where and when: Bodiam, East Sussex (01580 830436); daily 10am-5pm.

How much: adults pounds 3.50, children pounds 1.75; car park pounds 1.



"Children love picnics," says Fiona Fullerton. "I came across this lovely idea when I was filming Off the Beaten Track." You arrive at Tannington Hall with your picnic and are then driven off in a gypsy caravan to a woodland clearing for your meal. The picnic takes up to five hours and is popular for parties as well as for family outings.

Where and when: Tannington Hall, near Framlingham, Woodbridge, Suffolk (01728 628226); daily.

How much: the caravan takes children aged eight to 12 and two adults for pounds 80; a second caravan is also available for larger parties at pounds 55.



"A proper grown-up restaurant where they have nice fish and pasta for the adults and great pizzas and stuff for the children," says Steve Hocking. "There are no crayons or anything like that," he adds. "It's just very relaxed and the staff are very good at making everyone feel welcome." While you're in the area, Steve also recommends a walk along Porthmeor Beach, which has rock pools and a surf school.

Where and when: 22 Fore Street, St Ives, Cornwall (01736 794014); daily from 6pm.

How much: children's portions of pizza pounds 2.50.



"This is a museum that depicts black history in a fascinating way," says Floella Benjamin. She adds that it's a good day out for people of all backgrounds. As well as housing the permanent gallery on the Atlantic slave trade, the museum includes full-size historic vessels. It also holds children's workshops and story-telling sessions.

Where and when: Albert Dock (pictured), Liverpool (0151-207 0001); daily, 10.30-5.30pm, last entry 4.30pm.

How much: adults pounds 3, children pounds 1 (free after 1 Apr). This entitles you to visit all the city's eight museums free for a year.



Spend a day back in the 16th century at this lovely mansion, where dozens of costumed characters will be celebrating Easter Tudor-style. Hot cross buns will be baked in the bakehouse, cooks will prepare meals in the Great Kitchen, and as a 20th-century touch, there will be an Easter Egg Hunt Quiz. Fiona Stapley explains: "Patrick Phillips, the owner of Kentwell, delights in setting teasing riddles that help people to observe in greater detail what would otherwise pass them by."

Where and when: Kentwell Hall, Long Melford, Suffolk (01787 310207); 2-5 Apr, 12-5pm.

How much: adults pounds 7.75, children pounds 5.20.



"This small children's farm is wonderfully laid out and I especially like the fact that children can help feed the animals," says Fiona Fullerton. Bockett's is a working farm with more than 500 sheep, so it's quite likely that if you visit in March and April you'll see lambs being born. They also have water buffalo and llamas. And if you feel like a break, there is a tea-room in the 17th-century barn.

Where and when: Young Street, Fetcham, Surrey (01372 363764); daily 10am-6pm.

How much: adults pounds 3.45, children pounds 2.95.



"A little holiday crammed into a day," is how Floella Benjamin describes it. "Kids lap up the thrill of being quickly transported from one country to another." There is a family coach at weekends, which has to be booked.

Where and when: from Waterloo International or Ashford, Kent (0990 186186); trains for Paris start at 6.19am (Sat) and the last train back leaves at 21.13pm.

How much: weekend day return to Paris pounds 79 for adults, pounds 59 for children.



If you're eating out with children, Fiona Stapley recommends this famous cake shop, which has been run by the same Swiss family since 1919. As well as more than 75 delicious pastries and cakes, they also do very good light home-cooked meals. Children get pictures to colour in and there are small books for toddlers, as well as bibs, baby-wipes and baby changing areas in both toilets.

Where and when: 1 Parliament Street, Harrogate (01423 502746; branches in York, Ilkley and Northallerton); daily 9am-9pm.

How much: adult main courses from pounds 5, children's menu 90p to pounds 5.



"A great place to go to see how lighthouse keepers lived and worked," says Steve Hocking. "My children were fascinated." There are guided tours which go to the top of the old Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, as well as a tea-room and a shop. Like all of Steve's recommendations (except Peppers) it's free to children who own Blue Peter badges.

Where and when: Kinnaird Head, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire (01346 511022); Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12-6pm.

How much: adults pounds 2.75, child pounds 2.



From 3 to 5 April there will be a Mini-Easter-Egg Hunt every day at noon in the Adventure Castle, the huge children's play area. "A marvellously organised estate - few stately homes can boast as many things for families," says Fiona Stapley. As well as the safari park, the narrow-gauge railway and the Capability Brown gardens, they are hosting a balloon and kite festival over Easter.

Where and when: Longleat, near Warminster, Wiltshire (01985 844400); daily, 11am-4pm.

How much: all-in passport ticket for house, safari park and grounds: adults pounds 13, children pounds 10.



"This took me by surprise," admits Jim White. "It's a bit of a cliche to go here, but it really is very good, especially the guided tour. The last time we went, the Beefeater on our tour was very theatrical and it was like performance art, a genuine experience." Over Easter, the Tower is putting on Anne Boleyn presentations, in which costumed guides will follow in her footsteps from her arrival at court to her fall from grace and final execution. There will also be a children's trail with a small prize at the end.

Where and when: Tower Hill, London EC3 (0171-709 0765); Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-5pm; last tour 3.30pm.

How much: adults pounds 10.50, children pounds 6.90.



"One of the best zoos I have ever visited," enthuses Fiona Stapley. Chester Zoo covers nearly 80 acres and has several thousand animals, including 200 rare or endangered species. There is a Chimpanzee Island, a Tropical House, a Bat Cave with free-flying bats, and a Penguin Pool with underwater viewing panels. An overhead train zips around the grounds and there's also a waterbus in the summer, both of which cost pounds 1 extra. A sign at the entrance gives the latest news of births, which currently include two new baby elephants.

Where and when: Upton, Chester (01244 380280); daily 10am, last admission 5pm.

How much: adults pounds 8.50, children pounds 6.00.



"My kids think Brown's New York Caesar Salad with grilled chicken is the best meal ever invented," says Jim White. "They also love the banana milkshakes," he adds. Up to two children under 12 can eat free from the children's menu (hamburger and chips or spaghetti and the like, plus a portion of ice cream and a soft drink) when accompanied by an adult eating a main course. Brown's also has branches in Brighton, Cambridge, Bristol, Edinburgh, and St Martin's Lane, Mayfair (not Sun) and Chelsea in London.

Where and when: 5-11 Woodstock Road, Oxford (01865 319600); Mon-Sat 11am-11.30pm, Sun 12noon-11.30pm.

How much: children's menu free if adults eat; average cost per head pounds 15.



"Far more interesting than you might imagine," according to Fiona Stapley, who describes this museum as "outstanding". Here you can get the full experience of life as a trawlerman, with smells and sensations as well as sights and sounds. "Children particularly enjoy the moving deck, where you really do feel as though you're on a boat out at sea with freezing winds blowing in your face," says Fiona. Outside, there are also guided tours on a real trawler, the Ross Tiger.

Where and when: Alexandra Dock, Grimsby, Lincs (01472 323345); daily 10am-6pm.

How much: adult pounds 4.95, children pounds 3.85 (includes tour of the Ross Tiger).



Scores of interactive events, workshops and shows for children and families at various places throughout the city and at the zoo. Small children can slip in slime and burst giant bubbles in the Chrysalis Playcentre; older ones can travel in a spaceship or follow an Easter treasure trail. For teenagers, there are web and multimedia workshops.

Where and when: venues throughout Edinburgh (0131-473 2070 for a free programme) 3-18 Apr.

How much: some events are free, others from pounds 2.50.



"James loves it here," says Fiona Fullerton. "Like most boys, he's very into the stars, planets and extra-terrestrial stuff." As well as taking the dome's intergalactic trip in space, there are lots of hands-on activities, plus numerous waxwork figures from the world of science and space exploration. You can make a joint visit to the Planetarium and Madame Tussaud's next door with a combined ticket (adults pounds 12.25, children pounds 8) - to avoid the notorious queues, book at least 24 hours in advance.

Where and when: Marylebone Rd, London NW1 (0171-935 6861); Mon-Fri 11am-5pm, Sat & Sun 9.30am-5pm.

How much: adults pounds 6, children pounds 4.



This largest surviving example of a medieval world map is a favourite with Steve Hocking. "The Mappa Mundi has an extraordinary medieval view of the world," he says. Drawn in 1289, the map features hundreds of pictures of cities, biblical events, animals and plants which children explore with the aid of worksheets. You can also visit the cathedral itself. There are several services a day over Easter, including the Procession and Easter Eucharist at 10am, Choral Matins at 11am on Easter Sunday and a Family Service at 9.30am on Good Friday.

Where and when: Cathedral Close, Hereford (01432 359880); Mon-Sat from 10am, last entry 4.15pm; Sun from 11am, last entry 3.15pm.

How much: adults pounds 4, children pounds 3.



"A rather different way to enjoy a family roast Sunday lunch," says Fiona Stapley. You travel in a steam-hauled Pullman dining car, called the "Wealden Belle", catching the train at Tenterden station and travelling to Northiam, where you can stretch your legs before the journey back. Over Easter, a Family Fun Weekend with face painting will be included in the ticket price.

Where and when: Tenterden Town Station, Tenterden, Kent (01580 765155); Sun lunch 12.30pm-2.30pm, booking essential.

How much: pounds 28 for three-course meal and train fare, children pounds 25. Teas (including fare): adults pounds 11, children pounds 7.75.



"If we're in south Wales, we make a point of going here," says Jim White. At Oakwood, a theme park set in woodlands, many of the rides, including a huge roller-coaster, are built from wood. This year they have a new ride called Bounce, a 47 metre "shot and drop tower coaster" where you drop to the ground and are bounced back over the tops of the trees. All rides are included in the entry price except the sky-coaster, Vertigo (advance booking necessary). In summer, the park has evening openings with fireworks.

Where and when: Oakwood, Canaston Bridge, Narbeth, near Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire (01834 891376) daily 10am-5pm.

How much: adults and children over-10 years pounds 10.95, children three to nine years pounds 9.95.



The National Trust organises Easter Egg Trails at more than 60 historic houses and gardens right across the country. In each case, participants are invited to follow a trail around the grounds of the property in search of clues which lead to an edible prize. "They are brilliant fun to take part in," says Floella Benjamin. "The kids tend to emerge from the woods covered in chocolate."

Where and when: for a full list of places holding activities, call 0181- 315 1111; 3-5 Apr.

How much: most events pounds 1 or pounds 1.50 per child.



"We love cycling on our bikes along the towpath of the Thames from our home in Weybridge to Hampton Court and maybe stopping at a pub for lunch or, when the weather is nice, having a picnic on the way," says Fiona Fullerton. You can join the path at Coweysale where there is a car park or at Thames Street in Weybridge. The Thames Valley Cycle Route also goes further along the river, and from July of this year you will be able to cycle all the way from Putney Bridge in west London to Oxford.

Where and when: for a free catalogue of all the National Cycle Routes, including the Thames Valley, call 0117-929 0888.



"A great place for walks," enthuses Jim White. "The grounds are wonderful and the interior is magnificent," he adds. Jim's family also likes the small train that chugs up the drive. "Being a palace, this seems about 45 miles long," he jokes. There's also an adventure playground, rowing boats and a motor launch on the lake, plus a butterfly house, and a maze. And there is, of course, the palace itself, with its exhibition about the life of its famous former occupant, Winston Churchill.

Where and when: Woodstock, Oxon (01993 811091); daily; park 9am-5.30pm, house 10.30am-4.45pm.

How much: park, car with all occupants pounds 6; palace, adults pounds 8.50, children pounds 4.50.



"A big, bustling pub in a lovely estuary setting with jetties, big terraces and tables on pontoons," says Fiona Stapley. Coombe Cellars is very popular on warmer, drier days, particularly as it has a fenced-in playground with a big play-ship for children. Inside there's a "roomy and comfortable bar with lots of sporting and nautical bric-a-brac, decent all-day food and friendly and efficient staff." The "Charlie Chalke" children's menu offers staples such as fish 'n' chips, sausages and beans.

Where and when: Combeinteignhead, Devon (01626 872423); Mon-Sat 11am- 11pm, Sun 12noon-10.30pm.

How much: children's dishes from pounds 1.95.



"Brilliant for kids and adults who are children at heart," according to Floella Benjamin, who likes the fact that "once you've paid you can enjoy yourself and go on as many rides as you want." Floella is particularly fond of the water rides (there are more here than anywhere else in the UK) but this Easter you can also check out the UK's first ever "4-D" cinema experience (pictured), where you can not only see and hear but also "feel" the action. For younger children there is Thorpe Farm, Octopus Garden and Slide by Slides, a slide-and-climb playground in a tropical setting.

Where and when: Staines Road, Chertsey, Surrey (01932 562633); daily 10am-6pm.

How much: adults pounds 17.50, children pounds 14.



"My kids adore it here," says Steve Hocking. "It's just how a child would imagine a castle to be." Over the Easter weekend, the castle, which is right in the centre of Warwick, will have knights battling it out as they did in the 15th century. There will be encampments both inside and outside the walls and you can join in as the troops are drilled. The castle is run by the same company as Madame Tussaud's, so you'll find numerous wax models and displays alongside the rest of the attractions.

Where and when: Warwick Castle, Warwick (01926 406600); daily 10am-6pm.

How much: adults pounds 9.50, children pounds 5.80.



"If you have a little City whizz kid in the making, a visit here is a must," says Floella Benjamin. The museum is housed within the Bank of England itself, right in the heart of the City of London. Children apparently love looking at the gold bars in the bank's vaults. There are also interactive videos that let them have a go at dealing on the dollar/sterling exchange, plus activity sheets for different ages available in school holidays.

Where and when: Bartholomew Lane, London EC2 (0171-601 5545); Mon-Fri 10am-5pm.

How much: free.



"A safe, exciting place to take kids underground," says Steve Hocking. "Children have an endless fascination with caves and this is just spooky enough without being too frightening." As well as the tour of caves with stalagmites and stalactites, and tunnels blasted out of rock, there is the Caves Museum, plus a Victorian paper mill, where children can watch the paper-makers at work and have a go themselves. Plus, there's a Penny Pier Arcade with a mirror maze and old slot machines.

Where and when: Wookey Hole, near Wells, Somerset (01749 672243) daily, first tour 10am, last tour 5.30pm.

How much: adults pounds 7, children pounds 3.50.



"This is an old, family-oriented, harbour-side inn with good kids meals," according to Jim White. There is a large terrace outside with a football pitch next to it, which, Jim says, is good for a kick-about with the children, although he warns the pub can get very busy in the summer: "They have that bingo-calling system for food which can drive the kids mad if their number is 187 and they are calling 3!" As well as the children's menu, the pub serves half portions of dishes on the main menu. There is also a games room.

Where and when: Sloop Inn, Porthgain, Pembrokeshire (01348 831449); food served daily 12noon-2.30pm and 6.30pm-9.30pm.

How much: main courses from around pounds 2.



More of a leisure park than a theme park, with a host of family oriented activities such as go-karting, crazy golf, a maze and a children's play area. Floella Benjamin says her kids love it, although because you pay for each ride, she notes it "can be rather expensive". Next door there is also pitch and putt and an 18-hole golf course.

Where and when: Holywell Bay, Newquay (01637 830095); daily from 1 Apr 10.30am-4.30pm, later closing in summer.

How much: entry and parking is free; activities range from the kid's play area pounds 1 to go-karting pounds 2.50.



Easter activities at this wildfowl and wetlands centre all revolve around the theme of birdlife, with egg painting and nest building, plus an Easter- egg hunt. Steve Hocking says the centre "seems a bit of a filling station for birds on their travels. What's great is that you can get really close up, sit in hides and even feed the birds." The centre, one of eight in the UK, is home to everything from swans, ducks and geese to flamingos - there are even hummingbirds in the tropical house.

Where and when: Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, Glos (01453 890333); daily 9.30am-5pm, Easter activities run 11am-4pm.

How much: adults pounds 5.25, children pounds 3.



"My children love this zoo," says Fiona Fullerton. "Whenever we're in London we come here." Fiona is particularly keen on the zoo's adopt-an- animal scheme. "We have all adopted animals," explains Fiona. "I adopted an elephant back in 1984, Lucy has a penguin and James has a chipmunk. It's a great idea because you can donate as much or as little as you want." Over the Easter period the zoo will be putting on daily Animals in Action shows, with everything from black-and-white ruffed lemurs to rats and owls.

Where and when: London Zoo, Regent's Park, London NW1 (0171-722 3333) daily 10am-5.30pm.

How much: adults pounds 9, children pounds 7.



"My kids love it here," says Steve Hocking, who thinks this is a great place to go on a wet day in landlocked Birmingham. This Easter, the centre is opening a new exhibition, "X-Creatures", which looks at the sea monsters that have amazed and terrified sailors throughout history - but which until recently have been dismissed as myths and legends.

Where and when: The Water's Edge, Brindley Place, Birmingham (0121-643 6777); daily 10am-5pm.

How much: adults pounds 6.95, children pounds 4.



"William's favourite treat is a meal in Chinatown," says Fiona Stapley, "especially making up his own pancake rolls with crispy Peking duck." Chinese restaurants are also popular with Floella Benjamin's family, particularly the ones where you can eat as much as you want. All the restaurants around Gerrard Street are used to families and you will find big family parties at weekends. Fiona recommends Luxuriance, 40 Gerrard St (0171-734 0262), Wong Kei, 41 Wardour St (0171-437 8408), and Poons, 4 Leicester St (0171- 437 1528).

Where and when: Soho, London W1; most restaurants open daily from 12noon.

How much: all-you-can-eat buffet pounds 4.50 a head at Luxuriance on Sun.



"My kids really loved this state-of the art leisure complex," says Jim White. There are three flume rides: the Edge, the Torpedo Tube and the Rapids Descent, as well as a wavepool, a toddler pool and a fitness pool. For adults there is also a health suite with a sauna, a steam room and a jacuzzi. The admission price entitles you to use everything for an hour and a half. While you're in York, you can check out the Yorvik Viking Centre and the ARC (see No 44), but Jim also recommends running around the battlements.

Where and when: Waterworld, Kathryn Avenue, Monks Cross, York (01904 642111) daily over Easter 10-6pm, Wed and Fri 10am-8pm.

How much: adults pounds 3.35, children pounds 2.30.



An egg race with a difference at this science discovery centre in Cardiff that takes a hands-on approach. The challenge is to use sticky tape and egg boxes to build a vehicle capable of carrying an egg along a track, with prizes for the cars that travel the furthest. There's also an Easter Egg trail through the centre, which has a 30-seat planetarium, a science theatre, a cyber library and a discovery room. "This is an excellent place for developing children's knowledge of science in a fun and exciting way," says Floella Benjamin.

Where and when: Techinquest, Stuart St, Cardiff (01222 475475); Mon-Fri 9.30am-4.30pm, Sat-Sun 10.30am-5pm; Easter activities run 2-14 Apr.

How much: adults pounds 5, children pounds 3.75.



"It's just a lovely place to be inside," says Steve Hocking of this privately owned attraction. Visitors walk through a heated, plant-filled glasshouse as hundreds of species of tropical butterfly and moths flutter around them; an unheated outdoor area provides the habitat for native species. A separate room features tanks full of other insects, including a great display of those creatures of the moment: ants. Steve says: "Children are fascinated by the lifecycle of the butterfly and this place has a wonderful hands-on approach."

Where and when: Syon Park, Brentford, Middlesex (0181-560 7272); daily 10am-4pm.

How much: adults pounds 3.20, children pounds 1.90.



"A brilliant place to mountain bike with kids because it feels very rugged and adventurous - but actually you don't go more than about 200 yards off the beaten track," says Jim White. You can hire all sorts of bikes, including tandems, child seats and trailers, from Grisedale Mountain Bikes next to the visitor centre. While you are out and about, you may come across sculptures randomly sited through the forest.

Where and when: Grisedale Forest Visitor Centre, Hawkshead, nr Ambleside (01229 860010); daily 10am-5pm. Grisedale Mountain Bikes (01229 860369); bike hire daily from Easter, 9am-1pm.

How much: parking in the forest is pounds 3 a day, bike hire pounds 14 a day.



Not just somewhere good to eat with the kids but somewhere to stay as well, according to Fiona Fullerton, who likes the fact that "they are not prissy about children". This smart country house hotel has a large pool, health spa and an equestrian centre, plus extensive grounds. Children's meals are served in the leisure centre (the formal hotel restaurant is out of bounds to the under-12s) where staples such as chicken nuggets and chips feature on the menu.

Where and when: Colerne, Wiltshire (01225 742777); daily.

How much: weekend break for two adults including dinner pounds 310 a night, children pounds 20 a night without meals.



"This museum is almost completely interactive, with hi-tech effects and push-button displays," says Fiona Stapley. "There are plenty of costumed demonstrations showing how weapons were made and used and children can try on helmets and even test their crossbow aim." The Hall of Steel has 3,000 pieces of gleaming arms and armour; outside there are often exhibitions of jousting, fencing and duelling. Over Easter, you can check out the museum's interactive Science of Sport exhibition, where you can take part in a penalty shoot-out.

Where and when: Armouries Drive, Leeds, Yorkshire (0990 106666); Mon-Fri 10.30am-4.30pm, Sat-Sun 10.30am-5.30pm.

How much: adults pounds 7.95, children pounds 4.95.



Not recommended for the very young or the nervous (the recorded information line may be scary enough for some). The London Dungeon will be upping the fright factor this Easter by opening in the evening. Fiona Stapley says her son William, aged 11, thought this was really exciting and scary, with lots of surprises and plenty of life-like smells. She particularly singles out the ghoulish life-like waxworks scenes and the Judgement Day water ride.

Where and when: 28-34 Tooley St, London SE1 (0891 600 0666, info line, 50p per minute); daily 10am-5.30pm, Mon, Tues and Wed to 7 Apr 10am-9pm.

How much: adults pounds 9.50, children pounds 6.50.



"One of the most underrated castles we have," says Floella Benjamin of this castle, which featured in the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet. "The atmosphere feels as if you're being transported back in time." Over Easter, the castle will run costumed performances throughout the weekend at 1.30pm and 3pm. These include a chance for children to dress up in tabards, with helmets and swords, and drill before battle. From 2 April, you can also check out an interactive exhibition which follows the preparations which took place at the castle in 1539 prior to the arrival of King Henry VIII.

Where and when: Dover Castle, Dover (01304 201628); daily 10am-6pm.

How much: adults pounds 6.90, children pounds 3.50.



"James adores steam trains and Lucy thinks they are pretty good fun, too," says Fiona Fullerton. "What's nice about this line is that you can get off at little stations along the route and explore before getting back on a train." There are usually about seven or eight trains a day along the 22-mile route from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard and back, which stop at places such as Washford and Watchet on the way. There is also a connecting bus service from Bishops Lydeard to Taunton.

Where and when: Railway Station, Minehead, Somerset (01643 704996); daily, except some Fridays.

How much: adult return pounds 8.90, children pounds 4.45; day rover ticket pounds 9.50.



"A good place for a special meal out," says Jim White. "Children seem to like it because it's grown-up and they can pretend to be adults." Both this restaurant and Raymond Blanc's other Petit Blanc in Cheltenham offer a children's menu of either two or three courses. Starters include soup or pasta followed by dishes such as grilled chicken breast or Oxford sausages with mashed potato. Over Easter, all children visiting Le Petit Blanc will receive a complimentary Easter egg.

Where and when: 71-72 Walton St, Oxford (01865 510999) and the Queen's Hotel, Cheltenham (01242 266800); daily for light snacks, lunch 12noon-3.30pm, dinner 6pm-11pm.

How much: children's menu pounds 5.95 for two courses, pounds 7.50 for three.



"The detail in this exact reconstruction of a Viking street, market and quayside is astonishing," says Fiona Stapley, who likes the fact they have recreated the sounds and smells as well. "All ages can enjoy it," she adds, although you may not appreciate the queues (avoid them by booking in advance). Next door is the Archaeology Resource Centre, which Jim White thinks is brilliant because children can sift through earth themselves.

Where and when: Yorvik Centre, Coppergate Shopping Centre; ARC, St Saviours Gate, York (01904 643211 for both); Yorvik - daily 9am-5.30pm, ARC - Mon- Fri 10am-3.30pm, Sat 1pm-3.30pm.

How much: Yorvik - adults pounds 5.35, children pounds 3.99; ARC - pounds 3.60.



You can meet the staff in full Tudor costume here at the ancestral home of the first US President, George Washington, built by his forbear, Laurence, in 1539 (the family coat of arms apparently inspired the American flag). At Easter, following a presentation by the Lord of the Manor in the Great Hall, you can hear the cook talk about old-time food, fasting and feasting before tucking into a hot cross bun.

Where and when: Sulgrave, Banbury, Oxfordshire (01295 760205); Easter presentations run Good Friday to Easter Monday from 10.30am.

How much: adults pounds 4.50, children pounds 2.25.



The toy museum and castle here are only five minutes walk apart and make a super day out, according to Fiona Stapley. The toy museum has more than 30,000 toys, games and playthings from Victorian era to the 1970s and is the world's biggest private collection. Mountfitchet Castle and Norman Village is a reconstructed Norman castle and village with thatched houses and sheep and goats wandering about.

Where and when: Toy Museum and Castle, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex (01279 813237 both attractions) daily 10am-5pm.

How much: toy museum: adults pounds 3.50, children pounds 2.50; castle pounds 4.50 and pounds 3.50.



Fiona Fullerton filmed here recently for her TV series, Off the Beaten Track, and says it's a great place for outdoor activities and watersports. At the Whitwell Leisure Park at Oakham you can hire bikes from Rutland Water Cycling (01780 460705) and from May you'll be able to have a go at both outdoor and indoor climbing at the Rock Blok (01780 460060). Contact Surface Watersports (01780 460464) for sailing and water-skiing. It is also a popular place for bird watching.

Where and when: Rutland Water Tourist Information Centre (01780 460321).



A fashionable restaurant in Chelsea wouldn't be most people's first choice for a meal out with the kids, but on Sundays this is transformed into a parents' paradise, and it's not bad for the kids either. The Collection is on two levels - the mezzanine houses a 170-cover restaurant, and downstairs 1pm-3pm they run the Collection Kids Club, at which activities include face-painting, cartoons and puppet shows. When their food is ready, children join their parents to eat.

Where and when: 254 Brompton Rd, London SW3 (0171-225 1212); Mon-Fri 12noon-3pm, 6.30pm-11.30pm, Sat-Sun 12noon-3.30pm, 6.30pm-11pm.

How much: food and creche pounds 12.



"The dinosaurs are always incredibly popular with children, but what I particularly like about this museum is that you always discover something new," says Steve Hocking. The latest addition is the recently refurbished Creepy Crawlies Gallery with a new live ant colony. From Thurs, it will be free for children, although there will be an increase in the adult price. The museum won't

be putting on any special events over Easter, but 10, 11, 24, 25 April it will present a poetry workshop for families.

Where and when: Cromwell Rd, London SW7 (0171 938 9090); Mon-Sat 10am- 5.50pm, Sun 11am-5-50pm.

How much: adults pounds 6, children pounds 3; after Thurs, adults pounds 6.50, children free.



"I'm not a great fan of theme parks," says Fiona Fullerton, "but my children enjoyed it here." The 40-acre park, incorporating more than 27 million Lego bricks, is running an Easter Quest over the weekend. When children arrive they will be given a "passport" and win chocolate eggs if they solve the cryptic clues. As well as more than 40 interactive live shows, playscapes and building workshops, there are two new rides - a junior Dragon ride, which takes a more leisurely trip around the Castleland area of the park, and a balloon ride.

Where and when: Windsor, Berkshire (0990 040404); daily 10am-6pm.

How much: adults pounds 16.50, children pounds 13.50.