School's out for the summer - so how are you going to keep everyone occupied?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

With beaches,  butterflies and  more. Kate Simon picks the greatest British days out

Britain’s tourism chiefs will be crossing their fingers and toes, hoping that the good weather continues and encourages us through the gates of the nation’s tourist attractions this summer. In 2012, British residents poured £57bn into the domestic tourism industry’s coffers on days out, according to the latest findings from Visit England, with the number of summer day trips up 10 per cent on the previous year.

And there are plenty of reasons why that trend should remain on an upward trajectory in 2013, with new attractions and enhanced experiences lined up to capture the crowds across the country this summer. Here’s a selection of some of the best.

Cracking time in Bristol, Gromit

Follow in the paw prints of Gromit in Bristol. The south-west city has enlisted its famous canine son to attract visitors to its streets this summer, with Gromit Unleashed, a trail of 80 giant hand-painted sculptures of Wallace’s loyal hound, by British designers including Sir Paul Smith and Cath Kidston, around landmark locations until 8 September.

Download the trail free at Some of the city’s attractions are getting in on the act, too – At-Bristol (0845 345 1235;; admission £12.90) is hosting Gromit-themed activities, including workshops with an Aardman Animations model maker, from 25 July to 1 September.

A fruitful time in Kew

Messing about in boats is the seasonal fun on offer at Kew’s Palm House Pond until 1 September. The water feature has been transformed into the Tutti Frutti Boating Lake by food artists Bompas & Parr, with a floating pineapple island at its centre, around which you can navigate one of a fleet of colourful craft. There’s a secret banana grotto to explore within its blue waters too. The eccentric attraction is part of Kew’s IncrEdibles festival, running until 3 November, which will showcase the many edible species growing in the gardens  (020 8332 5655;; admission £14.50, plus £4.50 for the Tutti Frutti Experience ).

Sprinkle fairy dust in Wales

J M Barrie’s fantasy Peter Pan becomes a reality this summer at the Oakwood Theme Park (01834 815170;; admission £21) in Pembrokeshire, where Neverland has just opened in time to welcome the summer crowds. From Skull Rock, a pirate-themed log flume with a 12-metre sculpted skull and a 12-metre freefall drop, to the soft-play area, Hook’s House of Havoc, there are 10 rides and attractions to try out at this new three-acre space that cost £4m to create.

Go wild in Norfolk, Kent and Manchester

Get the kids off the computers and down to Wildrootz (01328 851465;; admission £10.75), a new action-packed activity space at Pensthorpe Wildlife & Gardens in Norfolk due to woo summer day-trippers when it opens on Friday. More than 30 items of play equipment will include a slide tower called The Worm and a zip-wire through the trees titled The Flyway.

Outdoor pursuits are the order of the day at Riverhill Himalayan Gardens (01732 459777;; admission £7.25) in Kent, where new family events for summer include Boat Making (24-28 July), Jewellery Making for Wild Warriors & Woodland Nymphs (14-18 August) and Bark Art (28 August-2 September).

And SeaLife Manchester (0871 221 2483; has recently opened SeaTrek, Europe’s first seabed walk – a one-hour underwater experience for over-eights in a tank full of sharks, rays, fish and a giant green sea turtle, named Ernie; £60.

Visit a royal Victorian beach on the Isle of Wight

Queen Victoria’s private beach at Osborne House (01983 200022;; admission £13.40) on the Isle of Wight – where her children learnt to swim – reopens for a second year, until 31 August, with the addition of some traditional Victorian fun. New for this summer, Punch and Judy will be making an appearance every weekend in July and daily throughout August, and there will be games of quoits and skittles to play, too. While you’re there, check out The Alcove, where Victoria took in the views across the Solent, and the bathing machine that she and the family used.

Scale the heights in Blackpool

Notching up its 113th season, Blackpool Tower (0871 222 9929;; various prices) has raised the bar for summer 2013. The Blackpool Tower Circus will put on a record programme of 364 shows, including summer spectacular “Around the World with Mooky and Boo” until 10 November, starring a global cast of acrobats. Meanwhile, the Tower itself has been cloaked in a Diamond Dress, featuring 20,000 new lights. The Eye and 4D Cinema Experience, Ballroom, Dungeon and Jungle Jim’s soft-play centre complete the iconic attraction’s offering.

Build a sandcastle in Oxford

Avert your eyes from those dreaming spires – the sight to see in Oxford this summer is an unlikely swath of sand. Landlocked Oxford is the latest city to follow the trend for urban beaches (01865 252200; visitoxfordandoxford; open 10am-11pm), dumping 23 tons of sand in the Castle Quarter and decorating it with deckchairs and palm trees.

A line-up of suitable activities will take place on the impromptu shorefront until 1 September, including volleyball and petanque competitions, barbecues and cinema nights.

Follow the bear to Hampshire

The National Trust’s campaign “50 Things to Try Before You’re 11¾” campaign picks up the pace in the summer with a varied nationwide programme featuring everything from bug hunts to outdoor theatre performances.

At Mottisfont (01794 340757;; admission £11.25) in Hampshire, the high-summer fun is themed on Winnie the Pooh, with a special exhibition of E H Shepard’s illustrations, and a family nature trail, Winnie-the-Pooh’s Great Expotition, featuring Poohsticks races on the River Test, tracking a Woozle and designing traps for Heffalumps. Until 15 September.

A bird’s eye view in Cornwall

The Eden Project (01726 811911;; admission £23.50) has opened the first segment of its Rainforest Aerial Walkway, which takes visitors from the Rainforest basecamp through the canopy of its steamy indoor jungle to the Nest lookout (the second phase will see the walk continue to a cliff path). Along the way, you’ll learn about the Baka indigenous people of the rainforests in Cameroon, the Congo basin and Gabon by listening to their music, seeing their shelters and discovering their way of life. From the Nest, you’ll be able to get to grips with the rainforest’s biodiversity.

Great Scot

2011 was a major year for Scotland’s visitor attractions: The National Museum of Scotland (0300 123 6789;; free, exhibitions extra) reopened in Edinburgh after a £47m refurbishment, and Scotland’s Museum of Transport and Travel, Riverside, opened in Glasgow (0141 287 2720;; free; some events extra).

To keep record-breaking visitor numbers up (four million extra visitors were recorded at Scotland’s tourist attractions last year), both are staging events throughout the summer. The National Museum of Scotland’s blockbuster summer exhibition examines Mary Queen of Scots (until 17 November) and there’s also a free fringe music festival from 3-24 August during the Edinburgh Festival and after-hours experience on 17 and 24 August. Riverside has a host of family-friendly events, including a back-to-the-1980s photo shoot on 10-11 August and charity bike run on 31 August.

Park and ride

Thorpe Park’s (0871 663 1673;; from £24.99) newest rollercoaster, The Swarm, has added two rows of backwards-facing seats to give the ride  an extra stomach-churning dimension this year. The trains appear to travel through a crash scene, past an upturned ambulance and via destroyed billboards, corkscrews an inverted drop through a plane wing and  zero-gravity roll.

The Surrey park has also opened the doors to the  Crash Pad Hotel, a minute’s walk from the gates. Doubles start from £135 including two days’ park admission for two  guests and breakfast.

In Staffordshire, Drayton Manor (0844 472 1950;; from £20) has  just opened a new family-friendly monorail in  Thomas Land.  Winston, the Fat Controller’s inspection vehicle, will take groups of four around the Thomas the Tank Engine-themed section of the park  on his Whistle Stop Tour,  with views of Knapford Station and the rest of the Thomas-themed attractions.

Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
stoptober... when the patch, gum and cold turkey had all faied
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?