The Ten Best: Family outings
From dolphin-spotting to snowboarding, Isabel Lloyd has a host of ideas for keeping the children entertained this Easter
Tuesday 06 April 2004
Paignton Zoo, Devon
Family ticket £26.70
As someone who has been forced by their children to visit a zoo in every town we've ever been in, I can say with some authority that Paignton is one of the best in Europe. Its imaginative enclosures and contented animals make it a pleasure to spend a day in.
Greenwich, London SE10
A day in Greenwich avoids the worst of the tourist pack in central London, and is more conducive to happy tinies than the mean streets of the West End or the South Bank. Greenwich Park has a decent playground, a trip downriver from Westminster pier (020-7930 4097) is just the right length for childish attention spans, and the Maritime Museum (020-8312 6608) runs free art-and-craft activities every Sunday.
Black Country Living Museum, Dudley
Family ticket £28
This largely open-air museum near Birmingham, dedicated to reconstructing life during the Industrial Revolution, is spread over 26 acres. There's a number of working buildings, and the central village is staffed by in-character guides, who work alongside real craftsmen and women. A great chance to get a taste of Victorian living.
0121 557 9643
Dolphin-spotting, Moray Firth
£20 each (under-threes free)
Most of the UK population would have to dedicate a bit of time and money getting up to Inverness in Scotland - but it's worth it for the chance of seeing the bottlenose dolphins that are resident in the Moray Firth. Dolphin Ecosse runs half-day boat-trips from Cromarty, including a video beforehand, two-and-a-half hours on the boat, and refreshments. The company says that dolphins are seen on nine out of 10 of its trips. If not, there'll always be seals, porpoises and puffins to watch.
Isle of Wight
The perfect place to play at being a storybook family. There's something pleasantly 1950s about the Isle of Wight - you half expect to see the Famous Five appear around every corner - and it has a range of gentle attractions for younger children. Take a trip on a Victorian steam train at Ryde (01983 882204), discover dinosaur footprints with a palaeontologist at Brighstone Bay (01983 740401), and have lunch at the Wight Mouse Inn (01983 730431), a family pub that has an excellent soft-play area and a petting zoo.
Tourist info: 01983 813800; www.islandbreaks.co.uk
National Mining Museum of Wales, Blaenavon
School-age children not of a claustrophobic bent will find Wales's "Big Pit" a fascinating experience. Ex-miners take you 300 feet underground down the main shaft of what was for 200 years a working mine; you get to visit the coal-face, pit stables and underground road, and see for yourself the place where more than a thousand men once worked.
The SnowDome, Tamworth
One-hour group lesson from £18
Outside, spring may be in the air - but inside this big square box near Birmingham it's permanent winter. A 170m real snow slope with a button lift, skiing and boarding lessons, sledging, an ice-rink... you can easily spend a day here getting your fill of the white stuff.
Cadbury World, Bournville
Family ticket £27.60
Want to see children get excited? Tell them they are going to visit a chocolate factory. In fact, watching chocolate bars being created is only a part of Cadbury World, situated near Birmingham, which celebrates all things cocoa with a half-educational, half-fun museum. Booking advisable.
0121 451 4159
Cycling in the New Forest, Hampshire
£10 for a day's adult bike hire
Hire bikes, with or without toddler trailer-bikes and baby seats, from Forest Leisure Cycling in Burley, and then head for the hills - or rather the woods and open heaths - on one of six traffic-free routes provided by the cycling centre. Count ponies and deer, eat a picnic, then round off the day in one of the tearooms along the way.
Forest Leisure Cycling: 01425 403584; www.forestleisurecycling.co.uk
Science Museum, London
Free, but charges for some exhibitions
It's a toss-up which of the three museums on Exhibition Road is best for children, but I think the Science Museum wins by a nose, not least because its basement is handed over to children's entertainment. Tinies can mess about with sand and water, while their older siblings can play at being Einstein with hands-on experiments. On Tuesday they'll get free entry to the Science of Sport exhibition if they hand over a chocolate Easter egg.
Exhibition Road, London SW7 (020-7942 4000; www.sciencemuseum.org.uk)
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