Leeds Castle, Kent
Leeds Castle has something for everyone – a castle and grounds for grownups to explore, two playgrounds (one for under-4s), a maze and bird displays with falcons. Also, young nature lovers can help feed ducks.
For more information: 01622 765400; leeds-castle.com
Admission: Adults £15 for unlimited entry for one year, children £9.50, under-4s free. (prices 2008)
Take a trip on the little road train back to the car park – it’s fun for the kids and it will save tired legs.
“We visit the castle most weeks during the summer – there are dozens of peacocks wandering around and the playground is lovely – all wooden and safe with picnic benches, so we can sit and watch Abigail play.”
Anna, 34 mum to Abigail, 2
Blair Drummond Safari & Adventure Park, near Stirling
This park has everything from elephants, tigers, giraffes and lions to a petting zoo with goats and llamas. There’s also a sealion show, a boat trip out to Chimp Island, an adventure playground, massive sandpit, pirate ship and bouncy castle.
For more information: 01786 841456; blairdrummond.com
Admission: Adults £10.50, children aged 3-14 £7, under-3s free. (prices 2008)
You can take your own sausages and burgers and cook them on the barbecues that are made available.
“It’s so interactive. You can get close to the animals, so the little ones can see easily.”
Olivia, 35, mum to Monica, 2, and Scarlett, 9 months
There’s plenty to do for free in this part of London. The Science Museum’s Garden for under-5s is full of interactive exhibits, and toddlers love the animated T-Rex at the Natural History Museum. The Diana Memorial Playground in Hyde Park, with its pirate ship and sensory gardens, is also great fun.
For more information:
0870 870 4868; sciencemuseum.org.uk
020 7942 5000; nhm.ac.uk
020 7298 2000; royalparks.gov.uk
All three places have picnic areas, so you can bring your own food to keep costs down.
“The free aprons they get to wear in the Science Museum’s water play area in the Garden are brilliant.”
Lindsay, 34, mum to Robbie, 7, and Tamsyn, 5
Gambado, Beckenham, Chelsea & Milton Keynes
Gambado offers fantastically tall indoor play towers plus bumper cars, a soft play area for babies and a café with free internet access.
For more information: 0870 027 3703; gambado.com
Admission: Adults £2 to £2.50; children aged 1-10 £4.95 to £9.45 depending on child’s age and park’s location; under-1s free. (Prices 2008)
Go early – it can get noisy later.
“It’s a fantastic place for my older girls to let off steam in a safe environment while I sit and play with Harriet.”
Jessica, 33, mum to Martha, 5, Isabella, 4, and Harriet, 4 months
Farmer Ted’s, Ormskirk
At Farmer Ted’s, children can handle small animals and look at larger farm animals. There’s a pedaltractor for little ones, who can also ride in a barrel pulled by a real tractor. There’s also a soft-play centre and large sandpit.
For more information: 0151 526 0002; farmerteds.com
Admission: A family ticket starts from £20.50. (Prices 2008)
Ask about the special daily events.
“Nathan loves the pet grooming. We go so often that I’ve bought a season
Natalie, 27, mum to Nathan, 20 months
Thomas Land, Staffs at Drayton Manor Park
Thomas Land has 12 Thomas the Tank Engine-themed rides – many suitable
for little ones to ride on with their parents (there’s a 90cm height restriction on some rides), and indoor and outdoor play areas. Drayton Manor Park has a host of bigger rides for older kids, as well as a zoo.
For more information: 0844 472 1950; thomaslanduk.co.uk
Admission: Adults £23, children aged 4-11 £19, under-4s free.
Don’t miss the exciting shows.
“There are plenty of rides gentle enough for Georgia’s level that are also exciting enough to keep her entertained. She loved the train ride down to Farmer McColl’s and was speechless when the Fat Controller shook her hand.”
Maggie, 35, mum to Georgia, 4
Childhood Museum, Bethnal Green, London
The Museum of Childhood offers great fun for babies and bigger tots. It has a ball pool, a play area for crawlers and a sensory light display. Toddlers and preschoolers can perform their own puppet show.
For more information: 020 8983 5200; vam.ac.uk/moc
Parking is difficult so use the tube or a bus; they’re both close by.
“Kealan was transfixed by the light display. It’s a brilliant day out, at no cost!”
Sophie, 29, mum to Emma, 2, and Kealan, 9 months
Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock, Milton Keynes & Warrington
A theme park that has plenty of toddler-friendly rides and shows as well as a chance to meet the ‘Gully’ characters in person. There are also indoor and outdoor play areas for all ages.
For more information: 01925 444888; www.gulliversfun.co.uk
Admission: Adults and children £9.95 to £11.95 depending on the park’s site. Children under 90cm free. (Prices 2008)
If you need to take a buggy, try and go to the Milton Keynes park as it’s less hilly than the Matlock site.
“The girls love all the rides and because it’s designed for their age group, it really is a perfect day out for them.”
Sally, 33 mum to Bonnie, 6, and Bethany, 4
Exploris, County Down
This aquarium has several huge tanks where children can come face to face with sea creatures native to Ireland, as well as a seal sanctuary where orphaned, sick and injured seal-pups are looked after before being released back into the wild. It also has a duck pond and a playground.
For more information: 028 4272 8062; exploris.org.uk
Admission: Adults £7, under-16s £4, under-4s free. (Prices 2008)
Look out for special exhibitions and children’s events over the summer – check the website for details.
“Lewis loves the touch-tank where he can stroke stingrays and handle starfish and sea urchins.”
Caroline, 33, mum to Lewis, 3
Margam Country Park, Port Talbot, Wales
Set in 1,000 acres of parkland, there’s something for all the family here, including a miniature railway, adventure playground with a turreted castle to climb on, pets corner and Fairytale Land, which has a range of mini-houses based on popular fairytales with animatronic characters.
For more information: 01639 881635; neath-porttalbot.gov.uk/margampark
Admission: Free, except for mini railway and special events.
Take the miniature train up to the manor house – it cuts out lots of steps.
“Emily especially loved seeing the fairytale characters in their own houses – she felt privileged to see them.”
Sarah, 33, mum to Emily, 2