Days out for kids

Great ideas for day trips with the kids near London

Stuck for things to do with the kids? As much as we love London for its museums and attractions, sometimes an excursion is what’s called for, which is why we’ve rounded up fab family days out near the capital. With theme parks, palaces, animal attractions, easy trips to the seaside and great outdoor adventures, we've got the best ideas for things to do with the whole family. Think we've missed a great family day trip outside London? Let us know in the comments box below.

Legoland Windsor

There are some brilliant attractions at this adventure theme park within the rolling Berkshire countryside. New for 2013 is Duplo Valley Splash and Play featuring the Drench Towers water play structure. Recent additions include the Lego themed hotel, a 150-room hotel with themed accommodation, and ‘Atlantis Submarine Voyage’, a ride where visitors travel through a one million-litre tank in a slow-moving underwater vehicle to see live sharks and stingrays swimming amongst Lego mermaids.

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Windsor

Chessington World of Adventures and Zoo

The zoo, opened in 1931, is still deservedly popular and has ten gorillas, two tigers, two lions and a family of leopards, as well as smaller animals. At Chessington World of Adventures, many rides are geared towards families with young children, unlike the more extreme offerings at nearby stablemate Thorpe Park.

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Chessington

Thorpe Park

Many of the rides here are designed for teens and older children, and have height restrictions. That said, parents with young (or short) children will find plenty to do at Neptune's Beach (a big paddling spot) and Octopus Garden (little, friendly rides). Teenagers will love the gore of horror-themed white-knuckler Saw, and the spiralling water drop raft ride Storm Surge. The staff at Thorpe Park are mostly young and extremely friendly

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Chertsey

Go Ape

Set in Britain's woods and forests, Go Ape centres are fantastic places for monkeying around in the treetops. The high rope courses offer adrenaline-packed aerial adventures for the over-tens (height and weight restrictions apply). Families can swing, scramble, climb and slide to their hearts' content amid the rope bridges, trapezes and zip slides. Climbers are fitted with sturdy safety harnesses, so there's no need for the gripping skills of an actual ape.

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Slough

Diggerland

For any child who has ever dreamed of driving a vehicle or controlling a digger, this is a real treat. In this earthy barrow in Kent, there are giant machines, dirt diggers and a sky shuttle. Many of the attractions have height restrictions, so do check before you set out, but there are lots of attractions aimed at young children including mini Landrovers, mini dumper trucks, mini tractors and dodgems.

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London

Hampton Court Palace

Henry VIII had many homes, but this one positively oozes historical drama.The world-famous gardens are truly wonderful, with the maze taking centre stage in any child's itinerary. Themed activities are plentiful during the school holidays, and on selected bank holidays and weekends Tudor cookery demonstrations take place in the huge kitchens, where children love the bubbling cauldrons and game-bird carcasses.

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Hampton Court

Eltham Palace

Two palaces for the price of one. The remains of the Tudor palace include a bridge over the moat, as well as the impressive Great Hall. The biggest draw now, though, is the art deco property erected adjoining the Great Hall in 1936 by textiles heir Stephen Courtauld. The furniture and fittings look like a film set. Upstairs there's a chance to enjoy a home movie of Stephen and Virginia with their pet lemur, Mahjong (who had his own, specially designed quarters).

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Eltham

Hever Castle

Hever Castle is quite small, but what stories its walls can tell. Most famously, the castle was the family home of Anne Boleyn. Children are always riveted by the violent life and times of Henry, and this is a great place to introduce the subject. There's also a brilliantly designed water maze. Visitors must choose a path across the pond using stone slabs and trying to avoid the surprise jets of water that surge into the air if they stand on a forbidden path.

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London

Hatfield House

Children love random facts, and Hatfield House has many juicy ones to its name. It was here that Queen Elizabeth I spent her childhood and learned of her accession to the throne while reading under an oak tree in the park. A children's quiz encourages youngsters and adults to discover and study fascinating individual items within the house. There are tantalising views of the private maze and family gardens from the windows, and recently Hatfield Park Farm and Bloody Hollow Adventure Playground have been added to the attractions.

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London

Syon House and Park

This magnificent turreted pile looks out over the Thames towards Kew. It was here that Henry VIII's fifth wife Catherine Howard awaited her execution. The rooms, designed by Robert Adam, are breathtaking. Outside, children will love the nineteenth-century Great Conservatory, and running around in the Capability Brown-landscaped gardens. Then there's the London Tropical Zoo enclosure, full of endangered animals like piranhas, snakes, crocs and poison tree frogs.

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Richmond, Surrey

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Run by the team behind London Zoo and set in 600 acres of Bedfordshire parkland with views across the Chilterns, Whipsnade offers a huge variety of animals including all the favourites – chimps, lions, elephants, camels, zebras, hippos and giraffes. The emphasis is on learning about how the animals live in near-as-possble natural habitats, with viewing huts providing exceptional views through glass walls.

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Dunstable

Willows Farm Village

Families can watch animals in their enclosures, including pigs, sheep, cows and more exotic animals like wallabies and reindeer. But the animals are also here to entertain, in the form of sheep races, geese obstacle races, goat climbing displays, falconry displays and ferret fun runs. Enticing activities include frisbee golf, adventure playgrounds and a giant sandpit with working ride-on diggers.

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London

Woburn Safari Park

Woburn Safari Park is a chance for children to see exotic animals in wilder and larger outdoor habitats than can be expected at London Zoo. Take a drive through the plains and see tigers, elephants, giraffe, bears and wolves stalking across their acres. Families can also take a foot safari to get up close to the lemurs, monkeys and penguins. As well as the animals, there are lots of activity areas dotted around the park.

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London

The Lodge RSPB Centre

The Lodge is a sprawling nature reserve containing woodland, heath and grasslands, presenting ample opportunities for birdwatching and exploration along five miles of walking trails, picnic spots and landscaped gardens. Explorer Backpacks are available for children, which include binoculars, bug viewers, wildlife guides and activity booklets.

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London

Leigh-On-Sea

Tiny, sweet and quintessentially English, Leigh-on-Sea is a quiet seaside resort 30 miles east of London and a lovely family day trip. The main street of Old Leigh is lined with cheerful cafés, and on the seafront are cockle sheds and working boats. At the west end, a tiny sandy beach gives way to a muddy gulch when the tide goes out - kids love it, but parents might want to take some spare clothes and a plastic bag for the journey home.

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London

Mersea Island

It's only at high tide that Mersea Island is actually separate from the rest of Essex, when a stretch of the B1025 is submerged beneath the waves and becomes the Strood causeway. Once there, the island is a flat five miles across with plenty of simple pleasures to enjoy. The local farmed flat oysters and Colchester natives are legendary. Next to the oyster farms are boatyards, working fishing boats and yachts in the summer season, as well as sand and shingle beaches.

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London

Camber Sands

Camber Sands withholds its beauty until the last second - it's hidden beyond a mountain of sand dunes. The beach itself is a vast seven-mile sweep of soft sand that's half a mile wide at low tide. Families enjoy the views from behind their windbreaks and then emerge to build sandcastles or paddle in the sea. The constant breeze also makes it popular with kite boarders and windsurfers, but they are kept within a restricted part of the beach.

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Camber

Bluebell Railway

The charm of the steam era lives on in Sussex, where the Bluebell railway line chuffs and puffs through the countryside for 14 kilometres. There are Fish & Chip specials departing during July and August; Steam & Cream trips (eat a cream tea while on board) are scheduled until the end of September and Family Fun days take place on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout August with Punch & Judy shows on Wednesdays and magic shows on Fridays.

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London

Winnie-The-Pooh Walks in Ashdown Forest

Ashdown Forest is the former medieval hunting forest where AA Milne got the inspiration for his Winnie-the-Pooh stories. There are two Winnie-the-Pooh walks of different lengths (which can be downloaded from Ashdown Forest's website) that take in points of interest from the famous bear stories. Set out on an 'expotition' and find the place where Pooh and his friends found the North Pole, the Heffalump Trap and Lone Pine, Roo's Sandy Pit, and more.

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London

Garsons Farm

Londoners come here to take their pick of the seasonal produce. Soft fruits are favourites in the summer months and there are plenty of vegetable fields and orchards too. Staff at sheds at each individual field issue pickers with suitable containers, and then weigh produce in at the end. Make a day of it by stopping at the farm shop to stock up for a picnic on the designated field by the river.

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London

Chislehurst Caves

The woodlands of Chislehurst hold a secret beneath their roots. Thirty metres below ground is a complex of manmade caves carved out of the chalk by Druids, Saxons and Romans. Since then the caves have been turned to all sorts of purposes: during World War II, they acted as Britain's largest bomb shelter. The 45-minute lamplit tour covers a mile of the tunnels; children will enjoy locating the Druid Altar, the Caves Church and the Haunted Pool.

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Bromley, Kent

Bekonscot Model Village

Bekonscot Model Village is a haven of miniatures - children are just the right height to appreciate its Lilliputian charms. Spread across one and a half acres, its 200 small buildings, 1,000 animals, 3,000 inhabitants and hundreds of tiny vehicles are a delight, with lots of visual jokes to enjoy. A model railway runs through the site over bridges and through stations, and there's also a ride on train that takes you around the site.

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London

Bletchley Park

Bletchley was the British centre for codebreaking and military intelligence during World War II. Older children will be fascinated by talk of secret missions and the race to decode complex passwords and secret languages. There's also a code trail that lets them have a go. Small children will enjoy the Thomas the Tank Engine model train layout and the display cases of period toys, as well as the playground, open spaces of the 29-acre site

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London

Comments

6 comments
Penningtonpr
Penningtonpr

How about Groombridge Place near Tunbridge Wells.  Plenty to do for a whole day including adventure opportunities in the forest from giant tree swings for adults and children to having pirate adventures in Crusoe's World or playing cowboys and indians in the teepees!  Two birds of prey displays every day except Mondays, lovely walled gardens with a giant chess set which children love to play on.  Moat, Canal boat, animals including the famous Zedonk.  Extra events during the school holidays.  Lovely refurbished restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating www.groombridgeplace.com  The attraction is also one of the Seven Wonders of the Weald www.sevenwonders.org.uk

Snuffles
Snuffles

We love days out and there are some great nominations here. Go Ape is a favourite, a good excuse to get active and let off steam. Recommend http://www.daytripfinder.co.uk/ for finding discounts and offers to attractions.

Layla
Layla

I seggest you go to Mad Hatter's Tea Party.It's a absolute delight!My favourite is the pops which turn your tongue from hot to cold!

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Anna McQuaid
Anna McQuaid

A great way to escape the madness of London is to visit the Betty Blythe Teashop in West London. A very family friendly spot, Betty Blythe is full to the brim with tasty treats and is the perfect excuse to make time for tea and cake! West London's top spot for Children's parties too - tables are set up for a grown up tea party (complete with teapots filled with hot chocolate!) the venue offers everything a little girl can dream of from dressing up to cupcake decorating, jewellery making and fairytale face painting.