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Ten great days out to keep the kids happy by train from London

Avoid the traffic and take the train to your next family day out. Whatever their ages, whatever they’re into, we think you’ll find some inspired ideas in our guide to kid-friendly places out of town by Thameslink and Great Northern

Time Out in association with Thameslink

Celebrate summer with the kids by escaping the city's crowds. Here you’ll find lots of fun ideas for family day trips from London: there's something for everyone from little wizards to animal lovers, aeroplane enthusiasts to daring adventurers and those who just love to run around in the great outdoors. All of these destinations are easy to get to by train, too, so you can forget traffic jams and simply enjoy your day out together.

Or enjoy a day out with mates or a date and check out our ten great escapes guide.

More adventurous types may prefer to get active on these eight day trips, all within easy reach of London by train.


Let imaginations take flight

Now part of the Imperial War Museum, Duxford was also one of the key RAF bases in World War II. Exhibits include the newly refurbished American Air Museum, a naval Air and Sea display and a Battle of Britain gallery. The kids can explore the Operations Room, set up as it was in 1940 – vital to the ultimate success of Churchill’s campaign. Evocative stuff. There are always lots of family activities to try, too.

RAF Duxford, Duxford Airfield, Cambridgeshire CB22 4QR

Getting there: Royston rail

harry potter

Enter the Wizarding World

The main base for making all of the Harry Potter films was the Warner Brothers Studios just north of London, in Watford. Keeping the magic alive, the film lot is now a walk-through exhibition where you can step into some of the films’ most famous sets, discover how the tech department made visual magic with special effects and get up close to the original Hogwarts Express.

Warner Bros Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter, Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, Hertfordshire WD25 7LR

Getting there: Watford Junction rail then shuttle bus

Go Ape

Swing from tree to tree

At Go Ape Crawley there’s the space to really let yourself go – speeding through the forest on ropes, rope bridges and zipwires. There’s a range of activities for all ages and skill levels, including a challenging course (age 10+, height 1.4m+) and a Tree Top Junior course for mini-Tarzans aged six to 12.

Go Ape Crawley, Tilgate Park, Crawley, West Sussex RH10 5PQ

Getting there: Crawley or Three Bridges rail


Discover your Roman roots

In the days when men wore skirts and roads were straight, Verulamium was the third largest city in Roman Britain. At the museum in Veralumium Park in modern St Albans you can find out more about life here 2000 years ago then head across to the nearby ruins of the Roman Theatre.

St Albans Museums, St Michael's, St Albans, Herts AL3 4SW

Getting there: St Albans City rail

royston cave

Step into a cave of mystery

Under the streets of Royston there lies a strange, manmade cave, complete with wall carvings. Some studies compare the drawings with those linked to Knights Templar sites, but no-one knows for sure, making this a subterranean adventure for children and adults alike. (It can get slippery, so wear sturdy shoes.)

Katherine’s Yard, Melbourn St, Royston, Hertfordshire SG8 7BZ

Getting there: Royston rail


Meet the dinosaurs of the deep

Don’t just dip your toes in the sea, find out what’s living at the bottom of it! This seafront aquarium includes touch pools, daily talks and feeding demonstrations and, new for 2016, a ‘Jurassic Seas’ gallery exhibit where you can find out more about pre-historic sealife. The aquarium also features a glass-bottomed boat video show so your budding marine biologists can gaze on the wonders of the deep.

Sea Life Brighton, Marine Parade, Brighton, East Sussex BN2 1TB

Getting there: Brighton rail

fitzwilliam museum

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Inspire curious minds with the amazing things to see and do at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. There is an incredible collection of historic finds, an excellent exhibition about ancient Egypt and bookable hands-on craft sessions, plus free drop-in activities on the first Saturday of each month.

Fitzwilliam Museum Trumpington St, Cambridge, CB2 1RB

Getting there: Cambridge rail


Shepreth Wildlife Park

Few animal parks of this size are located so conveniently near to a train station, making Shepreth a lovely family day out. See tigers, meerkats and otters up close, with lots of daily talks and feeding displays and the chance to find out about their hedgehog hospital. Aw! There are lots of activities for children of all ages, a cafeteria and a play barn. Produce your train ticket and get reduced entry.

Shepreth Wildlife Park, Station Rd, Shepreth, Hertforshire, SG8 9PZ

Getting there: Shepreth rail


Go wild in the country

The Lodge RSPB nature reserve is a vast area for running about in. Kids can can pick up a free RSPB Wildlife Explorer backpack (including binoculars, a magnifying glass and wildlife spotting charts) and follow a trail on their own woodland adventure.

The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire. SG19 2DL

Getting there: Sandy rail

brighton pier

Brighton Pier

This city by the sea has great dining and shopping for grown-ups, but don’t forget that quite simply, it’s a fab seaside day out too! Do the trad thing and head for Brighton Pier – it has a fairground with rides aplenty, and when you’re done with candy floss and the ‘Turbo Coaster’, a trip to the top of the British Airways i360 tower is a must. After that, you’ll be ready for stretching out on the beach!

Brighton Pier, Madeira Drive, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 1TW

Getting there: Brighton rail

Go Ape

Thameslink offers

Thameslink operates train services to and from the heart of London, between Bedford and Brighton via Luton and Gatwick Airport, and St Albans and Wimbledon.

Great Northern connects King’s Lynn, Cambridge and Peterborough, via Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City with London King’s Cross. Metro services run to and from Moorgate weekdays, late evening and at weekends.

Kids travel for just £2 when accompanied by an adult on our great value Off-Peak tickets, plus get 2FOR1 offers to heaps of attractions when you travel by train.


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