Have the best school holidays yet with a day out at one of these top local attractions
A sunny day in Grantchester is the stuff childhood memories are made of. Make your way down the ‘Grantchester Grind’ to the village, or follow the riverbank through the meadows for the most scenic route (you can also punt from the Mill Pond). However you arrive, you’ll be greeted with heavenly meadows, fabulous pubs and a magical tea room hidden amongst the orchard trees.
Pay a visit to the grand old Fitzwilliam Museum for a summer holiday culture fix. Entry is always free and there are lots of paintings, sculptures and more to explore. While away a few hours viewing the collection, and don’t forget the huge bronze sculpture by Henry Moore out the front. There’s hours of fun to be had with kids sketching what they see in the galleries, and you can pick up a trail guide or Fitz Kit at the information desk.
A jewel in Cambridge’s cultural crown, Kettle’s Yard offers a variety of arty activities for visitors old and young.
Pick up an activity sheet (from the café) or grab a fold-out family guide before you make your way around this impressive gallery-museum, or join in with the free-to-attend practical art-making workshops, which run on selected dates.
Centre for Computing History
If your kids love gaming, ferry them along to the Centre for Computing History: an Aladdin’s cave of retro tech fun. Housing more than 800 vintage computers, old-school consoles and other memorabilia, the collection tells the story of the Information Age, with plenty of opportunities to get hands-on playing nostalgic games. CCH’s dizzying array of perfectly preserved artefacts is so renowned that when Spielberg and co were making Ready Player One, they approached the museum for authentic props, many of which can be seen in the finished film. The centre hosts regular special events, such as the Family Gaming Night on 31 August: a chance to battle it out on Space Invaders, Pac-Man and more with your nearest and dearest.
Beach @ Bury Lane
Enjoy the fun of the seaside at the Beach @ Bury Lane, a new attraction at Bury Lane Farm Shop on the border of Herts and Cambs. Ideal for kids up to 12 years old, it’s got diggers, trampolines, bungees, go karts, a climbing boulder and more to keep little ones entertained, as well as a sandy beach! The Beach Shop’s got buckets and spades while the Refreshment Hut has drinks and ice creams to cool you down on a hot summer’s day.
Museum of Zoology
Discover stories of survival, evolution, extinction and conservation at the Museum of Zoology, which reopened last summer after a £4.1 million revamp. Home to one of the UK’s most significant natural history collections, creatures great and small jostle for visitors’ attention inside, from the fiercest of predators to the most delicate of insects. The most impressive of all, which greets you as you enter the building, is the enormous fin whale skeleton – at 21 metres long, it’s among the largest of its kind ever recorded, and fills the entrance hall end to end.
You can also explore Darwin’s beetle collection, ogle one of the world’s most complete dodo skeletons and see the teeth, tusks and hair belonging to that Ice Age superstar, the woolly mammoth. Admission is free and there’s an on-site cafe.
For some frolicking about in the great outdoors, turn your feet to Lammas Land on the west of the city. One of the most popular parks in the city, it’s got a huge paddling pool and a large play area, plus plenty of grass to run about in and picnic. Once you’re all played out, you can walk on to Coe Fen and across the river, or explore the peaceful Paradise Nature Reserve.
Shepreth Wildlife Park
Wildlife-loving kids will adore a walk around Shepreth Wildlife Park, which is home to a northern lynx, red pandas and a pair of Sumatran tigers, Ratna and Kelab.
There’s plenty more, too, from otters to owls and tortoises to tarantulas.
You can see the sights aboard the safari train, plus catch demos including a birds of prey display and otter feeding. There’s a cafe for when hunger strikes, and a soft play area for kids to let off steam in, too.
Clip ’n’ Climb
Celebrating its third birthday this month, and over 150,000 happy customers so far, Clip ’n’ Climb combines a mini theme park and climbing centre at its Clifton Road site.
There are loads of fun challenges that the whole family can enjoy together, from climbing commando style on the Jungle Gym to lighting up the board on the Checkerplate.
For the most daring, there are extreme challenges such as the vertical drop slide (eek), but you don’t need any experience or special equipment to take part.
Audley End House & Gardens
Explore the grandeur of what was one of the largest and most opulent homes in Jacobean England with a trip to Audley End house and gardens, located just outside Saffron Walden.
In addition to the stately home, there are beautiful gardens to run about in (designed by Capability Brown, no less), horses to meet at the Victorian stable yard, plus a play area in which kids can burn off some energy. There’s a busy programme of events over the summer months, from alfresco concerts and cinema screenings to living history events where you can see the house as it was in its Victorian heyday, with costumed characters.
It’s hard not to be impressed by Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire’s largest house. Now managed by the National Trust, it’s had a rich tapestry of owners in its long history, with many lords, ladies, dukes and earls calling the estate home since it was established in the 17th century. Today, a visit yields treasures including spectacular architecture, beautiful gardens and a library with more than 6,000 books. Not to be missed is the Home Farm, where you can meet a wide range of rare breed animals, goats, cattle, sheep, pigs and horses; learn more about them and how they’re looked after day to day.
A day trip to Ely
Ely can be a lovely destination for a day trip with the family. The Cathedral – a marvel of the medieval world – is a sight to behold, and you can take to the Ouse with a Liberty Belle river cruise. There’s escape game fun to be had at the historic Oliver Cromwell House, while Ely Museum takes visitors on a journey through time with fossils, Roman remains and original prison cells, plus archive film of Fenland life. When you get peckish, the afternoon teas at Peacocks are superb.
Fun on the punts
The most quintessential Cambridge activity of them all, we couldn’t omit punting from our round-up of Cambridge summer fun. Pack up a picnic and head down to the Mill Pond or Quayside and hop aboard: for relaxation and interesting facts and fables about the sights, go for the chauffeured option, or go DIY and hone your punting skills.
Museum of Technology
It might be better known for its dreaming spires, but Cambridge also has a fascinating industrial heritage to discover at the Museum of Technology. Located on Riverside, this recently reopened attraction offers all kinds of fascinating and functional contraptions, from engines to printing presses. The grassy area surrounding the museum is known as Othersyde, offering space to run around in, grab a drink and soak up river views, while the old Engineer’s House runs escape room games themed around the history of the site.
Milton Maize Maze
Reopening for its 2019 season on 19 July, the team at Milton Maize Maze have spent months creating this year’s corn-based labyrinth, which this time celebrates the first moon landing 50 years ago. A hugely popular summer day out, the attraction has been running since 2003, proudly offering “traditional family fun without an iPad in sight”. As well as getting hopelessly lost in the giant maze, kids will love the Field of Fun, with its go karts, tractor rides, inflatables and water games, plus you can grab a snack from the BBQ.
Cambridge Aqua Park
If your family loves nothing more than a swim and a splash about, make a beeline for Cambridge Aqua Park, a huge, Total Wipeout-style water-based obstacle course just north of Cambridge.
Don your wetsuit and lifejacket and you’ll be on your way, navigating trampolines, slides, a blast bag and more – and having plenty of laughs as you go. The site is on farmland in the Fens at Hannam’s Wake Hub, and there’s lots of room for picnicking at the side.
Experience over 100 years of aviation history at IWM Duxford, where you can be awed by iconic aircraft including the B-52, Concorde, Spitfire and Vulcan Bomber. Explore the Operations Room – Duxford’s nerve centre during the second world war, recreated to look exactly as it did in 1940, try on a replica uniform, fill a pilot’s brain with flying knowledge and see the personal items of the people who worked at Duxford. For an extra special experience, visit during an air show; dates for your diary are 13-14 July (Flying Legends) and 21-22 September (Battle of Britain).
Lovely at any time of the year, the Cambridge University Botanic Garden is especially gorgeous during the summer months. You can easily lose a day strolling through the 40+ acres of gardens and marvelling at the flowers, ancient trees and peaceful lakes, stopping off at the glasshouse to admire its exotic floral inhabitants and the prickly cacti collection. Special events range from arty workshops and open air concerts to science talks – pay a visit to the website to see what’s coming up.
Jesus Green Lido
Nothing says summer in Cambridge like a day at the Lido – our very worthy cover star this issue. Tucked behind a cluster of trees on Jesus Green, this huge open-air pool feels totally secluded despite being right in the heart of the city. One of the longest outdoor pools in Europe, it’s also got plenty of space for sunbathing and relaxing, plus a refreshment stand which sells drinks and ice cream. There’s also the recent addition of a sauna to enjoy. It’s open between May and September yearly, and a swim will set you back £4.80 for adults and £2.50 for kids.
Cambridge Science Centre
Pay a visit to Cambridge Science Centre for hands-on fun, unique exhibits and workshops. Located at Cambridge Leisure Park, the centre makes science fun and accessible.
The permanent LifeWorks! exhibition is a voyage of discovery from cell to survival, while throughout the day during weekends and school holidays, there’s a range of scientific shows and activities.