Get out and about with your brood this summer holiday at one of these great local attractions
The Imperial War Museum at Duxford is perhaps best known for its air displays that attract thousands of visitors for a truly spectacular day out (the final one this year, with a Battle of Britain theme, is 23/24 September), but any day there provides so much to savour.
There are vast displays of aircraft and military vehicles stretching back through the decades telling wartime and peacetime tales through machinery and interactive exhibits.
You can walk through fuselages, imagine what it would be like to take the controls of a large airliner and marvel at military planning when the odds seemed to be stacked against Britain. It’s open 10am to 6pm, seven days a week and there’s a restaurant and two cafés.
GO APE, THETFORD
There are exhilarating outdoor activities aplenty on offer at Go Ape, which is set in a huge (50,000 acres) pine forest in Thetford. Adventurous families can get stuck into a thrilling treetop adventure, zipping down zip wires, swinging like Tarzan and scrambling around on all sorts of obstacles and crossings. Or, down on terra firma, have a go at the forest Segway experience – an epic, off the beaten track ride through rugged trails in the woodland.
WANDLEBURY COUNTRY PARK
On the brow of the Gog Magog Hills sits Wandlebury, a beautiful country park boasting eight miles of wonderful walks through mature woodland, wildflower meadows and even a herd of Highland cattle. The park is a great setting for a picnic or barbecue, plus it’s teeming with wildlife watching opportunities. There’s a busy calendar of events, which includes nature trails, pond dipping, crafty activities, orienteering and much, much more. Visit the website for info on what’s happening over the summer holidays.
CENTRE FOR COMPUTING HISTORY
Little techies will be in their element at the Centre for Computing History on Newmarket Road. A treasure trove of vintage computers, arcade games and consoles, it also hosts lots of hands-on exhibitions, educational workshops and activities geared towards making the history of computing relevant and fun for all ages. Upcoming events include a retro video game night and family gaming event.
Ever wondered what the Cambridgeshire countryside would have looked like hundreds of years ago? Pay a visit to Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, which offers a fascinating insight into the lost Fenland landscape. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the extensive wildlife the site is home to – from the rare Konik ponies to bitterns and wildfowl – there’s thought to be more than 9,000 species at Wicken Fen. The reserve can be explored via a network of nature trails and cycleways and by electric boat, and you can wild camp there too if you fancy a night under the stars.
Located in Hertfordshire, Knebworth House dates back to Tudor times and offers an abundance of history, beautiful gardens and loads of fun activities and trails, making it a great day out for the whole family to enjoy. Special events this month include an outdoor theatre production of The Emperor’s New Clothes, open air cinema, a dinosaur adventure and the Steam, Crafts & Country Life Fair. Entrance is £9.50 for the park and gardens, or £13 if you want to visit the house too. Children three and under go free.
Eight miles outside of Cambridge, the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate offers a grand old stately home to explore (the largest in Cambridgeshire), plus acres of beautiful gardens and a working farm. Down on the farm kids can try their hand at grooming the donkeys, meet the Shire horses, drive a mini tractor and even have a go at milking! There’s an adventure playground too, with climbing frames, balance beams and swings, plus tables and chairs nestled under trees – the perfect picnic spot.
SHEPRETH WILDLIFE PARK
With over 100 species to see, animal lovers of all ages are in for a treat at Shepreth Wildlife Park. Home to a tiger, a mountain lion, monkeys and a lynx, as well as lots of smaller critters like hedgehogs, otters and owls, this conservation-conscious park offers a great day out and has become one of the area’s best-loved attractions. Get up close to creepy-crawlies in Bug City, hop aboard the Safari Train, see a birds of prey display and more.
DENNY ABBEY & FARMLAND MUSEUM
Celebrate our rural heritage with a trip to Denny Abbey and the neighbouring Farmland Museum.
Founded in 1159 by Benedictine monks, in 1170 the abbey was taken over by the Knights Templar. In 1539 it became a farm and remained so into the late 1960s.
The museum features a Fenman’s hut, blacksmith’s and wheelwright’s workshops, a village shop display, a carefully restored 17th-century stone barn, a collection of agricultural tools and machines spanning more than 100 years, and many other demonstrations of Cambridgeshire rural life from the past. There is a children’s play area and a café, which is open at weekends. The abbey and museum are open midday to 5pm on weekdays, and 10.30am to 5pm at weekends.
JESUS GREEN LIDO
Hands down the best place in the city to cool down on a sweltering day, Jesus Green Lido is a firm summer favourite in Cambridge.
At 91 metres, this open-air pool is one of the largest in Europe, with a long and narrow shape designed to mimic swimming in the nearby river. Peaceful and picturesque, this tree-lined corner of Cambridge feels like a secluded paradise in high summer – pack a picnic and you’re set for the day.
Secret tunnels, hidden doors and huge puzzles await at the recently opened Lockhouse Games, a brand-new attraction for Cambridge which you’ll find in the heart of the city centre on Regent Street.
Offering a range of real life action games, you and your team can choose your mission and then get to work solving the fiendishly tricky clues in a thrilling race against time to escape.
Stop a giant meteor hurtling towards earth in the Armageddon game, escape from a Cold War-era safehouse hidden under the streets of Cambridge in Secret Agent, or journey deep into ancient Egypt in Egyptian Tomb – whichever you choose you’ll have a ball working together while the clock is ticking down. All in all – definitely one of the most exciting hours you can have in Cambridge!
Once you’ve finished your mission, the venue also has virtual reality games, a board games lounge and a magical market stall to explore.
The games are suitable for teams of up to five people, and those under 14 years old must be accompanied by an adult.
AUDLEY END HOUSE AND GARDENS
This impressive pile was once one of the largest and grandest in Jacobean England, and is set in magnificent gardens. Every weekend this summer Victorian workers in the stables, service wing, nursery and coal gallery will bring the house back to its heyday, so you’ll come face-to-face with the governess, head cook and stable hands.
There’s a children’s play area, a café and a tea room, plus across the road, once your trip is over, there’s a superb miniature railway which is a perfect way of soaking up the lovely views. The Audley End Miniature Railway is also hosting a Fairy and Elf Festival until 3 September, so there will be lots of special activities including storytelling, face-painting and a games area – don your best enchanted fancy dress and join in the fun!
House open 12 to 5pm, gardens 10am to 6pm.
SUMMER AT THE MUSEUMS
Running until 3 September, the University of Cambridge Museums will be laying on a huge programme of family activities, events and trails to keep everybody entertained over the summer holidays. Taking place at venues across Cambridge and the county, there will be everything from storytelling and play-based activities for younger kids, to interactive and educational hands-on activities for all ages. Turn to page 25 for our highlights.
Marvel at magnificent hawks, owls, falcons and eagles at this heaven for bird lovers in Woodhurst, near St Ives. Time your visit to see a flying display (noon, 2pm and 4pm in summer), or book your own personal flying or photography experience. There’s a children’s play area and tea room too.
Linton Zoo, or to give it its full title, Linton Zoo Conservation Park, is an outstanding local zoo with the emphasis very much on its role as a wildlife breeding centre. Just arrived from Leipzig Zoo are three eastern quolls (a marsupial native to Australia), while the big cats have always been a great favourite. The zoo has Amur tigers, African lions and snow leopards, with viewing windows making it possible to get as close as a whisker. Zebras, tapirs, kangaroos, wallabies, porcupines and lemurs are just some of the other animals, plus feathered friends such as storks, hornbills and macaws, and not forgetting the large masters of slow movement, giant tortoises.
Open 10am to 5pm, last admission at 4pm.
With over 40 acres of beautiful gardens to explore, our city’s Botanic Garden is a brilliant place for a fun and educational family day out. There’s plenty to admire, from the dazzling array of vibrant flowers nestling in borders to the huge ancient trees and peaceful lakes – as well as the glasshouses, with their exotic flowers and prickly cacti.
Make the most of your visit by joining in one of the family events, borrow a free backpack or pick up a trail for the kids to use while you’re at the Garden. Family Saturday Activities, which take place on the first Saturday of each month, offer drop-in sessions with a different theme each month – ranging from making plant fossils to hunting for mini beasts.
Be sure to stop for a pit stop at the delightful Garden Café too, which stocks light lunches and great homemade cakes.
WOOD GREED ANIMAL SHELTER
If your little ones are animal lovers, they’ll adore a trip to Wood Green’s Heydon centre. Stop by on 20 August for Animal Antics from 11am to 3pm, where you can make enrichment toys for pets, have a go at being a vet, try your hand at chicken agility, and even take the ferrets for a walk! There’s face-painting and a delicious barbecue to enjoy too, then at the end of the day you can relax at story time – with the (very cute) guinea pigs. Animal Antics is free to attend and suitable for all ages.
CLIP 'N' CLIMB
Tucked away on the Clifton Road industrial estate is Clip ’n’ Climb, a climbing centre for all ages and abilities with loads of fun challenges that the whole family can enjoy together.
You’ll have hours of fun reaching new heights on the Skyscraper, whooshing down the Vertical Drop Slide, lighting up the board on the Checkerplate and – if you’re feeling competitive – battling it out on the Speed Climbing Challenge. Clip ’n’ Climb is suitable for age four and up, full equipment is provided and no climbing experience is needed.
The automatic belay devices take in the slack as you climb and then lower you gently to the ground – minimising the risk and meaning you can be as adventurous as you like.
MILTON MAIZE MAZE
Get lost and have loads of fun doing it at Milton Maize Maze, which reopened last month with a brand-new design for 2017. Open until 5 September, this year’s maze features a giant seven-acre castle, which you’ll have hours of fun exploring from down in the dungeon to up in the highest turret. Also new for this year is Water Wars, an action-packed game where you get to drench your opponents! The wooden maze will be returning too, and you can also bounce on a trampoline, do some go karting, zip down a zip wire or hop on a tractor for a trip around the farm. For something a little more relaxing, you can wander round the Wild Flower Meadow, feed the fish at the reservoir or have a pit stop for tea and cake at the café.
WOBURN SAFARI PARK
Take a wild ride through Woburn Safari Park this summer hols and meet animals including big cats from the comfort of your car. Then head off on a foot safari to get up close with creatures including sea lions, birds of prey and penguins. Stars of the safari include the majestic lion pride, the brooding black bears, the mischievous monkeys and the towering elephants. There’s lots more to enjoy too, including a soft play area, boat rides on the lake, the Woburn railway, plus all sorts of keeper talks and demonstrations throughout the day.