Amanda Statham of 101 Family Holidays has lots of wild and exciting ideas to keep your family entertained on staycation this year.
How can it be half-term already?” wail millions of parents around the country whose kids have only just returned to school after another lengthy lockdown. And yet, incredibly, another week off looms followed by a seven-week stretch of summer holiday to fill.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being with my family, it’s just that during the last 14 months we’ve been very close in the same space and it feels time to break free. So if, like me, you’re keen to escape the same four walls, here are some fun-filled ideas for holidays with a sense of freedom.
Fly through a volcano in Windsor
Say what? May 29 sees the launch of Legoland Windsor’s Mythica, a fantasy world with new rides, AR (that’s augmented reality in case you were wondering) and immersive cinematic ride Flight of the Sky Lion. If your family’s a fan of giant 3D shows at places like Universal Orlando, you’re going to love this experience, where you soar through fantasy forests, caves and volcanoes while being blasted with mist, wind and the smell of fragrant flowers. It’s genuinely impressive and worth the long queue. When you’ve come back down to earth, spot sharks from a yellow Lego submarine, drive a Lego car, ride a Viking water tube and explore Ninjago world.
Stay: Legoland’s hotels are pricey. Instead, stay at Broadford Barn, 25 minutes away. Not only do you get the run of a fancy barn conversion, with sleek kitchen, corner sofa and open-plan living space, but the Surrey Hills and Guildford castle are on your doorstep for holiday biking, hiking and sightseeing. Book with Sykes Cottages.
Go on safari in Kent
You might not be able to fly to Africa right now, but you can still see giraffe, lions, leopards and elephants up close at Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve. There are more than 900 animals to encounter and it’s particularly thrilling to board a safari truck and drive through fields where giraffes, ostrich, gazelle and buffalo roam freely. There’s a dinosaur trail too and when hunger strikes, tuck into delicious pizza at Babydoll’s cafe.
Stay: Splash out and book one of Port Lympne’s new cub huts which overlook an enclosure housing a pair of critically endangered Amur leopards and two white rhinos. There’s a choice of cabins, sleeping from two to four, and a stay includes entrance to the park, a safari experience, free use of a golf buggy to get around and a welcome drink.
Walk with a hawk in Sherwood Forest
Embrace your inner Robin Hood (or Maid Marion) and take the fam on an irresistibly-named Hawk Walk which involves a stroll with falconry expert Simon Stacey and his beloved bird of prey, Chesney Hawk (chortle). It’s an unmissable experience and kids get the chance to learn how to release and recall Chesney to land on their arm (don’t panic, safety gloves are provided), while walking deep into the ancient woodland.
Stay: Book a long weekend at Sherwood Hideaway, a collection of one- to three-bedroom luxury lodges tucked away in a corner of Nottinghamshire’s famous forest. Open-plan kitchens and lounges are conducive to sociable family dining while decked balconies come with comfy loungers and hot tubs.
Have inflatable fun on the Isle of Wight
Tapnell Farm might just be the most fun farm in the UK. Not only does it have enormous jumping pillows, which seem to keep children happy for hours, it’s also opened an amazing aqua park with more than 20 inflatable obstacles to climb, jump and slide down (wetsuits and buoyancy aids provided). And when you’re not leaping around, there are animals to feed, go karts to drive and mini golf to play.
Stay: Tapnell has a range of accommodation for families, including wooden lodges, safari tents and pods, plus a just-opened Dome Meadow, where you can stay in a futuristic geodesic dome with a fire pit and bbq.
See a baby rhino in the Cotswolds
Cotswolds Wildlife Park, one of the best animal reserves in the country, now has extra appeal; D’ora, a super cute baby rhino. If that weren’t enough, kids of all ages will also enjoy a thrilling bridge walk above a wolf enclosure, watch mice scuttling around a replica lounge and see a cute red panda survey its territory. The excellent playground treehouse fortress with vertiginous slides is extremely popular, but the landscaped grounds with unbelievably tall Wellingtonia trees and ancient oaks are also fun to play in.
Stay: Le Manoir, a honey-hued house in Nether Westcote, is just 15 minutes by car away. Enjoy the cosy lounge, spacious kitchen, three bedrooms and run of a garden and field, complete with babbling brook. You’re treated to a gourmet welcome hamper and top gastro pub The Feathered Nest is a two-minute stroll away.
Discover the Romans in Bath
City breaks can be fun too, particularly Bath where kids get to travel back in time, sipping the thermal waters (disgusting yet mineral-rich) and interacting with costumed Roman characters at the historic Roman Baths. Extra holiday activities include things like making a mosaic and dressing up in togas and tunics. Nearby lies the Fashion Museum where there’s another chance to dress up (this time in 18th and 19th Century designs), and don’t miss a visit to No1 Royal Crescent, which is furnished Georgian-style and has quiz sheets for kids at reception. Burn off excess energy in Royal Victoria Park, with its botanic garden and excellent playground.
Stay: No need to splash out on a pricey hotel when YHA Bath, which lies in a stunning Georgian building, has everything you need including private en suite rooms that sleep four, a peaceful garden and self-catering kitchen.
Splash around in Windermere
Inject some Swallows and Amazons-style adventure into your holiday with a stay by Lake Windermere, the backdrop for various escapades in Arthur Ransome’s famous book. Try kayaking and paddleboarding with Windermere Canoe & Kayak or hire a self-drive boat with Windermere Quays. Back on land, visit The World of Beatrix Potter for a chance to see Peter Rabbit and friends in a magical indoor recreation of the books.
Stay: Picture-postcard stone cottage Silverthwaite lies in Windermere town and makes a great place for families to chill after an exhilarating day on the water, with comfy sofas, two bedrooms and a pretty garden. Book with Sykes Cottages.
Explore caves in Buxton
Crystal stalactites and limestone caverns dating back millions of years await in underground wonder Poole’s Cavern where the illuminated walkways are open year-round, rain or shine. Back above ground hit Buxton Country Park for woodland sculptures and Go Ape then hike to Solomon’s Temple, a folly on the top of Grin Low Hill with amazing views across the Peak District.
Stay: 5 Church Street is charming cottage, just a short walk from the town centre’s attractions with an open-plan living area, bike storage and two bedrooms. Book with Peak Cottages.
Cruise the Norfolk Broads
If your kids are old enough to swim and steer, a boating break is a great choice. Their days will drift by spotting wildlife on deck, helping to navigate the waterways, jumping ashore to assist with locks and enjoy days’ out at places like BeWilderwood, before drifting off to sleep in a bunk. Heaven.
Stay: Your transport’s your accommodation, another reason to love a holiday on the water. Book a Ladymore 2 cruiser and you’ll have everything you need: galley kitchen, sundeck, beds for four, toilet and shower. Book with Waterways Holidays.
Find more family holiday recommendations in England.
By Amanda Statham, editor, 101 Family Holidays.