The Woodland Trust
The UK’s beautiful woodlands are inspiring and fun places to visit, regardless of the season. Forage and run through leaves in the autumn, spot wild animals in the winter, or picnic and build shelters in warmer weather. The Woodland Trust’s tree dedication scheme is a lovely way to strengthen your family’s bond to a particular forest. Sponsor a tree or area of woodland to your child – you’ll get a leaflet packed with information about your site and personalised certificate – and watch it grow and change. All Woodland Trust sites are free, so you can visit your special place at any time of year, knowing that your contribution has helped create a much-needed home for wildlife and keep our country a little greener.
The Rainforest Cafe
Would you expect to find a lush jungle a footstep off London’s Piccadilly Circus? Walk through the doors of the Rainforest Cafe into a spectacular, green landscape, recreating the sights and sounds of the Amazon. Walk your little monkeys past the crocodile pond, enjoy a luscious smoothie, and meet chattering gorillas, a menacing jaguar, butterflies and some loudly trumpeting elephants. Choose from a classic American menu, and don’t forget to swing by the shop on the way out (they stock some of the sweetest cuddly toys around). As sponsors of the World Land Trust, and having worked with The Aspinall Foundation, a lunch at the Rainforest Cafe will help save some of the world’s most vulnerable animals too.
The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre
Discover all about one of the greatest story tellers of all time, Roald Dahl at this whoopsy wifflingly briliant, full of hands-on, fun things to do. You’ll find out about his childhood through rummaging through family photographs, and smelling giant chocolate doors, then learn how his real-life adventures led him into becoming a writer. Step inside his Writing Hut, find out how sparky you are on a Sparkometer, and peep behind doors and into drawers to slake your curiosity. The Story Centre will inspire your own creative journeys; make stop-frame animations, create characters, or join one of the museum’s wonderful workshops. Gloryumptious!
The National Gallery
One of the greatest collections of art in the UK, the National Gallery makes for a free, fun and educational day out. Download one of the excellent audio tours or print out a family trail in advance of your trip – we like the Art Detectives download, where you follow two secret agents around the building, or the Marvellous Blooms trail that takes you on a tour of the best flowery paintings in the collection. Welcome Wednesdays take pre-schoolers on a trip through the paintings through interactive art, storytelling and messy play, while older kids love the free Studio Sunday events, with hands-on creative workshops. There are also spectacular one-off events that celebrate festivals such as Diwali and Chinese New Year in the most creative ways.
Herstmonceux Observatory Science Centre
Take a day trip into outer space at this hands-on centre, dedicated to astronomy, science, and fun. The outdoor Discovery Park is filled with interactive sculptures, devices and exhibits from giant musical instruments to fog machines and water-lifting devices, perfect for splashy play. Indoors, explore microscopes and telescopes, learn about the earth, explore incredible forces using pistons, ropes and pulleys, make sparks fly towards your fingertips, and explore the solar system with a large-scale Orrery. Science and astronomy are brought to life with stunning effect; beware – you may go away with a budding Isaac Newton on your hands!