Polar fun, Edinburgh
Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh is keeping cool this summer with lots of polar-themed activities, including family science shows on the Arctic and Antarctic, icy experiments, and craft sessions where kids can make their own penguin, walrus or polar bear.
• Until 28 August, £15 adults, £9.50 children, dynamicearth.co.uk
Wizarding wardrobes, Hertfordshire
It is 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published and to mark the occasion, the Warner Bros Studio Tour has an exhibition of costumes worn by Harry and co in the films. Alternatively, try Broomstick Training at Alnwick Castle (£13.95 adults, £7.20 children), or take a self-guided Harry Potter walking tour in Oxford (free).
• 21 July-4 Sept, from £37 adults, £29 children, wbstudiotour.co.uk
Dinosaur events, various locations
Dinosaurs in the Wild is an immersive, walk-through experience taking visitors back 67 million years to the late Cretaceous period (until 23 August, NEC in Birmingham, then 7 October to 7 January, EventCity Manchester, £29.50 adults, £26 children, dinosaursinthewild.com). Dinosaur Babies is an exhibition of dinosaur embryos and eggs, plus a model nest (National Museum Cardiff, until 5 November, £7, £3, museum.wales). Dinosaurs of China displays fossils and skeletons never before seen in Europe (Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, until 29 October, £7, £5, dinosaursofchina.co.uk).
Summertime at the Southbank Centre, London
There’s a great selection of family events at the Southbank Centre’s summertime festival, ranging from free performances – like outdoor circus on the terrace or a sea shanty singalong – to paid for events. One highlight is ZooNation Presents the Next Generation, a stage show featuring some of the best young hip-hop artists in the country, performing everything from dance, music, spoken word to beatboxing.
• 22 July-28 August, prices vary southbankcentre.co.uk
Knight school, Harlech Castle, Gwynedd
Every Tuesday in the summer holidays, Harlech Castle is running a Knight School, where budding warriors will be “taught various skills needed to be a knight.” The event will be run by local re-enactment group, the Ardudwy knights.
• Tuesdays from 25 July-22 August, £6.50 adults, £4.20 children, cadw.gov.wales
William’s Den, East Yorkshire
William’s Den is a huge play centre, newly opened in the Yorkshire Wolds, with indoor treehouses, tunnels, bridges and climbing nets, and outdoor water features, zipwire and den-making area. Bound to be a big summer hit.
• Open every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, £8 adults, £9.50 children, £3 under-threes, 10% off online bookings, williamsden.co.uk
Alice in Wonderland, Cheshire and London
The Grosvenor Open Air Theatre in Chester is showing a production of Alice in Wonderland (until 20 August, from £18.50, under-12s free). There are child-friendly matinees, and theatregoers are welcome to arrive an hour early to tuck into their picnics. Children’s theatre company Sixteen Feet Productions will also be staging Alice in the open air at a number of beautiful old walled gardens in parks in south and west London (Brixton, Morden, Streatham and Isleworth, adults £12.50, children £8.50) on various dates from 22 July to 20 August.
Bagpuss, Clangers & Co, Suffolk
The Ipswich Art Gallery has a touring exhibition from the V&A Museum of Childhood, featuring children’s TV characters by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, which include Bagpuss, the Clangers and Ivor the Engine.
• Until 29 October, free, cimuseum.org.uk
Morph: Still naughty at 40, Bristol
The plasticine character created by Aardman Animations is turning 40 this summer. Three-metre high MegaMorph is stationed outside the Mall at Cribbs Causeway, pointing the way to a Morph exhibition at the Gromit Unleashed shop. Twenty Morph sculptures are on display, and visitors can make their own Morph models.
• Until 5 September, free, visitbristol.co.uk
Let’s Fish!, nationwide
The Canal and River Trust is running free fishing taster sessions over the holidays, with professional angling coaches on hand to teach the basics. Other activities, such as canoeing, are also on offer.
• Throughout July, free, canalrivertrust.org.uk
Proud Country House kids fest, Brighton
Just 15 minutes from the centre of Brighton, this 18th century Georgian manor house in Stanmer Park has a packed programme of events and activities on throughout the summer, including storytelling in the forest, treasure hunts, craft workshops, guided bike rides, tree climbing and family yoga.
• 1 July-10 September, prices vary, usually from £5-10, booking for events required but house and gardens can be visited without booking, stanmerhouse.co.uk/kidsfest
National Army Museum, London
This Chelsea museum reopened in March – after a £23.75m redevelopment – and now has lots of interactive exhibitions and a Play Base for under-eights. This summer, it is running a Construction Challenge, inviting children to build a structure that won’t topple over.
• 22 July–3 September, free, nam.ac.uk
Hadrian’s Cavalry, Hadrian’s Wall
This epic exhibition stretches 150 miles along the Hadrian’s Wall world heritage site, across 10 museums and venues. Visitors can see cavalry objects such as armour and weapons, watch riders and re-enactments, and try Roman-inspired activities.
• Until 10 September, prices vary, hadrianswallcountry.co.uk
STARTING 22-28 JULY
Ironbridge Gorge Museums, Shropshire
The 10 Ironbridge Gorge Museums have a host of special events and activities this summer to mark their 50th anniversary. At “Enginuity” kids can try enamelling and pewter casting; at Coalport China, they can make clay models in furnace-, fire- and steam-themed workshops.
• 22 July-11 August, £25 adults, £15 children for annual pass to all museums, £4.95/£3.50 for individual exhibitions, £1-£3 for workshops, ironbridge.org.uk
RSPB’s Big wild sleepout, County Down
A mini camping adventure for the whole family, this popular annual event is hosted in the grounds of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, where last year 250 people pitched their tents for the night. Activities include nature crafts, bat spotting and a visit from animal rescuer and wildlife expert Debbie Doolittle.
• 22 July, adults £20, children £17, bwso2017.eventbrite.co.uk
Festival of Archaeology, nationwide
The Council for British Archaeology has teamed up with hundreds of museums to organise more than 1,000 archaeology-related events and activities all over the country. The Mary Rose Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is telling the story of the world’s biggest underwater excavation: the recovery of the Mary Rose in 1982 (21-28 July, maryrose.org).
• Until 30 July, prices vary, archaeologyfestival.org.uk
Summer holiday club, Winchester Science Centre
This new science-centred club runs throughout the holidays, with a different theme each week, from “Bodyology” to “Crazy Contraptions”.
• 24 July-1 September, £35/day, £165/week, winchestersciencecentre.org
Summer art school, near Guildford, Surrey
One for older kids who are thinking of studying art. This summer school at Watts Gallery in Compton, near Guildford, led by artist Becci Kenning, offers a taster of sculpture, painting, printmaking, drawing and photography. Suitable for ages 13-18.
• 24-28 July, £120 including materials, wattsgallery.org.uk
Postal Museum, London
The Postal Museum and Mail Rail, a new heritage attraction, opens on 28 July. There is a play zone for under-nines called Sorted, designed as a miniature town, and an underground train ride into the old engineering depot (may not be suitable for under-fives). Family activities include arts and crafts, storytelling and science shows.
• From 28 July, £14.50 adults, children £7.25, postalmuseum.org
Journey Into Space, Cornwall
The Eden Project’s big summer exhibition is all about space, including astronaut training, food and plants in space, life on Mars – and aliens.
• 27 July-3 September, adults from £25, children £12.60, under-fives free, edenproject.com
Let the Beat Go On!, Tyne & Wear
Sage Gateshead is staging a quest this summer: families follow a hidden trail around the concert hall, trying to beat The Silencer, who wants to stop the music. Children need to collect clues and solve mysteries, searching in backstage areas to released trapped sounds.
• Thursdays to Saturdays from 27 July-26 August, £6 children, adults free, sagegateshead.com
Edinburgh art festival
There is free entry to most exhibitions during the Edinburgh art festival, plus special events for children. These include Explorers Outdoors, art-meets-nature workshops in the Johnston Terrace Wildlife Garden; Art Explorers at the Library, creative sessions inspired by specific artworks; and Art Early, a mix of play, outdoor art and storytelling.
• 27 July-27 August, free, edinburghartfestival.com
Rockpool Explorer!, Cornwall
Great Scott Adventures Outdoors is running five free rockpooling sessions on the causeway leading from St Michael’s Mount. Kids can rummage in the rockpools and learn all about the creatures that live there. And in the grounds of the castle itself, there are storytellers and craft activities every Tuesday.
• Rockpooling on 28 July and 6, 11, 20 and 25 August, free, stmichaelsmount.co.uk
This outdoors festival offers tasters of all sorts of sports and activities, from paddleboarding to archery, climbing to street cricket. Venues include town squares, parks and, of course, the beach.
• 27-30 July, free, on Facebook
Film festival, Lincolnshire
Burghley House is holding an outdoor film festival in the grounds, with daytime double bills for families. Films include The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, Finding Dory and Moana.
• 26-30 July, £13 adults, £8 children, under-threes free, burghley.co.uk
Outdoor sculpture building, Yorkshire
Running every Tuesday during the school holidays, rain or shine, this is a safe bet when it comes to tiring the kids out with a bit of creativity. Held at the fantastic Yorkshire Sculpture Park (which is running plenty of other family activities over the summer), the hour long workshops give everyone a chance to build an artwork inspired by the work in the park, with plenty of fresh air guaranteed.
• 25 July – 29 August, adults and children £3, ysp.co.uk
STARTING 29 JULY-4 AUGUST
Sand sculpting, Staffordshire
Trentham Estate is inviting sand sculptors to create masterpieces by its lake this summer. Kids can join in thanks to the new toddler zone, which features a big sand play area, then follow the Fairy Trail and tackle the Barefoot Walk.
• 31 July-2 August, free activity but garden admission from £10.12 (adults), £8.64 (children), under-fives free, trentham.co.uk
Lego exhibition, Hampshire
The Great Brick Safari at Marwell Zoo is a collection of 80 giant Lego brick animals, including a 1.5-tonne elephant, a life-size bengal tiger and a trio of giant panda cubs. Children can also make their own animal sculptures, while the Lemur Walkthrough is a new exhibit for those who prefer real animals.
• 1 August-1 October, £17.26 adults, £13.62 children, under-threes free, marwell.org.uk
Escape from Wildchild Wood, Hertfordshire
Build a base camp, abseil down the “tower of terror” traverse the adventure trail and fly down a zipline as part of a day-long mission to find a secret code hidden in the woods. The day is part of Wildchild Wood’s holiday activity programme, which also includes days for archery and bushcraft.
• 3, 9 and 17 August, 10am-3.15pm, £35, wildchildactivities.com
STARTING 5-11 AUGUST
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
About 150 hot air balloons will fill the sky at Europe’s biggest balloon gathering, plus there is entertainment, fairground rides and fireworks.
• 10-13 August, free, bristolballoonfiesta.co.uk
Circus activities, Surrey
Guildford’s G-Live arts centre is running a creative arts week inspired by the circus. Children will learn skills such as acrobatics, trapeze, hoop-diving and street dance, and will put on a performance at the end of the week.
• 7-11 August, £150, for ages seven to 16, glive.co.uk
Indian circus, Birmingham
A chance to catch a troupe of Indian street circus performers in action, the Circus Raj “supergroup” will bring their magical blend of dancers, illusionists, aerialists and acrobatics to the MAC’s outdoor arena. It’s also worth noting that the arts centre has a wealth of family activities on this summer: as well as performances there’s the chance for kids and teens to throw themselves into specialists creative workshops, from dance to animation and even film-making.
• 6 August, £3.50, macbirmingham.co.uk
Mini Beast Safari week, Surrey
Beetles, snails and spiders are taking over Birdworld for a week. Kids can get hands-on with the creepy-crawlies and follow a bug-themed activity trail, plus there are special craft session and facepainting.
• 7-11 August, £15.95 adults, from £12.95 children, under-threes free, birdworld.co.uk
Picnic party, various
All four Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Gardens – Wisley in Surrey, Rosemoor in Devon, Hyde Hall in Essex and Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire – are holding a picnic party to celebrate Enid Blyton’s 120th birthday on 11 August. The gardens are also creating “Five Go on a Garden Adventure” activity trails, and are holding Famous Five-themed events over the summer.
• 11 August, from £9.90 adults, £4.95 children, under-fives free, rhs.org.uk
STARTING 12-18 AUGUST
Portsmouth kite festival
Let’s go fly a kite … as well as watch displays of artistic kites, Japanese fighting kites and even a “synchronised multi-line kite ballet”. This two day festival sees the skies above Southsea Common filled with beautiful multi-coloured flying things.
• 12-13 August, 10am-5pm, free portsmouthkitefestival.org.uk
Party in the palace, West Lothian
Scotland’s “biggest family friendly festival”, Party in the Palace takes place in front of the grand Linlithgow Palace, with a two-day lineup featuring Kaiser Chiefs, Amy Macdonald, Razorlight and the Noisettes. There’s also a funfair and kids’ entertainment.
• 12-13 August, 12.30pm-10pm, adult weekend ticket £79, child £38, partyatthepalace.co.uk
Disco Loco in the Park, London
Organised by east London performing arts space the Hackney Showroom, the Disco Loco festival is free, flamboyant and for the whole family. Expect live music, cabaret, comedy and dance at an event focused on celebrating queer culture and diversity with everyone.
• 12 August, 11am-7pm, free, hackneyshowroom.com/discoloco
Pembrokeshire county show
The largest agricultural show in Wales, this is a vibrant, jam-packed celebration of the best of rural life. The three-day event features the Shetland Pony Grand National (in which the ponies are raced by jockeys aged 8-13), a family playzone and displays of falconry, ferrets and shepherding.
• 15-17 August, advance adult day ticket £17, child £5, pembsshow.org
Blisworth canal festival, Northamptonshire
Taking place across six village venues, this festival alongside the Grand Union canal features pony rides, falconry, craft displays and children’s rides, along with plenty of stalls to browse, plus there’s also live music.
• 12-13 August, free, canalrivertrust.org.uk
STARTING 19-25 AUGUST
Summer nights cinema, Wollaton Park, Nottingham
A festival of outdoor film screenings, the summer nights series runs in late August with a screen in the grounds of Wollaton Hall. Films on show include Moulin Rouge, Jurassic Park and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s part of the Summer Nights Film series, which hosts cinemas at heritage locations across the country (running at other places into September).
• 24-28 August, adult £13, child £9, summernightsfilm.co.uk
Just So festival, Cheshire
Just So is a weekend-long family event that aims to immerse its audience in world class arts – from literature to theatre, dance to music – all underpinned by a “love of stories and childhood escapades”. There will be campfire stories, dreamcatcher workshops, songwriting lessons and plenty of fancy dress.
• 18-20 August, weekend tickets with camping; adult £140, child £50, day tickets; adult £50, child £20, justsofestival.org.uk
Castle Howard proms, North Yorkshire
Performers at this outdoor classical concert held on the lawn of Castle Howard include Brit-award winning trio Blake and soprano Joanna Forest. The London Gala Orchestra will provide the oomph, with plenty of family favourites, songs from musicals and classic numbers, concluding with a firework display.
• 19 August, adults advance ticket £32.50, child £5, castlehoward.co.uk
Swedish summertime, London
Part of the Southbank Centre’s Summertime series of events, this family-friendly introduction to Swedish culture is an entire afternoon of live music and DJs, with the chance to learn Swedish songs and get crafty making a hat and bib for a summer feast.
• Free, 19-20 August, from noon, southbankcentre.co.uk
Stone skimming championship, Lake District
A celebration of the classic summer holiday pursuit, each year serious stone skimmers gather beside Windermere to see whose stones will bounce the farthest. Men, women, children (under 11s and 11-16s), as well as teams, can all enter, with money raised going towards conservation in the South Lakes.
• Free, 19 August, 11am-4pm, nationaltrust.org.uk
STARTING 26 AUGUST-3 SEPTEMBER
Belfast’s annual celebration of cultures from around the world will feature music, dance, arts, performances and parades, creative workshops for children, a “Little Bollywood” experience for babies and toddlers and food inspired by global cuisines.
• 27 August, advance tickets £6 adult, £15 family (2 adults, 2 children), belfastmela.org.uk
Asylum Steampunk festival, Lincoln
For a more curious day out in Lincoln, pay a visit to the largest and longest-running steampunk festival in the world. It sees the city taken over by Victorian-era sci-fi aficionados. Events include the “wacky racers” – DIY contraptions racing around a course at Lincoln Castle, a “great exhibition” of steampunk props and contraptions, and a tea-duelling competition, which involves dunking a biscuit into a cuppa and eating it without dripping tea or losing biscuit fragments.
• 25-28 August, adult single day ticket from £7.50, child £4, asylumsteampunk.co.uk
Bournemouth Air festival
The UK’s biggest air festival offers four days of seaside fun, with action in the skies ranging from wingwalkers, historic aircraft to a performance of incredible formation and aerobatic flying from the RAF’s Red Arrows. There will also be live music, dusk air displays, fireworks and Royal Navy ships offshore.
• 31 August-3 September, free, bournemouthair.co.uk
Strathaven Balloon festival, South Lanarkshire
It’s a magical sight, to see the sky filled with brightly coloured hot air balloons. This volunteer-run event is the only one of its kind in Scotland, with balloon launches across the weekend and an “evening glow” night, when the balloons are tethered and the burners are used to illuminate the site.
• 26-28 August, free, strathavenballoonfestival.co.uk
East London Waterways festival, London
Held in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the waterways festival includes a boat flotilla, dragon boat racing and live music and dance, as well as the chance to try canoeing, standup paddleboarding, guided walks and more.
• 28 August, most events free, some pre-booked, canalrivertrust.org.uk
Angel Canal festival, London
Another canal festival in London, this time in Islington. Expect plenty of stalls, a children’s funfair, live music, art projects and a regatta.
• Free, 3 September, 11am-5pm, angelcanalfestival.org