England, packed with history, culture and inspiring landscapes, has a lot to offer a visitor. But is it a good destination to visit with your family? Here's what you need to know about traveling with children in England, along with the best things to do to help you build the perfect family day out for all ages in your group.
Is England a good place to visit with kids?
One of the greatest things about traveling with kids in England is that many museums aimed specifically at families are free to visit, allowing for a cheaper full-day experience with hands-on learning. The majority of cafes and restaurants welcome children, offering smaller portions, changing facilities and high chairs. This applies to many pubs too, although be sure to check with the bar staff if it's not immediately obvious. Most visitor attractions offer family tickets − usually two adults plus two children − for less than the sum of the individual entrance charges. There are often cheaper rates for solo parents and kids too. Be sure to ask, as these are not always clearly displayed.
Travel times are relatively short, but there are accessibility challenges – towns often have very narrow and uneven footpaths and public transit can be tricky with many steps and gaps, particularly on older transport systems such as London's Tube.
Best things to do in England with kids
England is an interesting destination for children of any age, with many sights tailored specifically to young minds. There is plenty to distract youngsters, from animal encounters to excellent playgrounds, museums for kids, and opportunities to dress-up and make-believe. Older children and teens may enjoy the historic attractions, and days out at theme parks tend to win over everyone.
From the Romans and the Vikings to space travel, from natural history to technology, England has a whole host of museums. For the best science museums with hand-on experiences head to London's Science Museum, Bristol's We the Curious, the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, or the National Space Centre in Leicester.
Nature-lovers will be wowed by London's Natural History Museum, and dazzled by the Eden Project in Cornwall, where they will learn about all manner of environmental matters in spectacular space-age greenhouses.
The top transport museums include York's National Railway Museum, crammed with more than 100 locomotives; Europe's biggest aviation museum at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford; and adventures through time and space at the Ashmolean in Oxford. Learn all about photography, film, TV, radio and the web at Bradford's National Science and Media Museum, and explore Tyneside's rich history from Pons Aelius (Roman Newcastle) to Cheryl Cole at Discovery Museum in Newcastle.
Taking a bucket and spade to the seaside is an essential pastime for English children. The beaches range from golden sands backed by peaceful forest to windswept stretches of pebbles below towering cliffs. The most dramatic beaches are found on the southwest coast, where you can swap splashing in the ocean for combing the beach for shells and heart-shaped rocks. For fossil-hunting, head to the world-renowned Jurassic Coast in Dorset, which has beautiful big-hitters including Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, not far from the lively beach cities of Bournemouth and Weymouth, each with their own aquariums.
Theme parks and amusements
England's most popular theme park is Alton Towers in Staffordshire, where you will encounter a riot of roller coasters, flumes and shows, with something to entertain all age groups. Younger children will enjoy the rides alongside huge Lego models at Legoland Windsor. For fans of Harry Potter, take a step behind the scenes at The Making of Harry Potter at the Leavesden studio where the films were shot. Are the kids keen to get a selfie with their favorite (wax look-alike) celebrity? Then Madame Tussauds in London is the perfect day out for your family. Major seaside destinations, such as Blackpool, Margate and Southend, have kids' entertainment of some sort, whether that's fairground rides on a pier or amusement arcades.
Wildlife and zoos
There are superb wildlife centers and zoos all over England – London, Bristol and Chester are the standouts – but there are more unusual animal encounters on offer, too. Pretend you're driving across the savannah at at Longleat, a Wiltshire country estate, surrounded by rhinos, giraffes, elephants and lions; take a day trip off the North Devon coast in search of puffins on Lundy Island; or head out on the water with Whitby Coastal Cruises in Yorkshire, and see if you can spot minke, sei and fin whales off the north coast.
Even if you're not into history or architecture, many castles in England offer additional entertainment, whether that's jousting actors re-enacting battles at Warwick Castle, or tours of locations used in movies and TV shows at Alnwick Castle (which has been a backdrop for Downton Abbey and starred as Hogwarts for the first couple of Harry Potter films). Look out for falconry displays, archery or plain old dress-up and activity sheets. Go from a medieval kitchen to secret wartime tunnels at Dover Castle; get caught up in Arthurian legends at Tintagel; and enjoy the windswept clifftops at Bamburgh, Northumberland's most dramatic castle.
There are 10 national parks in England, each one with its own characteristics, and between them they offer every kind of outdoor family activity. Adventurous older children and teens are likely to want to try sailing, caving, climbing, zip-wiring, or mountain-biking. Youngsters can get lost in the magic of Beatrix Potter stories that come to life in the Lake District. Former railways have been converted to traffic-free routes in the Peak District, making this a perfect spot for family cycling and walking.
If there's a soccer (or "football" as it's known in the UK) fan in your family, you might want to swing by one of the many Premier League stadiums for a tour. They usually cover the history and achievements of the club, and offer behind-the-scenes access to changing rooms, the press room, the commentary box and the tunnel to the pitch. Wembley in London is the home of the England national football team and hosts various competitions and finals. Other big hitters include Liverpool's Anfield, Man Utd's Old Trafford, Manchester City's Etihad, Chelsea's Stamford Bridge, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.
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