15 fun things to do in January 2018

Last updated 9th January 2018

1/15 Get curious

At-Bristol Science Centre has changed its name to ‘We The Curious’ to reflect its new vision to create a culture of curiosity. The venue, on Bristol’s harbourside, is filled with all sorts of different experiences, where you can interact with exhibits, test stuff out and get creative – with boundaries removed between science, art, people and ideas.

Until 16 January you can take a turn on the ice rink and on 7 January, there’s a ‘Frozen Singalong’ (to sing-along to, of course!) In ‘The Box’ gallery space, from 19 January, there’s a new exhibition to enjoy – Tipping Point by Kathy Hinde  – which invites us to consider our relationship with water, and the necessity of balancing how we use the world’s water resources.

The installation is created using a delicate combination of glass, water, audio feedback and lighting. Kids will love the free rein they get to get hands-on in The Tinkering Space – a creative environment designed to inspire everyone’s inner inventor – design, make and modify your own ball-runs and shadow theatres, meet a ‘Baxter’ robot and lots more.

When/where: Selected dates through January, We The Curious, Bristol

Price: See website

2/15 The Narnia Trail

Meet The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (plus Lucy Pevensey waiting by a lamppost) on a magical Narnia nature trail at Banstead Woods and Chipstead Downs Local Nature Reserve. The enchanting figures have been carved from standing deadwood by talented chainsaw sculptor Ella Fielding of The Tree Pirates, making use of the site’s existing natural resources.

Carved way-marker posts of native plants and animals, from which children can take rubbings, mark out the route. Come face to face with the majestic Aslan the lion, walk through the wardrobe ‘entrance to Narnia’, complete with hanging coats and sneak a peek at the scary White Witch. The trail certainly turns a quiet walk into a magical adventure.

When/where: Through January, The Narnia Nature Trail, Banstead Woods and Chipstead Downs Local Nature Reserve, Banstead, Surrey

Price: Free

3/15 Catch the Highway Rat

Escape the rat race and head for the forest! The Forestry Commission has launched a series of 22 new activity trails featuring characters from ‘The Highway Rat’  – a story from the much-loved children’s author and illustrator-duo Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Visitors to the trails can explore and enjoy local woodland wildlife as they follow in the footsteps of a mischievous rodent intent on swiping the sweet treats of every creature he encounters (keep a close eye on your picnics!).

The swashbuckling story is being brought to life in partnership with Magic Light Pictures, and follows the already popular Gruffalo Spotters Trails and Stick Man Trails, inspired by other works from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Will you catch a glimpse of the ‘beastly and bad’ star in the great outdoors?

When/where: Some trails open in January – there will be 22 open by March 2018, selected Forestry Commission forests

Price: See website

4/15 Go on a butterfly hunt

Escape the wintry weather and head to the Tropical Zone of the cathedral-like Glasshouse at RHS Wisley to see butterflies flit and fly freely amongst palm trees, bananas, bromeliads and climbers, as well as the aquatic plants that thrive in the warm jungle pool. There will be more than 50 colourful species of exotic butterflies floating around, showing off their striking hues and markings and this year there will be new butterflies to see, including Graphium doson (common jay), a black tropical butterfly with pale blue wing bands, and swallowtail Papilio paris (Paris peacock).

Pick up a spotter guide on arrival to identify the ones you see. There’s an interactive, family-friendly Education Zone where you can learn all about the fascinating lifecycle of a butterfly, get up close to caterpillars, and use microscopes to admire those beautiful wings. And follow a butterfly-themed sculpture trail through the garden before rounding off your visit to one of the Taste of Wisley outlets to sample a butterfly cupcake or butterfly gingerbread.

When/where: 13 Jan- 4 March, RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey

Price: Book in advance online for 10% off ticket prices

5/15 Silly old bear afternoon tea

Looking for a sticky, sweet treat in stylish surroundings that your little piglets will adore? The Gore London and The Pelham London, part of Starhotels Collezione, are offering a fun and tasty tea experience in celebration of The Victoria & Albert Museum’s latest exhibition: Winnie The Pooh – Exploring a Classic. This playful afternoon tea features treats inspired by our favourite honey-loving bear such as Hunny Pops (Honey parfait, white chocolate and caramel glace lollipops), Eeyore’s sweet treat (Chocolate mousse, crumble and fresh orange compote) and Tiggeron (Passion fruit striped macaron).

As well as enjoying the tasty tea, families will receive complimentary access to the ever-popular V&A exhibition where they will experience the timeless and universal appeal of the much-loved bear and discover the story behind the creative partnership of A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard, brought to life through sketches, letters, photographs, cartoons, ceramics and fashion.

When/where: Until 8 April, The Gore and The Pelham, London

Price: £43 per person including tickets to The Winnie The Pooh – Exploring a Classic Exhibition at The V&A

6/15 Take a look under a canal

Every year, the Canal & River Trust hold free family-friendly open days for the public to get an inside view behind (and below) the scenes to see what it takes to keep canals and rivers open to everyone. The Open Day at Lock 61 of Johnson’s Hillock is on a particularly picturesque stretch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, surrounded by beautiful countryside but just a short drive from the industrial towns of Wigan, Bolton and Blackburn. Hundreds of boats travel through this busy flight of locks each year – and you’ll get a rare opportunity to walk in this huge, drained lock.  Plenty of activities will be on offer to appeal to the whole family.

Visitors will be able to learn about the history of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, which turned 200 years old last year, and how a team of experts use many of the same techniques to repair the lock as they did back in 1816. A pop-up museum will showcase old items from the birth of the canals and some of the weird and wonderful finds from below the waterline. There’ll also be environment walks as well as ‘virtual hubs’, where you can plug in and watch virtual reality videos.

When/where: 27 Jan, Johnson’s Hillock, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Lancashire

Price: Free

7/15 Family fun at the national heritage centre for horseracing and sporting art

If your little ones fancy their chances at horseracing then they’ll love a visit to Newmarket. The National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art is made up of three attractions; a new National Horseracing Museum, a National Art Gallery of British Sporting Art, and a chance to meet former racehorses and learn what they do after racing, in the flagship home of Retraining of Racehorses. Catch one of their demonstrations daily.

There’s plenty more for little ones to enjoy. Pick up a family trail from reception and be taken on a journey of discovery around the National Heritage Centre, listening to wonderful tales of horseracing. And you won’t want to miss the chance to take a seat on the Racehorse Simulator – to experience the thrill of riding a racehorse and to see how fit jockeys need to be!

When/Where: Open daily, National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art, Newmarket

Price: Adults £11, children £6, Family ticket £35. Discounts available online. Children under 5 go free

8/15 Do you love donkeys?

Well, there are 500 donkeys and mules waiting to meet you at the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, Devon. They’ve been rescued from neglect or a change in circumstances and love lapping up all your love and attention. Get the chance to pet them, enjoy Meet The Groom sessions, where you can learn more about the delightful donkey characters who live here – including Laurel and Hardy who were rescued from starvation.

There are also lots of lovely walks to enjoy, a Maze to get lost in, an indoor information centre where you get the chance to act as a vet, a restaurant on site as well as a gift shop selling all sorts of donkey goods, including soft toys. There’s also the chance to adopt a donkey for just 7 pence per day.

When/where: Open daily, The Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth, Devon

Price: : Free

9/15 Young archaeologists’ clu

The Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire are calling all young Indiana Joneses and Lara Croft wannabes to join in the fun at the Young Archaeologists’ Club on the first Saturday of every month. Children aged 8-16 can visit the gardens to learn more about archaeology, discover more about the garden’s historic parkland and learn how to uncover secrets from the past by analysing objects found in the earth – all whilst participating in fun activities. Over 16s can get involved by volunteering – and no prior knowledge is required, plus parents can stay for the sessions too – fun for all the family!

When/where: 6 Jan, then the first Saturday of each month, National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire

Price: Free

10/15 Lumiere London

See London’s architecture and streets lit up like never before in the UK’s largest light festival. Dazzling light shows and colourful neon installations will illuminate the night sky, transforming the city into a magical apparition to immerse yourself in. More than 40 British and international artists have created light artworks for all the family to enjoy in festival locations including Regent Street, Oxford Circus, Leicester Square, Mayfair, Covent Garden, Victoria, South Bank and Waterloo.

Don’t miss the chance to take a seat on illuminated seesaws, creating a musical score as you do; see Granary Square turned into an ethereal landscape, enveloping you in a virtual flood of light to highlight the risk of global warming and rising sea levels and lots more.

When/where: 18 – 21 Jan, various sites in London

Price: Free

11/15 Wonderlab’s wonderful

See science in a spectacular new light at the Wonderlab Gallery, a new permanent space at the Science & Media Museum, Bradford. Enjoy an exciting array of 20 mind-bending exhibits, which help you see the world in a new way. Watch how your body splits from your head as you walk; hear your voice echo through a 15m-long tube; experience an anti-gravity mirror and walk through a musical laser tunnel.  There are also free interactive shows to enjoy where you could get to learn anything and everything from how to set fire to sound, to how to create a thunderstorm indoors.

When/where: Open daily, Wonderlab Gallery, Science & Media Museum, Bradford, Yorkshire

Price: Entry to the Wonderlab Gallery and entire museum is free. Free tickets for Wonderlab need to be booked online

12/15 Let off steam at the National Railway Museum

Now’s an out of this world time to visit the museum as The National Tour of Tim Peake’s Spacecraft lands here along with a virtual reality experience which allows you to experience the astronaut’s thrilling 400km journey back to Earth from the International Space Station. The experience is narrated by Tim Peake himself and features state-of-the-art Samsung Gear VR giving a 360⁰ view inside the Soyuz TMA-19M capsule and putting you in the driving seat for a mission unlike any other.

You’ll also get the chance to explore the museum’s giant halls full of trains and railway legends including the futuristic Japanese Bullet Train and the opulent Royal Trains. Get on-board awe inspiring locomotives, watch engineers at work in The Workshop, uncover hidden treasures in The Warehouse and enjoy an outdoor play area, which includes miniature railway rides and plenty of interactive exhibits.

When/where: Space Descent with Tim Peake runs from 17 Jan – 8 March, National Railway Museum, York

Price: £6 (entry to museum is free)

13/15 Art attack

The Royal Academy of Arts is full to bursting with inspiration for budding artists. Family Studio Events, which take place through the year, are particular fun for little ones. On 14 January, there’s a ‘My Funny Face’ drop-in workshop where you can learn how to create faces in soft-focus using felt, plasticine and more.

Explore the main gallery shows and pick up an Art Detectives guide to go with the gallery’s major exhibition where you may be tasked to find works of art that you like and don’t like, sketch details from paintings, guess what a sculpture is made from, find paintings that contain animals, flowers or people, have rough and bumpy paint and lots more.

When/where: The My Funny Face workshop takes place 14 Jan, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly

Price: Workshop is free. Children under 16 can visit all the Royal Academy’s exhibitions for free. Adult tickets, see prices online

14/15 Early Man

From Academy Award -winning director Nick Park and Aardman, the creators of Wallace & Gromit and Shaun The Sheep, Early Man is a new prehistoric comedy adventure taking audiences on an extraordinary journey into an exciting new (old) world. There’s a tribe of unique and funny characters to meet, voiced by an all-star British cast including Eddie Redmayne, Timothy Spall, Johnny Vegas, Rob Brydon and Tom Hiddlestone.

Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures roamed the earth, it tells the story of courageous caveman hero Dug and his best friend Hognob as they unite his tribe against a mighty enemy Lord Nooth and his Bronze Age City, to save their home. Leading Dug’s tribe of lovable misfits is Chief Bobnar joined by Treebor, Magma and others as well as Goona, the gallant and indomitable rebel who befriends Dug and helps the tribe in their battle to beat the Bronze Age at their own game.

When/where: From 26 Jan, cinemas nationwide

Price: Ticket prices vary

15/15 The Caravan & Motorhome Show

If you and your family love the great outdoors, setting up camp in your caravan or pootling around in a campervan, then this show is for you. There’ll be leading manufacturers showing all their latest models at the exhibition plus a range of celebrity speakers, including television presenter Matt Allwright and The Camping and Caravanning Club President Julia Bradbury. You’ll even get the chance to explore iconic American Airstream caravan and get lessons on perfecting your towing skills with The Camping and Caravanning Club.

Families can let the little ones run wild in the KidZone, where there are lots of games to play and you can drop in on a huge Accessories store to pick up all the finishing touches for your holiday home. Tickets to the show also include complimentary entry into Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show which features live cookery demonstrations and hundreds of travel companies such as Trailfinders, VIA Rail Canada, and Great Rail Journeys, as well as tourist boards including Morocco, Cuba, Malta, Massachusetts, Barbados and more.

When/where: 18 – 21 Jan, EventCity, Manchester

Price: Advance tickets online £8.50, kids under 16 go free