12th June 2018
Whether you’ve got teenagers or toddlers, Father’s Day is the perfect excuse for a family day out. If you need some inspiration on where to go and what to do, Colin Henrys has rounded up some of the best day trips with Dad.
If you are looking to enjoy some quality time with your babies and toddlers, Father’s Day is the ideal opportunity to book in family time.
Whether it’s a case of taking the whole gang for a big day out or letting Dad take the little ones for some precious bonding time alone, these activities will be fun for parents and kids alike.
The UK’s top zoos are perfectly catered for fun for all ages, as well as doing vital conservation work for the world’s endangered species. Pack some lunch, stock up the nappy bag, grab the buggy and make a day of it, learning more about the hundreds of species being cared for in the top UK zoos.
Chester Zoo is the UK’s largest, with the 125-acre plot including 11 miles of walkway and more than 21,000 animals (plus under-threes go free). ZSL London Zoo, Whipsnade Zoo, Bristol Zoo and Edinburgh Zoo are also among the UK’s most popular zoos.
Twycross Zoo has ‘Dads go free’ on Father’s Day weekend with one free admission for ‘dad’ with any additional paid admission ticket (adult, child or concession), with ‘Dad’ is classed as a person who is taking the paternal parental role for a child.
A variation on the same theme, if the weather doesn’t suit a day at the zoo, check out the underwater world instead. Again, the educational benefits for older children – learning about different species and conservation – are clear, while I can vouch for the wide-eyed wonderment of younger children as fish go swimming past. Who can find Nemo first?
SeaLife has locations throughout the UK, including Birmingham, Manchester, London and Glasgow, while National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth is the UK’s largest and Blue Planet in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, boasts the brilliant underwater Aquatunnel to get a close-up view of the UK’s largest shark collection.
If you’re unsure about the ethics surrounding zoos and aquariums, see our debate here.
Father’s Day doesn’t have to be all about Dad – treat your little ones to a playdate and join the countless other Dads who will be out and about doing the same thing. You won’t struggle to find plenty of soft play options near you, but if you want to add in some structure then role-playing soft play centres are becoming more and more popular.
Liverpool’s Imagine That! is a great example of the ‘toddler town’ role play areas springing up across the UK – made up of play zones based on builders, bakers, hairdressers and more, receiving a giant stamp of approval from my two year old – while London boasts the Discover Children’s Story Centre, where Story World and Story Garden are packed with aliens, spaceships, pirates and more.
Some of the best family-friendly attractions are marking Father’s Day with dedicated activities and offers – you could use this as your chance to book in for a day at some of the UK’s leading family resorts.
South Milton Sands’ watersports festival takes place over the Father’s Day weekend, with activities going on for visitors of all ages. The National Trust-protected beach will host activities including kayaking, paddle-boarding, rockpooling and – new for this year – monofin swimming.
If you don’t want to get too wet, beach volleyball, kite flying, and beach bowls are among the activities on offer on dry land, as well as beach yoga sessions, a barbeque and yummy food at the Beachhouse Café.
Plus, it’s free! With just a small charge for some of the organised activities.
With four UK locations in Kent, Devon, Durham and Yorkshire, Diggerland’s theme parks have been built for the whole family to enjoy. When founder Hugh Edeleanu first pitched the idea of a theme park based on construction machinery, which children and adults can ride, drive and operate, he clearly struck upon a winning idea given the award-winning resorts it has spawned.
The JCBs and suchlike have been transformed into rides like Spindizzy and the Skyshuttle, while other activities include Crazy Carts, Mini Land Rovers and the chance to dig for buried treasure.
Got a golf-loving Dad in the family? Then get yourselves up to the white rose county, Yorkshire, this Father’s Day for a mini-golf experience like no other – Xplore’s 4D Golf in Castleford combines mystery and fantasy in the UK’s first glow-in-the-dark 3D Mini Golf adventure. Stick on your 3D glasses and tee off, with two courses – Search for Atlantis and The Mummy’s Curse – available to play.
Xplore recommend a minimum age of three for golfing, with putters of all different sizes available, but they also have a separate Soft Play for children up to 12 years old and a café to grab a bite to eat so you can make more of your trip. Situated just next to the motorway, it’s handily located for a quick day out. The wider Xscape complex also homes an indoor trampoline park, cinema and restaurants.
Gulliver’s has three UK bases, in Warrington, Milton Keynes and Matlock Bath (Derbyshire), and all three are offering free entry for Dads across Father’s Day weekend (when accompanied by at least one full paying person). All three have hotel options to make a short break of it, alongside the family rides, shows and attractions that have made them so famous.
Designed for children aged between two and 13, Gulliver’s Theme Parks are also set apart from competitors in that you can take your own picnic and parking is free.
Trying to get teenagers to take part in family activities can sometimes be tricky, but these fun days out are sure to stir up some excitement.
Escape rooms are becoming hugely popular and are a brilliant way to spend some quality time with your older kids – working together to find clues, solve puzzles and, ultimately, ‘escape’ before your time runs out. Built to be accessible for younger visitors as well, the varying nature of the challengers on offer mean there will likely be plenty of ways for the whole family to get involved; national franchises like The Escape Room explicitly state they are open for all ages. We can personally recommend Mission Breakout in Camden, London, which has a couple of different scenarios to play and kids 9+ can join in.
For the uninitiated, an escape room is a themed, interactive challenge, where you are ‘locked’ in a room as a team and must complete a set task by discovering clues and solving puzzles. You usually have an hour to ‘escape’ the room, with teams sizes generally set between two and six. Simply go online and search for your nearest one.
Geocaching is a modern-day treasure hunt, swapping maps for smartphone or GPS devices. There are more than 70,000 geocaches hidden in the UK, and all you need to find them is a smartphone, a pen or pencil (to sign the logbook inside each geocache) and the coordinates of the caches with a free account on the Geocaching website.
Geocaches can are usually camouflaged into their surroundings and can be particularly small, so some skill is required to hunt them down. Then it’s a case of signing the log book, exchanging any trinkets if the cache contains some (and you have brought some to swap) and that’s it. There’s no denying, it’s a ‘geeky treasure hunt’ as one geocaching blogger dubs it, but it’s also a great excuse to spend some quality time outdoors – for free.
If you’re after something a little more adventurous, meanwhile, Go Ape will get you swinging at any of 33 locations UK ride, with their experiences including their iconic “Tree Top Adventure” high ropes courses, as well as off-road Segwaying at selected locations.
Go Ape in Black Park, Bucks, boasts “Nets Kingdom” – featuring tree-top trampolines, giant ball nets and slides in the forest canopy – while Grizedale features 3km of zip wires too. Even the ‘standard’ locations are packed with unforgettable adventure, however – and fun for the whole family. The Tree Top Adventure courses are open to all ages from ten and older and taller than 4’7” (1.4m), with a maximum weight of 20.5 stone (130kg). There are 19 locations with the Go Ape Tree Top Junior courses too, where the height restriction drops to 3’3” (1m).
Looking for something a little less ‘out there’? You can’t beat a classic game of ten pin bowling to show Dad who’s boss. And with franchises like Tenpin offering locations across the country, and adding in arcades, bars, laser-tag, pool tables and more, there is far more to a trip to your local bowling alley than the bowling itself.
It is accessible too, with ramps for younger bowlers and the option to put the bumpers up. And even if you just stick to the bowling, it’s a perfect chance for some light entertainment (and competition, of course) before grabbing a bite to eat afterwards.