Half term days out in Hampshire & IoW
Awesome exhibitions, steam trains, rollercoasters and more: 23 brilliant things to do around Hampshire & the Isle of Wight this half term
Paulton’s Park, Ower, Romsey, daily
Loads for little and big kids at Paulton’s Park, from everyone’s favourite Pig family to Lost World-style dinosaur adventures. Brand new this year, Tornado Springs is a rootin’ tootin’ adventure ‘world’ set in the American heyday of the 1950s with a spinning coaster, gyro swing ride and (a bit more our speed), a classic locomotive.
Go Ape Southampton, Itchen Valley Country Park
Live the High Life in Eastleigh at the Itchen Valley Country Park. Go Ape Southampton is one of the highest in the South, with two different difficulties of high ropes, tunnels, crosses, bridges and an awesome/terrifying wind-in-your-face zip wire. No-fear kids will love it.
Spinnaker Tower, Gun Wharf Quays, Portsmouth
Did you know Gun Wharf Quays turned 20 this year? Grab a few designer goodies then escape up the Spinnaker Tower for sky high views and fun family photo ops. If you fancy something even more daring than sitting on the vertigo-inducing glass floor (above), teens and adults aged 14+ can now abseil down the tower, too!
Petersfield Open Air Pool, Petersfield, daily
Open air dips are back at Petersfield’s brilliant town pool. The bright, rainbow-coloured wooden changing huts have had a fresh coat of paint and the pool itself has had a pretty major refurb too. Pre-booking is a must.
New Forest Activities, Beaulieu, Family canoeing, 29 – 30 May; 5 – 6 June
Take to the water with a scenic, 90-minute family rowabout the kids will love. Suitable for littlies from 18 months upwards, expect full instruction and proper kitting out. Then paddle away to your heart’s content along the gorgeous creeks and waterways.
Wind in the Willows Afternoon Tea, New Park Manor, Brockenhurst
Wind in the Willows has arrived at the family-friendly New Park Manor in Brockenhurst in the form of gorgeous, Insta-worthy children’s afternoon teas. Goodies include ‘Toad in the Hall’ sausage tartlet, Mole’s (sweet) boiled egg and soldiers and more. For grown-ups, there are finger sandwiches, scones, Badger’s chocolate and berry swiss roll and loads more.
Raymond Briggs: A retrospective, daily, The Gallery, Winchester
Take your arty child to see this brilliant exhibition dedicated to the author-illustrator Raymond Briggs. Still an enduring favourite (especially at Christmas), his influential and iconic children’s books are beloved by generations. On now, the exhibition will run until 18 August and includes over 100 original artworks from favourites. Look out for Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age, Fungus the Bogeyman and, of course, the incredible The Snowman.
Sound Detectives at The Winchester Science Centre, daily
Let’s face it, science is much more fun when its accompanied by interactive props and the odd explosion or two. Once again, the Winchester Science Centre has pulled it out of the bag with its star-gazing planetarium, a 10-foot guitar and new free live science show. In the immersive Sound Detectives experience, kids will discover how sound is created in nature, complete with dry ice cannon experiment. BOOM!
The Mary Rose, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, daily
It made headlines recently with the revelation of its surprisingly ethnically diverse crew. And history buffs are in for a treat when the iconic Mary Rose reopens. A new immersive visitor experience is opening commemorating the loss of the ship and her crew in July 1545. It will include the chance to hear about the ship from King Henry VIII himself and get virtually on board during the Battle of the Solent in which she sank.
Royal Logistics Corps Museum, Worthy Down, Tues – Sat from 18 May
Round-up the troops! Brand spanking new at Worthy Down, near Winchester, The Royal Logistics Corps will take you back in time, on campaign with the British Army, from the Battle of Agincourt to Afghanistan, at its free-to-enter museum. Inside are vehicles, uniforms, equipment and artefacts used over the centuries. There are also interactive displays, a 30-seat cinema, children’s activities and a museum shop and café.
Plant Magic at Mottisfont, Romsey, 29 May – 6 June
Fancy a game of Pooh Sticks? Mottisfont is the National Trust’s number one destination for it, with plenty of bridges to play from. Over half term, there’s also a brand new botanical trail around the grounds. Bring a notepad and pencil and discover nature’s role in magic, poisons and medicine, from foxgloves to, err, snail slime.
The Burley Food & Drink Festival, Sat 29 – 31 May, New Forest
Something for everyone at this fab festival celebrating brilliant local artisan produce – with live music, foodie delights at every turn and free kids shows. Plus there’s art, vintage music, clothes and cars and even a Mystic Tree. Well, why not?
Ranger Rabbit, The Vyne, near Basingstoke, 29 May – 6 June
Plenty of educational activities on offer this half term at the Vyne. Learn about nature conservation in ‘A day in the life of Ranger Rabbit’ and hunt for wildlife-themed geocaches in ‘Geocaching in Nature.’ Then there’s bite-size history and engineering on the Fallen bridge trail and Victorian tales on the ‘What’s the story?’ trail in the house. An A-star holiday diary entry if ever we saw one!
Day Out with Thomas, Watercress Line, Ropley, 29 May – 6 June
See Thomas wheesh into the station and climb aboard for trip the kiddos will absolutely love. Look out for naughty Diesel and good ol’ Toad and Duck. Then there’s a meet-and-greet with the Fat Controller and Sodor Station Sweepers Rusty & Dusty. Cameras at the ready, that snap’s gonna be a keeper!
Legoland Mythica Opens, Legoland Windsor, 29 May onwards
A favourite playground for kids of all ages just over the border in Berks, this year’s newest Legoland attraction is Mythica – a brand new world in a parallel universe. Opening on 29 May, there’s three new rides where LEGO creatures come to life, including a 481,000 LEGO brick model of the Hydra Sea Monster bursting from the depths (above) and a 25m-high immersive Flight of the Sky Lion ride with 4k film. Roarsome.
Mini Maker Workshops, Ash & Co., Crondall, 29 May, 31 May – 6 June
Tell the kids you’ve booked them in for a banging event! A fab, fun and safe (honest!) supervised STEM activity, these 1.5 hour family woodworking sessions at the Ash & Co. workshop give children aged 5+ the chance to get stuck in at some real woodwork – with real tools. Chose a fun project like creating scrappy racer cars, egg cups, wooden mallets or rainbows.
I Love My Bike workshops, The Spring, Havant, Thurs 3 – Fri 4 June
Ring, ring! Children’s author and poet Simon Mole is hosting wheely fun half term family workshops celebrating the thrill of riding your bike at the Spring. Based around his new book (above) and suitable for littlies aged 3 – 7 and their grown-ups, the interactive sessions will include games, art, words and, of course, a story from Simon.
Dogstival, Burley Park, Sat 5 – Sun 6 June
Plenty for the kids and the pooch to explore at this tail-waggingly exciting event in the New Forest. New for 2021 is ‘Barkour’, an adventure playground for dogs. The fun continues with pup participation activities, a giant ‘K9’ dog diving pool, IQ games and loads more. Then there’s live music and 140-plus independent stalls selling doggy delicacies and kit, plus locally-sourced food and drink for hungry hoomans.
ISLE OF WIGHT
Tapnell Park Farm and Aqua Park, daily, Freshwater
Indoor and outdoor adventures galore at Tapnell Farm Park, with loads to do for big and little kids. They can meet new animal friends like meerkats, wallabies and – just arrived – some rare-breed bagot goats. Whizz around on go-karts, climb walls (above) and splash out at the Island’s only Aquapark.
50th Anniversary Gala, IoW Steam Railway, 4 – 6 June, Havenstreet
Founded in January 1971, The Isle of Wight Steam Railway grew from a group of individuals determined to save a few relics from the Island’s once extensive network of 55 miles of railway lines and stations. Celebrating an incredible 50 years, the gala weekend will feature authentic locomotives that once ran on the island. Kids will love coming along for the ride – and there’s a great playground for the littlest ones to let off steam, too.
Sky High Night Glow, Thurs 29 – 31 May, Robin Hill, near Newport
Woodland treetop canopy walkways, water gardens and open rolling countryside – Robin Hill Country Park’s 88 acres of natural parkland has loads to explore. Visit over the late May Bank Holiday weekend for races, mass launches and beautifully-lit hot air balloons, plus live music in the Valley and Woodland Ponds. Not to be missed.
Pizza and Jazz at the Garlic Farm, Sun 30 May, near Sandown
Freshly-made wood-fired pizza, live jazz played by local musicians and bags of room for the kiddos to play are all on the menu at this special evening at Isle of Wight’s Garlic Farm. And oh, those rolling countryside views…
A Grand Family Day Out at Osbourne House, 1 – 3 June, East Cowes
Roll up for a Victorian extravaganza complete with performances, musicians and activities in Osborne’s fabulous grounds and gardens. Entertaining your princes and princesses will be a stilt walking jester, Victorian musicians, Punch and Judy shows and theatre on the lawn.