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Things to do with the kids this summer

Stuck on what to do with your children for SIX whole weeks? Don't panic, Muddy has you covered with the best bits of Hants & IoW.

Six whole weeks. SIX WHOLE WEEKS! Don’t panic though, there is plenty of fun stuff happening around Hampshire and Isle of Wight during the long summer break to keep the kids happy, the days packed and you as absolutely sane as possible.


Mary Rose Photo by Michael Brace

Photo by Michael Brace

The rather striking Mary Rose Museum has a packed schedule of fab exhibitions to keep kids (and adults) amused over the long summer break. Along with the Many Faces of Tudor England, the kids can also take part in the Shipwreck Explorers challenges, including Savvy Shipwrights until the 1st Aug and then onto Tasty Tudors from the 2nd until the 16th August. If you’re lucky you might even meet old King Henners VIII himself.

As you’re in the area then also try and swing into Portsmouth Historic Dockyard as well. With an impressive relaunch of the HMS Warrior, complete with interactive storytelling from some of the ship’s crew (make sure to head down to the engine room for an absolutely freaky, but totally fascinating experience) and a visit into Action Stations is always a good giggle with its climbing walls, laser tag and aviator experiences.

A nip over the water to Gosport and you’ll be surprised to find there are three fantastic, nautically-themed museums to check out. There’s the Royal Submarine Museum, the fantastically named Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower, plus the Diving Museum which has been voted as one of the top 10 family-friendly museums in the UK.

For something a little more, sciencey, then Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium always delivers. The science museum has plenty of kids clubs for a bit of child-free peace and quiet, as well as exhibitions dedicated to everything spacey this Summer, to coincide with 50 years since man landed on the moon.

BeaulieuAlways guaranteed to deliver with a jam-packed calendar of events is Beaulieu. Not just about cars, you could spend a whole day exploring the motor museum, Palace House, Abbey and more and still need to head back. The Summer has some great events for any mini-petrol heads in your brood with the Beaulieu SuperCar weekend (3-4 Aug) and VW T Chill (9-11 Aug) for any retro camper fans.

If you’ve got yourself a little bookworm, then head to Chawton for the Jane Austen Museum which celebrates its 70th anniversary since opening this year. Once home to the author herself, this is the location where she penned Pride and Prejudice and spent many happy times. There’s a big birthday celebration on Sat 27 Jul, where you can get in for what was the original price (around £2.34) and there are Pimms and Regency dancers to amuse the grown-ups.

Over on the Island, there are some quirky little gems of museums and attractions including Godshill Model Village. This dinky slice of quaintness has been open since 1952, it’s a nice gentle day out that will calm and amuse the younger kids. Though, if your kids are a bit more macabre, then perhaps make a detour to the Island’s Shipwreck Centreat Arreton Barns. Quite simply this is a museum of shipwrecks that the Island has had (and there’s been a LOT of shipwrecks) with the stories behind them, bits of the lost boats and plenty of ghostly tales to excite and astound them.


festivalWoop Woop! Just because we’ve grown up doesn’t mean we can’t go to festivals anymore, in fact nowadays most of them are totally geared up for families. Case in point is the brand spanking new Great Wonderfest (1-4 Aug) at Duxmore Farm on the Isle of WightHosted by Dick and Dom (yes, BOGEYS!) the whole thing is geared up with the littlies in mind, but with enough of cred on the line-up to impress even the fussiest of teens. Swing between seeing Peppa Pig, Rastamouse before heading off to jump around like a kid to The Vamps, Example and Bez from the Happy Mondays. An adult weekend camping ticket is £120 and staggered kids prices range from free for under 3s, to £60 for the teens.

Another BIG festival with a huge kids area is Boomtown Fair, near Winchester (7-11 Aug). An entire city in fact and while its often been associated with dance and world music they do have a huge KidzTown and family camping. With a Wild Wood Forest School, Circus Big Top nad various workshops, you’ll have to drag the sproglets away to go and see the amazing line-up that includes The Streets, Ms Lauryn Hill, Prophets of Rage supergroup that feature artists from Rage Against The Machine, Cypress Hill and Public Enemy, plus much much more. Adult tickets cost from £244 for a weekend, kids under 12 are free and teen tickets are from £199.

For something a little less dancey and a little bit more pretty, then the annual Portsmouth Kite Festival is worth a visit. Held every August (10-11 this year) it’s free to check out and has kite enthusiasts from around the world displaying their creations and performing stunts. There’s also stalls from local businesses and great food to chow down as you check out the rainbow of colours floating in the sky.

And, just before the kids return to school and you’re feeling fully zonked, the August Bank Holiday promises two absolutely fantastic festivals in one weekend. Starting in the north of Hampshire is CarFest South. Held at Laverstoke Park Farm (which belongs to Formula 1 ledge, Jody Scheckter), CarFest (23 – 25 Aug) is Chris Evans’ celebration of automobiles, music and fantastic food. With Boy George, Tom Odell and The Human League performing, plus celeb chefs such as James Martin, Prue Leith and Candice Brown heading down to Hants for knees up. There is a big Kids Kingdom packed with demos from professional skaters, roller disco, giant wooden fort and Dick and Dom popping up for more childish, puerile fun.

Also on this weekend is Victorious Festival at Southsea Common in Portsmouth. Now a fully formed major festival, I’ve always been struck with how fantastic the kids’ area is here – all totally free (including free giant bars of chocolate one year!) With performances from Mr Bloom (CBeebies eye candy), the Disney Princesses, a Jedi Training Camp, bongo classes and a Lidl Mudder Assault course, adults can then swing by for acts such as New Order, All Saints, James Bay, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and many, many more.


Summer is the ideal time to prise the tablets and phones away from the younguns and force… errr, gently encourage them to get some fresh air. One sure-fire way to keep the tech-blues at bay is one of the fab summer activities at New Forest Activities. As well as full adventure days that packed with archery, ropes courses and bushcraft, you can also join in on the action with family activities as well. Family canoeing is always a winner and even if you’ve got smaller kids, it’s suitable from 18 months plus.

Another spot for some outdoorsy type fun is Sir Harold Hillier Gardens. The Summer is filled with pond dipping (dates throughout the summer holidays), tree climbing (Fri 26 Jul), Bushcraft days (5 Aug) and much more. For more tree climbing escapades then check out Good Leaf Tree Climbing over on the Isle of Wight to scale the canopies of the Wight (safely, of course) and Go Ape! over in Southampton.

For even more adrenaline junkie fun, then Adventure Activities Isle of Wight offer sea kayaking, coasteering (from 12+) and even mountain boarding.  

And for a good old day of general rollercoasters and fun then check out Paulton’s Park and Island fave, Blackgang Chine. As well as fantastic rides they’ve also got plenty of cool things happening over the summer hol’s. Blackgang, in particular, has its Big Night Out (every Monday, Wednesday and Friday till the 1st September). Workshops, live acts and a giant dance floor to boogie on down.

Wellington-Country-Park-Miniture-RailwayWellington Country Park is riiiiiight on the border of Hants and Berkshire and they’ve got a fantastic line-up for the Summer. As well as the epic splashzones (perfect for the record-breaking summer heat we’re meant to have), they’ve got a roarsame Dinosaur Weekend (26-27 Jul), the Pirate and Mermaid weekend (3-4 Aug), Welly Summer Fun Day (10-11 Aug), Unicorn, Fairy and Pixie weekend (17-18 Aug) finishing off with the rather awesome sounding Bouncy Castle Weekend (24-26 Aug). *Phew*.


Mottisfont Neill Howard

Photo: Neill Howard

History buffs will love the historic The Watercress Line and Isle of Wight Steam Railway, both of which run throughout the Summer. Word has it Thomas the Tank Engine will be showing up at Watrescress between the 3-11 Aug and the Island will get some cowboys and cowgirls, plus the chance to pan for gold on the 23-26 August on the Island.

Famous naturalist Gilbert White’s House is also a fantastic place to get a mix of olde worlde knowledge and entertaining kids fun this Summer, with Bat Walks (8 Aug), Meadow Explorers (21 Aug) and a fantastic exhibition of nonsense poet Edward Lear’s limericks from the 1 Aug (…There was a young woman from Hants….*ahem*).

Also on this Summer is an awesome little expedition around the National Trust’s Mottisfont with all the characters from The Beano. Hunt around the grounds to find old faves like Minnie The Minx (totally my spirit animal), The Bash Street Kids and Dennis himself. The event runs until 8th September.


Sam and Mark

Sam and Mark

There’s some great shows on at the theatres around Hants for the Summer holidays. Starting off with CBBC’s Sam and Mark, who are heading to NST City Southampton with their On The Road Show on the 30th July. Another show on at NST City is a musical adaptation of David Walliams’ Mr Stink (12 – 14 Aug).

Also in Southampton, over at the Mayflower, is Peter Pan – An Awfully Big Musical Adventure (16-17 Aug), performed by the Summer Youth Project participants. Tipped to be full of laughs, tunes from both stage and radio, and over 150 talented young performers, tickets are a pocket-friendly £12-16 as well.

Meanwhile, in Basingstoke Muddy Award-winning venue, The Anvil plays host to the Virtual OrchestraLess stage show and more immersive experience, you and a pair of headphones can walk through and experience Holst’s The Planets, in a totally different way. What’s even better is that this event, on till the 11 Aug, is totally and utterly free.

The Point gets all Arthurian with Tales of Merlin (1-3 Aug). Written by a local playwright, the show condenses the myth and legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table into an interactive, magical show aimed at kids. Tickets are £12 for adults, £8 for the under 16s.

#I got this feelin’ inside my bones, It goes electric, wavy when I turn it on#, ahem… If like me you’ve been subjected to more screenings of Trolls, than you care to remember then send the instigators for a dance class in Andover that’ll make all their Princess Poppy dreams come true. The Lights Andover is holding a Trolls Dance Workshop for 5-7 year olds on Thurs 1 Aug, and will have them strutting their trolly moves for the remainder of the Summer.

And for any budding young thespians in your family unit, check out the Ye Ha Summer School at the Kings Theatre, Southsea. This Summer programme is geared up for the 7-11-year-olds and runs from Mon 29 Jul – Fri 2 Aug, and will get the kids singing and dancing in their very own Western Musical to be performed at the gorgeous Edwardian Theatre. Cost is £185 per child, but just imagine the dividends it’ll pay when they make it big in Hollywood.


Wellington-RidingIf your kids are animal mad then there’s more than enough places to plonk them for some fun with critters. Start off with some riding lessons at Wellington Riding in Heckfield. They’ve also got the fab Country Fair and Horse Trials on the August Bank Holiday (24-26 Aug). Small ones? Then head to Finkley Down Farm in Andover for daily interactive activities over the break, plus a Pirate & Mermaid weekend (27-28 Jul) and Unicorn weekend (I’m trying not to squeal) on the 24-26 Aug.

For bug-mad smalls then Creepy Crawlies at Rosebourne Garden Centre in Weyhill will be a huge hit. This Summer bug hunt across the whole store will not only allow you to keep the kids busy while you peruse the fab flowers and garden trinkets (plus the rather awesome food section, we’re big fans) but those who complete their worksheet (available for £1 entry) will get to take home their very own Venus Fly Trap – pretty cool!

If you’ve not had a chance to check out the fantastic Brickosaurs exhibition at Marwell Zoo yet, then it’s definitely worth visiting. They’ve rolled out all of the amazing dinos now, each one painstakingly crafted out of humble lego bricks. Oh, that and there’s some adorable animals there… being a zoo and all. Also, speaking about adorable animals, Monkey Havenis full of gorgeous sapiens including a brand new Javan Langur called Lilly (short for Lilly Pad). And, if you’re over on the Island make sure to check out Welly Wednesdays at Briddlesford Lodge Farm – rides on a tractor, a chance to see all the animals plus you get to stop in at the awesome farm shop that is filled (FILLED, I tell you) with amazing Island produce.

Tapnell Farm will be buzzing with some excellent events over the holiday period, plus the indoor zip-wire, go-kart track and the awesome toboggan run that I couldn’t drag my kids away from when we were there recently (tears were involved). Ones to keep an eye out for are the Summer Night Shindigs that are running until the 25th Aug, with magic performances, street performers, live music and the chance to catch one of the most beautiful sunset views on the Island.


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