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15 best family things to do in Hampshire and Isle of Wight

Hampshire has loads of family attractions and things to do - and more fun is just a short hop away on the Isle of Wight! Here's a few of our favourite days out with the kids this summer.

1/ Marwell Zoo, Otterbourne, near Winchester

Marwell Zoo Santos two-toed sloth best family things to do in Hampshire and Isle of Wight things to do with the kids what's on

One of our favourite stops in the county for animal encounters, zebras, humboldt penguins, giraffes, rhinos, tigers and gorgeous two-toed sloths like Santos (above) are just some of the 1,200 animals at the marvellous Marwell Zoo at Colden Common, near Winchester.

Little monkeys can swing in the adventure playground. And there’s a fun road train ride all around the perimeter of the zoo Okapi Station. This summer, it’s your last chance to catch the brilliant Brickosaurs! Evolution. The colourful brick dino sculptures can be found around the Zoo until Sun 4 September 2022.

2/ Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean

The 1,400-acre Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield always has lots of outdoorsy fun for families. Think bug hunts, wood-fired oven alfresco pizza parties, miles of trails, woodland adventure playgrounds for big and little kids, mountain bike trails, horse riding and even a dog washer for mucky pooches.

New this summer, look out for ‘The Head of Ascapart’ a huge willow sculpture of a mustachioed giant’s head, part of the ‘Art in the Park’ project funded by the South Downs National Park.

3/ Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf, Portsmouth

Spinnaker Tower Gunwharf Portsmouth Best family attractions Hampshire Isle of Wight things to do with the kids

There are views – and then there are VIEWS. From the top of Portsmouth’s iconic Spinnaker Tower you can look out over a 23-mile stretch of waterfront, taking in local landmark and the Isle of Wight.

If you’ve not got a great head for heights, the Sky Walk glass platform in the middle of View Deck 1 that looks in a long-way-downwards direction is probably best avoided. Be in no doubt though, daring tots, teens and in-betweens will all want to hop, skip and jump on it.

4/ The Great Hall and King Arthur’s Round Table, Winchester

Every child (and adult) I’ve ever visited Winchester’s Great Hall with has loved seeing the legendary King Arthur’s Round Table. Thought to date back to the 13th century, it was painted in the 16th century with a Tudor rose in its centre. The infamous Henry VIII presides at the top, with 24 places for his knights. Other highlights here are Queen Eleanor’s elegant and fragrant Courtyard Garden and fun costumes to try on.

If time allows, while you’re having historical fun in the city, head on to the fab Winchester City Museum, close to the Cathedral, which has hands-on exhibits and a cool scale model of the Victorian Winchester.

5/ Mottisfont, Romsey

The National Trust’s No.1 place for Pooh Sticks – with several bridges to play on – Mottisfont is always a full family day out with a Wild Play Area for kids to jump and hang in and leaping brown trout in the beautiful stretch of river.

This summer, don’t miss Mottisfont’s brilliant and inspirational new Little People BIG DREAMS exhibition. It celebrates some of the world’s most outstanding people, using artworks from the bestselling picture-book series.

Outside, they can explore the gardens and meeting more real-life heroes with the Little People, BIG DREAMS trail. It includes an ‘Olympic Arena’ for sporty fun, a chance to write stories, dress up and explore their own future dreams and important causes.

6/ The Watercress Line, Alton

From nostalgic Railway Children-style family trips to Thomas the Tank Engine, The Hogwarts Bridge and superb Steam Illuminations, The Watercress heritage railway line from Alton to Ropley is a proper family day out.

Get onboard with Day Out With Thomas (Sat 6 – Sun 14 August) this summer. Or take a nostalgic step back in time at the 50s and 60s Weekend over the August Bank Holiday weekend (Sat 27 – Mon 29 August).

7/ Osborne House, Cowes, Isle of Wight

Queen Victoria’s beloved family home and the English Heritage big hitter on the Isle of Wight. Osborne House brings to life the great love story of the monarch and her beloved Albert. Strolling around the house, there’s a palpable sense of her at every turn. Kids’ll love the fun Swiss Cottage Museum, play parks and Victoria’s private sandy beach (top tip: grab a delicious Wight-made Minghella ice cream from the kiosk).

8/ Hawk Conservancy Trust

Voted Best Family Attraction in the 2022 local Muddy Awards, The Hawk Conservancy Trust is set in 22 acres of countryside and home to tawny owls, peregrine falcons and a giant bald eagle. Watch flying displays, play the giant bird of prey Top Trumps game, swoop by the Feathers Restaurant for a spot of lunch and let kids loose in the bird-themed playground. They’ll have a hoot!

9/ Tapnell Farm Park, Yarmouth

There’s much more to Tapnell Farm Park than the wallabies, meerkats and menagerie of cute animals (though you won’t want to miss them). Fun-seekers can also zoom around on go-karts, plus there’s jumping pillows, sledge slides and a new Football Golf course and Archery & Axe Throwing ranges – not to mention the Isle of Wight’s only outdoor Aqua Park, complete with bouncy obstacles and giant free-fall slides.

Glad rags at the ready – this summer, Tapnell Farm will open late two evenings a week between 26 July and 30 Aug for family entertainment, including a screening of Disney’s Encanto! and the Island’s Biggest Kids Party

10/ Sky Park Farm, Petersfield

If you haven’t already taken the kids to Sky Park Farm, you really should. The beautiful deer park opened in 2021 on the Hampshire-Sussex border near Petersfield and the brilliant adventure playground and chance to hand-feed the gorgeous animals always goes down well. While you’re here, stop by the shop and butcher, with 40% of products and ingredients sourced within 30 miles and a further 40% from within Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex.

School holidays always brings lots of fun to the farm. This July and August 2022, there’s everything from face-painting to pizza and princesses fun. Keep an eye on the Sky Park Farm site for all the fun.

11/ Southampton SeaCity Museum, Southampton

Located right in the city, the brilliant SeaCity Museum tells the story of the people of Southampton, with objects going right back to ancient times, and interactive tablets which small hands can use to play archeologist and ‘uncover’ treasures. The big draw here is the Titanic exhibition, with a look at the phenomenal scale of the ship even before it left Southampton docks, plus a delve into life above and below-deck. Kids will love the chance to steer the ship out of port (but try not to run it aground like Muddy did – ahem).

12/ Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, Winchester

A real STEM adventure of the super-fun kind. Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium in the South Downs National Park has fun, interactive exhibits, awesome live science shows and demos. And there’s always plenty to keep small hands and inquiring minds occupied.

This summer (Thurs 21 July to Sat 4 September 2022) kids can help hero Buzz Lightyear on his newest intergalactic adventure. The out-of-this-world Space Ranger Challenge Trail explains the science that inspired the Buzz Lightyear movie through Explorer:Space. And there’s an explosive spaceship launch demo in Science Live! What a blast.

13/ Walk or cycle The New Forest

New Forest pony

Day out or weekend escape, The New Forest is a special place year-round. All the family will love spotting wild ponies and there’s plenty of scenic family cycling trails around Forest and open heathland to enjoy – usually starting and ending in a gorgeous little town with plenty of cream tea/ice cream pitstop opportunities.

14/ Paulton’s Park, Ower, Romsey

Best known for the preschooler nirvana – Peppa Pig World – there’s much more to Paulton’s Park than the world-famous Pig family and plenty for older children and teens, too, from the Wild West to dinosaur adventures and thrill-seeker rollercoasters. Find time to explore the lesser trod areas of the theme park like the wonderfully peaceful lakes and gardens – the perfect antidote to the summer crowds.

15/ The Needles, Isle of Wight

The iconic Needles Rocks are a stunning landmark and must-see on the Isle of Wight. Ride on the world famous chairlift at The Needles Landmark Attraction which takes you down to the iconic Needles Rocks and coloured sand cliffs at Alum Bay. If you’re lucky, you might catch wild dolphins putting on a show chasing the pleasure boats.

Throughout the summer season stay for special family entertainment including live music, as well as the Music and Magic in the Skies firework display every Thursday evening between 4 August and 1 September.

If you’re staying in Yarmouth or coming for the day, it’s worth swerving the car and taking the hop on and off Needles Breezer open top bus for views and info as you travel and a ride right up to The Needles Old Battery and New Battery – ask about a discount if you’re a National Trust member. And on the subject of saving money, up to two kids travel free with an adult passenger on Wightlink ferries during the school holidays.

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