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101 fantastic activities for the summer 2023 school holidays

Eden garden playing
See the world through an insect’s eyes, take a trip through your own digestive system (yes, really!), or come face-to-face with Robin Hood and his merry men – we've got a whole host of summer adventures for you to enjoy with these 101 amazing and educational activities from across the UK!

Follow the links below to discover activities in your area: 

South East
South West
North West
North East

Northern Ireland

Main image: © Eden Project

Person ata V&A Museum


Image: © David Parry / V&A Museum, London

Young at heart
What: Don’t miss the grand reopening of the Young V&A (formerly the V&A Museum of Childhood) as it opens its doors to visitors for the first time since 2019. Explore interactive galleries designed especially for children, where you’ll be able to enjoy a collection of poetry from famous faces including Michael Rosen and Children’s Laureate Joseph Cohelo, celebrate the museum’s eclectic collections (complete with Mary Poppins’ umbrella, a life-size Jabba the Hutt and Harry Potter’s Nimbus 2000!), have a go at constructing a giant marble run, see a display of 100 dolls’ houses, or ascend the amazing optical-illusion staircase. 
Where: Young V&A, Cambridge Heath Rd, Bethnal Green, London E2 9PA
When: Museum opens 1 July, 10am-5.45pm. 
Need to know: Admission free.

Fantastic beasts
What: Grab your Jubjub bird and your best mad hat before heading over to Alexandra Palace for some seriously surreal fun with this wild and wacky stage adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s poem The Jabberwocky. As the fearsome Jabberwock menaces the village of Pokeytin, a brave hero grabs their vorpal sword and sets off on a quest to lop off the nasty beast’s head – but is that really the whole story? Expect floor-stamping rock n roll, silly slapstick and even a giant fire-breathing dragon in a show for all the family. 
Where: Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY
When: 25 August, 5.30pm.
Need to know: Adults £13.50, children £8.50. 

Play away
What: The London Theatre Kids Week returns for another show-stopping performance this summer, encouraging kids under 17 to discover the magic of the stage. Over 30 West End shows are taking part this year, offering one free child ticket with every paying adult. Take your pick from Frozen, Horrible Histories and The Tiger Who Came To Tea, as well as musical classics like Matilda, Les Misérables, Mamma Mia! and Wicked and more. Certain performances also include free family activities with dance, singing and storytelling workshops and the chance to meet cast and crew and discover backstage secrets. 
Where: Multiple theatres across London.
When: Select shows from 17-31 July then throughout August, various dates and times. 
Need to know: Prices vary by show. Rather than one full price and one free ticket, the discount is presented as two half-price tickets.

Born to be wild!
What: Get ready for some animal antics at ZSL London Zoo and have a go at their Really Wild Challenge! Play your way through the animal kingdom as you join in with these wildlife-themed games and activities: have a go at tiptoeing past a sleeping tiger, hurry to the hive like a busy bee, or wriggle along like an eel. Plus, you’ll be able to take part in a giant-sized game of hook the duck, test your aim at animal tail hoopla or even see if you can tell the difference between deer droppings and porcupine poop in Poo-dunnit. 
Where: ZSL London Zoo, Outer Cir, London NW1 4RY
When: 22 July-3 September, 10am-6pm. 
Need to know: Free with standard admission, adults from £31, children from £21.70. 

Going global
What: Get stuck into Shakespeare this summer at the Globe Theatre.Take a tour of this re-created Elizabethan landmark as you discover the history of the Globe and Shakespeare’s London, from blood and gore to poetry and prose. Then watch a thrilling sword fight and learn about historical stage combat or enjoy the chaotic antics of the Rude Mechanicals as they get ready to stage a new performance in Midsummer Mechanicals, a family show inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  
Where: Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT
When: 22 July-26 August, Midsummer Mechanicals. Sword-fighting, weekends, 22 July-27 August, 11am and 1pm. Family tours, weekends, 8 July-29 October.
Need to know:  Midsummer Mechanicals from £18 per person, sword-fighting 12.50 per person (including booking fee), tour from £25 adults, £18 children.

Make a splash!
What: Take a deep dive into London’s murky past with Horrible Histories as you head out onto the Terrible Thames with this unique live theatrical performance taking place on the river. You’ll take a boat trip around London’s most iconic landmarks, including the Tower of London, London Bridge, Cleopatra’s Needle and the Palace of Westminster as you hear tales of Henry VIII, Boudica, Jack The Ripper, Julius Caesar and many more famous figures from the capital’s history.
Where: Tower Bridge Quay, St Katharine's Way, London E1W 1LD
When: 1 July-3 September, 10.45am then every hour until 4.45pm.
Need to know: Family ticket, £70.

Going green
What: Go for a stroll through the beautiful blooms of Chelsea Physic Garden and celebrate its 350th anniversary with a series of fun nature activities. You can create your own fearsome carnivorous plant, enjoy live music on the lawn, find out about ferns and design a dinosaur habitat, or follow the White Rabbit as you enjoy an immersive promenade performance of Alice in Wonderland. 
Where: Chelsea Physic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London SW3 4HS
When: Various dates and times until 31 August, 11am-5pm, Sunday-Friday. 
Need to know: Prices for activities vary starting from £10 adult, £5 child but all include admission. Alice in Wonderland, £25 adults, £18 children. 

Joust a minute
What: Enjoy a right royal day out as history’s most thrilling sport returns to its home at Hampton Court Palace! Be dazzled by the pomp and ceremony of a Tudor joust at the home of Henry VIII – a famous jouster himself – with cheers and jeers filling the air as armoured knights battle it out. Alongside the excitement of the joust, you can watch some spectacular falconry displays showcasing the hunting techniques once popular with the royal court or have a go at Tudor cooking in Henry’s cavernous kitchens. 
Where: Hampton Court Palace, Hampton Court Way, Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU
When: 2-6 August, 11am-4pm. 
Need to know: Included with palace admission, adult tickets £29, children £14.50. 

What the Dickens?
What: Charles Dickens is preparing to throw a big summer garden party, but everything’s all in a muddle, and his maid Gracie needs your help to get everything ready for the big day. Get stuck into some immersive Victorian crafting activities as you learn how to mix old-fashioned lemonade, make origami flowers to decorate the table, and practice your calligraphy as you write invitations with a quill and ink.  
Where: Charles Dickens Museum, 48-49 Doughty St, London WC1N 2LX.
When: 16 August, 10.30am, 11.30am, 1pm and 2pm.
Need to know: Tickets, £12.50 adult, £10 child, includes museum access. 

Ship shape
What: Set a course for the National Maritime Museum and join in with their Summer of Play, where you’ll be able to enjoy a treasure trove of nautical-themed family fun. Use ropes to create a crashing, splashing ocean seascape, make your own merfolk artwork and hear tales of these playful creatures from around the world, use inks and paint to create patterns inspired by ocean currents and tides, or even having a go at designing your own boat – will it sink or swim? Visit our partners at and get a day pass to 4 London museums, including National Maritime Museum, for just £27. 
Where: National Maritime Museum, Romney Road, London SE10 9NF
When: 23 July-3 September, 11am-1pm and 2-4pm
Need to know: Activities free.

Park life
What: Enjoy some outdoor family fun this August as Hyde Park will once again be hosting its popular drop-in Discovery Days programme, inviting you to find out more about the incredible variety of wildlife that calls the Royal Park home – whether they live in its ponds, meadows, or even under the ground. You’ll be able to go pond dipping, build a badger or fox den, craft wildlife sculptures and nature patterns, or follow one of the interactive wildlife trails around the park. There's also a range of Nature Roadshows taking place this summer across the different Parks.
Where: The LookOut Discovery Centre, Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH
When:  1-3, 8-10, 15-17 and 22-24 August, 11am-3pm.
Need to know: Free, drop-in.

TheSchoolRun &

TheSchoolRun has partnered up with to help expand your options for school holiday activities and keep things affordable.

So, as well as the activities in the list, you can also find plenty of events and activities in your area at discounted prices or even for free.

Actors on stage

South East

Image:© Anthony Robling / Oxford Playhouse

World Beating
What: Join a raggle-taggle band of travelling circus performers as they embark on their most daring feat yet: to recreate the adventures of Phileas Fogg as he sets off on his race around the world. But wait...who is this Nellie Bly biting at their heels? They can’t have an actual, real-life woman win this race! Sit back and enjoy as the intrepid performers traverse every country, embrace each character, and navigate each mode of transport as fact clashes with fiction in this madcap adventure around the globe.
Where: Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2LW
When: 25-29 July, times vary.
Need to know: Tickets from £10. Suitable for 5+. 

Ship shape
What: It’s all hands on deck at Chatham Historic Dockyard this summer with an ocean-themed extravaganza of events to enjoy. Say hello to TV favourites the Octonauts and help them to identify all the mysterious creatures from the deep sea who are busy hiding around the site, then take the plunge with the eccentric Doc. Yard and his assistant Bunsen as you learn all about the science of the seas.
Where: Chatham Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TE, England
When: 29 July-3 September, 10am-5pm. Dates and times vary by activity.  
Need to know: Events free with admission. Family ticket from £67 online. 

Yo, ho, ho! 
What: Whether you’re a scallywag, a salty sea dog or a lily-livered landlubber, prepare yourself for an adventure on the high seas this summer as pirates take over Dover Castle. Listen to their tales of derring-do, booty and barnacles, then enjoy plenty of shows, demonstrations and hands-on activities exploring life in the age of sail – just make sure you don’t end up walking the plank!
Where: Dover Castle, Castle Hill, Dover, Kent, CT16 1HU
When: 5 and 6 August, 10am-5pm. 
Need to know: Included with admission, family ticket £85 

Animal antics
What: Celebrate the opening of a new British Wildlife exhibition at the Haslemere Museum with a whole host of fun activities investigating all things creature-featured. Enjoy animal-themed arts and crafts, watch fantastic falconry displays or a theatre adaptation of Beatrix Potter's classic tales, say hello to a friendly tortoise, or build your own weird and wonderful brick creature. 
Where: Haslemere Educational Museum, 78 High St, Haslemere GU27 2LA
When: 6 July–2 September, 10am-5pm, Tuesday to Saturday. Activity dates and times vary. 
Need to know: Admission free, activities £4 or £5 per child, £1 or £2 per accompanying adult. Family ticket for Beatrix Potter play, £40.   

Spectacular science
What: Get summer started with a bang with Fiesta – a celebration of curiosity taking place at Winchester Science Centre complete with festival tents, mini stages and lots of live science. Outside you’ll be able to enjoy nature-themed storytelling, craft a noisemaker, perform onstage and even have a peer into the strange Curiosity Cupboard, before heading indoors to discover the science behind a firework display in their Boom, Bang, Fizz live show, complete with plenty of noisy and colourful experiments.
Where: Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium, Telegraph Way, Winchester SO21 1HZ
When: 8 July-3 September, 9.30am-5pm. 
Need to know: All activities free with admission, tickets from £12.50 per person.

Spring into action
What: Hop along to the bOing! Festival in Canterbury as it returns for 2023 with another spectacular selection of family-friendly artistry delivered by performers from across Europe. You can watch an acrobatic hip-hop circus, have a go at some LEGO robotics, step inside an immersive, interactive illuminated sculpture – the ‘Dodecalis’ Luminarium, receive a frosty reception at the Liquid Nitrogen Show or sit back and listen to some live music at the main stage.
Where: bOing! Festival, Gulbenkian, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NB
When: 26 and 27 August, times vary. 
Need to know: Entry and many events free. 

Water world
What: Get in touch with your wild side as you visit Kent’s RSPB Dungeness nature reserve and enjoy some relaxing pond dipping activities. Discover the weird and wonderful creatures that hide beneath the water’s surface with experts on hand to help you identify your catch, which could include dragonflies, nymphs, pond skaters and frogs, or maybe even some of the reserve’s rare species including the great crested newt.
Where: RSPB Dungeness, Boulderwall Farm, Dungeness Rd, Romney Marsh TN29 9PN
When: 28 July, 7 and 21 August, 11am-2.30pm. 
Need to know: Admission, adults £5, children £2.

Totally van-tastic!
What: Find out how English Heritage helps protect the past with some fun hands-on activities as their Conservation Van takes a whirl around Wiltshire. Have a go at stonemasonry as you repair a miniature wall or use special tools to shape soapstone, discover the different dangers delicate historical artefacts need to be protected from, or try out some of the techniques used by expert art conservators to preserve paintings. 
Where: Fort Brockhurst, Gunners Way, Gosport PO12 4DS and Wolvesey Castle, College St, Winchester SO23 9NB
When: Brockhurst, 22 July and 12 August, 11am-3pm, Wolvsey, 15 August, 10am-6pm. 
Need to know: Free.

Family playing at Eden Project

South West

Image: © Eden Project

Play Away
What: Enjoy some fun in the sun at Cornwall’s Eden Project as it kicks off a whole summer of play with the opening of Nature’s Playground – a brand-new outdoor play area featuring slides, swings and ladders galore. There’s also water play, a clay quarry and balance beams, all topped off by the nine-metre-tall Tree of Life tower. You can also play giant-size hoopla, Jenga, four in a row and other boardgames in the Orchard, design and build your own new addition to the Den Village and relax with some summer storytelling. 
Where: The Eden Project, Bodelva, St Austell, Cornwall, PL24 2SG
When: 22 July-3 September, 9am-6pm. 
Need to know: Activities free with admission, adults £38, children £12. Pre-booking for Nature’s Playground essential. 

Absolutely fin-tastic
What: Get ready to sleep with sharks at the National Marine Aquarium thanks to this special nighttime event. You’ll take a private tour of the exhibits after dark and learn all about the fantastic sea creatures they contain, before playing some rather fishy games and watching a suitably ocean-themed movie (complete with midnight snacks) before settling down to sleep beside the huge Eddystone Reef tank that contains crabs, lobsters, eels – and of course, sharks! 
Where: National Marine Aquarium, Rope Walk, Coxside, Plymouth PL4 0LF
When: 29 July, 3, 18 and 25 August, 6.30pm-9am
Need to know: Adult tickets £50, children £45. Bring sleeping bag, mat and pillow.

A Pirate’s Life For Me
Come and see a brand-new interactive theatre show, A Pirate's Life For Me, at Cornwall's National Maritime Museum. The show explores the lives – and possibly deaths – of the Caribbean’s most notorious pirates. With the audience at the helm, casting their vote to direct the story, no two shows are the same. You can also see the Pirates exhibition that takes you beneath the surface of the Golden Age of Piracy, and don't miss the Skull Island Play Zone where you can climb the island fort, captain the crew from the quarterdeck, and keep watch for mischievous intruders. Should anyone infiltrate the pirate barracks, you can make sure they walk the plank!
Where: National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Discovery Quay, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 3QY
When: A Pirate’s Life For Me: Monday 24 July – Sunday 3 September, 11am, 12.15pm, 2pm & 3.15pm. Pirates Exhibition is running until December 2024. 
Need to know: A Pirate’s Life For Me is free as part of the Museum admission fee. Admission: Adults £16.90, children (Under 18s) £8.50, children (Under 5s) free. 

Time travelling
What: Take a journey through 12,000 years of history - from the Stone Age to the modern day with this three-day festival at Arundel Castle. You’ll come face to face with a whole host of different characters – from jolly jesters to Edwardian suffragettes – and learn more about the stages of history they represent and how normal lives have changed over time. Watch Roman gladiators clash, be entertained by medieval minstrels and falconry displays, listen to the roar of 16th century cannon, and have a go at many different historical crafts and games. 
Where: Arundel Castle, Arundel, BN18 9AB
When: 26-28 August, 10am-5pm. 
Need to know: Event free with admission, family ticket, £61. 

Catch a cliff-hanger
What: Enjoy a special family-friendly theatrical performance in the beautiful open air setting of the Minack Theatre. Founded in 1932 by Rowenna Cade, the theatre is carved out of the granite cliff with the deep blue sea of Porthcurno Bay far below. This year you’ll be able to watch an enchanting adaptation of classic children’s book Tom’s Midnight Garden, go on a crazy journey through Greek myth and legend featuring puppetry, music and lots of laughs, or swallow a witches’ brew of murder and mayhem thanks to a unique adaptation of Macbeth, plus much more. 
Where: Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Penzance, Cornwall TR19 6JU
When: Selected dates and times throughout the school holidays. 
Need to know: Adult tickets from £10, children from £5. Book online or call 01736 810181.

Rainbow bright
What: Join in with a celebration of light and colour at Plymouth’s The Box with these artistic activities inspired by their latest exhibitions Reframing Reynolds and Dappled Light. You can have a go at using special paints made from natural materials or try your hand at gelli plate printing – there’s also the chance to relax with family yoga and mindfulness sessions or get stuck into some weird and wonderful science workshops. 
Where: The Box, Tavistock Pl, Plymouth PL4 8AX
When: 25 July-31 August, 10.30am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-3.30pm. 
Need to know: Entry free, charges may apply for some activities. 

Wormy wonders
What: Get a wriggle on to the Lost Gardens of Heligan and have a go at their brand new trail inspired by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Superworm! Make your way through meadows and woodland, learning about the real-life superpowers of soil and minibeasts as you go. Then try your hand at Superworm lasso, take on the Superworm skipping challenge, dig for buried treasure, and get up close to a wormery. You can also join in with a programme of hands-on workshops, demonstrations, and wildlife walks and learn all about the creatures that call Heligan home, from bats, to bees, to newly-introduced beavers.
Where: The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Pentewan, St.Austell, Cornwall, PL26 6EN 
When: Superworm, 8 July-10 September, 10am-6pm. Wildlife activities, Wednesdays, 21 July-29 September. 
Need to know: Events included with admission, £58 for a family ticket.

Forage for a fossil
What: Calling all dino lovers! If you’re interested in getting hands on with a real piece of prehistory, head on over to the Isle of Wight for a fossil-finding expedition. Run by real life palaeontologists and geologists from the Dinosaur Isle Museum (in a building shaped like a giant pterodactyl), you could find yourself your very own dinosaur footprint as you hunt for fossils on one of their brilliant beach walks.
Where: Dinosaur Isle, Culver Parade, Sandown, Isle of Wight, PO36 8QA
When: Selected dates and times between 20 July–29 August. 
Need to know: Suitable for 3+. Family ticket, £19. Booking essential by calling 01983 404344. Dress for the weather and bring a bucket to put any finds in. 

Block party
What: Get ready to block around the clock at Bath’s American Museum with the launch of Brick America, a new exhibition that will see some of the USA’s most iconic objects, including the Statue of Liberty, space shuttle and The Mayflower, recreated entirely from LEGO brick. After admiring all 40 models, you’ll be able to construct your own unique creations, tag the LEGO graffiti wall, or pick up some top building tips to take home. And don’t miss the Big Build event, where you’ll be able to help assemble a giant model of the iconic Hollywood sign.
Where: American Museum, Claverton Manor, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7BD
When: 22 July-31 September, 10am-5pm. Big Build event, 22-24 July, 10.30am-4.30pm.
Need to know: All activities included with admission, family ticket from £37.50. 

Golden oldies 
What: Treat yourself to an old-fashioned day out and pay a visit to RHS Garden Rosemoor for their vintage weekend. After admiring an eclectic collection of vintage vehicles including cars, motorcycles and caravans, you’ll be able to take a ride on a steam tractor or vintage bus, learn how to dance the Lindy Hop, watch a classic Punch and Judy show, discover what life was like as a civilian during the Second World War, or relax in the deck chairs and enjoy live 1940s style music. 
Where: RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington, Rosemoor, Devon EX38 8PH
When: 29-30 July, 10am-4pm. 
Need to know: Events free with admission. Family ticket, £33.30.

Singer performing at festival


Image: © Latitude

Going the distance
What: Suffolk’s Latitude Festival is back with a bang for 2023, with a jam-packed programme of fantastic family entertainment on offer alongside big names including Pulp, George Ezra and The Proclaimers. Enjoy a chaotic improvised theatre show, explore a massive adventure playground and try out bushcraft skills, learn how to sing and dance like a West End theatre star, or take part in a knightly duel, plus so much more!
Where: Henham Park, Henham Barns Nr, Southwold, Beccles NR34 8AQ
When: 21-23 July, 10am-late. 
Need to know: Adult day tickets from £90.75, children £10. 

Comic capers
What: Expect plenty of mischief and pranks galore as Dennis the Menace, Gnasher and all his friends from the Beano take over ZSL Whipsnade Zoo this summer. Too many grown-ups have been rubbish at animal conservation so far, but Dennis and friends reckon they can do better. As part of the Beano’s 85th anniversary celebrations, you can take a leaf out of their (comic) book and learn how to protect wildlife at home and around the world. Join in with the gang and follow the comic-strip trail through all of Whipsnade’s different habitats, as you take part in fun games and interactive challenges. 
Where: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Whipsnade, Dunstable LU6 2LF
When: 22 July-4 September, 10am-6pm. 
Need to know: Activities included in admission, tickets £28.50 adult, £19.90 child.

Saxon shenanigans 
What: Prepare yourself for plenty of historical happenings as you discover the story of the Anglo-Saxons at Sutton Hoo. Pay a visit to the new Rendlesham Revealed, showcasing never-before-seen artefacts (including a garnet-encrusted scabbard mount and some of the oldest coins found in Britain) from one of the most important Saxon settlements in Britan. You can also enjoy Saxon music, craft and combat displays at the living history encampment, or listen to epic tales of myth and legend during a forest storytelling session. 
Where: Sutton Hoo, Tranmer House, Woodbridge IP12 3DJ.
When: Selected dates and times until 28 August, 10am-5pm. 
Need to know: Activities included with admission, family ticket, £37.50.

Reeding is fun
What: Get rooted in nature this summer as you go wildlife spotting amidst the mudflats and reedbeds of the beautiful river Alde. Go on a fun family stroll through the hedgerows, hunting for birds, butterflies and minibeasts galore as you go, or relax with a peaceful boat ride instead, keeping your eyes peeled for wading birds. 
Where: Snape Maltings, Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Snape Bridge, Snape IP17 1SP
When: Walks: 25 July, 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 August,10am and 2pm. Boats: 21 July-3 September, except 26-29 July, 9-11, 25 and 26 August.
Need to know: Boat trips, adults £14, under 14s £9. Wildlife walk, adults £13, children £6.75.

Roman holiday
What: Celebrate Colchester’s historic past as Camulodunum, capital of Roman Britain, with this two-day history festival at Castle Park. After the Roman magistrate arrives to bless the festivities, you can watch gladiatorial combat, legionary drills and siege engines in operation, or speak to archaeologists and find out more about the only chariot-racing arena in Britain. There’s also Roman dressing-up, donkey rides, book readings and plenty of historical crafts to enjoy too.
Where: Lower Castle Park, Colchester, C01 1XL.
When: 29-30 July, 10.30am-5pm. 
Need to know: Family ticket, £24. Most activities free with admission.

Over the rainbow
What: Follow the yellow brick road all the way to Cambridge for this new outdoor adaptation of the Wizard of Oz at Wilton Country Park. Join Dorothy, the brainless but cheeky scarecrow, the cowardly lion, and the heart-less tin man as they go on their quest to the Emerald City in search of the mighty and mysterious Wizard of Oz. Expect dazzling costumes, audience participation and plenty of laughs in this heel-clicking family performance. 
Where: Milton Country Park, Cambridge, CB24 6AZ
When: 2 August, 3pm. 
Need to know: Family ticket £47.78 including booking fee. 

Wonderful Wells
What: Get ready for a seaside spectacular as the carnival comes to town in Wells-Next-The-Sea. There’s plenty of music, games, activities and shows on offer – you can compete in the sandcastle competition,  have a go at wizard training, join in with a Wild West party, and make sure you don’t miss the grand parade at the end of the week!
Where: Various locations in and around Wells-Next-The-Sea, North Norfolk. 
When: 28 July-6 August. ‘Carnival Day’ and parade, 5 August. 
Need to know: Many events free, prices vary for others. 

On yer bike!
What: Let pedal power take the strain as you explore Suffolk’s beautiful Ickworth Estate on wheels. Pick up your explorer pack and go for a cycle ride in search of wildlife, have a go at building your own bug hotel, or try sketching a Georgian-style portrait in the Rotunda. Inside the Walled Garden, you’ll also be able to make your way through a maze, get messy in the mud kitchen, or listen to storytelling at the Summer House stage. 
Where: Ickworth Estate, Horringer, Bury Saint Edmunds IP29 5QE
When: 22 July-5 September, 10am-3.30pm. 
Need to know: Events free with admission, family ticket £30. Bike rental £5 for 2 hours, £10 for a day. 

Knights at castle


Image: © Warwick Castle

Joust good fun
What: See lances shatter, feel the thunder of hooves, and hear the roar of the crowd as you become a spectator to this dramatic medieval joust at Warwick Castle. Enjoy this historical spectacular inspired by the Wars of the Roses, with two rivals from the Houses of Lancaster and York charging full-tilt in pursuit of glory in a thrilling display of chivalry, courage, and stunning equestrian stunts – who will emerge victorious?
Where: Warwick Castle, Warwick CV34 4QU
When: 23 July-3 September, 10am-5pm. 
Need to know: Event free with admission, tickets £34 per person. 

An arrow escape
What: Celebrate the tales of the world’s best-known outlaw in the very place the legend began – Nottingham’s Sherwood Forest. The popular Robin Hood Festival is back for 2023, with a whole host of medieval mayhem for the whole family. Expect living history encampments giving a flavour of life in the Middle Ages with crafts and weaponry demonstrations, mind-bending magic shows, storytelling starring the eponymous hero and his merry men and more.
Where: Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre, Nottinghamshire NG21 9RN
When: 4-6, 19-20, 26-28 August, 10am-5pm. 
Need to know: Entry and events free, small charge may apply for some activities. Parking £10 per vehicle.

Brilliant Blakesley 
What: Travel back in time with this double-bill of history-themed storytelling sessions at Birmingham’s Blakesley Hall. Journey to the Golden Age of Piracy and meet a salty old sea dog who’ll teach you how to keep a pirate vessel shipshape, hunt for buried treasure and even walk the plank, or pay a visit to Anglo-Saxon England to hear the epic tale of Beowulf the monster slayer, before crafting a mighty weapon fit for a warrior. 
Where: Blakesley Hall, Blakesley Rd, Birmingham B25 8RN
When: Pirates, 27 July, 11.30am, 1pm and 2.30pm. Beowulf, 4 and 18 August, 11.15am and 1pm. 
Need to know: Pirates, £4 per person. Beowulf, £9 adults, £5 children. 

Chocks away!
What: Take to the skies with Horrible Histories at the RAF Museum as you explore the crazy side of aviation and meet the fearless (and occasionally foolish) flying pioneers who made it all possible. Find out if you’ve got what it takes to perform aerobatics, crack the clues to solve a high-flying mystery, or have a go at designing your own wacky flying machine taking inspiration from real-life aeronautical inventors. 
Where: Royal Air Force Museum Midlands, Lysander Ave, Cosford, Shifnal TF11 8UP
When: 22 July-3 September, 10am-5pm.  
Need to know: Tickets £7.50 or £25 for a group ticket (up to 5 people). 

The play’s the thing
What: Experience the brilliance of the Bard for free in his home town of Stratford-Upon-Avon, with outdoor performances every week at the RSC’s Dell Theatre. Every summer, school groups, amateurs and small theatre companies are invited to showcase their craft here in Shakespeare’s hometown – and with plenty of performances to choose from – including Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 
Where: The Dell Open Air Theatre, 1 Old Town, Stratford-Upon Avon CV37
When: 1 July-27 August, weekends only, times vary.
Need to know: Free.

Seaside special
What: Discover what it was like to be beside the seaside in the Victorian era at Blists Hill as they bring the beach to Shropshire. You’ll be able to enjoy all the features of an old-fashioned seaside resort, complete with deckchairs, beach huts, vintage carousel and donkey rides, or find out about Captain Matthew Webb, a Shropshire man who became the first man to swim the English Channel unaided. 
Where: Blists Hill Victorian Town, Legges Way, Telford TF7 5UD
When: 26 July-3 September, 10am-5pm
Need to know: Included with admission, adults £23.50, children £14. 

Question of sport
What: Celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games as you join in with a festival full of sports, singing, music art and dance in the city centre. You can boogie along to DJ sets, have a go at a selection of different Commonwealth Games sports, watch an African fire-breathing lion dance, experience a sound bath, and much more. 
Where: Centenary Square, Birmingham B1 2EA 
When: 28 July-6 August, various times. 
Need to know: Free. 

Totally Dad
What: Pack yourselves a picnic and head over to Bantock House Museum and enjoy some outdoor entertainment courtesy of Heartbreak Theatre, with their new adaptation of David Walliams’ hilarious story Bad Dad. Meet Frank and his dad Gilbert, who must navigate their way through car chases and convicts to escape a dastardly crime lord and clear Gilbert’s name.  
Where: Bantock House Museum, Finchfield Road, Wolverhampton, West Midlands WV3 9LQ
When: 27 July, 6.30-8.30pm. 
Need to know: Family ticket, £54. 

Magical marionettes
What: Go potty for all things puppetry at Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts. Meet a selection of popular puppets from Little Angel Theatre in their exhibition, go on an Arctic adventure with Leapa the hare to defeat an evil beast in an outdoor performance featuring plenty of puppets, music and songs, or find out if you’ve got what it takes to become a puppeteer as you take part in a week-long drama summer school to rehearse and perform in your own play. 
Where: Lakeside Arts, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD
When: Exhibition until 9 September, 10am-4pm Tuesday-Saturday, 12pm-4pm, Sunday. Hare and the Moon, 12-13 August, various times. Summer school, 8-11 August, 10am-4pm. 
Need to know: Exhibition free. Hare and the Moon, £10 per person. Summer school £130 per child per week, suitable for 11+. 

The car’s the star 
What: Fasten your seatbelt and buckle up for the story of cars past, present and future at the British Motor Museum. Meet Dotty and Dougie the designers and discover how engineering and technology have changed vehicles over time as you tour the museum, explore the brand-new exhibition Transitions: The Impact of Innovation and find out what cars of the future might be like, before having a go at designing a wind turbine or your own inventive automobile. 
Where: British Motor Museum, Banbury Road, Gaydon, Warwick CV35 0BJ
When: 21 July-4 September, 10am-5pm. 
Need to know: Activities free with admission, family ticket £40.

Children at workshop


Image: © York's Chocolate Story

Go cocoa-nutty 
What: Unwrap the history of York’s famous chocolate-making families and their finest creations at York’s Chocolate Story. Learn the secrets of chocolate making and craft some handmade treats in a scrumptious masterclass, with an expert chocolatier showing you how to decorate the perfect chocolate lolly and make some exquisite truffles or go on a walking tour throughout York’s historic city centre, passing by the sites where famous chocolatiers once lived and worked, before finishing off with some sweet treats. 
Where: York’s Chocolate Story, King’s Square, York YO1 7LD
When: 22 July-3 September, masterclasses every Wednesday, 2pm-3.30pm, tours every Thursday, 5.15pm-6.45pm.  
Need to know: Tours, £20 per person, masterclass £29.95 per person. 

Proper chuffed
What: Get ready to unleash your curiosity as you go for a wander around Wonderlab, a brand-new science gallery opening at York’s National Railway Museum. Explore dozens of different interactive experiments and activities, including launching a rocket, playing with pneumatics, stepping inside a human wind tunnel, or having fun with super-sized toy blocks, before immersing yourself in an explosive live science show. 
Where: National Railway Museum York, Leeman Road, York YO26 4XJ
When: From 27 July, 10am-5pm.
Need to know: Admission free. Wonderlab day tickets, adult £9, child, £7.20. 

Body matters 
What: Find out all about medicine in sport with the brand-new exhibition On the Bench at the Thackray Museum, exploring the science behind what happens when an athlete gets injured, and how doctors can help them recover. Listen to the stories of local Leeds sportspeople, have a go at designing, building, and testing your own sports injury treatments, craft a colourful collage cast, or join the Thackray Boffins in the Break a Leg live science show to uncover the physics of our bodies. 
Where: Thackray Museum of Medicine, 141 Beckett St, Harehills, Leeds LS9 7LN
When: 22 July-3 September, 10am-5pm. 
Need to know: Most activities free with admission, family ticket £35. Break a Leg show £2.50 per person.

What: There’s a jam-packed programme of family fun on offer at Eureka this summer. You can get buzzy learning about honeybees and pollinators, enjoy some superb circus performances and storytelling from wandering entertainers, expect mad science galore in Professor Pumpernickel’s live show, or even meet some adorable baby dinosaurs. 
Where: Eureka! The National Children's Museum, Discovery Rd, Halifax HX1 2NE 
When: 22 July-3 September, Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm.
Need to know: Events free with admission, tickets £15.95 per person, booking essential. 

Fangs a lot
What: Be transported to Transylvania as you step into the 3,000-year-old Anglo-Saxon ruins of Whitby Abbey. Learn how Bram Stoker was inspired by them to pen his iconic gothic novel Dracula, before watching a live performance from the fantastic Time Will Tell theatre company featuring the Count himself in a show that’s sure to be full of bite. 
Where: Whitby Abbey, Abbey Lane, Whitby YO22 4JT
When: Weekends between 22 July-28 August, 11am, 1pm and 3pm. 
Need to know: Family ticket, £39.

Roll up! Roll up!
What: The circus has made its way to Ormesby Hall and everyone’s invited to join in! Try your hand at plate-spinning and stilt-walking and then you can show off your new skills in the performance area. You can enjoy a game of tennis or cricket, take part in creative crafts at the orchard, sit down for a storytelling session, or go pond dipping and see if you can identify all the minibeasts you catch. 
Where: Ormesby Hall, Church Ln, Ormesby, Middlesbrough TS3 0SR
When: 22 July-3 September, 10.30am-4pm. Pond dipping, 25 July-29 August, 12pm-4pm. 
Need to know: Events free with admission, family ticket, £15.

Something’s bugging me 
What: Get set for some minibeast-themed mayhem as Lloyd of the Flies arrives at RHS Harlow Carr. Using an augmented reality app developed by Wallace and Gromit creators, Aardman Animations, you’ll be able to see the world through insect eyes and follow Lloyd and his friends Abacus the woodlouse and Cornea the butterfly as they journey through the garden. Afterwards, you can join in with bushcraft workshops, join the Garden Detectives on a bug hunt, or head off on an orienteering adventure. 
Where: RHS Harlow Carr, Crag Lane, Beckwithshaw, Harrogate HG3 1QB
When: 22 July-3 September, 10am-6pm. 
Need to know: All events free with admission. Family ticket, £33.30.  

Light work
What: Head over to the Hepworth Wakefield this summer for some top-notch artistic activities – explore the shapes, light and shadow in Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures, then have a go at creating your own Hepworth-inspired light catcher artwork or using huge stencils to contribute to a giant collaborative drawing. 
Where: The Hepworth Wakefield, Gallery Walk, Wakefield WF1 5AW
When: 22-24 and 27 August, 11am-4pm, drop-in. 
Need to know: Most events free with an exhibition ticket, £12 per adult, under 18s free. Use discount code FAMILY50 online or in-person for 50% off if visiting with children between 26 July-3 September. 

Guitar hero 
What: Get ready to sing along with songwriter and guitarist Nick Cope as he puts on a special show at Hull Truck Theatre. Former The Candyskins singer and the star of CBeebies show Nick Hope’s Popcast, music lovers of all ages can sit back and relax listening to his unique acoustic tunes (including I’m A Little Lizard and A Round Of Applause For The Dinosaurs) accompanied by beautiful animated projections.  
Where: Hull Truck Theatre, 50 Ferensway, Hull HU2 8LB
When: 28 July, 11.30am-12.30pm and 2.30pm-3.30pm. 
Need to know: Tickets £14.50 adult, £13 child. 

Doctors with picture of poo emoji

North West

Image:  Science Museum Group - © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Loo and behold!
What: Discover the (occasionally disgusting) secrets of the digestive system at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum, with their brand new exhibition Operation Ouch!: Food, Poo and You, bringing the hit CBBC show brought to life with the help of stars Dr Chris, Dr Xand and Dr Ronx. From the tip of the tongue to the bum, go on a special mission (journeying through a giant toilet!) to explore the roles of each organ in the digestive system, as you sniff out the science of how our bodies break down food, protect us from harmful germs, and get rid of waste at the end. 
Where: Science and Industry Museum, Liverpool Road, Castlefield, Manchester M3 4FP
When: 21 July-9 June 2024, 10am-5pm. 
Need to know: Tickets £9 adults, £8.10 children.  

Festival spirit
What: Get back to nature with the family-friendly Just So Festival as it returns to Cheshire for 2023, combining art, music and literature all against a beautiful woodland backdrop. Alongside live music, art installations, storytelling, dance and comedy performances you can go for a ride in Captain Bigshot’s Flycycle, watch a duct-tape based circus show, come face-to-face with the mysterious fairy king, or pick your team, craft your costume and join the parade for the annual Carnival of Animals challenge!   
When: 18-20 August, 9am till late.
Where: Rode Hall Estate, Scholar Green, Cheshire, ST7 3QT
Need to know: Day tickets from £80.25 adult, £37.45 child.

Brilliant buccaneers
What: Don your eye patch and set sail for SEA LIFE Manchester and prepare to be greeted by a jolly band of seafaring scallywags. Say hello to the pirates and mermaids, have a go at pirate bingo or learning some sailor’s knots, then head off on a treasure hunt around the aquarium, taking in the marvellous marine life as you go. 
Where: SEA LIFE Manchester, The Trafford Centre, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester M17 8AS
When: 15 July-10 September, 10am-5pm (weekdays), 7pm (Saturday), 6pm (Sunday). 
Need to know: Activities free with admission, tickets from £18.50 adult, £15.50 child. 

Pottering around
What: Become a master of mystery and magic with a spellbinding steam train ride at the Bury Transport Museum. A team of experienced enchanters will be on hand to help you learn the basics of broomsticks, practice your potion making, be instructed in incantations and learn to tattle and talk with a tawny owl during the ride from Bury to Rawtenstall, before handing you the secret instructions to complete your magical mission! 
Where: Bury Transport Museum / The East Lancashire Railway, Bolton Street Station, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 0EY
When: 16 July, 10 and 17 August, various times. 
Need to know: Adult ticket £20, child ticket £15.50. Suitable for 5-12 years.  

Out of this world
What: Discover a very different kind of science festival at bluedot – a massive celebration of discovery, space and music – as it sets up camp in the shadow of Jodrell Bank’s giant Lovell Telescope. Alongside megastar headliners like Grace Jones, Django Django and Rosin Murphy, you can join in with the intergalactic carnival, become a Jedi apprentice as you master lightsaber duelling,  play life-size versions of classic arcade games including Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Tetris, get your groove on in the kid-friendly disco, and so much more!
Where: Jodrell Bank Observatory, Bomish Lane, Cheshire, SK11 9DW
When: 20-23 July, 12pm-11pm (Thursday), 8am-late (all other days). 
Need to know: Thursday day tickets from £42.50 adult, £27.50 4-10 years, £33 11-15 years. All other days from £71.50 adult, £33 4-10 years, £44 11-15 years including booking fees. 

Canal capers
What: Journey back in time to the Victorian heyday of Ellesmere Port and discover what it was like to live and work in the docks. Meet friendly faces from the 19th century who’ll be going about their daily business unloading cargo and repairing boats, but still happy to stop for a chat. Find out about traditional crafts like rag-rugging and lace making, watch the canal locks in action and steam engines chugging away, or discover the stories behind some of Ellesmere’s historic boats.
Where: National Waterways Museum, South Pier Road, Ellesmere Port Cheshire CH65 4FW
When: 23 July and 13 August, 10am-4pm. 
Need to know: Event free with admission, family ticket £28.50. 

Absolutely purr-fect 
What: Take a trip to Tatton Park and meet everyone’s favourite literary feline, Mog the Forgetful Cat. Join in with activities inspired by Judith Kerr’s beloved picture books; follow Mog’s trail through the farm, helping her complete her chores along the way, search for her missing bunny inside the mansion, enjoy some storytelling sessions, or design your own bravery medal. Plus, you’ll also be able to learn where your food comes from with some farmyard fun - meet the newly hatched chicks, see historic mill machines in operation, or even watch a sheep race!
Where: Tatton Park, Knutsford WA16 6SG
When: 25 July–29 October, 10am-7pm.
Need to know: Family ticket from £15 to visit one attraction (Mansion, Gardens or Farm).  

War games
What: Head for IWM North and discover how children kept themselves entertained in the middle of the Second World War, when many toys went out of production and factories turned to making toys from paper or card due to shortages. Learn about the home-made toys the children created and make your own paper toy to take home. You’ll also have the chance to handle real artefacts from IWM’s collection and have a go at wartime games including ha’penny shove board, giant airplane SNAP! and dominoes.
Where: IWM North, The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester, M17 1TZ
When: 22 July-3 September, 10am-4pm. 
Need to know: Free entry.

Picture this
What: Celebrate the perfect partnership of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and the 30th anniversary of their first book, A Squash and a Squeeze, with this exhibition at The Lowry. The catchy rhymes and unique artwork made their books a hit with children around the world, and you’ll be able to find out how they did it with behind-the-scenes exhibits featuring original notes and sketches. You can take inspiration from their tales and get creative by practicing your own storytelling and illustration skills or enjoy dressing-up and fun games based on the books.
Where: The Lowry, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ
When: 22 July-1 January 2024, 11am-5pm (Tuesday to Friday), 10-5pm (Weekends). 
Need to know: Free. 

Fairy fun 
What: Flutter along to Liverpool’s Lady Lever Art Gallery as you explore a new exhibition celebrating 100 years of Cicely Mary Barker’s beloved Flower Fairies books. You can see over 40 of Baker’s signature drawings, as well as costumes and digital projections inspired by her work, before brewing some fairy potions, crafting a flower crown, wind chime or wing kite, listening to some fantastic fairy storytelling, or learning more about the real people who inspired the artworks.
Where: Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight Village, Wirral, United Kingdom, CH62 5EQ
When: Exhibition until 5 November, 10am-5pm. Crafting, 25-26 July, 1, 2, 15, 16, 22-23, 29-30 August, 1pm-4pm. Fairy potions and storytelling, 8-9 August, 1pm-4pm. 
Need to know: Admission and activities free, advance booking required. 

Kids playing in playground

North East

Image: © Phil Wilkinson for Lilidorei/Alnwick Garden

Magical mysteries 
What: Journey into a magical kingdom as Lilidorei, one of the world’s largest adventure playgrounds, opens its doors at the Alnwick Garden. Nine mysterious fairy clans inhabit this enchanted place, all watched over by Lord Elfwin in his grand palace. There’s plenty to discover as you make your way around the different clan houses, with friendly Secret Keepers offering plenty of activities, games and storytelling to join in with too. 
Where: The Alnwick Garden, The Gardeners Cottage, Greenwell Road, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 1HB (follow NE66 1FJ for sat-nav).
When: Open daily, time slots at 9am-11.45am, 12.30pm-3.15pm and 4pm-7pm. 
Need to know: Lilidorei-only tickets, £15 per person, pre-booking essential. 

Roman around 
What: Be transported into Britain’s ancient past as the Eighth Legion sets up camp in Vindolanda bringing Roman times back to life. You’ll be able to chat to soldiers relaxing in their tents, sign up to join the Roman army, watch ancient artillery in action and offer a sacrifice to the gods, before learning how a soldier’s sturdy sandals were made and how to write your name in Roman script. 
Where: Chesterholm Museum, Bardon Mill, Hexham, NE47 7JN
When: 25-26 August, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Event included with admission. Family ticket £32.

Heart of glass  
What: Learn more the art of glass-making as you forge your own creation at the National Glass Centre. Create a glass fish, car, hedgehog, or car using sand to make a mould, then add colour and decoration to make your design unique. You can also create a special postcard or scene from your memories using brightly coloured paints to make a stained-glass effect or use coloured glass tiles and grains to create a solid decoration.
Where: National Glass Centre, Liberty Way, Sunderland, SR6 0GL
When: Sand-casting every Wednesday in August, 9.30am and 10.30am. Glass painting, various dates and times between 26 July-30 August. Glass fusing, various dates and times between 31 July-19 August. 
Need to know: Sand-casting workshops, £20 per child. Suitable for 6+. Glass painted postcards, £5 per child, suitable for 4+. Fused glass workshop, £12 per child, suitable for 6+.

All mine!
What: Discover the history of the famous Miners’ Banners this summer as you take part in these family craft activities at the Woodhorn Museum. Get creative and find out how to use different 3D paper art techniques to design part of your very own banner inspired by nature – will you add scrolls, acorns, leaves or something else? After you’re done, your creation will stay on display as part of a giant deconstructed banner display.  
Where: Woodhorn Museum, QEII Country Park, Ashington NE63 9YF
When: 22 July-3 September, 10am-4pm, Wednesday-Sunday.
Need to know: Activities free with admission, adults £7, children free. 

Blitz spirit
What: Discover what it was like to live in wartime Britain in the 1940s at Beamish as you explore the history of the Home Front. Pick up your ID card and discover the essential role the British countryside played in supporting the war effort, see demonstrations of old-fashioned farm work, learn about rationing and try out some stylish 1940s fashion. 
Where: Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, Regional Resource Centre, Beamish DH9 0RG
When: 31 August-3 September, 10am-5pm. 
Need to know: Activities free with admission. Family ticket from £58.

Brilliant bubbles
What: Pop into Newcastle’s Discovery Museum and come face to face with a top bubble-ologist for an air-raising extravaganza and even make your own bubble wand. You can also have a go at crafting a kaleidoscope, paper flower, wooden ship or even a train driver’s hat or try your hand at a variety of circus skills including juggling, hula-hoop tricks and plate-spinning.
Where: Discovery Museum, Blandford Square, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4JA
When: Craft activities, 25 July and 1, 8, 15, 22, 19 August. Circus skills, 27 July, 10.15am-2.45pm. Bubbles, 24 August, 11am-3pm. 
Need to know: Admission and activities free. 

Knight time
What: Experience all the thrill of a 13th-century joust as chivalrous knights clash to become the champion at Belsay Castle. In this spectacular sporting contest inspired by the dangerous early days of jousting, you’ll find out more about this medieval pastime, then watch the strength, skill and horsemanship of a knight on full display, so make sure to choose your champion and cheer them on to victory – or console them in defeat.
Where: Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Belsay, Morpeth NE20 0DX
When: 26-28 August, 10am-5pm.
Need to know: Family ticket from £43.

Festival first
What: Get in the party mood for the first-ever NOVUM Festival, taking place at Newcastle Civic Centre and garden this summer. An arts festival designed to make you explore and interact with art, music, performance and installation, there’s a whole host of imaginative family activities to have a go at. Take your pick from creating upside-down art (you hang upside down while you make it!), turning your whole family into Nordic-mythology-inspired creatures, or even helping to build a monumental construction inspired by Newcastle’s architecture – then having fun destroying it! 
Where: Newcastle Civic Centre, Barras Bridge, Haymarket, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8QH
When: 11-13 August, times vary.
Need to know: Many events free, advance booking required.

A real page-turner
What: Go behind the scenes at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s books, and celebrate the hidden history of Newcastle at night. This special evening tour takes you through all the different galleries and exhibitions, finding out about the building’s previous life as a Victorian mill as you go before you make your way up to the magical attic for a special screening of the classic film Night at the Museum. 
Where: Seven Stories, 30 Lime St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2PQ
When: 28 July, 4 and 11 August, 5pm. 
Need to know: Tickets £8.50 per person.

Midsummer madness
What: Expect plenty of magical mischief as the Chapterhouse Theatre Company arrives at Crook Hall Gardens, Durham with an enchanting outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Featuring Elizabethan-style costumes and a wonderful musical score, you’ll meet woodland creatures, star-crossed lovers, and hilarious travelling players in this tale of feuding fairies and tangled love triangles. 
Where: Crook Hall Gardens, Frankland Lane, Sidegate, Durham DH1 5SZ
When: 22 July, 7pm-9pm. 
Need to know: Family ticket, £50. 

Kids sitting on giant books


Image: © Edinburgh International Book Festival

Read all about it!
What: The Edinburgh International Book Festival is back for 2023 with a huge programme of hundreds of online and in-person events for bookworms of all ages. Meet your favourite big-name authors and illustrators such as Joseph Cohelo, Cressida Cowell, Frances Hardinge, Julia Donaldson and more, journey to the weird and wonderful Planet Citizen, enjoy savage stories, gruesome games and foul facts as Horrible Histories celebrates its 30th birthday, or simply find a spot to curl up with your favourite story in the leafy festival site.
Where: Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh College of Art, 74 Lauriston Pl, Edinburgh EH3 9DF, and online on the festival website.
When: 12-28 August, various dates and times.
Need to know: Prices vary, some events free.

Museum mischief
What: From vicious vikings to jiggly jellyfish, there’s plenty to do on a visit to the National Museum of Scotland. Learn how to sew and repair your own clothes with the Edinburgh Remakery, help to create a swarm of 150 plastic bottle jellyfish for a new art exhibit, see if you can match Viking artefacts to their modern-day equivalents, or discover curious stories of mythical monsters from around the world.
Where: National Museum of Scotland, Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF
When: 6 July-1 August, 10am-5pm. Times and activities vary.
Need to know: Admission and many activities free. Monster and Viking sessions are £10 per child.

Wheely good
What: Start your engines and make tracks for Newhailes in Musselburgh, where the grounds of this historic house will play host to a collection of terrific transport, old and new, for the annual Carhailes festival. After admiring wheeled wonders from Jeeps to Jaguars and Minis to MGs, you’ll be able to learn how the Fire Brigade and RNLI save lives before being wowed by the Clan Stunt and Imps motorcycle display teams.
Where: Newhailes House & Garden, Newhailes Road, Musselburgh EH21 6RY
When: 27 August, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Free. Parking charge £3.

Going coastal
What: Enjoy a seaside smorgasbord at the Scottish Seabird Centre filled with live science, shows and storytelling. Professor Egghead is back with his interactive science – learn how renewable energy works in the new WaaatttsZaaap! or discover the superheroes of the sea – from exploding ants to squirting octopi – in family favourite, Animal Avengers. You can also catch up with Craig the Crab and friends as they give you claws for thought in the What’s for Snack? puppet show before settling down with some marine-themed storytelling.
Where: Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick EH39 4SS
When: 4 July-13 August, 10am-6pm.
Need to know: Children free, accompanying adult ticket, £5.

Full steam ahead!
What: Experience one of the most magical train journeys in the world and follow in the footsteps of a certain boy wizard as you hop aboard the historic Jacobite Steam Train. The 84-mile round trip, pulled by a restored steam locomotive, will take you past some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery, and across the iconic 21-column Glenfinnan Viaduct, made famous by its appearance in the film of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, before alighting at the seaside town of Mallaig. Here you can take in the stunning sea views (and sample the delicious local fish and chips) before making your way back home.
Where: Departs from Fort William Railway Station, Tom-na-Faire, Station Square, Fort William PH33 6TQ
When: 10.15am-4.03pm and 12.50pm-6.52pm, every day until 30 September.
Need to know: Adult tickets from £57, children from £33.

Blooming marvellous
What: Step inside a new version of children’s classic The Secret Garden at Pitlochry Festival Theatre. Orphan Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle’s mansion on the Yorkshire Moors and finds an old key leading her to a lost, overgrown garden. With the help of cousin Colin and friend Dickon, she’ll bring the garden back to life, leading the house and its people to flourish. You can also take part in free play sessions at the theatre too, including painting, making board games and treasure hunts.
Where: Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Port-Na-Craig Rd, Port na Craig, Pitlochry PH16 5DR
When: The Secret Garden selected dates, 7 July-19 August, 2pm. Play sessions, Wednesdays, 12 July-9 August, 10.30am-12pm.
Need to know: The Secret Garden tickets £18 adults, £10 children. Play sessions free.

One to Watch
What: Get your marching orders for Perth’s Black Watch museum and join in with a whole host of fun activities investigating the history behind this famous regiment and The Hauntings – a new six-metre-high sculpture of a war weary soldier made from over 1,000 pieces of scrap metal. Learn about the Second World War as you take part in marvellous missions and code-breaking challenges, discover the story of the brave Pipe Major Rob Roy, or have a go at crafting a friendly thistle or your own military medal.
Where: The Black Watch Castle and Museum, Hay Street, Perth PH1 5HR.
When: The Hauntings on display, 1 July-12 November, 10am-5pm. Activities, 4 July-31 August, 10am-12.30pm or 11am-12pm and 1pm-2pm.
Need to know: Family ticket, £26. Activities, £3.50 or £7.50 per child (this includes drink, snack and t-shirt).

Castle capers
What: Discover the wonderful world of West Coast wildlife with this selection of special nature-focused outdoor activities at Culzean Castle. Learn all about the life of a bat and search for these fabulous flying mammals with a special detector, use bug pots, sweep netting and pitfall traps to hunt and identify minibeasts in the woodlands and meadows, take a rockpool ramble or grab your wellies and wade into pond dipping.
Where: Culzean Castle, Maybole KA19 8LE
When: 4 July-26 August, various dates and times.
Need to know: Most events £3.50 per person, others £4.50 child, £5.50 adult.

Historic happenings
What: Celebrate over two thousand years of Scottish history from rocks to robots at Inverness’ Fort George, as this mighty 18th-century fort transforms into a living timeline. Go on a journey through the ages, where you can discover stories of ancient life as you wander through the Pict and Roman camps, dance along to the sound of the big band in the Forties zone or enjoy a dramatic equestrian spectacle as a brave Highland lady evades capture by the Redcoats.
Where: Fort George, near Ardersier, Inverness IV2 7TD
When: 12 -13 August, 11am-4pm.
Need to know: Family ticket, £35.50.

Can you dig it?
What: Get your hands grubby and bring your trowel to find out all about archaeology as you join in with the Scotland Digs campaign, returning for its fifth year. Members of the public are invited to pop along to archaeological sites across the country, from Neolithic tombs to Iron Age hillforts, and enjoy a free tour before taking the opportunity to help dig up the secrets of the past – with no experience necessary.
Where: Locations across Scotland, including Edinburgh, Cockenzie, Wick, Orkney and Rousay.
When: Various dates and times throughout summer.
Need to know: Free.

Performer talking to crowd


Image: © Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2023) Cymru Wales

Fooling around
What: Enjoy some fool-ish fun and discover if you’ve got what it takes to become a medieval jester at Conwy Castle. Meet resident jester and master juggler Erwyd le Fol, be amazed and amused by the enchanting antics of Jay Gatling the wizard, or enjoy ancient tales of Welsh dragons, fairies, and other long-forgotten magical creatures. Afterwards, try your hand at juggling, plate spinning and stilt-walking, craft your own magic wand, or prepare for the defence of the castle on the archery range.
Where: Conwy Castle, Rose Hill St, Conwy LL32 8AY
When: Fridays from 28 July-1 September, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Activities free with admission, family ticket £37.70.

Super sleuth
What: Become a dashing detective with a difference thanks to this interactive mystery play at Llanelli’s Ffwrnes Theatre. Discover if you have the wit, nerve and skill to join CIA (that’s Company of International Artists) agents Kahlo and Dali on a mission to save a priceless painting, stolen in a fiendishly sneaky heist. Chase leads, decipher clues and interrogate suspects as you join in with this quirky comedy adventure.
Where: Ffwrnes Theatre - Theatrau Sir Gâr, Ffwrnes Theatre, Ffwrnes, Park St, Llanelli SA15 3YE
When: 18 August, 2pm.
Need to know: Tickets £7.50 per person. Suitable for 6+.

Making a splash
What: Make waves and discover the science of the Earth’s oceans at Techniquest. You’ll be able to go on a journey from vibrant coral reefs to the darkest depths below, learning plenty of fishy facts along the way with the Ocean Extravaganza science show, take part in hands-on experiments as you learn about the wonderful world of water from pH levels to phytoplankton, or meet three friendly fish and become immersed in an undersea adventure as you watch the new 3D-animated planetarium show.
Where: Techniquest, Stuart Street, Cardiff, CF10 5BW
When: 21 July-3 September, 10am-5pm
Need to know: Costs £2 per person. Family admission from £38.18.

Magic miners
What: Head to Pontypool and discover the history of coal mining in the Welsh valleys this summer. You’ll be able to take part in some seriously soggy experiments as you discover how engineers kept water out of the mines, make a clay fossil or craft canary, then follow the feathery trail around the museum to learn more about the miners’ favourite birds, or speak to the Big Pit guides to learn what life was really like working in a coal mine.
Where: Big Pit National Coal Museum, Pontypool NP4 9XP
When: 27-28 July, 10am-4pm.
Need to know: Free.

Making tracks
What: It’s full steam ahead at Bala Lake Miniature Railway with its annual Steam Gala. You’ll be able to admire the railway’s entire collection of historic narrow gage locomotives, steam and diesel alike, and watch special freight and shunting demonstrations showcasing Bala’s slate-mining past, then head down the line on a nine-mile journey, passing alongside the beautiful lakeside, woodland, and mountain scenery of Snowdonia National Park.
When: 26-28 August, 10.10am-5.20pm.
Where: Bala Lake Railway, Station Rd, Llanuwchllyn, Bala LL23 7DD
Need to know: Activities included with admission. Family return ticket from £28 online.

Marvellous Margam
What: Start summer off with a bang thanks to this family fun extravaganza at Margam Country Park. You can meet some of your favourite TV characters including Paddington Bear and Marshall and Chase from Paw Patrol, as well as Titan, the wise-cracking, dancing robot. There’ll also be magic and circus performances and a princess party too.
Where: Margam Country Park, Port Talbot, South Wales, SA13 2TJ
When: 23 July, 10am-5pm.
Need to know: Family ticket, £40 including fees. Book before 9 July for best prices.

Bear necessities
What: Winnie the Pooh and his friends from Hundred Acre Wood come to life in this brand-new musical stage adaptation at Donald Gordon Theatre. Fresh from a smash-hit tour of the US, this show combines the classic music of the Sherman Brothers and A.A. Milne’s original words with adorable life-sized puppets, including Pooh, Piglet, Eyore and Tigger, making for a warm and cosy adventure for all ages.
Where: Donald Gordon Theatre, Wales Millennium Centre, Bute Pl, Cardiff CF10 5AL
When: 3-5 August, various times.
Need to know: Tickets from £14 per person.

In a flap
What: Come face to face with some wetland wildlife as you join in with these outdoor activities on offer at WWT Llanelli. Embrace your inner Steve Backshall and take to the water aboard the canoe safari, find out about the reserve’s flamboyant flock of Caribbean flamingos, from their tight-knit friendship groups to their individual dance routines, enjoy some pond dipping and have a go at creating your own wetland sketchbook.
Where: WWT Llanelli, Llwynhendy, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, SA14 9SH
When: 22 July-4 September, 9am-5pm, times vary by activity.
Need to know: Family ticket £26.59, canoe hire £12.50 per canoe (two adults and one child, 5-10 years per canoe). Sketchbook workshop, £10 per child.

Hay there!
What: Hop inside a massive hay bale fortress as part of the National Trust’s Summer of Play at the 700-year-old Chirk Castle. As you jump, climb, run and skip through the bales, you’ll be able to wobble your way along the obstacle course, then enjoy dressing-up to transport yourself back to medieval Chirk, chill out in the sensory zone, or have a go at constructing your very own fortress.
Where: Chirk Castle, Wrexham LL14 5AF
When: 22 July-3 September, 10am-4.30pm.
Need to know: Activity free with admission, family ticket £37.50.

People in celtic dress

Northern Ireland

Image: © Navan Centre & Fort

Winged wonders
What: Embark on an epic adventure at Belfast’s W5 as a host of fearsome dragons descend on the science centre! Hailing from an enchanted land lost to time, you’ll be able to come face-to-face with these magnificent mythical creatures, brought to life through animatronics, puppetry and projections, as they move, roar and even breathe smoke in a high-flying experience that’s not to be missed.
Where: W5, The Odyssey, 2 Queens Quay, Belfast BT3 9QQ
When: 1 July-31 August, 10am-6pm, Wednesday-Sunday. 
Need to know: Free with admission, family ticket £33.

Farmyard frolics
What: Budding farmers and animal lovers are invited to go wild with these hands-on workshops at Broughgammon Farm. You can meet some of the newest arrivals – from piglets, baby goats and calves – and take the opportunity to feed and pet them while finding out more about their lives. Afterwards, you can head into the woods for a forest school session and learn some seasonal skills and crafts.
Where: Broughgammon Farm, 50 Straid Road, Ballycastle, BT54 6NP
When: 29 July and 26 August, 11am-12.30pm.
Need to know: £9.60 per child.

Feel the buzz!
What: Take a trip to Northern Ireland’s royal residence as it hosts the annual Honey Fair. After you’ve sampled some of the sweet treats on offer, you can take a wander around Hillsborough in full bloom, learn more about bees and how honey is made as you meet the resident beekeeper, enjoy live music and some impressive insect-themed dance moves from Bee-yonce and Honey-Bee.
Where: Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, The Square, Hillsborough, BT26 6AG
When: 5-6 August, 10am-6pm.
Need to know: Adult tickets from £15, children £7.50, under 5s free.   

Bird brained
What: Get in a flap with these avian-themed activities on offer at WWT’s Castle Espie reserve. Find out about all things feathered as you have a chat to one of the reserve keepers, decorate a terracotta tile with nature-themed designs or make a pair of personalised binoculars, go pond dipping for minibeasts, or even have a go at competing in the grand seagull-impression contest!
Where: Castle Espie Wetland Centre, 78 Ballydrain Road, Co Down, N Ireland, BT23 6EA
When: Until 2 September, 10am-5pm.
Need to know: Most activities with admission, family ticket from £23.27. Tile making workshop, £10 per tile.

Cool Celts
What: Experience what life was like among the ancient Celts as you pay a visit to the Navan Centre and Fort. Transform into a Celtic warrior with authentic face-painting and costumes, before trying your hand at some warrior challenges: see how far you can throw a spear, or if you’d pick up the right weapon in battle. Then you’ll be able to enjoy tales of Celtic myths and legends around the fire, spell out your own clan name in the Ogham alphabet, and learn more about tribal cooking, hunting, trading and farming.
Where: Navan Centre and Fort, 81 Killylea Rd, Armagh BT60 4LD
When: 1 July-30 September, 12.30pm-2.15pm.
Need to know: Activities included with admission, family ticket £32.50.

Let them eat cake 
What: You’ll be in for a tasty treat at the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium as Great British Bake Off finalist Andrew Smyth combines sugar and science in a special kid-friendly show – Bakineering in Space! Find out how an old-fashioned dessert can demonstrate how astronauts get back to Earth, and why molten sugar is similar to a micrometeorite as your curiosity is whisked, shaken and stirred… Expect plenty of tempting tasters too!
Where: Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, College Hill, Armagh BT61 9DB
When: 3 August, 11.30am and 3pm.
Need to know: Adult tickets £16, children £12.

Big ideas
What: Head to Country Down for some really super-sized family fun as the annual Wake the Giant Festival returns to Warrenpoint for 2023. Set alongside the picturesque Carlingford Lough, you’ll be able to celebrate the heritage and legends of Warrenpoint with live music and performances, a giant-sized feast, and plenty of family activities – and don’t miss the ‘Land of Giants’ parade, where a series of enormous puppets make their way through the centre of town.
Where: Warrenpoint, County Down, BT34 3HW
When: 19-20 August.
Need to know: Free, charges may apply for some activities.

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