The United Kingdom's top attractions for families run the gamut from screaming thrill rides and totally immersive child-sized worlds to wonderful animal attractions and family-friendly cultural attractions.
There's no need to put off a trip to the UK just because you have young children. Family travel can be fun for everyone as long as you remember to include child-friendly attractions in your itinerary. Keeping the younger members of your family entertained not only keeps the peace, but if you choose wisely, the teens and adults in the group might find their inner child as well.
Harry Potter fans and anyone interested in a detailed look at what's involved in the making of movie magic will love Warner Brothers Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter.
The movies' most iconic sets, including The Great Hall, Dumbledore's Office, Hagrid's Hut, The Gryffindor Common Room, and more, are open to the public at the studio, 20 miles northwest of London, where the movies were filmed.
This is a walking tour, featuring costumes, props and behind the scenes secrets. While there are no rides or theme park thrills, kids old enough to have read the books and enjoyed the films will be enthralled, and there are interactive experiences including the chance to ride a flying broom.
Picture a town where kids run everything: They work as doctors and dentists; train as actors and put on shows for their parents; and do the jobs of airline pilots, firefighters, and law enforcement officers.
This children's role-playing attraction offers kids a chance to take on 100 different role-playing activities in 60 different establishments like shops, offices, hospitals, factories, and race car pit stops. Parents can watch from discreet windows, but kids run the inside of the activity. The tiny workers even earn KidZania's own currency (Kidzos) that they can spend in the shops.
It's monitored and safe, with one entrance and exit and once in Kidzania children are fitted with RFID bracelets that keep tabs on them. Children can only be removed at the exit while in the confirmed presence of their parents.
What better place to introduce children to the experience of live theater than the West End? Kids Week, sponsored by the Society of London Theatres, has been going on since 1998 and has grown from one week in August to the entire month.
During Kids Week, a child under 16 can attend a performance for free with a paying adult ticket holder. Two more children can come along for half price. During the event, there's also an array of free events, workshops, storytelling, and activities.
Tickets go on sale on in June, and the participating shows are announced closer near the start of the month. The best way to find out what's happening is to subscribe to the Society of London Theatre Family Bulletin. That way, even if you can't come for Kids Week in August, you can find out about other family-friendly shows, promotions, and competitions in London throughout the year.
Legoland has 150 rides, all kinds of shows, water slides, boat trips and more. And everywhere you look, you'll find amazing creations made of Legos. In Miniland, at the center of the park, 35 million pieces of Lego have been used to create scenes from London, Paris, Amsterdam and elsewhere in Europe.
There are surprises to look at everywhere, including a fire-breathing dragon at the entrance to the resort and an incredibly realistic Chewbacca guarding the entrance to the Star Wars exhibits.
The park is aimed at children between two and 12 years old, and some of the rides have height restrictions for the younger ones.
You can also stay overnight at The Legoland Resort Hotel. The hotel, which opened in the middle of the park in 2012, includes two days of free entry to the park for each guest.
Longleat is one of the best safari parks in the world—and the oldest outside of Africa. The park has a huge maze to get lost in, a boat ride on a lake full of seals, a train ride, and a child-sized castle cum adventure playground. For the adults, there is a fabulous stately home, garden, and Capability Brown-landscaped park. Regularly voted the UK Family Attraction of the Year by all kinds of guides, Longleat won't disappoint.
The world's only man-managed nesting colony of mute swans is a delightful day out for parents and children. For more than 600 years, nearly a thousand mute swans have nested at this Dorset site, completely tolerant of, if not indifferent to close up humans. Watch the swans build their nests and tend to their eggs. Little people might even get to see the cygnets hatching, especially in May and June, when hundreds of cygnets break free of their shells and wander around the paths of the nesting site.
Europe's deepest aquarium is a magical exploration of the world's oceans with fascinating displays and utterly beautiful aquaria. At The Deep, the main tank is more than 30-feet in depth and has manta rays, sharks, strange looking Australian sawfish and schools of smaller fish (about 3,500) that, remarkably, don't get eaten.
Don't miss the "jewel" tanks that demonstrate the jellyfish cycle of life and the Twilight Zone with its strange, almost prehistoric critters.
Ten museums over 80 acres illustrate the industrial revolution beside Thomas Telford's cast iron bridge, the world's first. The Ironbridge Gorge, known as the Birthplace of Industry, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. At the location, visitors can learn about the first factory-made products and the tools and machines that made them.
Nearby there's a Coalport China Museum, a tile museum, a pipe makers workshop, a reconstructed Victorian town and more—if that seems a bit dry and grown up, be assured the interactivity makes it a blast for children. Leave plenty of time because there is simply too much to see in one day.
Contained in a series of transparent geodesic domes that squat on the Cornwall landscape like sci-fi mushrooms, the Eden Project describes itself as a place that "is all about man's relationship with and dependence upon plants." It's a kind of green theme park where issues and questions around nature and sustainability get explored. Although not specifically aimed at kids, there are plenty of child-centered activities including trails, restaurants with healthy children's menus, and play structures naturally "grown" from willow and bamboo.
The Llechwedd Slate Caverns in Blaenau Ffestiniog, within the Snowdonia National Park, are at the heart of a feast of family-friendly activities. What began as a modest, illuminated attraction in a disused slate mine has grown into a multi-activity center.
On the Deep Mine Tour, the steepest cable railway in Britain plunges into the heart of Llechwedd mountain and back. Tour guides come from families with generations of links to the slate industry. Younger children love the hard hat experience.
Once underground, let the kids loose on the Bounce Below, a vast underground playground with bouncy, trampoline-like nets filling the caverns. For the adventurous, ZipWorld Caverns takes participants on a journey through otherwise inaccessible caverns on zip lines, rope bridges, via ferrata, and tunnels. The tour is limited to children older than 10, involves some onsite training, and can take about three hours.