Things to Do Near RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall

Get Off Base to Explore One of England's Loveliest Regions

Elm Hill Norwich
••• Elm Hill, Norwich - an easy family day out from RAF Lakenheath or Mildenhall. Getty Images

 

You don't have to go far to find lots of things to do near Mildenhall and Lakenheath. What's more, if you're stationed at one of the two US Air Force/RAF bases in East Anglia, there's plenty of cheap family fun to be had, less than an hour from your temporary home.

Thousands of US Air Force personnel at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall, and their families, make Suffolk, England their home. The men and women of the USAF 48th Fighter Wing, the Liberty Wing at RAF Lakenheath, and the units of four different major USAF commands at RAF Mildenhall, along with their wives and kids, have created a settlement as big as a medium sized American town within the two military bases.

Both Lakenheath and Mildenhall are located in East Anglia, one of the most beautiful regions of the UK. If you are lucky enough to be stationed here, don't miss the chance of exploring the fairytale villages, gorgeous beaches, wonderful shopping and fun attractions practically on your doorstep.Military families who take the opportunity to venture off base while they're here will find a lot to enjoy.

Undiscovered England

Some of the best things to see are virtually undiscovered outside of the local area. Just 25 miles northeast, in and around the pretty market town of Swaffham in Norfolk, for example, see:

  • Castle Acre Castle and Bailey Gate - A rare survival of a complete, planned Norman settlement. The child and pet-friendly Norman castle is free to visit.
  • Castle Acre Priory - Built in 1090 as a Cluniac monastery, it is one of the largest and best preserved monastic sites in England. And if you think monastery ruins sound a bit dull for a family day out, I can report that I took three small children there, ranging in age from 3 to 10 years old, and they had a field day playing in the extensive ruins.
  • The Green Britain Eco Centre  - The top feature is a futuristic, 220-foot tall wind-turbine with a viewing platform right under the nacelle (you can probably see your house on the base from up there). It's the only wind turbine in the world that's open to the public to climb. And at least 150,000 visitors have already climbed the 300 steps to the top.  
  • The Ostrich, a very good country pub with a child-safe walled garden, good burgers and other hearty, family-friendly choices.
  • Swaffham Market - A huge, fun Saturday market where you can stock up on fruit and veg, plump English sausages, local cheese and game, plus crafts, housewares, flowers and plain old stuff of all kinds. The market celebrated its 800th birthday in 2015.
  • The Swaffham Museum  - A quaint, local museum where you can find out about native son Howard Carter, who discovered Tutankhamun's tomb.

The City That Time Forgot

Venture a little bit further, to Norwich, up the A47, and you have some of the best shopping, sightseeing and dining in all of East Anglia, plus a daily market under striped awnings that's one of England's largest and best. 

Norwich, off the beaten path for years, has a unique vibe - part modern and part medieval. The nearly 1,000 year old Norwich Cathedral is the most complete Norman cathedral in England and a fascinating place to visit. It's surrounded by a huge Cathedral Precinct, full of cobbled streets and ancient houses. 

Discover the England of Dreams

Head south into Suffolk and you'll find the England of your children's storybooks and your travel fantasies.

 Pastel painted cottages tilting crazily under their thatched roofs, cottage gardens overflowing with colorful flowers, ancient pubs full of local character.

When World War II American servicemen stationed nearby discovered Lavenham (a village that has often been the "poster child" for this county), they could hardly believe the place was real. It is, and their families have been returning year after year.

Check out 5 Reasons to Visit Suffolk in 2016 and you'll see why you won't want to miss a chance for an off-base visit in this glorious region.