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40 things to do in Hampshire over the bank holiday weekend and half term
Updated 5:30pm Friday 23rd May 2014 in News
IT can be hard to keep the kids entertained over half term and the bank holiday weekend. Here, the Daily Echo comes up with 40 ideas to help you keep the family happy.
ONE: If you usually use the car why not turn a ride on a bus into a family day out? Buy an all-day family ticket and let the children decide which stops they want to hop on and off at. Pack a picnic and see where the bus takes you.
Young petrolheads will love the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu which boasts more than 250 cars and motorcycles, many from the golden age of British motoring. The priceless collection includes some of the fastest cars on Earth, including one of the famous Bluebird vehicles driven by the Campbell dynasty. One of the display areas is devoted to cars that have appeared in films and on TV, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Del Boy's three-wheel van from Only Fools and Horses. The museum, which includes a monorail, has just opened a wall of fame featuring the top 20 motorcycle racers of all time. Log on to beaulieu.co.uk.
THREE: You and your children can get to know the River Itchen better by taking part in canoeing classes. Southampton Canoe Club meets at St Denys Community Centre in Priory Road and runs classes for youngsters. Children taking part will be able to pilot their own canoes down the River Itchen. Log on to southamptoncc.co.uk.
FOUR: For a fun, free day out why not let the children's imagination run wild at Farley Mount Country Park. The beauty spot near Winchester makes the perfect day out with plenty of wooded areas to build dens, acres of countryside to explore and vast open areas which are perfect for kite flying. There are also activity areas including a network of wooden tunnels and climbing structures and a children's play area. If you can make the climb to the monument within the park site, the view from the top makes an ideal picnic spot.
FIVE: With 440 acres to explore, play areas and fun trails, Itchen Valley Country Park could be the perfect place to spend a sunny summer day. The park near West End features a fun trail with animal sculptures that youngsters can climb on, and hosts a programme of children's activities and events throughout the year.
SIX: Don't let rainy days ruin a day out. Grab your wellington boots and go puddle jumping at a nearby park or wood. Award points for the most artistic jump or biggest splash. The one with the muddiest boots at the end of the day wins a bag of sweets.
Spectacular views of the Solent and the Isle of Wight are on offer at Hurst Castle, on the New Forest coastline. At the same time you can take a walk through some of the biggest events in British history. Built by Henry VIII to defend the approach to Southampton Water against the French, Hurst Castle was also used as a prison with most famous inmate being King Charles I, who was held there in 1648 before being taken to London for his trial and execution. For any youngsters interested in interesting wildlife, you can spot egrets, eider ducks and oystercatchers in the surrounding estuary. The fort can only be reached by boat or on foot, making it a great day out. Log on to english-heritage.org.uk.
EIGHT: A walk around your neighbourhood can be transformed into a fun activity by making it into a treasure hunt with a prize at the end. With a bit of pre-planning you can navigate the youngsters around a route you have walked by giving them clues which will lead them to a destination where the treasure awaits - perhaps a friend's house. Use clues like “head towards a tree with pink flowers at the end of your road”, or “turn left at the house with a bright blue front door” or “head down the road that is named after a tree”.
NINE: Lovers of the great outdoors will be in heaven at Exbury Gardens, 200 acres of gardens overlooking the Beaulieu River. Visitors can explore part of the site by boarding the narrow gauge steam railway while new facilities include a children's adventure playground. Famous for its collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias the gardens surround Exbury House, one of the best stately homes in the New Forest. Log on to exbury.co.uk.
TEN: Set up an indoor volleyball tournament using balloons and some string for the net. Set yourselves the challenge of keeping the balloon in the air for as long as possible. When that becomes too easy try introducing rules like only your left hand, or just your head.
Paultons Park boasts more than 60 rides and attractions, including The Edge, The Cobra and The Sky Swinger. Voted the best theme park in the country, Paultons is set within 140 acres of parkland on the edge of the New Forest National Park and is a firm favourite with children from across the south. Peppa Pig World, a theme park within a theme park, has seven rides and attractions, including an indoor playzone and muddy puddles. Other family favourites include the Raging River Ride Log Flume. Log on to paultonspark.co.uk.
TWELVE: Children can help make dinners of future by growing their own in a pot in the garden. Get a potato and plant it about three inches into a pot or grow bag. Look after it and keep it watered and leaves should appear. The potato will grow other potatoes from it - great for dinner and for teaching children about where food comes from.
THIRTEEN: The former shipbuilding centre of Buckler's Hard overlooks the Beaulieu River and is part of Lord Montagu's 7,000-acre Beaulieu Estate. The hamlet was originally called Montagu Town. It was built by the second Duke of Montagu and was intended to be a free port for trade with the West Indies. Buckler's Hard was the birthplace of many naval vessels, including three warships that fought at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The village, which includes a maritime museum, was where Sir Francis Chichester began and finished his single-handed voyage around the world in Gipsy Moth IV. Log on to bucklershard.co.uk.
FOURTEEN: Youngsters who are into all things aviation can enjoy a free day out plane spotting at Old Sarum airfield near Salisbury. The array of aircraft coming in and out of the air space makes an interesting day out for children who are into aircraft. There is also a cafe on site which offers a range of food and drink and is a perfect place to take in the bustling airfield nestled in rolling Wiltshire countryside.
FIFTEEN: More than 150 birds of prey are on hand to delight young visitors to Andover's Hawk Conservancy Trust. Creatures ranging from the pygmy owl to the Steller's sea eagles are involved in daily flying demonstrations and youngsters can even have a chance to hold a bird. Log on to hawk-conservancy.org.
SIXTEEN: If your child has ever dreamed of running their own farm, they'll love Longdown Activity Farm, near Ashurst. Youngsters can bottle feed kid goats, handle small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and chicks and see the Kune Kune pigs. There are also indoor and outdoor play areas with a ride-on toys and the bumpy tractor and trailer ride. Log on to longdownfarm.co.uk.
SEVENTEEN: Make your own playdough modelling clay. Playdough can be made at home, providing children with more choice about how much they get and what colours they have. Mix two cups of plain flour, one cup of salt and one cup of water in a bowl. When it sticks together knead it until its consistency is even and add food colouring. Children can also learn how different colours are made by adding yellow and blue food colouring to the mixture to make green or red and blue for purple.
EIGHTEEN: Take the whole family on a cycling adventure through beautiful Hampshire countryside. Hire bikes from the New Forest Cycle Hire centre in Burley village and follow one of their trails for an active day in the sunshine. Log on to forestleisurecycling.co.uk.
NINETEEN: Take the family back in time at Butser Ancient Farm near Petersfield. The farm showcases experimental archaeology and specialises in prehistoric Britain, focusing on the Iron Age and Roman periods. Children can experience life in a Celtic village and Roman villa and learn the techniques people would have used to survive. Log on to butserancientfarm.co.uk.
Spend the day speeding down zip slides, climbing trees and walking over rope bridges. Go Ape is an outdoor adventure park through the trees suitable for children over 10 years old, with centres at Itchen Valley Country Park and Moors Valley Country Park. Log on to goape.co.uk.
TWENTY-ONE: Have a blast at the cricket. Hampshire has been home to arguably the country's finest Twenty20 cricket team over the past few years, so why not use half term as an opportunity to take the children along for a night of sport and entertainment. The county host the Essex Eagles in a T20 Blast match on Friday, May 30, under the Ageas Bowl floodlights. The evenings are always great fun with a fantastic atmosphere and, as well as the cricket, there are a host of side shows and attractions at the stadium for families to enjoy. Get your tickets in advance, though, as the T20 games can be popular. Log on to ageasbowl.com.
Have a water fight. Sure, no one should encourage children to shoot at each other, but, when it's a water pistol you're talking about, you're probably still within the bounds of acceptability. So, if the sun's blazing, get the kids and their friends together and send them out into the garden for a good old fashioned water fight. Before you know it, you'll be covering yourself in camouflage paint, army-rolling across your lawn and aiming your Super Soaker at the neighbour's unsuspecting child. Remember, balloon water grenades might be effective, but are unwieldy when carrying. A well-positioned sprinkler is a far better tool!
Visit the Rapids, Romsey. Always a hit with the children, plenty of Hampshire natives spent time here during their school holidays. The centre offers a range of pools, for all ages, so, whether your youngsters want to go for an energetic swim or just splash around, they should be well catered for here. And, of course, no trip would be complete without a trip around the rapids channel. Log on to valleyleisure.co.uk.
A cheap sporting treat is playing golf at Riverside Park pitch and putt in Southampton - it's costs than £5 per person. Log on to southampton.gov.uk.
TWENTY-FIVE: Woodland trails, a deer viewing platform and some of the best picnic facilities in the New Forest are on offer at Bolderwood. Enjoy a grand entrance via the spectacular Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. It's also the setting for the Gruffalo's 15 th birthday picnic on June 8. Log on to newforestvrs.org.uk.
TWENTY-SIX: Lepe Country Park is the perfect spot for a summer's day. You can learn about its role during the Second World War against the backdrop of one of the best views of the Solent. As well as the beach, there's a very good playground and a field for ball games and kite flying. If that's not enough you can always try walking the stunning Lepe Loop.
TWENTY-SEVEN: Testwood Lakes is Totton's hidden gem. Walk the trails while admiring the wildlife at this nature reserve. There's also no shortage of history to take in and there's usually something for the children to do at the education centre.
TWENTY-EIGHT: New Forest Wildlife Park used to be a butterfly farm but there's so much more to see these days; wallabies, bison, deer, owls, otters, wolves and lynx to name a few. There's also an adventure playground and a play area for younger children as well as a very good cafe. If you still have energy to burn you can always pop over the road for a walk at Deerleap. Log on to newforestwildlifepark.co.uk.
Boltons Bench, Lyndhurst, one of the New Forest's most iconic landmarks is fantastic value for money - it's completely free. Fabulous trails with the option of a jaunt around the capital of the New Forest make it hugely popular. Enjoy stunning views from the giant yew tree at the top and then race downhill.
Feeding the ducks is a time-honoured family activity and where better to do it than at the Southampton Common pond or Riverside Park in Bitterne Park. Watch out for the swans which can sometimes be a little aggressive in breeding season.
THIRTY-ONE: Host an afternoon disco. Not only is this activity free, it should also tire your children out enough to give you a peaceful evening - what a bonus! Close the curtains, put up some fairy lights, and break out your old CDs to get the children and their friends dancing. As an additional project to keep them occupied, you can get them to make tin foil disco balls beforehand. Add to the atmosphere by running your own little bar - serving nothing stronger than fruit juice of course.
THIRTY-TWO: Walk from Southampton to Winchester along the Itchen Way. Depending on your starting point the length of the walk which takes in the pleasant scenery and follows the River Itchen it can be anything from eight miles to 30 miles. If you're brave enough to walk the whole way, or split it up over a series of days.
Learn about the history of aviation in Hampshire by visiting one of Southampton's top attractions the Solent Sky Museum. The museum is in Albert Road South, and features a variety of historic aircraft. Log on to solentskymuseum.org.
THIRTY-FOUR: If the sun shines, take to the great outdoors for a dip. Set within the popular Georgian market town of Lymington, in the heart of the New Forest, you will find the oldest open air sea water baths in the UK. Fully life-guarded, they are open to swimmers daily with a children's paddling pool and sandpit. Inflatable water toys are available for youngsters aged seven plus and kayaking, climbing, water zorbing and radio controlled yacht hire are also now available. Log on to lymingtonseawaterbaths.org.uk.
THIRTY-FIVE: Roll up, roll up! Celebrating Camp Bestival 2014's circus theme, the travelling circus is visiting Winchester and Southampton on its tour. The event, first at No.5 Bridge Street on Sunday, May 25, and then at City Art Gallery on bank holiday Monday, May 26, will feature the Camp Bestival DJ crew plus special guest DJs and a whole host of different, amazing circus-themed activities, competitions, face painting and arts and crafts guaranteed to entertain all the family. Expect juggling and acrobatics wherever and whenever the fancy takes the performers. The travelling circus runs from 2pm to 5pm in Winchester and 10.30am to 2.30pm in Southampton. Camp Bestival, the little sister of Bestival on the Isle of Wight, is curated by Radio 1 DJ and former Warsash resident Rob da Bank and takes place at Lulworth Castle in Dorset from July 31 to August 3. Log on to campbestival.net.
THIRTY-SIX: Children's favourite Peppa Pig is special guest at the historic Watercress Line between Monday May 26 and Sunday June 1. Come and meet Peppa, who will be making personal appearances throughout each day at Alresford Station. After you've seen the cheeky little piggy there will be colouring activities, you can watch Peppa Pig episodes and have your face painted. You can then visit the petting farm at Ropley station to tickle the piglets tummies and enjoy the piggy washing too. Then you can do some piggy crafts and find out who is riding on the model train. Ride the big steam trains as many times as you like and enjoy a picnic. Log on to watercressline.co.uk.
We're not just here for your reading pleasure, but can be recycled for some frugal fashion fun. Gather old copies of the Daily Echo, along with some masking tape and scissors and challenge the children to make some newspaper outfits. Bring out their inner fashionista as they decorate the new outfits in bright colours. You can even showcase their designs in a catwalk fashion show later on. A great way to spend a rainy day during the school holidays.
THIRTY-EIGHT: Take an escorted tour around Winchester Cathedral including the tower. These tours offer a great introduction to the history and treasures of one of Hampshire's best known landmarks. They take between an hour and 90 minutes and are including in the admission price. There is also a free trail for children to follow. Log on to winchester-cathedral.org.uk.
Soar into the stars in the UK's biggest digital planetarium at Winchester Science Centre. There are also more than 100 hands-on science exhibits making it somewhere you definitely won't have to tell the children to stop touching things. Log on to winchestersciencecentre.org.
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