Crystal Palace Park, London, for a dinosaur walk
If your grandchildren tease you, and say you’re ancient, take them to see some dinosaurs that roamed the earth long before anyone in the family was born – even you! On a stroll around Crystal Palace Park in south east London, you’ll come across 30 or so dinosaurs that were built in the 1850s, some of them full-size statues. There was great debate at the time as no one really knew what these creatures looked like, but you should spot an iguanodon and a megalosaurus. Find out more in the Crystal Palace Museum – only open Sundays.
Best for: dinosaur devotees.
Also good for: Brownies and Guides – the first ever Scout rally was held at Crystal Palace Park, today it’s the site of a Girlguiding maze.
For more details: Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs
The Astronomy Centre, Greenwich, for a space trip
Part of the Royal Observatory Greenwich, in south east London, the Astronomy Centre is free to visit and will help little minds understand more about stars, planets and the solar system. There’s even the chance to touch a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite or become an astronomer and guide a space mission. Outside in Greenwich Park, there are over 130 acres of park to explore. A play area is sure to keep young ones amused, and look out for a large triangular metal sundial near the boating pond – then pray the sun is shining!
Best for: the next Tim Peake.
Also good for: potential pirates – the AHOY gallery at the National Maritime Museum, also in Greenwich, offers a boatload of fun and adventures for the under sevens.
For more details: Royal Observatory Greenwich
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Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, for a step back in time
Don’t just save this free museum for a rainy day, it’s worth a visit regardless of the weather. Train fans will love the fact it’s located in the world’s first passenger railway station, and if there’s someone in your family who’s mad about military aircraft, an Avro Shackleton and a Supermarine Spitfire are on display in the air and space hall. Just hold your nose when you walk through the museum’s recreation of a Victorian sewer – they have also replicated the smells! Child-friendly demonstrations and shows regularly take place so check in advance.
Best for: teenie time travellers.
Also good for: footie fans – dribble your way to the free National Football Museum in Manchester’s city centre.
For more details: Museum of Science and Industry
Charmouth, Dorset. Photograph Mike Charles / Shutterstock.com
Charmouth, Dorset, for fossil hunting
The beaches around Charmouth, on Dorset’s south west coast, are world famous for fossil hunting. Flat spiral shellfish known as ammonites, and belemnites, squid-like creatures with tentacles, can often be found on the shore. Lucky little fossil hunters may also stumble upon something a bit bigger - a four-metre long scelidosaurus was found in Charmouth, as was the first ever complete plesiosaur. Learn more about how to safely search for fossils at the Heritage Coast Centre, situated on the sea front.
Best for: folk fascinated by fossils
Also good for: rope climbers – a play area in nearby West Bay, an area famous for rope making, has robust climbing frames and swings.
For more details: Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre
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The Electric Brae, Ayrshire, for an optical illusion
Get all the family in the car and set off for the A719, a stretch of coastal road south of Dunure, near Ayr in south west Scotland. Your passengers won’t believe their eyes when you park in a layby at Croy Brae (known now as Electric Brae), switch off the engine and release the car’s handbrake. Everyone will expect the car to freewheel downhill, but it’ll appear to roll backwards up the hill! It’s fun watching a tennis ball seemingly defy gravity, but take care near passing traffic. A stone by the layby explains the mystery.
Best for: future magicians.
Also good for: grand designers – the architecturally impressive Culzean Castle sits on a dramatic clifftop five miles south of Dunure.
For more details: Undiscovered Scotland
The Hermitage, Perthshire, for tall trees
Trees are homes to birds and animals, they provide wood for building, we can eat fruit grown on them, and they help to keep the air we breathe clean. There are lots of reasons why we’d want to give a tree a hug, but little arms will struggle to wrap themselves around the enormous Douglas fir, found at The Hermitage in the Cragyinean Forest near Dunkeld – look up and you’ll see it’s also one of the tallest trees in the country. On the woodland walk, keep your eyes out for a totem pole and Ossian’s Hall, a folly overlooking a dramatic waterfall.
Best for: tree huggers.
Also good for: Peter Rabbit fans – a little garden featuring characters of Beatrix Potter, who spent holidays in Dunkeld, can be found at Birnam Arts Centre.
For more details: The National Trust for Scotland
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