Get set for fresh air, animal adventures and theme park fun during these top days out with the kids near Southampton
Not far from the busy cruising and shipping port you’ll find lots of activities to keep all ages entertained. Here are 10 of the best things to do with kids near the city
Once the site of the world’s largest hospital, Royal Victoria Country Park is now an enormous open space on the banks of Southampton Water. Take a stroll through the park on the story trail, which is fun and educational for kids, bring a football for a kick in the fields or let the kids wear themselves out on the adventure playground.
A miniature steam railway runs through the park during weekends, school holidays and special events
If you’re looking for a theme park day out in Hampshire, Paultons Park in the New Forest has got it covered, with everything from thrill rides for teens to attractions suitable for toddlers and babies. Ride rollercoasters, get wet on the log flume, meet the animatronic dinosaurs in the Lost Kingdom, and come back down to earth with a walk around the park’s collection of exotic birds and animals.
Younger family members will not forgive you if you don’t venture into Peppa Pig World. This zone has seven rides for all ages featuring characters and stories that toddlers will know well from the TV series. You can also meet and greet the stars of the show throughout the day.
This day out is perfect for budding scientists and engineers, with 100 hands-on exhibits to keep inquisitive minds buzzing. Take a stomach-turning walk through an enormous human colon, get an astronaut’s view of Earth, and play pinball with stem cells in a fun demonstration about how they help to repair our bodies.
The Science Centre is also home to the UK’s largest stand-alone planetarium cinema, where there are shows throughout the day, suitable for children of different ages. Check the website for school holiday science demonstrations and kids’ workshops.
This Victorian farm has been preserved to give visitors a taste of what it was like to work the land hundreds of years ago. Some of the buildings have been relocated from other parts of Hampshire, as have vintage tractors and farm machinery.
See cows being milked in the parlour, meet some of the farm’s cuddly creatures and explore the 15th-century farmhouse. Youngsters will think twice before complaining about school after a lesson with a Victorian teacher in the schoolroom. The farm is at the heart of the River Hamble Country Park, where you can picnic and play games in the meadows or spot wildlife along the riverbank walk.
Wild play abounds at Mottisfont Abbey near Romsey. Print off the play trail map on the National Trust website before you visit and seek out the troll bridge, hidden hide-outs and bottomless cavern within the grounds. Wellington boots are a must for exploring the parkland of this former Augustinian priory.
Inside you can tour rooms redesigned in the 1930s to host lavish parties for the artists and author friends of past owners. In honour of its bohemian heritage, Mottisfont House hosts art exhibitions throughout the year.
For a hands-on farmyard experience, Longdown Activity Farm is a great day out for young kids on the edge of the New Forest. Your little farmers can bottle-feed milk to calves and kids, collect eggs and pet a host of small animals. There are also pony rides (additional charge) and a tractor ride.
On cooler days there’s plenty to do indoors, with a soft play barn, straw den with trampolines, and playroom for babies. The more competitive members of your family might enjoy a spin around the go-kart track or challenging each other to a game of Pitchfork and Putt crazy golf.
This English Heritage fort sits on a spit at the mouth of Southampton Water. Stand on its ramparts and you have panoramic views of the South Coast. No wonder King Henry VIII chose this point to protect the important channel into the port of Southampton.
Inside the castle you can learn about its defensive role from Tudor times right through to the 20th century. Climb the steep stairwells within the keep to discover the soldiers’ living quarters and ascend to the roof where you’ll find the mount for two huge guns.
Today it’s the ideal spot to pause and watch the comings and goings of container and cruise ships, private yachts and ferries. Once you’ve had your fill of history, wander down to the beach and let the kids see if they can skim a stone across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.
Wildlife fans will love a day at Marwell Zoo where there are hundreds of exotic and endangered animals to learn about. Pick up the road train close to the zoo entrance and ride around the park to get your bearings before setting off on your adventure.
The penguins, giraffes and tigers are sure to be highlights. A new tropical house is opening in 2018 so plan that into your visit too. As well as the animals there are five adventure playgrounds dotted around the 140-acre park, plus a rail train (additional charge), giving you a closer look at the capybaras, flamingos, pygmy hippos and white rhinos.
For a unique and fun outdoor experience try alpaca trekking in Otterbourne. Did you know alpacas hum? It’s the soothing soundtrack to a walk through rural Hampshire with one of these gentle beasts beside you. Along the way you’ll have the chance to spot wildlife like kingfishers, otters and buzzards that all live along the Itchen Valley.
Come armed with sturdy walking shoes and you’ll be talked through everything else. Children must be over the age of nine and accompanied by an adult to take part.
An all-weather activity sure to get your heart pumping is trampolining at Flip Out in Eastleigh. The wall-to-wall trampolines, with added foam pits and free running zone, make for an exciting few hours for the whole family.
As well as free-jumping sessions you can book into bouncing exercise classes and disco sessions after dark. For your smallest flippers, there’s dedicated soft play and trampoline sessions with a ball pit, foam pit and baby bouncers. If this all sounds far too energetic, the grown-ups can grab a hot drink in the cafe while younger family members let off steam.