10 of the best family days out near Cheltenham

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Cheltenham family days out

Looking for activities to keep the kids entertained around Cheltenham? From wildlife to fairytales, here’s our pick of days out and things to do as a family in the area

Check out these fun activities to try with your kids around Cheltenham. Whether they’re into animals, history or action, there are ideas here to please everyone

1. Sudeley Castle

Cheltenham Sudeley Castle and Gardens Credit: Sudeley Castle and Gardens

This privately owned castle is teeming with history dating back to Roman times and particularly the Tudors. Two of King Henry VIII’s wives and Elizabeth I once stayed here, and Katherine Parr is buried here. A tour through the castle will reveal exhibitions about these former residents and the opulence of their surroundings.

Outside, discover the willow maze, wildlife dipping pond and the dazzling mosaic floors of a Roman villa found within the 1,200-acre estate. Children will also enjoy playing kings and queens in the wooden play fort and throwing themselves at the assault course in the huge adventure playground.

 2. Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway

Visit Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway near Cheltenham

Take a picturesque trip through the Cotswolds on board one of the vintage trains run by this heritage railway. The locomotives and carriages pass through six stations where passengers can alight to look around small exhibitions, have a go at changing the signals or get a closer look at the engines. There’s also a quiz sheet for kids at each station.

An all-day rover ticket allows you to ride the train as often as you like, stopping for a picnic, a walk along the railway’s heritage trail or a piece of cake at one of the two station cafes. Keep an eye on the website for special family events.

 3. Fairytale Farm

Cheltenham Fairytale Farm

This fun farm east of Cheltenham combines play and animals to create a day out that’s ideal for young kids. There are five zones to explore, including The Enchanted Walk with activity panels, plentiful characters, a sensory garden and games. Once you’ve had your fill of interactive play, head to the Fairy Dell to find out how the weather works and build up an appetite for lunch by racing around the Huff and Puff play areas.

The farm is also home to ponies, pigs, goats, birds and rabbits, which can be met during handling and feeding sessions throughout the day. Fairytale Farm has been designed to be fully accessible  for disabled children and their families.

 4. Cotswold Wildlife Park

Cheltenham Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens Credit: Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Nestled on the edge of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is one of the UK’s largest zoological collections. The Wildlife Park is home to 130 different species of birds, large mammals native to the African savannah and reptiles from as far away as the Seychelles. Walk through the lemur enclosure, see the penguins being fed, and get hands on with cute and cuddly critters in the children’s farmyard.

Don’t miss a wander around the park’s gardens that show off plants from around the world. Dog owners will be pleased to know their four-legged companions are welcome on a lead.

 6. Gloucester Ski and Snowboard Centre

Close to Cheltenham Gloucester Ski and Snowboard Centre

Whizz down the artificial piste of this year-round ski centre close to Cheltenham. Whether you want to learn to ski or snowboard, or just have a bit of fun tubing down the 240m slope, this is an active day out for the whole family.

As well as the main run for adults and experienced snow sports fans, there are also nursery slopes for kids. Book a group or individual taster session in advance. If you’ve had enough of the slopes you can challenge the family to laser tag at the neighbouring Battle Hill centre. Children must be at least six years old to participate.

 7. Jet Age Museum

Places close to Cheltenham Jet Age Museum

This small attraction pays homage to the British designed jet engine, showcasing its historic impact on aviation. The first jet engine-powered plane took off from the Gloster factory airfield between Cheltenham and Gloucester in 1941, so this museum is very much a local heritage gem.

Visitors will see replica and real-life aeroplanes using this watershed engine, including Britain’s first jet fighter, the Meteor. In total there are 11 aircraft either on display or undergoing restoration.

 8. Gloucester Waterways Museum

Visit Gloucester Waterways Museum near Cheltenham

Learn about the role of Britain’s waterways and the history of Gloucester’s iconic docks at this interactive museum housed in an old canal-side warehouse. Family activities include looking around historic vessels, going for a boat trip and dressing up as canal workers.

As well as having an important industrial job to do, the canals are a haven for wildlife. Exhibits talk about the birds, plants and fish that live on the waterways today, as well as telling the story of the folks who lived and worked on them in the past.

9. Stand up paddleboarding

Learn how to stand up paddle board near Cheltenham

Try a watersport with a difference on Gloucestershire’s canals and rivers. Stand up paddleboarding is an active and fun adventure for families who don’t mind taking a dip if they lose their balance. The backdrop for your adventure is Gloucester’s historic docks, the River Severn or picturesque Sharpness Canal, so you can appreciate the scenery as you paddle.

If you fancy doing a taster session before committing to a half or full day on the board, short introduction sessions are available. All equipment, including wetsuits, supplied if required and your day can be tailored to the abilities of your family.

10. Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean

Visit Puzzlewood in Cheltenham Credit: Wye Valley & Forest of Dean Tourism Association

Follow in the footsteps of those characters from TV’s Dr Who and Merlin with a visit to Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean. This enchanting landscape with its mile of weaving footpaths, hidden caves and moss-covered gullies has been the set and inspiration for countless films and television series.

As well as exploring the woods there are indoor and outdoor mazes, a playground and picnic area. You can also meet a collection of Puzzlewood farm animals during your visit.

Claire Hall is owner of Tin Box Traveller, a UK family travel blog full of ideas for holidays, days out and adventures.

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